I hate to go all Admiral Ackbar on everyone, and maybe I'm not the first one to reach this conclusion, but it occurred to me tonight that the whole "pass the union-busting part separately" bit could be a very clever trap.
Consider: it seems like there's good reason to think that this legislative action was illegal. I'm not talking just about things like providing enough notification. I'm talking about things like that if you are considering a fiscal measure that requires a 60% quorum [see update for correction], just calling part of it not a fiscal measure doesn't mean that you now need a simple majority for that portion of it. If it remains a fiscal measure -- and in his statements over the last day or so Scott Walker has pretty much flat out said that it is -- then it requires a 60% quorum no matter what they call it. Any reasonable court will toss the law out.
Why would they make a big deal about passing a law that would be found void?
Simple: they're pretending that the matter is settled -- that they won, unfair and unsquare -- so that the WI Dem State Senators will come back into the state, because no further harm can be done. Then, once they're there, they have their quorum, they bring up the rest of the budget bill from the Assembly, and then they put the elimination of collective bargaining back into that bill! Then they arrest anyone who tries to leave (if they even need to), and they pass the very bill that the Dems left the state to avoid.
Then they admit that the first attempt at passing the bill is void, but they point out that this one is perfectly legit. Then they laugh and throw spitwads. All those court cases filed over lack of notice and the like? They immediately become moot.
A digression for sports fans: in football terms, this is not quite the standard Fumblerooski; it's more like the variant called the Bounce-rooski. In a bounce-rooski, the quarterback throws what looks like an incomplete pass -- but it's actually a lateral -- and technically a fumble. The defense relaxes, then the wide receiver picks up the "dead" ball and throws it to another wide receiver downfield. In baseball terms, it's a hidden ball play, or the sort of trick that led to the creation of the "infield fly rule." I'm sure there are other better examples. In each case, the idea is: make the other side think that a play is over, then zap them.
If I'm right in this suspicion, what should the Democrats do to counter it? I suggest two things below, but first let's face one blunt fact: there was no way that the Dems could keep them from doing this forever. Eventually, the Republicans would be able to slip it in as a rider to another bill, or schedule a vote at a time when one Democrat had to be in town, say for a child's wedding. If the Republicans were intent on doing this (and willing to pay the consequences), the Dems couldn't permanently prevent them, except perhaps by never coming back. All they could do is what they did do: with the cooperation of an aroused and enraged citizenry, make them look horrible.
But what to do now, if it's a trap? Two things:
(1) Jump to grievance "B." The bill still contains at least one easily understood atrocity: the sell off of public energy plants to the Koch Brothers, which is a pure political payoff to Walker's patron. Having taken this stand, make a condition of their return that this repulsive payoff has to come out. People are paying attention now: if the Dems play their cards right, people can be educated on yet another issue -- and, happily, one that focuses squarely on the Koch machine.
(2) Make the Fitzgeralds and Walker promise -- swear to God, swear on Jim DeMint's swarthy brow -- that they will not pull this sort of trick play. Make them promise that if they come back, no bill addressing this subject matter will be brought up again until 2013. If the courts uphold their law the way they passed it, so be it; if not, the Republicans have to live with the consequences.
If the Republicans are so confident that the bill they passed gets the job done, let them swear to honor the above deal, no matter what the courts say. If they won't make the deal, then publicly ask why. Ask "why" a lot. The argument that Dems should then make, from Illinois, is a simple and devastating one:
"We're sorry, but we can't trust you."
And it will be true, too. We are sorry that we can't trust the Republicans. But they've earned that distrust.
The theatrical performance is not yet over. It's merely an intermission. Let the Dem State Senators cast themselves as noble heroes who may yet get defeated by cunning villains. Better that then casting themselves as saps who got rooked.
Walk into the trap willingly if you must, Dems, but walk in after getting a separate key concession and a publicly promise of fairness. They, if you lose, you lose -- and it will only be for a short while. Updated by Seneca Doane at Fri Mar 11, 2011, 12:37:08 PM
As Jim M notes, I'm wrong on two points in writing above that "60 votes" were required: it's "60%" and we're talking about a quorum requirement, not a vote. (Functionally, of course, it's "voting" with one's presence.) I've changed it from "60 votes" in two places to "a 60% quorum." I think that people understood what I meant, but it's not what I literally said, so I'm correcting it above and referencing this update.
Updated by Seneca Doane at Fri Mar 11, 2011, 12:43:47 PM
Senator Erpenbach (D-Truth) has something to say to you.
Updated by Seneca Doane at Fri Mar 11, 2011, 01:18:17 PM
I'm going to engage in a little Diary Rescue. rlegro has a diary up talking about how the Wisconsin Dems, aided by Fox "News," are playing the "victim card" by trying to leverage death threats allegedly being made against them. It's a good complement to this diary and is worth reading.
Updated by Seneca Doane at Fri Mar 11, 2011, 01:23:48 PM
OK, I was going to do this myself, but my skillz are insufficiently mad (yo!) and given this forum someone with the right tools can do it better in a tenth of the time:
Can someone (1) figure out what day the recall effort against Walker can really begin and then (2) come up with a Walker Recall Countdown Clock? (This task could be divided among two people, of course.) I was going to try, but I couldn't find a photo of a walker that needed to be recalled. I'm sure someone else can come up with something wittier.
Updated by Seneca Doane at Fri Mar 11, 2011, 02:01:32 PM
jcgsbg reminds us below: "It is critically important that every reader make the link between supporting union & workers rights and voting for JoAnne Kloppenburg over David Prosser (former WI legislature GOP leader) in the upcoming April 5th election." [h/t to AnnieJo for the spelling correction(s).]
Updated by Seneca Doane at Fri Mar 11, 2011, 02:41:34 PM
Well, I have had my say, and by e-mail I've learned that Democratic State Senator Chris Larson is having his:
My fellow senators and I know that thousands of PCCC members in Wisconsin and across the nation have been fighting right alongside us -- attending rallies, making phone calls, donating to some great TV ads, and telling your friends about the Republican war on workers.
I want to say thank you. I also want to let you know that the fight's not over.
Republicans need to learn what accountability feels like. It's time for Republican senators to be recalled from office.
The PCCC just opened up an official Recall Committee in Wisconsin -- which will mobilize volunteers and run new ads against vulnerable Republicans. Please chip in $3 to help fund this vital work.
Wisconsin Republicans brazenly stampeded over the will of the people as they engaged in their right-wing attack on workers.
They shut down the public hearings, they shut down the legislative hotline, they shut down debate in the Assembly in the middle of the night, and they tried to lock citizens out of the Capitol. And on Wednesday night, when they had their last chance at redemption, Republican senators chose to bend the rules and join Governor Walker's war on working families.
The citizens of Wisconsin are rising up and engaging in the democratic process like never before. Recalls of the Republicans are kicking into high gear as clipboards begin to replace protest signs in neighborhoods across the state.
Governor Walker and Republican senators refused to listen to the public -- but now the people will be heard all across the state at the ballot box.
Please help us win this fight by chipping in $3 to the PCCC's Recall Committee. Click here.
Thanks again for standing with us in solidarity, and for being a bold progressive.
-- Senator Chris Larson, Wisconsin's 7th District
Regardless of my own feelings, I thank Sen. Larson for what he's done so far, won't second-guess him given that he rather than any of the rest of us has been bearing the burden of voluntary exile, and wish him the best success with his plans.