Police carried dozens of protesters from a hallway leading to the Wisconsin Assembly in Madison on Thursday. At least 100 students and union members broke into the building, packed the hallway, shouted, ran and pounded drums.
The demonstrators were protesting the intention of the Republican majority to do just what Wisconsin voters elected them to do — balance the budget by trimming state spending, to which end the majority has decided to limit the ability of state workers to bargain collectively for benefits far in excess of what the average citizen can ever expect.
But “protest” is a rather gentle term for what at times over the past three weeks actually approached a riot.
A vote on the bill had been held up in the state Senate after 14 Democrats fled to Illinois three weeks ago, leaving that chamber one short of the 20 members needed to take up any measures that spend money.
Republicans got around that Wednesday by using an unexpected but simple procedural step, removing all spending measures from Gov. Scott Walker’s collective bargaining legislation and voting to pass it without Democrats present.
Democrats, who had stayed away to stop representative democracy from working as intended, rushed back and then complained when they found the chamber doors locked.
“What more egregious, illegal, unethical step can be taken to prevent democracy in Wisconsin?” demanded Rep. Donna Seidel, D-Wausau, as she pounded on the door along with her colleagues. It turned out the room was empty. The Democrats were admitted on a timely basis. They faced no threats of being physically beaten, as Republicans have.
The bill then went to the Assembly, where it was quickly approved Thursday, escalating the protests.
“This is grossly undemocratic, it stinks up the whole process,” one of the protesters said.
And here we thought when fans of property rights described democracy as “mob rule,” they might be engaging in a little exaggeration.
Many analysts have warned for years that states and local governments were running up budget-busting costs for pensions, benefits and paychecks that could not be sustained. Finally, last fall, after two years of recession, voters spoke, calling for a reverse of course.
But the unions and their allies in the Democratic Party do not accept that judgment. They now use thuggish tactics to block duly elected delegates from acting on the common-sense instructions of the majority of voters — even in traditionally liberal states such as Wisconsin.
They cynically cloak themselves in “democracy,” yet they agitate against allowing individuals to decide for themselves whether they want to join a union, and they work to outlaw secret ballot elections in organizing campaigns.
And those who cry foul and oppose their agenda by facilitating the normal function of government are “enemies of democracy”? What utter nonsense.