Earlier this week, I compared Wisconsin to a North African country. Now I think that comparison is unfair to North African countries.
The crisis in Wisconsin continues. Democratic state legislators are still on the lam from their jobs, denying the Wisconsin legislature the quorum necessary to conduct state business.
Some of our commenters think that fleeing the state to avoid a quorum call is just another procedural right given to the minority party, kind of like an ultimate filibuster. I think that’s a self-serving analysis. Quorum rules are there because reliable motorized transportation is a relatively modern innovation. Quorum rules are there because laws shouldn’t be passed by the first two guys to show up to work in the morning. Legislators don’t have a right to flee the state as a political maneuver to prevent democracy from occurring.
Of course, if Wisconsin Democrats don’t want to respect democracy, Wisconsin Republicans are more than happy to give them a big dose of tyranny. That’s just how Republicans roll…
If there is one consistent characteristic throughout the history of the Republican party — regardless of whether or not the party has been on the left or right side of the political spectrum — it’s been that Republicans don’t f**k around. Secede from the Union? War. Anti-competitive monopolies? Busted. Government workers on strike? You’re fired!
In Wisconsin it’s no different. Republican legislators voted unanimously yesterday to have the fleeing Democrats arrested.
When reached for comment, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said: I’m an F-18, bro.
Okay, he didn’t actually say that, but he should have. I mean, the Republicans did this even though it is wholly unclear if the Wisconsin Senate has the authority to arrest its own members.
But Fitzgerald’s lawyers think the Republicans are on firm legal ground. From the Wisconsin State Journal:
James Troupis, an attorney for Fitzgerald, said rounding up the senators is legal under a constitutional provision that allows the Senate to enforce its own rules, including mandatory attendance. That section allows each house to “compel the attendance of absent members.”
Troupis insisted the detention is not an arrest because the senators are not suspected of any crimes. Rather, he said, the resolution seeks to enforce a legislative process.
“The Legislature has its own powers – that’s the principle here,” he said. “The constitution is quite explicit in providing our Legislature with independent authority.”
Mind you, the missing Democrats are thought to be hiding in Illinois. The Wisconsin state legislature certainly doesn’t have the authority to go to Illinois and “detain” the minority members, right?
Under the resolution adopted Thursday, the senators may only be taken into custody if they return to Wisconsin, Fitzgerald said. The resolution does not call for their extradition from another state.
Well, that’s comforting. Then again, I imagine that at some point somebody told Dred Scott the same damn thing.
Even if the Republicans are aggressively overstepping the bounds of their authority, the Democrats continue to behave like little bitches. Look at this quote:
“The Republicans have gone around the bend,” said Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee. “They’ve just increased their bullying tactics and are producing an even greater divide in our state.”
Or this one:
Longtime Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, said it was “below the dignity of the state Senate to be spending its time passing such resolutions.”
You don’t really want to talk about what is “below the dignity of the state Senate,” do you? Because the undignified thing going on here is elected public officials fleeing the state to frustrate democratic self-government. Maybe the Republicans don’t have the constitutional authority to arrest Democrats, but they shouldn’t have to. They shouldn’t have to threaten, bully, persuade, or make a deal with Democrats in order to get them to show up for work.
Partisan divisiveness is a sad fact of modern political life, but refusing to allow democracy to function properly is closer to treason than it is to an acceptable political tactic.
Senate orders arrest of missing Democrats [Wisconsin State Journal]
Republican Senators in Wis. Vote to Authorize Arrest of AWOL Democratic Colleagues [ABA Journal]
Earlier: The Wisconsin Police State