Eleven days on, and the protests at the Capitol continue to drawn national attention and controversy. Gov. Walker’s budget repair bill aims to: increase state employee contributions to health care and pension plans, cut the budget of state-funded medicare, and allows the Wisconsin DOA to sell state-owned power plants. But it the provision that eliminates the various public sectors union rights to collectively bargain that has caused the majority of the uproar…and it doesn’t appear as if it is going to end anytime soon. Large protests are again planned for the weekend with Madison school districts shutting down to protest on Friday in tandem with nation-wide “Solidarity” rallies that are planned for Saturday. Various groups and personalities have also descended upon Madison to express either their discontent or support for the bill including: Jesse Jackson, Rage Against the Machine guitarist- Tom Morello, members from Americans for Prosperity, and most recently members from MoveOn.org.
However, for all the attention and press, no progress is being made towards reaching a compromise in this situation, and no progress has been made between the major players since Saturday in what has become a sad display of the current climate of partisan politics that characterizes the United States. Gov. Walker still refuses to talk to the 14 Senate Dems. who are currently in Illinois, and despite Democratic concessions on the bill, Gov. Walker has not offered any of his own, insisting, in an increasingly snide demeanor, that the Dems. return to vote. We are also seeing the emergence of the “silly season” of politics by both sides of the this debate. Earlier this week rumors leaked out on the internet that members of the Tea Party Nation should pose as “protesters” in an effort to paint the actual protesters as “greedy and goonish.”And just yesterday, in perhaps was become the “prank call heard round the world” blogger Ian Murphy posed as billionaire, and conservative contributor David Koch, in a phone call with Gov. Walker. Now, while some people may agree with the tactics, and/or outcomes of these stunts, I for one do not. If I you believe in a cause or purpose strong enough to support it, you should do so in full public view. By serving as an impostor, or trying to falsely represent a group, you are demeaning and violating the very fundamentals of peaceful protest and are sowing the seeds for growing discontent and antagonizing both parties. This is not a recipe for a successful resolution to the issues and problems that confront our nation today. And as for unsuccessful resolutions, the current standoff between Gov. Walker and the WI Dems. needs to end. It is obvious that negotiation is only way to settle this dispute and the longer that this display of political theater continues the more both parties, and the people of Wisconsin, will continue to languish in legislative gridlock. This is a status quo that helps no one, and hurts everyone.
On a related note, the organization of the protesters at the Capitol continues to amaze. The police monitoring the activities at the Capitol state that they have been most appreciative of the demeanor of the protesters that congregate in the Rotunda, and in some cases sleep there. There have been no reports of vandalism or antagonism between the police and the protesters. There is even a clockwork method to the madness. From the firefighters that march through the Capitol at 12 o’clock everyday to the way that the students camping out in the Capitol pick up after themselves, to the seemingly limitless supply of pizzas delivered from Ian’s Pizza courtesy of anonymous donors as far away as Egypt. The rally/protest has become a veritable perpetual motion machine. Let’s hope that this peaceful nature continues.