Hypocrisy abounds in public affairs. It’s one of the things that makes this blog so easy – and so much fun – to write. But seldom has there been so much hypocrisy, at so many levels, as with the recent protests in Madison, Wisconsin.
Start with the slogan with which the protesters flattered themselves, “this is what democracy looks like.” They chanted it, they emblazoned it on their signs. They likened themselves to the protesters in Tahrir Square, who brought down Mubarak. And of course Governor Scott Walker was cast in the role of the Egyptian dictator, not to mention Adolph Hitler.
Problem was, nothing could be further from the truth. Democracy looks like this: an election is held, the winners take power peacefully, they pass as much of their declared program as they can given the legislative strengths they have. In other words, the Republicans in this scenario were the (small d) democrats. The Democrats and their union allies did what they could to subvert the democratic process, not least including the flight of 14 Democratic senators from the state, so paralyzing the state’s legislature that nothing could pass. Meanwhile, the protestors occupied the state capitol for 18 days, sleeping there at night and filling the hall with raucous noise during the day.
This is what mob rule looks like.
Further hypocrisy: the media, particularly organs like the New York Times , was at best careless with the facts in describing Gov. Walker’s “refusal to negotiate” with the Democrats. What actually happened is that the Republicans made repeated efforts to negotiate with the Flight of Fourteen, first with the Majority Leader meeting with them, and then, after the Democrats reneged on an agreement to return, with negotiations led by Walker’s own Chief of Staff. This second round ended with another note of hypocrisy, when the lead Democrat, Mark Miller, sent an open letter to Walker to the press demanding that the Governor start face-to-face negotiations, despite the fact that such negotiations had been going on for weeks. That was when the Republicans knew they had to go it alone.
But the hypocrisy that really gets my blood going is the way the violent tendencies of this crowd of protesters gets a pass so soon after the Tucson shootings and everybody’s hand-on-heart promises to do better.
Remember back in January when widely published commentators such as Paul Krugman and politicians such as James Clyburn were quick to blame “right-wing” rhetoric for inciting Jared Lee Loughner’s act of lunatic rage? Nor did they back down when the facts made it clear nothing of the sort was the case – the response was, “well, it could have…” Much was made, for instance of Michelle Bachman’s advice that supporters should be “armed and dangerous,” when a read of the full quote makes it clear she meant armed with political energy and the facts. The centerpiece of the argument, of course, was the famous precinct map put out by the Sarah Palin camp that featured – horrors! – crosshairs on targeted districts in the upcoming election. This was clearly a suggestion to all of Palin’s half-witted, inbred followers that someone should literally take aim at those Democrats!
But how does that compare to this picture of crosshairs on Scott Walker’s face?
None too subtle, I’d say. But where is Paul Krugman on this clear example of “eliminationist” rhetoric? I haven’t read that column yet, and I’m not holding my breath.
And it gets worse. After the law was passed, came the death threats. This one is crude, but when it’s slipped under your office door, you take notice.
Scarier still is the email that was sent to all the Republican senators threatening not just them but their families. It begins, “Please put your things in order because you will be killed and your familes will also be killed due to your actions in the last 8 weeks.” And it goes on for several sentences in chilling detail, ending with, “Please make your peace with God as soon as possible and say goodbye to your loved ones we will not wait any longer. YOU WILL DIE!!!!” Well, at least they said “please.”
Do you think the press, which was so eager to gin up a gun-happy anti-progressive mania out of passing remarks and oblique metaphors, has even touched this? I’m still looking for a reference.
And now comes the intimidation. According to a Milwaukee radio host, Wisconsin businesses are receiving the following letter (thanks due to James Taranto at wsj.com):
The undersigned groups would like your company to publicly oppose Governor Walker’s efforts to virtually eliminate collective bargaining for public employees in Wisconsin. While we appreciate that you may need some time to consider this request, we ask for your response by March 17. In the event that you do not respond to this request by that date, we will assume that you stand with Governor Walker and against the teachers, nurses, police officers, fire fighters, and other dedicated public employees who serve our communities.
In the event that you cannot support this effort to save collective bargaining, please be advised that the undersigned will publicly and formally boycott the goods and services provided by your company. However, if you join us, we will do everything in our power to publicly celebrate your partnership in the fight to preserve the right of public employees to be heard at the bargaining table. Wisconsin’s public employee unions serve to protect and promote equality and fairness in the workplace. We hope you will stand with us and publicly share that ideal.
In the event you would like to discuss this matter further, please contact the executive Director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, Jim Palmer, at [phone number redacted].
The other signatories include two other police unions as well as teachers unions and firemen unions.
This is old-fashioned union thuggery. Notice that the business owner is not given the option of remaining apolitical. You want to keep your head down and concentrate on making a buck in a difficult economy? Sorry, pal. That’s not a choice. You either support us or your business gets hit. And when the signatories to the political shakedown include your local cops, how comfortable would you feel about speaking your mind?
Call the New York Times! Tell them to get a crack reporter out to Milwaukee right away! Can you imagine if this came from some group allied with the Tea Party? But coming from police and firefighters – no big deal.
Meanwhile, in Washington, the Obama administration is prudently keeping a low profile on this conflict, despite the President saying early on that he thought it smacked of an “assault” on unions. Despite, too, his promise on the campaign trail to walk the picket lines “as President of the United States” if union rights were threatened. But it is good that he’s keeping away, given that federal workers enjoy nowhere near the collective bargaining rights that Wisconsin workers just lost, nor do public sector workers in many other States. So, final hypocrisy – the Wisconsin unions are acting as though this is the lead edge of an attack on unions nation-wide, when in fact they are trying to preserve privileges most other workers have long since gone without.
And then there is this irony – in his State of the Union Address, President Obama lauded Bruce Randolph School in Denver as one which, in three years, went from one of the worst to one of the best schools in the state. What he didn’t mention was that the school in 2007 was the first in Colorado to be allowed to operate free of union rules, and in fact fired the entire faculty except six.
Ssshhhhh – don’t tell the people of Wisconsin…