Several seasons ago, following a particularly embarrassing come-from-way-behind home field loss to the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football, then Arizona Cardinals head coach Dennis Green took to the podium during the post-game press conference and made the following statement:
“...The Bears are who we thought they were. That’s why we took the damn field. Now if you wanna crown ‘em, then crown their ass! But they are who we thought they were! And we let ‘em off the hook!”
Democrats, meet me at paragraph four.
Democrats, Democrats, Democrats. Do you remember what you were doing last November? No, you should have been out voting. But you weren’t. Instead you were sitting on the couch stuffing potato chips and complaining about how terrible it was that the only thing a Democratic-controlled Congress could accomplish over the past two years was dig the country out of the deepest recession since 1933, overhaul the entire financial system and pass the first major reform of the healthcare system since the advent of Medicare. Due to that apathy, Republicans now control the U.S. House of Representatives and 29 state legislatures and governorships. In order to prevent Republicans from simply steam-rolling bills through legislatures of which they have complete control, Democrats have had to resort to procedural methods and stalling tactics. Or, as in the case of Wisconsin and Indiana, desperate (and let’s be honest, pathetic) measures, such as fleeing their respective states for the sanctuary of Illinois. Republicans in newly red states are systematically dismantling the Democratic Party, (with the deepest cuts yet to come when the electoral districts are redrawn over the next couple years), and Democrats have helped them do it. Still think mid-terms don’t matter?
Despite threats from Governor Walker to lay off state workers in retaliation, Wisconsin state senators remain fugitives and protests at the capitol building in Madison continue to grow. Using a state budget crisis as a catalyst (a crisis created in part by the almost two hundred million in tax cuts the governor signed into law just days after being sworn into office), Walker pushed legislation through the state house which would allow him to, among other things, sell state assets without solicitation of bids, cut wages and benefits of state workers significantly and strip public unions of the right to collectively bargain for more than wage increases tied to the rate of inflation. In keeping with the spirit of slash and burn that seems to be sweeping the country, Democrats chose to largely ignore the no-bid contracts and public unions agreed to wage freezes, benefit cuts - in fact they agreed to everything but the one item that had absolutely no effect on the budget either way, elimination of the right to collectively bargain. But that wasn’t enough for Governor Walker. For him it seems to be kill collective bargaining or bust. And for about a week he seemed to be holding up pretty well. It was the “common sense, deficit-busting” elected representative, versus the “power-grubbing, treasury destroying unions,” with neither side willing to give in. And then there was that phone call.
Last Wednesday morning a blogger from a website called the Buffalo Beast called Governor Walker’s office pretending to be billionaire industrialist, and Walker campaign contributor David Koch. During the call, Walker admits to - among other things - his demand to end collective bargaining has nothing to do with saving the state money, plotting to trick Democratic Senators into returning to Madison, and considering hiring “troublemakers” to stir up the protesters to make them appear disorganized and violent. Ordinarily, a public exposure of statement like those would shame a public figure into perhaps admitting he may have been something of a jackass in his prior dealings with others. Not Scott Walker. He doubled down. Dug in. Decided he would instead, threaten to have Democratic senators expelled from the Senate and issue warrants for their arrest. Yeah. That oughta bring ‘em back.
The longer this situation drags on, the less popular Walker’s policies - and ultimately his administration become. Polls indicate that were the election to be held now, merely three months after bringing him to power with a four point margin of victory, voters would elect Walker’s rival by a six point margin. But that fact is neither here nor there. Sometimes governing involves doing things that are not popular, and Walker could simply claim he was elected to make tough choices and people are now upset that he’s doing what he said he was going to do, (even thought he isn’t.) The lesson here, is that Wisconsin Democrats (and soon-to-be Ohio, Indiana and Michigan Democrats as well) brought this scourge upon themselves. Scott Walker is who we thought he was. Wisconsin Republicans are who we thought they were. And you let them off the hook. Democrats were so busy bitching and moaning and being depressed over how they didn’t get their public option, and the President wasn’t tough enough with Wall Street, and he didn’t tax rich people enough, and that the wars weren’t over yet, and that Guantanamo Bay Detention Center is still open that they decided they would rather stay home last November and not vote. Well, now we get to deal with the consequences of that decision. All these protests and procedural stalling tactics and fleeing of the state could have been avoided had you learned anything from the past 30 years and understood that Republicans are who we thought they were. But you didn’t. Instead, you let them off the hook. Believe me. They won’t make the same mistake.
In other news, the tide of revolution continues to sweep across the Middle East and north Africa, with Libya the latest to attempt to oust it’s dictator. Following the lead of neighbors in Tunisia and Egypt, protesters first took to the streets on February 17, demanding the resignation of Muammar Gaddafi, who came to power in a military coup 42 years ago. Since then fighting has broken out across the country, resulting in rebel forces now controlling territory in the east and west of the country, leaving a defiant Gaddafi hold up in the capital city of Tripoli, surrounded by several thousand loyal troops. Many of his attempts to utilize the military to quash the protests have been foiled by pilots who took their aircraft and defected to Italy, rather than rain bombs down upon their own citizens. However, he still retains enough support to push hope for a bloodless revolution toward the brink of civil war.
Not all revolutions are as effective, or proceed as (relatively) smoothly as those we witnessed in Egypt and Tunisia only weeks ago. Sometimes things take a turn for the worse. Sometimes bullets are fired and lives are lost. There are many who believe it need not be that way, that the West should step in and militarily decide the outcome in favor of those protesting against the oppressive regime. But advocates of such intervention need to be very careful of what they wish for. History has repeated shown us that there are always unintended consequences that somehow, someway, more often than not, come back to haunt us. Especially in the Middle East. Arming the Mujahideen against the Soviets, arming Saddam Hussein against Iran, demanding Palestinian elections. Whatever the solution to the current Libyan crisis, it must come from Libyans themselves. Not from “outsiders” professing to have Libyan’s best interest in mind. Libyans must decide what type of government they wish to live under, and they must take the necessary steps to achieve it. Anything else will be viewed as order imposed by the West, usurping the right of the Libyan people to determine their own destiny. The very last thing the United States needs now is a third active Middle Eastern military conflict.