Carson: Wisco Dems: Keep away from Cowboy Scott

Mike Carson

If you believe the national papers, you can’t walk the dog in Illinois without tripping over an out-of-state Democrat on the lam.

Indiana Democrats have taken their talents to downstate Urbana while the Wisconsin Dems have hunkered down in an “undisclosed” location somewhere around Chicago. Both are hiding from big, bad Republican governors and their bills that seek primarily to curtail union rights to collective bargaining.

Anyone who’s read coverage of the Democrats’ exodus to the land of machine politics and honey knows that the common political wisdom says the real issue here is campaign money – the Democrats lean heavily on the unions for theirs while corporate interests play the willing piggy bank for Republicans. The issue may be more complicated than that, but make no mistake: the country is turning toward the Midwest to watch the digging of the partisan trenches.

I’ve suggested in this space before that I don’t have a lot of patience for this sort of partisan gamesmanship, particularly when it feels like pandering to a voting bloc. Well, consider this an exception, and color me blue: taking away the right to collective bargaining is like a slap in the face of republican politics, to the ultimate benefit of Republican politics.

It didn’t help buttress my independent streak to hear Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in the prank call “interview” he gave to a liberal reporter pretending to be billionaire conservative David Koch. The way he spits out words like “negotiate” or even “pragmatist” makes Walker seem downright proud to put his agenda before his office and his state, as though the labor dispute is a personal test of his own manhood, the sort of self-serving cowboy politics that have no place in good government.

But for all the bluster of Walker, the issue shouldn’t have anything to do with Republicans or Democrats. The discussion in Wisconsin and Indiana shouldn’t be about campaign dollars or even finances, but about the right to seek your own representation in government.

That outlook doesn’t always put me squarely behind union business-as-usual. When it comes to complex issues like the ability to opt out of a union I’m not above some fence-sitting, because unlike Scott Walker: Wisconsin Ranger, I’m less interested in roundhouse kicking my political opposition than in building a government that properly preserves liberty.

But just because those unions have thrown their dollars behind a political party that is currently watching HBO in a suburban Marriott doesn’t mean they should have to waive their right to a say in government. Cowboy Scott doesn’t seem to mind that individual unionized employees don’t have the billions a David Koch has and don’t get to call up the governor just to make sure their voices are heard. The unions are the best way for those people to make sure someone is looking out for their interest in the government. I don’t care about the politics, but what Walker has in mind is an assault on the fundamental right of a person to seek their own self-interest.

If the alternative is a world where working folks have no financially-backed horse in electoral races, where all we have is a four-year choice between two politicians funded solely by the mega-rich, then it seems we’ve done ourselves a disservice and created a government that turns its back on its constituency.

Governments everywhere, but especially in the Midwest, are unquestionably in an era of belt-tightening, and the unions need to make some concessions in many places for that to happen. But until Walker quits the spur-jangling and starts trying to work out the state’s problems instead of pushing his political agenda, I hope they keep every Democratic legislator safely locked up somewhere south of Kenosha. Because no matter what Cowboy Scott may think, it’s not just David Koch who has a right to make his voice heard.

Mike Carson is a Weinberg senior. He can be reached at [email protected]