Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Scott Walker's "legacy" destructive towards democracy

It's clear that Scott Walker is greatly concerned with his legacy. Whether he believes that his budget repair bill is the defining moment of conservatism for Wisconsin or he believes himself the heir of Ronald Reagan's philosophical tenets, Walker is sure, in his own mind, that he will be remembered for this moment in our state's history.

The funny thing is, I don't think many liberals would tend to disagree with him: he will surely be remembered for his outlandish behavior during a phone conversation with a man he thought was billionaire conservative David Koch, or his insistence that a non-fiscal matter that affects hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin citizens is somehow necessary to solve a budget deficit, or that the "crisis" he's trying to solve is due in large part to tax giveaways he himself created for special interests that supported him.

His latest move to close the Capitol building to protesters wanting to enter it, to demonstrate in a peaceful manner -- a right guaranteed to the people of Wisconsin -- is just another example of the legacy Scott Walker will truly be remembered for. Our governor talks a big game, stating publicly in an address last week that he supports the protesters' rights.

In truth, however, Walker despises this display of democracy, wants it to end -- and to end fast. In the prank call heard 'round the world, Walker admitted that he had considered placing troublemakers within the crowds in order to stir things up among the protesters. Closing off the Capitol simply reinforces Walker's distaste for democratic demonstrations in Madison and elsewhere. He wants stability and conformity to his initiatives, but the people of this state (more than 70,000 of them last weekend alone) aren't giving it to him.

So what is Walker's response? Try and pass the bill anyway, by holding the jobs of thousands of state workers hostage in order to force Democratic state senators back to Wisconsin.

Sound leadership, as always, from our governor.

Instead of threatening the jobs of hardworking Wisconsin citizens, instead of preventing the democratic rights of law-abiding citizens, and instead of chatting it up with out-of-state billionaires, perhaps Scott Walker should consider something completely radical, for himself especially: compromise. It's no secret that the state workers have already agreed to the financial concessions in his bill. So Walker should accept them, keeping the collective bargaining rights intact as a show of cooperation.

It's what any good leader would do -- President John F. Kennedy put it best when he said, "civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate." Though related to foreign policy at the time, those words fit especially well with the situation in Madison. Scott Walker, I worry, fears to negotiate for two simple reasons: he'd be criticized for being too civil by his conservative colleagues; and he refuses to admit what he'd call "defeat."

Those are two reasons that should never dictate how one should govern. A true leader disregards criticisms of being too civil, accepts it when things don't go his way, but most of all tries to find a way to salvage his policies while working with others. Scott Walker has that opportunity, but he's running away from it, a decision that can be characterized as foolish, brash...and stupid.

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