Republicans enjoy a majority in both the Indiana Senate and the Indiana House. The governor of Indiana, Mitch Daniels, is a Republican as well. The GOP in the Hoosier State clearly feels that the electorate has given their party a mandate to institute the kind of reforms that Republican candidates promised. This Republican program for Indiana includes turning it into a right to work state, balancing the budget and expanding school voucher and charter school programs. It’s also time for the legislature to redraw congressional district maps in the state, using 2010 Census data. Since Republicans control both the legislative and executive branches of state government, that map isn’t going to be very helpful to the Democratic party in the state, no more than the new Illinois map – where Democrats control the legislative and executive branches of state government – will be Republican Party-friendly.
Indiana Dems initially fled to Illinois over a proposed Republican bill that would have made Indiana a right to work state. Governor Daniels’ support for the measure was always a bit lukewarm, so it’s not clear that the bill would have made it through anyway. Nonetheless, thirty-nine Democratic members of the Indiana House ran away from their elected duties rather than debate and vote on the bill. In response, Republicans decided to return the proposal to committee for further study, thus taking the issue off of the table. Having won the first hand of legislative poker rather easily, though they held nothing more than the political equivalent of a pair of fives in their hand, Indiana Democrats then decided to go “all in” rather than collect their winnings and drive home.
The stand-off in Indiana is no longer about the right to work versus forced unionism. Nor is it about cutting state spending, reforming the state’s educational system or how the state’s map will be redrawn. The stand-off is rather about all of these issues and a whole lot more. Democrats and Republicans in the Hoosier State are essentially engaged in a game of chicken. Democrats are trying to see just how many concessions they can wring out of their colleagues across the aisle before the political and personal prices they must pay for abandoning their duties and homes grows too high to pay. Republicans, on the other hand, must gauge how to best entice the opposition back to work without appearing to concede to blackmail.
At this point, it’s hard to guess which side will blink first. But, whichever strategy is ultimately successful in Indiana may very well set the stage for the inevitable battles to come in more and more states across the country.
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