The clash between the state’s teachers union and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker raged on through the weekend, with both sides digging in their heels. Madison has become the symbolic focal point of a national conflict between conservatives who want to reduce the size and expense of government and leftists who want to retain all of the tools necessary to continue the expansion of big government into the future. Thus, Wisconsin’s capital increasingly seems be turning into America’s ideological battleground, as troops and leaders from both sides pour into the city. The longer it goes on, the more is at stake for taxpayers and government employees throughout America.
There is poetic justice in the fact that this debate is taking place in the middle of Wisconsin. The Dairy State is the birthplace of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, one of the nation’s most powerful government employee unions, and it was in Madison that government employees first won collective bargaining rights back in 1959.
The state’s AWOL Democratic state senators remain in hiding at an undisclosed location in Illinois, effectively preventing a vote on Walker’s budget reform bill. They’ve told the media that they want the governor to negotiate with the union, and fleeing the state is the only card they have to play in order to make that happen. Walker is adamant that he will not enter in negotiations over the bill, even though the union now says that it will agree to the financial aspects of the proposal. “We are willing to take this as long as it takes,” Walker told Fox News Sunday. “We are doing the right thing. My hope is that cooler minds will prevail. Democracy is not about hiding out in other states.”
Pro-Walker demonstrators hit the streets of Madison this weekend, led by the Tea Party activists who understand the national importance of this debate. “Sorry we took so long Scott – we have jobs,” read one sign carried by a supporter. Local media described the size of the pro-Walker crowd as substantial, but much smaller than the pro-union forces. Hundreds of police kept the two sides separate and although there was much shouting and debate among competing protesters, no violent incidents were reported. National leaders and media personalities continued to flock into Madison to show support for their favored side. For smaller-government advocates, winning the Battle of Wisconsin could very well represent the tipping point that results in a cascade of similar dominoes in legislatures throughout America. It would be an important step on the road to restoring fiscal sanity, in other words. For government-employee unions, and for the Democratic Party they invariably support, that very real possibility is dangerous indeed. It’s not surprising that the rhetoric went far beyond what would be expected of a budget issue being debated in a medium sized Midwestern state.
“Go out in the street, all you have to do is look out there,” national AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka told demonstrators. “People are tired. People are fed up. People are saying, ‘Enough is enough.’ You’re beyond the limit of what’s decent. If you want to negotiate, we’ll help you. This is all about union-busting.”
“This is history,” Andrew Breitbart declared in a speech to the pro-Walker faction. “We are going to let the American people know, in every single state, that we have every governor and every legislator’s back. We are the modern-day peace movement. This is the peace movement.” He pointed across the square to where union supporters marched and concluded: “that is where the anarchists are.”
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