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Wisconsin's Governor Wins But Is He Still Dead Man Walker?

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Author Topic: Wisconsin's Governor Wins But Is He Still Dead Man Walker?  (Read 4 times)
Lisa Wolfe
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« on: March 14, 2011, 01:06:52 pm »

Wisconsin's Governor Wins But Is He Still Dead Man Walker?
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Demonstrators march outside the Wisconsin State Capitol as protests continue in and around the building in Madison, March 11th, 2011.

Scott Olson / Getty Images

The state capitol of Wisconsin had taken on an eerie quiet on Friday. Gone were the throngs of protesters who occupied its marble floors like a campground in summer. The midnight honking of cars circling the white building had ceased. The chalk "dead man" outlines etched with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's name on the sidewalks remained in dismembered parts, incompletely washed away by clean-up hoses.

It was the Governor, however, who had walked away the legislative victor in the showdown. On Friday, as angry protesters chanted "shame" and blew horns and vuvuzelas, Walker took up a dozen pens, one at a time, to sign into law a bill that not only takes away the ability of unions to bargain collectively over pensions and healthcare but limits pay raises of public employees to the rate of inflation and ends automatic union dues collection by the state. It also requires each public union to get recertified every year. It was a coup by Wisconsin Republicans against the labor movement in one of its strongholds.
(See how Walker got his way.)

The governor allowed himself a moment to reflect on how his signature might play historically. "Some have asked whether this is going to set a national precedent," he said. "And I don't know... but if along the way we help lead a movement across the state for true fiscal reform, true budgetary reform to ultimately inspire others across this country, state by state and in our federal government, inspire others to stand up and make tough decision to make a commitment to the future, so that our children across all states don't have to face the dire consequences we face because previous leaders have failed to stand up and lead, I feel that is a good thing." He also attempted to be magnanimous toward the thousands of protesters who have gathered in Madison since he announced his legislative intentions on Valentine's Day. "I think we've have a civil discussion," he said. "It's been passionate, but it's been civil along the way."

The public outcry had been unexpected and brought out many first time protesters who stayed on or returned again and again even as observers thought the remarkably peaceful demonstrations would dissipate. And so, for the many who showed up, some at great sacrifice, were the protests all in vain? "No," says Kenneth Mayer, who teaches political science at the University of Wisconsin. "It was pretty clear that the protests, as massive as they got, weren't going to change the governor's mind. Even though they didn't succeed in getting what they wanted, they mobilized a lot of people and made this a salient issue. A protest doesn't have to succeed in its immediate goal to have a long term impact."
(See photos of the showdown in Wisconsin.)

That probably means the protesters are going to turn from slogans to pocketbooks, funneling millions of dollars in donations into unions here. Their anger will also provide momentum for recall petitions. Wisconsin allows for the recall of elected officials once they have been in office for a year. According Mayer, signatures amounting to 25% of the original voters must sign on to a petiton to get a recall election going. Getting rid of Walker would be tougher. The governor was just voted into office and cannot be subject to recall until Jan. 3, 2012. It would require about 540,000 signatures to get his name on a recall ballot. Wisconsin has never recalled a governor in its history. Still, the threat of recall to Walker and his allies would keep the governor in check. Democrats need to win back three seats in the Senate to win back control of the body; there are eight G.O.P. senators who are now eligible for recall.
(See pictures of the Japan earthquake.)

The anger and activism may also propel legal challenges regarding the way Republicans may have violated open meetings law and internal procedures to get the bill passed without a necessary quorum (Democratic senators had fled to Illinois specifically to prevent this). Mayer says, however, that such claims are unlikely to succeed because "there is case law where the state courts have declined to get involved and force a legislature to enforce its own rule." A constitutional challenge based on whether the Republican reclassification of the bill from fiscal to non-fiscal was legal may have a better chane but, says Mayer, "it's not a slam dunk."

The protesters do have a lot of contained anger to vent. The demonstrations a "quiet riot" according to some managed not to turn violent. Though tensions mounted toward the end, there were never any real door-busting down, glass-breaking riots. It's been horn-blowing and buttons instead of fist fights. There's been drum-beating and dancing instead of destruction. There were lots of baby strollers and wheelchairs decked out in snarky signs. When Bill Hoyt, 52, saw his middle and high school daughters and their friends banging on glass panels on the capitol grounds, he reminded them to be respectful of government property, that destroying anything wouldn't be a good use of their frustration and only create more problems.
(Comment on this story.)

The frustration from the defeat will be channeled elsewhere. Wiping tears from beneath her dark rimmed glasses, Anne Moser, 47, who works for University of Wisconsin Madison's science-based Water Library, said, "People know that violence doesn't get you anywhere. The attack the Republicans have made is violent and a violation of human rights. It is an attack on the middle class. We teach our children to follow rules and to sit and the table and work it out, but that certainly hasn't happened here." And so she and her allies may seek there revenge elsewhere: in a court of law or, most probably, in a polling booth.

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