The contrast between the Democratic state senators from Wisconsin and the Democratic senators in Washington, D.C. couldn’t be starker.
In the face of extreme overreach by Governor Scott Walker and the Republicans in the state house, 14 Wisconsin state senators stood up and fought for almost a month — forcing Governor Walker to resort to a shady, cloak-of-night legislative maneuver which might not even be legal, and which powerfully reveals his commitment to destroying the progressive political base in his state above all else.
Senator Majority leader Harry Reid, on the other hand, took less than 12 hours to signal the Senate was willing to cave on Republican cuts to the budget.
After the Senate Democrats’ bill to cut $6.5 billion from this year’s budget and the House Republicans’ bill to cleave $57 million both failed to pass the Senate on Wednesday, Reid announced early Thursday that “We accept the lessons of yesterday’s vote. We know we’ll have to make a sacrifice to reach consensus, and we are willing to do that.”
What? Didn’t Harry Reid used to be a boxer? As Republicans wage a fierce war on progressive policies under the false pretense of “deficit reduction,” Harry Reid and other Washington D.C. Democrats shouldn’t simply cave — they should take this opportunity to call out Republican extremism, hold radical right-wing extremists accountable before the American people, and declare they will stand their ground for the environment, working families, women’s health and the sake of our economic recovery.
In other words: It’s time for D.C. Democrats to take a lesson from Wisconsin.
Don’t Collude with Lunacy
Whatever the final outcome in Wisconsin, the political cost of Republican extremism there has been massive, which makes it less likely Republicans elsewhere will try the same thing again. Indeed, the fight in Wisconsin even convinced governors in other states to shelve similar attempts when progressive pressure made it clear Republicans had gone too far.
Unlike the courageous Wisconsin 14 who went to tremendous lengths to stop Walker’s attack, Washington D.C. Democrats don’t have to leave their homes to take a stand. It shouldn’t be hard. In fact, the massive cuts proposed by Republicans — to Planned Parenthood, public broadcasting, the Clean Air Act, and a host of other crucial economic programs — should make it easy. The Republican notion that those cuts are the best way to fix the economy is sheer lunacy.
The best way to fix our economy is to get people back to work. But that message isn’t something we’re hearing from the Democratic leadership of the Senate or from the White House. Republicans ask for unconscionable cuts and the Democratic response is to try to suggest slightly less unconscionable cuts.
It’s embarrassing that the Democratic majority in the Senate and a Democratic president can’t manage to propose anything more progressive than “massive tax cuts for the rich, crippling budget cuts for everyone else.”
If Democrats Want to Lose, They’re On the Right Path
Let’s acknowledge that fundamentally, the current budget negotiations are both a repetition and a consequence of past Democratic failures.
If Democrats continue to cave to Republican extremists, it will only embolden the right wing to launch even more radical attacks against progressives. Republicans have learned that when they don’t compromise, they win.
And this is not the end game, it’s just the beginning. The Republicans will have multiple opportunities to hold the budget hostage to their extremist demands. After the Continuing Resolution comes the fight over the debt ceiling and the 2012 fiscal year budget process. Republicans are refusing to negotiate in good faith because they are confident that their utter intransigence will pay off — as it has in practically every single significant fight during the Obama administration.
If we don’t draw the line now, Republican demands will only become more radical in these successive fights. We need our Democratic senators in Washington, D.C. to be more like the Democratic state senators from Wisconsin. Φ
Becky Bond is Political Director for CREDO Action from Working Assets . CREDO makes it easy to take action on many issues.