Remember when then-Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), who, at the time, was running for a fourth term in the U.S. Senate, unilaterally disarmed and decided that he wouldn't run a real campaign against Republican challenger Ron Johnson, and Feingold ended up losing re-election to Johnson?
Well, Wisconsin State Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, unilaterally disarmed yesterday by refusing to propose a single amendment to the extreme, draconian Republican budget proposal that passed the state assembly without a single Democratic vote.
Let me tell you how extreme the Republican budget proposal is in Wisconsin...it privatizes public education statewide by expanding school vouchers, contains dozen of other controversial policy measures that don't belong in a budget, and gives huge tax cuts to the wealthiest Wisconsinites...and that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how bad the Republican budget in Wisconsin is.
Progressive bloggers Ed Heinzelman and Heather DuBois Bourenane were particularly critical at how Barca and the other Assembly Democrats unilaterally disarmed by refusing to propose amendments to the extreme Republican budget.
Here's how Heinzelman responded:
Although it doesn’t always pay to tilt at windmills, the decision by Wisconsin Assembly Democrats and Assembly Minority Leader Representative Peter Barca to refrain from offering a single amendment to the biennial budget is downright perplexing. On the one hand I can understand the futility of offering up amendments that have absolutely no chance of making it into the budget…and the Democrats reportedly had over two hundred budget amendments ready to propose…but they may have left themselves open to accusations of not doing their jobs come 2014.Here's how DuBois Bourenane responded:
what?!? no debate til 5:30? no 212 amendments? nothing? I don't get it. What just happened?Barca's decision not to push any amendments to the Republican budget, despite the fact that Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos outright said that he would oppose any Democratic-proposed amendments simply because they were Democratic-proposed amendments, plays right into the Republicans' hands, as they're going to paint the Democratic Party of Wisconsin as a political party that is devoid of ideas and run by a bunch of whiners who won't do their jobs in the 2014 campaign season. While that is a highly unfair way to paint Democrats, Republicans have done so in the past in Wisconsin and other states, and have achieved electoral success by doing so.
Even Alan Grayson, a Democratic member of the U.S. House from Florida who is notorious for making over-the-top remarks, knows something about legislating while in the minority:
During a private meeting with liberals in February, Grayson outlined a plan called "Operation Bust Their Chops," in which Democrats, now in the minority, would use the amendment process to force Republicans into voting against things that may be popular back home — funding for schools, for example.Democrats in the Wisconsin Legislature have used the "bust their chops" strategy in the past, including getting Republicans to vote against an amendment to a mining bill that would have ensured that mining companies actually hired Wisconsinites.
The only reason why Peter Barca has even been mentioned as a potential Democratic opponent to Scott Walker is because he couldn't win his own party's nomination if he were to run for re-election to the Wisconsin Assembly. The tactic of Democrats unilaterally disarming and whining about bad Republican legislation only helps Republicans get elected. The tactic of using the legislative amendment process to force Republicans to vote on good, common-sense ideas, in my opinion, is a much more effective legislative tactic for Democrats when they're in the minority, because, even if their ideas don't become law, it's easy to paint the Republicans as obstructing progress despite the fact that they have full control of the legislative process like they currently do in Wisconsin and are able to ram an extreme, right-wing agenda into law.
If you wonder why the Democrats are in the minority in both houses of the Wisconsin Legislature and a radical-right Republican is in the Governor's Mansion, it's because the Democratic Party of Wisconsin is run by a no-ideas establishment.
UPDATE: Peter Barca, without making any explicit mention of it, apparently responded to this diary:
For insiders who may have asked the same question - when you hit a Republican brick wall over and over again and they tell you that you will not be allowed to have a single change pass ... you have to try something new.Assemblyman Barca, if you are reading this article, I am NOT a political insider. I am a progressive political blogger from Illinois who has been interested in Wisconsin politics since 14 Democratic members of the Wisconsin State Senate fled to my home state in a failed attempt to prevent an anti-collective bargaining bill from becoming law in Wisconsin.
That is what Assembly Democrats did -- we took our fight to the people. There are Assembly Democrats all over the state today talking to people and media. People deserve to know what is in this budget -- and we feel this was the most effective way to get our message out.