Police bar protesters from entering Wisconsin state Capitol on March 1st. Photo by Natasha Chart
Yesterday afternoon I posted an article about how a small number of Wisconsin Senate Democrats were considering returning to Wisconsin without a deal in place to maintain collective bargaining rights for public employees. Yesterday evening, Senator Tim Cullen, who Governor Scott Walker thinks is the most likely Democrat to flip, verified that there was division among the Wisconsin Dems on when to return. However, Cullen unequivocally stated that no one or two individual Senators will make that decision on their own. WisPolitics budget blog:
Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, acknowledged there is a split among his fellow Dems on when they should return to Wisconsin. But he said there’s no disagreement on how they’ll go back.
“We are absolutely united on one central point, which is that none of us are going to be the 20th vote alone or even two of us are going to be the 20th and 21st,” Cullen said.
Additionally, Cullen said the meeting which took place at the state line with Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald was part of an ongoing attempt to negotiate a compromise of some sort:
Cullen said he was one of the Dems who met yesterday with Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, near Kenosha. He said the meeting was cordial and Dems gave Fitzgerald a list of changes to the budget repair bill that they wanted.
Fitzgerald took the suggestions to the speaker and guv, and they exchanged counter offers later in the day, but couldn’t reach a compromise, Cullen said.
Here is what we know, relying only on statements from Wisconsin Democratic Senators that are in the public record. A minority of Wisconsin Senate Democrats are in conversations with the Wisconsin Republican leadership about a possible compromise. As of right now, those talks have not gotten anywhere. Further, while there is some division among the Wisconsin Senate Dems about when to return, most of them don't want to go anywhere anytime soon, and any decision about when to return will be made as a group.
I don't know whether that is more reassuring, or more nerve-wreaking. Whatever it is, the inter-state standoff will continue until a critical mass of Senators in one caucus or the other believe they are suffering severe political damage by prolonging the fight. To put it a different way, this has largely become a test of perceived political power in the eyes of the handful Wisconsin Senators who are the potential swing votes.
Republicans usually win these fights because over the past thirty years the conservative movement has held elected officials accountable far more regularly and successfully than the progressive movement. In this case, the progressive movement has put up an incredible fight that is both lacking recent precedent and which has demonstrably hurt Governor Scott Walker. Whether we have done and continue to do enough remains to be seen, but no one should have any illusions about the road ahead of us. Old political habits die hard, and it will not be easy to convince long-time Democratic politicians that we dirty hippies can bring more accountability to bear than can the conservative political industrial complex. Our only option is to keep fighting as hard as we can, but you better believe there will always be wavering among some elected Democrats when the iron fist of the conservative movement starts clenching in their general direction.