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Greg Wawro on ‘filibuster by flight’ in Wisconsin and Indiana

Historically, we tend to refer to acts of political courage in the language of physical strength or of combat: “taking a stand,” for instance, or “fighting it out.” For Democratic legislators in Wisconsin and Indiana, however, the measure of conviction in this long winter of 2011 is not about – here comes another familiar image – duking it out, but about disappearing.

In Wisconsin, lawmakers continue to hide out across state lines in Illinois. As you know, 14 Wisconsin Democrats left the state weeks ago to deny Governor Scott Walker the opportunity to pass legislation that would strip collective bargaining powers from most public employee unions. Democratic legislators in Indiana went on the lam for similar reasons more than a week ago.

The fugitives seem to have the public on their side. A New York Times/CBS News poll released this week finds that a majority of Americans oppose cutting workers benefits or pay to reduce state deficits. It turns out, as usual, that there’s historical precedent for what we might call filibuster by flight, according to Dr. Gregory Wawro. He’s an associate professor of Political Science at Columbia University and an expert on the fine art of political obstructionism. He is co-author of the book “Filibuster: Obstruction and Lawmaking in the U.S. Senate.”

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  • jurassicpork

    They did it on Capitol Hill nearly a decade ago. Democrats left the Capitol en masse to prevent Tom DeLay from gerrymandering the country and DeLay actually sicced the FAA after them.

  • Rob

    Our thoughts and prayers are with these brave brothers and sisters from Wisconsin and Indiana. It is representatives like these, protectors of America’s workingmen and workingwomen, of whom we should all be proud! If JFK were alive, I’m sure he would agree they deserve a place in our collective hearts and in his seminal text of American political bravery, “Profiles In Courage”. If anyone knows of a more practical, or substantial way by which we can show support for these heroes, please let me know. Yours in unity, thefutureizours.

  • OCLiberal

    Abraham Lincoln did it also, when he was a state legislator. In his case, he had to jump out of a window because they had locked everyone into the state house to force a vote. See:

  • Swimmomkt

    I beg your pardon but this article is WRONG. The workers could still go for wages and, the poll said people were ok with all but the collective bargaining part.. Poor journalism.

  • Joe the Wage Earner

    If the Wisconsin budget is in such bad shape why did Walker give away tax breaks to corporations before going after the public employees. Why is it that he targets hard working middle class wage earners and yet is so ready to decrease the state revenues by giving tax breaks to corporations? The actions of Mr. Walker and the Republicans in that state are utterly shameful. Check out the staged phone to Mr. Walker from an individual claiming to be billionaire David Koch. That will shed light on the agenda of Mr. Walker and other Governors and legislators in other states such as Indiana and Iowa. In Iowa, Governor Branstad is the ultimate hypocrit, he is getting a state pension while serving as governor and wants to strip pensions form the state workers. Right now they have introduced legislation to get rid of binding arbitration for state workers and allow the governor and the legislators to override any decision by the arbitrator. They also have introduced legislation to drastically increase the amount state workers pay for health insurance. Kudos to the 14 Democrats in Wisconsin. The Democrats in other states where they are making the state workers scapegoats should follow their lead. It is appalling that the same legislators who would go after these hard working middle class workers will vehemently defend giving tax cuts to corporations and the ultra wealthy. This is case and point why ALL campaign contributions should be illegal and elections should be entirely publicly funded. Otherwise what you end up with is the best government that MONEY CAN BUY. Any private sector middle wage earners that are for such attacks on the public employees should think twice. It is a classic divide and conquer strategy that the wealthy corporations and their bought out politicians are using to demote the working class to the peasant class.

  • Guest 5

    The sick part of all this is the unstated real intent of banning public employee unions from negotiating.
    It is to deprive the Democratic part of a substantial funder of the democrats, sometimes they openly say this not often.’
    My answer to them citizens United one of the most appalling decisions of the SCOTUS ever. Read the dissent it is a masterpiece and the majority view is so convoluted it becomes nonsense. It turns a concrete or glass HQ of a corporation ( legal entity not a person) and allows them, a few directors, to vote to spend millions on the shareholders behalf (the real people) without consultation.
    Never Knew a “legal entity” had the ability to speak so how can it exrecise freedom of speech? Answer “IT I mean IT” does so via its directors and shareholders individual votes, they want an additional voice which even if the Legal entity had one does not give it the right to spend huge amounts of money nation wide to protect its vested interests.
    But now they can and that gives corporate America more power than voters… Nonsense.
    These state representative should stay out until the union bashing is dropped and last poll I saw over 60% of the nation agrees Scott Walker please note!!
    Guest 5

  • kralph

    “Workers could go for pay”. That pay would be restricted to the cost of living only, and there has not been a cost of living increase in over 2 years. No other benefits could be bargained for and the unions would have to run an election every year to stay certified to represent the membership. The yearly union voting requires that the majority of the entire union membership must be in the majority to stay certified. That means that if there were 100 members, 51 would have to vote yes. Not just the majority of those voting, but the entire union memebership. You cannot get 45% of the general public to vote in the average election, let alone one each year that is for wages only that are restricted to COLA.