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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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