Roger’s Rules

The Petulant Child Form of Democracy

So, Indiana House Democrats, inspired by Democratic senators in Wisconsin, have adopted the petulant child from of democracy.  One paper called their action an “exodus.” I call it a gross abdication of responsibility and a slap in the face of the people who entrusted them with the conduct of their public affairs. What lessons can we draw from the behavior of these truant lawmakers? One important lesson is this: that they view democracy as a game worth playing only when they get to call the shots.  They are happy to sit down and do business just so long as they get their way. If they do not get their way, their recourse is not the time-honored democratic strategies of debate, persuasion, and compromise. No, their response is to take their votes and go home — or to Illinois, whichever is safer.

As I say, this is a gross abdication of responsibility. To try and comprehend just how gross an abdication it is, imagine if a state’s Republican lawmakers were to embark on such  anti-parliamentarian hijinks. What righteous indignation would pour forth from the organs of the fourth estate to deplore that violation of duty! And the indignation would be justified.

The MSM  has been fairly muted in its criticism of this sabotage of the democratic process. The public at large, however,  seems alternately astonished and disgusted. The cry goes around the neighborhood: Why are we paying these clowns? We just elected a governor who campaigned precisely on these fiscal measures and now the remaining Democrats, knowing full well what the governor was going to propose, leave in a snit. When President Obama was elected in 2008, he warned his opponents that “elections have consequences.” But when an election goes the other way, the response of the Democrats is to do everything possible to avoid the consequences of the election.

Of course, the extremity of the Democratic response in Wisconsin is a function of the extremity of the situation they suddenly find themselves in.  I say this by way of explanation, not exculpation.  As even ideologues such as E. J. Dionne acknowledge, the tea party movement did not only help determine the results in many elections across the country in November, it is well on its way to fundamentally changing the nature of political debate in the country. In a word, the Great Symbiosis between government workers and the government is unraveling. For decades, government workers at all levels — teachers, clerks and other bureaucrats, police and firemen — have extracted unsustainable promises from the politicians their unions have elected. The politicians, in turn, have gladly helped themselves to more and more of your money in order to reward their real constituents — not the public, which only furnishes the money, but the unions, which consume it.

This corrupt and unsustainable pas de deux has continued for as long as it did only because the mighty engine of American capitalism managed, despite the best efforts of the Left to hobble it, to furnish a dynamic and growing economy. We see now how much of that economic vibrancy was based on the seductive illusion of debt. (Debt, by the way, is an amazing invention. In almost every way, it looks exactly like cash. You can spend it, invest it, leverage it. The one difference — but what a difference! — is that, sooner or later, you have to pay it back.)

Well, the party is over now. It doesn’t matter that certain Democratic politicians are still there on the dance floor with certain dead-enders from the public sector, you know, the sad people who compare Governor Walker to Hitler, Hosni Mubarak, and Mussolini. The music’s stopped and the lights have been raised.  The responsible people are getting their coats and going home.  Those left inside are partly dangerous, partly pathetic. Old Arab proverb: the dog is barking, but the caravan has moved on.