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Sunday, March 13, 2011

WINNIE THE POOH AND THE IDES OF MARCH - 2011

I believe that this year's recipient of the most un-coveted Ideas of March Political Award is indeed Caesar-like, in that just as Julius was warned about his arrogance, so a prophet foretold our winner that of his character flaw could doom his ambition. In this case the prophet warned that if the voters followed our winner, they should "hold onto their hats". The voters ignored that cryptic admonition and our winner was elected with 52% of the vote, just 2% less than polling by an independent company, Public Policy Polling, had predicted. On January 3, 2011 our winner took his oath of office, and by his behavior, a short 45 days later, he had reversed those election results.
According to a PPP survey, released on February 23, 52% of voters would now vote for the other guy, Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett, who was also our prophet. The key to this shift was surprising. In the words of Tom Jensen, director of PPP, "Only 3% of the Republicans we surveyed said they voted for Barrett last fall, but now 10% say they would, if they could do it over again."  What can you say about a Republican who is so not a RINO that he is driving voters to the Democrats? You can say that he is the winner of the 2011 Ides of March Award!  Our winner was described by the Boston Globe as "...a boyish-looking man with sleepy eyes". He is a politician who has managed after just a month and a-half , to convert his administration into a real life re-enactment of "Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree". He is a preacher's son who is snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, who is showing an arsonists attraction to the fires of hell, an ideologue intent upon steering his party's bus over an ideological cliff, Wisconsin's Pooh-vernator, Scott Kevin Walker.
In a January 31 memo the Wisconsin Fiscal Bureau, a non-partisan state budget office, determined that Wisconsin would end the year with a $121.4 million surplus. The very next day, on February 1st. Governor Walker signed into law a $140 million tax cut give-away to corporations and wealthy individuals, which presaged the $137 million deficit, which he now claims can be blamed on the state's working stiffs. That claim, and the governor's choice of brinkmanship as his preferred governing style, has led Pooh-vernor Walker to his own brink, and revealed, like Pooh, a tear in his stitching. As Ezra Klein observed in the Washington Post, "The problem with trying to game out Gov. Scott Walker's negotiating style is that the guy doesn't seem like much of a negotiator. Another politician would've taken the concrete concessions on pensions and health-care benefits...and thrown himself a parade. But not Walker. Instead, he's rejected every compromise that's been offered -- and his allies are starting to notice. The State Journal, a paper that endorsed Walker, has advised him to take a deal. David Brooks (conservative voice on the NYTimes) has criticized him for an "unbalanced" approach to cuts. Andrew Sullivan (the Daily Dish and the Atlantic), whose initial position was sympathy for Walker, has turned....A few days ago, the question was: How long can the Democrats hold out? Increasingly, it's how long Walker can hold out."
Worse yet for Pooh, it is quickly becoming evident that Winnie the Governor has stumbled over the limit of public support for his "my way or the highway" style. The Pew Research Center found that 42% of Americans nationwide sided with the unions over the Pooh-vernor (31%). A CBS/NYTimes and a USA Today/Gallup poll both found 60% opposed to taking away collective bargaining rights for public employee unions, while just 33% favor it. And worse, for the Pooh - man, even the Republican Rasmussen Poll found that 52% of voters are opposed to limiting workers' rights to organize, while just 38% were in favor of it. - and specific to the current fight, 56% supported the workers, against 41% who supported the Pooh-vernor.
Rasmussen shamelessly insisted "Collectively the data suggest a fluid situation." Which means, I guess, that Governor Pooh is sinking. As poor Pooh observed when they pulled his bottom out of the Honey Tree, "You can never tell with bees!" Actually, you can, if you just ask anybody besides your base.
Wisconsin Majority Leader Senator Scott Fitzgerald was making noises as if he were having second thoughts about his fearless Pooh-leader's stand atop the barricades, but followed that up by pushing a vote to arrest the wayward Democrats who had fled the state to deny the Pooh his quorum. And just when it looked like this absurdity would be the place where reality could intervene, he followed it with a naked power grab by removing all pretense of an economic motive, and simply stripped the workers of all rights..
But he could not arrest the Democrats. Article IV section 15 of the Wisconsin state constitution, makes the members of the legislature "privileged from arrest". And a non-partisan court would tell Pooh that. In fact, when the Democrats fled the state they were following a valid and time honored practice used by both parties since the founding of the Republic. Even Abraham Lincoln once jumped out a window to avoid giving a majority party a quorum.
The very concept of a quorum was created to prevent a super majority from drowning out the voice of a substantial minority. It is a restriction designed by the founding fathers to force a governor to govern , not dictate. It is one of those nasty bits of reality this new generation of American pseudo-politicians seem not to have been taught in their right wing madrases, such as the high school aged Pooh's American Legion's Badger Boy's State Program, which paid for his trip to the Boy's Nation in Washington, D.C.
But just like Caesar, Pooh seems intent upon ignoring warnings and committing political suicide. At a refueling stop-over in one of Wisconsin's small towns, The Pooh was asked what school systems in the approximately 60 mid sized cities in the state were to do if the jobs blizzard promised by his tax cuts did not materialize. Pooh responded that they could demand even more from the unions. In other works, if the state gets stung following Pooh's economic plan, the problem is with the worker bees, not with Pooh's plan; never with Pooh's plan. As O. Ricardo Pimentel wrote in the conservative Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Scorched-earth warriors...don't win until everything is toast." And a professor of political science described the tactics as "...a high-stakes game of political chicken."
By early March even that right wing source-aqua, the vaunted Wall Street Journal, seemed to have taken notice of the ant farm the Pooh-man had laid all their beds upon. WSJ columnist Stephen Moore wrote, "It's foolish to believe that backing down will satisfy the unions. If history is any guide, more than 90 percent of union money will be used to defeat Republicans no matter what happens."  And every day Pooh refuses to let go of the honey pot of union busting, that 90% gets bigger and bigger and bigger. Gosh, who would have thought that could happen, other than all those Democrats who have been warning the Republicans they were toying with disaster. So what happens now to the Republican wave that was sweeping America, as the Pooh-vernor's legacy subsides into a generation of vicious recall elections, smashed political relationships, betrayed trusts and bitter anger? As was carved in Sir Christopher Wren's gravestone, "Si moumentum requiris, circumspice.", translated as "If you seek his monument, look around you." Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Scott Kevin.Walker, the closest thing to Julius Caesar this year.
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