Wisconsin's no-show Democrats: Courageous or cowardly?

Democratic lawmakers fled the Badger State to deprive Republicans of a vote on a controversial budget bill. Are the AWOL Dems playing fair?

For a third day, protesters continue rallying against Gov. Scott Walker's bill to cut public sector budgets, which was delayed after Democrat state senators fled the Wisconsin capital.
(Image credit: Getty)

On Thursday, all 14 Democrats in the Wisconsin state Senate vanished from the capitol — taking refuge just over the border, in Illinois — to stall a controversial vote on budget cuts. (At least 20 senators have to be present for a quorum, and there are only 19 Republicans.) The escalating showdown in Madison centers on a proposal from new Gov. Scott Walker (R) that would gut the collective-bargaining rights of public-employee unions. While Republicans jeered the absent Democrats, the 25,000 protesters clogging the capitol cheered. Was fleeing the state really the right move?

These Democrats are "anti-democracy": The difference between the "days of rage in Madison" and the uprising in Cairo is that "the protesters in Egypt were pro-Democracy," says Larry Kudlow in National Review. Sadly, that can't be said about these 14 Democrats. Their party was trounced in the midterms, and fleeing the state to stymie the GOP's fix for Wisconsin's budget crisis is just a "disgrace."

"The Madison disgrace"

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Somebody has to stall this power play: This isn't about red ink, it's about political gamesmanship, says Brian Beutler in Talking Points Memo. Walker "ginned up" this budget crisis to target unions, plain and simple. There was no budget shortfall until Walker cut taxes. And even if "fiscal austerity" were needed, "rolling back worker's bargaining rights by itself saves almost nothing."

"Gov. Walker ginned up budget shortfall to undercut worker rights"

Wisconsin Dems understand the national stakes: Despite their headline-grabbing boycott of the vote, the outnumbered Democrats will likely "lose this battle," says Jay Gandelman in The Moderate Voice. But the larger war? Walker and other GOP governors see this as a "chance to take out a voting bloc" that opposes them, but they may have miscalculated. Attacking unions could unite and amp up Democrats in time for 2012. No wonder these 14 Democrats chose to "dramatically flee" the state — the stakes here are national.

"Collective bargaining issue or attempt to destroy unions' remaining clout?"

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