Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Dear Dems- stop "doing the right thing!"

Earlier this month, I criticized the Democrats on the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee for voting to approve Gov Walker’s request for $350 million in extra borrowing to avoid delays for various highway projects and maintenance. At that JFC meeting, the Dems lambasted the irresponsibility of Gov Walker and the GOP for allowing roads to deteriorate, adding the borrowing, and refusing to tax for the needed projects, but ultimately voted to allow it because they felt the needs of the state’s citizens should go beyond politics.

A couple of weeks later, this thinking seems more wrong than ever, and I’m far from the only one thinking so. Here’s former Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz ripping the Dems in the Legislature for their lack of strategic thinking when Republicans needed their votes on transportation funding and the new Bucks arena to get those initiatives passed, despite being in control of both houses of the Legislature.
And if the Democrats felt some need to come to the Republicans’ rescue on these issues, why didn’t they at least demand a high price for their votes? For example, on the Bucks deal they could have demanded that the money stay in the state budget where it belonged and garner their votes only if $250 million — about the same amount as what the Bucks got — was restored to the university system. (actually Dave, it’s only $4 million a year from the state vs the $250 million that was taken from the UW over the next 2 years, but I see your overall point)

On the road borrowing vote, they could have demanded that the vote be rolled into a bigger bill providing more money for buses and other forms of alternative transportation.

But none of that happened. After getting the bejesus kicked out of them by the majority party on issue after issue, the Democrats still found it in their hearts to give the GOP the votes they needed so that Republicans who didn’t want to take a hard vote didn’t have to.

The Democratic Party is just lost. It has no ideas, no leadership and no energy. It doesn’t just find itself in the minority. It has earned minority status.
I’m not as despairing as former Mayor Dave about the Dems current situation, but I do agree that they don't seem to understand the game being played. Along those same lines, here’s Lou Kaye with an excellent column at Rock Netroots explaining how Wisconsin Dems let themselves get suckered by the cynical GOP.
Believe it or not, minority democrats have already taken the bait and swallowed it whole as they are vowing ...vowing to introduce legislation to raise the gas tax and/or registration fees AHEAD of republicans ...while the same republicans are messaging bi-partisanship, "pledging to work" with them, but are saying policy-wise that spending, spending, spending is the problem. See what I mean?

You know, I can't get over some of the rhetoric used by Democrats to explain their votes on borrowing for transportation. Seriously, why are democrats complaining about republicans "not doing the right thing" on transportation when republicans can rely on democrats, as sure as the Sun rises every morning, to do the wrong thing? Dems said 71 percent of Wisconsin roads are in poor or mediocre condition, making us one of the three worst states for road conditions in America, so they had to approve the borrowing. Never mind that the borrowing restores the timetables for the road builders expansions and not crater maintenance.

But hey, we're a red state now - our roads are supposed to be crumbling, our schools are supposed to be in shambles, our workers are supposed to be skill gapped, our jobs are supposed to be leaving, our government is supposed to be corrupt and our trains are supposed to derail. Yet, it's the democrats (and locals) at every turn working to prevent those policies from going full metal jacket as intended. Don't democrats get it that Wisconsin business chambers endorsed and voted for a single party ruled republican majority to carry out those policies and a GOP executive to sign them into law?

If everything goes by the hands of their own making, and it is their own making, state Democrats, even under full red state majority legislative rule, will not be viewed as saviors. Instead, they will be the party identified with corporate welfare, debt and now higher taxes. Whoopeee! Voters will certainly gravitate to that. LOL.
I’d argue that the problem is less that the Dems have no ideas (they’ve introduced plenty of things that would clean up the cesspool of Wisconsin government and fund the services we need), but they don’t seem willing to hammer on those themes and spend time and effort differentiating themselves from the destructive policies of the GOP. Because the differences are mushed up, enough casual voters shrug their shoulders and stick with “the devil (in power) that they know”, or vote for some “gut” reason like guns and religion. Both reasons favor the GOP at this point.

It’s disturbing that the Dems don’t seem to have the guts to play the hardball politics that must be played against the GOP Wrecking Crew. If that results in short-term hardships for Wisconsinites, so be it, because keeping the GOP in power will only lead to even worse outcomes. And going along with the bad guys to keep things operating makes it very likely that the bad guys will stay in control.

Because whether the folks at the DPW want to believe it or not, the average voter won’t reward you for “doing the right thing” in the 2010s, and this is especially true when you’re in the minority. Ask yourself what was gained politically by allowing that extra road borrowing to go through? The GOP was allowed to kick the can further down the road (accidental pun) and make the argument on DOT funding a theoretical one for the 2016 elections, instead of having a failure that was right in front of the voters’ faces. Even worse, it gives the false impression to the average dope that the GOP actually cares about finding a viable solution to this problem, instead of making them literally put the money where their mouth was, and putting them on the spot as to just what they would do (or more likely not do, leading to more deterioration of our "48th in the nation" status for roads).

So instead of forcing a crisis and action at a time when the worst might be able to pre-empted, the Dems’ acquiescence to being a party to the GOP’s messed-up policies allows the GOP to say “w-well, well, the Dems went along with it too!” when they face unsatisfied voters next year. This type of overcalculated, 20th Century mentality of Dems wanting to be "bipartisan" is a suckers game when you’re playing against today’s GOP, and further review shows what a tactical blunder it was to allow that $350 million in borrowing to go through in the Joint Finance Committee earlier this month.

The Dems should have demanded that Gov Walker’s request for more borrowing be ripped up, and used it as an opportunity for a larger debate and more definitive action on the state’s transportation funding….or use it as a reason to blame it on the GOPs when they didn't have the guts to take any such action. Instead, they took the middle road, and may have gotten themselves run over.

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