Disgruntled “progressives” in Wisconsin want to continue their demonstrations and sit-ins around the state capitol? In Charles Bronson-like style they proclaim “this ain’t over!” Further, they say their voices are not being heard, because the legislature did not vote the way they wanted it to on union benefit cost-sharing and collective bargaining.
However, in a fully functioning democracy, citizens and political parties are able to accept election results and legislative votes and realize that democracy cannot function with a permanent virtual war on every legislative decision. Conservatives understand this. While we may oppose Obamacare, we realize that the way to change it is to elect more conservatives to Congress and either repeal or alter the law. Progressives show their intolerance, authoritarian leanings, paternalism, and radicalism by proclaiming war on democratic decisions that don’t go their way — that is, opposite to the “real interests” of the people.
Conservatives simply demand truth and clarity in political campaigns so that voters can make informed decisions. We ask so-called progressives to run candidates as clearly progressive as desired. But don’t pussyfoot around and sound conservative themes like lower taxes, more efficient government, etc. Have your progressive candidates boldly proclaim they are running on a platform of higher pay and benefits (with less cost-sharing) for state employees, higher taxes on all citizens (especially the rich), and more government involvement in people’s lives. Let the voters know there is no more productive or selfless member of society than a government bureaucrat, who is certainly far more valuable than a small (or large) business owner. Remind voters that society would be better off if every non-managerial public or private employee joined a union. If progressives really can win many elections on such a platform, then surely all their problems and complaints will fade away.
Yet for progressives to suggest that democracy is not being served when a Republican governor and Republican legislature are elected to cut waste and balance the budget is an attack on the very nature of democracy. Did Scott Walker run a deceptive campaign suggesting he would do otherwise? Are there really that many Wisconsinites who wanted to continue business as usual? More likely, many hard-working Wisconsinites in the private sector are wondering how public employees and their friends have so much free time to participate in such protests. They are justifiably annoyed at the selfishness of those with guaranteed job tenure (meaning they can’t be fired even for basic incompetence) chafing at modest sacrifices given the state’s huge deficit budget. They are appalled at public school teachers walking off the job and abandoning the children, made even more distasteful by the use of falsified sick notes from doctors.
The contrast across the Wisconsin border in Illinois is striking. The Illinois Democratic governor and legislature have passed or proposed tax increases, increased fees, and some budget cutbacks throughout state government, but have left state employees’ pay, benefits, and pensions untouched. The public employee unions helped them retain control of the legislature and governorship (albeit by a narrow margin), so the unions will not be challenged. This may reflect budgetary irresponsibility and economic stupidity, but the Democrats won the elections and if the Republicans don’t like it, they will just have to do better next time around. The last time I checked, taxpayers across the Land of Lincoln were not trashing the state capitol grounds and following legislators home to threaten them over raising income taxes by more than 60 percent. I have not heard the Illinois governor being compared to Hitler by any conservatives. No Hollywood celebrity has called him an idiot.
Some pundits have suggested that the Wisconsin situation hurts conservatives. I disagree. If conservatives cannot debate these types of progressives and win elections against them on a regular basis, then we must accept we were in error about most Americans favoring capitalism over socialism. But since conservatives actually believe in democracy, we are willing to take that chance and accept the election results and aftermath.
C. Scott Litch is the chief operating officer and general counsel for a non-profit association. Scott is a licensed attorney, Certified Association Executive, and also holds a masters degree in public policy. He is the author of The Principled Conservative in 21st Century America, released in the fall of 2010 just prior to the GOP midterm election tsunami.