Tuesday, March 15, 2011

It's politics, not tyranny

Jonathan Chait catches Robert Reich in the act of labeling Wisconsin's assault on public workers' collective bargaining rights a "coup d'etat." It is, in fact, nothing of the sort. It's legitimate policymaking, as carried out by the duly elected majority in the Wisconsin state legislature and advocated for and signed by the duly elected Republican governor. Dramatic, sure. Radical, I'll buy that. But it's still legitimate and democratic.

We live in polarized times. Indeed, by just about every indicator we have, the parties have been growing further apart in recent decades and advocating for increasingly divergent things. One result of this is that when one party controls both the legislative and executive branches, it will push for things that many voters of the other party (and even many independent voters) will perceive as being outside the mainstream. And for all intents and purposes, they are outside the mainstream.

Parties push agendas. The Democratic Party has been pushing for health care reform for decades now, and the Republican Party has been pushing to limit collective bargaining rights for at least as long. So when voters give them control of a government, they'll try to enact those things. That doesn't make it tyranny. Calling what happened in Wisconsin a coup d'etat is about as accurate as calling the 2009 stimulus bill taxation without representation.

(via Bernstein)

1 comment:

Eric Hines said...

I agree that the passage of the union busting bill itself was not tyranny, but there are other practices that begin to reach the level of tyranny going on here. Preventing the Democratic members of the Wisconsin Senate from voting, for example, is pretty authoritarian and has means many Wisconsin voters have unequal representation. The "financial martial law" bill in Michigan, which allows the Michigan governor to void local elections, dissolve local government, and break contracts agreed between local government and unions is pretty much the definition of authoritarianism and tyranny. Just because the means by which an action was taken are legitimate, does mean the actions themselves are legitimate.