Wisconsin’s Cowardly Democrats
Public employees and Democratic lawmakers haven’t exactly offered conservatives a lesson in civility.


Deroy Murdock

Politically, Americans often use the word “coward” loosely and inaccurately. On Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush condemned al-Qaeda’s attack as the work of “a faceless coward.” In fact, the 19 hijackers had learned martial arts, bulked themselves up, and then brutally overpowered airline crews in order to kill themselves and 2,980 innocent people — all in the despicable service of Islamofascism. Their bloodthirsty deed was many things, but not cowardly. It took lots of courage — or just plain guts — to perpetrate this. Alas, there is no English word for “evil courage” — a concept 180 degrees removed from cowardice.

For a Smithsonian-grade sample of cowardice, however, look no further than the 14 Democratic state senators who are hiding in Illinois rather than legislating in Wisconsin. Each of them epitomizes the definition of “coward”:

A person who lacks courage in facing danger, difficulty, opposition, pain, etc.; a timid or easily intimidated person.

One can agree or disagree with the Democrats’ views on Gov. Scott Walker and his benefit-reform proposals. Americans left, center, and right could respect and even admire these Democrats if they stood their ground on the floor of the Wisconsin Senate — arguing against Walker’s ideas, sponsoring amendments to defang his plan, and holding press conferences to promote their perspectives. Many would differ with these actions, but every American would concur that this would be perfectly appropriate behavior for members of a legislative minority.

Instead, these Democrats offer profiles in cowardice.

Rather than stand and fight, the Fearful Fourteen fled south, where they literally are hiding from this legislative battle.

“There’s no point in issuing a press release about where I am,” Sen. Fred Risser (D., Madison) told the Chicago Tribune. “I’m not necessarily in one place.” At least one Democrat is in Chicago. Most seem to be in an “undisclosed location,” perhaps a Best Western Motel in Rockford, Ill. This would put them about 19 miles beyond the reach of the Wisconsin State Patrol and the state senate’s sergeant at arms, who could drag them back to compose a quorum to consider Walker’s proposals.

“Collectively, they are taking about $1,915 a day out of the taxpayers’ pockets,” Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch told Fox News Channel’s Greta Van Susteren Monday night. “And now, the Democrats are fundraising from Illinois. That’s disconcerting, because, on top of that, they still are taking state benefits for every day that they are not showing up for work.”

This is the polar opposite of leadership. This pathetic display makes a troop of second-grade Campfire Girls look tough.

Perhaps, deep down, these Democrats understand that they have no case to make.

Governor Walker is trying to fill a $137 million budget hole this year and a $3.6 billion deficit looming in the next biennial budget. Unfortunately for Walker, he must do this without the Federal Reserve’s talent for quantitatively easing $600 billion out of a clear blue sky.

Excluding cops and firefighters, who protect public safety, Walker wants to end collective bargaining for government workers’ benefits. This would put Wisconsin’s public servants on the same footing as unionized federal employees, who lack collective-bargaining power for wages and are hardly exploited. Under Walker’s plan, Wisconsin’s public-sector unions still could negotiate their members’ salaries.

Walker hopes to reduce taxpayers’ share of the cost for state workers’ generous benefits. Wisconsin taxpayers now pay 99.4 percent of the expense for state employees’ pensions. Walker wants to lower this to 94.2 percent, with unionized public servants picking up the 5.8 percent balance (up from 0.6 percent today).