Endgame in Wisconsin
The state senate moves boldly against collective bargaining.


Robert Costa

Senate Republicans were harried by swarming crowds. “We tried to get out of the building after the vote, because they were rushing the chamber, and we were escorted by security through a tunnel system to another building. But, after being tipped off by a Democrat, they mobbed the exit at that building, and were literally trying to break the windows of the cars we were in as we were driving away,” Republican senator Randy Hopper tells NRO. Such tactics, he sighs, were hardly unexpected. “I got a phone call yesterday saying that we should be executed. I’ve had messages saying that they want to beat me with a billy club.”

Senate Democrats are expected to return to Madison on Thursday to tangle with Republicans as the bill heads to the state assembly, where Republicans hold a solid majority. Rep. Michelle Litjens, a GOP state representative, predicts that she and her colleagues will complete final passage. “Wisconsin needs this to be over,” she says. “We tried to negotiate and the senators never came back. We just have to get this done.”

Still, the fight could last days, especially if Democrats mount an all-out effort to filibuster via debate in the lower chamber. Outside groups are pitching in: Eight Republican senators are facing recall campaigns, and hordes of union members with signs and colorful T-shirts continue to arrive in Madison. On Wednesday night, jolted by the vote, irate Democrats already had their fists raised. “In 30 minutes, 18 state senators undid 50 years of civil rights in Wisconsin,” said Sen. Mark Miller, the Democratic leader, in an interview with the Associated Press. “Their disrespect for the people of Wisconsin and their rights is an outrage that will never be forgotten.”

Despite his misgivings, Miller acknowledges that Walker’s bill is now set to become law. “It’s a done deal,” he said. Republican Darling, however, remains worried about how the drama will unfold in Madison — especially if the protesters continue to occupy, and nearly control, the state capitol. “It’s like we are in a foreign country or in Chicago during the 1920s and 1930s,” she says. “I have had death threats. I have had my home protected by our local police. That’s not the America I know.”

For now, state Republicans are optimistic. As the jeers increase and the recalls pick up speed, they are determined to pass Walker’s bill. “Look, from Day One, the [unions] have been threatening physical violence and political recalls,” Hopper says. “But it’s more important for us to do our jobs than keep our jobs. This is not something that we are going to run our next political campaign on. This is something that we are going to tell our grandchildren about, that we fixed the state for them.”

Robert Costa is a political reporter for National Review.