Running away from work to do your job

Even from far away across the great unde­fend­ed fron­tier in Cana­da, I have for the past month been fol­low­ing the events in Wis­con­sin with more inter­est than I typ­i­cal­ly grant polit­i­cal mat­ters. Part­ly this is curios­i­ty, part­ly per­son­al inter­est (my moth­er-in-law is a pub­lic school teacher in the state), and part­ly this sto­ry is more grip­ping — and more appalling — than any­thing I have seen in the pub­lic are­na in a long while.

I will not attempt to engage this debate in any com­pre­hen­sive and sub­stan­tive fash­ion here — I think we all know by now that is not my baili­wick — but there is one aspect of the ongo­ing impasse that has been much decried in the blo­gos­phere that I would like to com­ment briefly upon: the self-imposed exile of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic minor­i­ty from the state sen­ate.

I am sin­cere­ly curi­ous: if the sit­u­a­tion were reversed — if a Demo­c­rat-con­trolled bicam­er­al state leg­is­la­ture, with the avid sup­port of a Demo­c­rat govenor, high off the eupho­ria of a sweep­ing elec­toral change of pow­er, rapid­ly intro­duced leg­is­la­tion man­dat­ing, say, tax-pay­er-fund­ed abor­tion clin­ics in high schools — and the only means remain­ing for the Repub­li­can minor­i­ty in one of the leg­isla­tive bod­ies was to remove them­selves phys­i­cal­ly from the state to deny a quo­rum and keep the leg­is­la­tion from pro­ceed­ing: how many con­ser­v­a­tive Catholic blog­gers out there would be deplor­ing their lack of respon­si­bil­i­ty? How many would be rail­ing that they need to stop behav­ing like chil­dren or dra­ma-queens and get back to work? Would the Catholic com­men­tari­at pre­fer that, in such a sit­u­a­tion, they stand by and let the leg­is­la­tion pass, despite their absolute con­vic­tion of its wrong­ness, and hope for the best down the road?

I didn’t think so. And I want to make absolute­ly clear right now that I am in no way imply­ing a moral equiv­a­lence to the ques­tions of abor­tion and labor rights; I am mere­ly try­ing to demon­strate that the judg­ments of dere­lic­tion of duty that are being lev­eled against the state sen­a­tors from Wis­con­sin are unde­ni­ably par­ti­san. These per­sons are not run­ning away from their jobs: their job is to rep­re­sent the inter­ests of their con­stituents, and they are doing so in about the only man­ner avail­able to them under these cir­cum­stances. Pro­ce­dur­al rules exist for good rea­son, and minor­i­ty seg­ments in a rep­re­sen­ta­tive body should not be vil­i­fied for mak­ing use of every nuance of them to stand in the way of what they see as aggres­sive, par­ti­san action by the major­i­ty. Such options should not be abused, cer­tain­ly, but I think the sit­u­a­tion is the Bad­ger State is clear­ly a case of last resort, not of grand­stand­ing.

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