The real consequences of elections

Waconia Mayor Jim Nash has a post up on the Carver County GOP website entitled “Elections Have Consequences”.  In it, Nash blasts the Democratic legislators in Wisconsin who have fled the state in order to prevent the Republican majority and Governor Scott Walker from shredding decades of labor law under the guise of repairing the budget deficit.

It’s an interesting argument.  Certainly, everyone would agree that the Wisconsin Democrats have taken an extreme measure in response to the proposed legislation, and reasonable people can argue whether or not it’s an appropriate one.  But Nash goes further:

While no party enjoys being in the minority, we all must realize that it is the job of elected officials to go about the work of the people.  You may not always like the outcome, you may not agree with the way things are going, but your job is to not hold up the will of the people by obstructing the work of the people, your job is to go about serving those whom you represent.

Of course, this wasn’t the story when Republicans were in the minority in the U.S. Senate.  Obstruction is exactly what they engaged in, at levels unprecedented in Senate history.  Over the last two completed Senate terms (2007-2010), Republicans filibustered 203 times.  That’s the same number of filibusters as the entire period from 1919-1982.  That’s double the number of filibusters that the Senate Democrats attempted during George W. Bush’s first term.

And, it’s not as if Congressional Republicans didn’t pull out every parliamentary trick in the book to try to derail health care reform in 2009-2010.  No one should be fooled by Nash’s rhetorical game here.  Yes, elections have consequences.  But no one has ever accepted the fact that the minority’s job following an election is to roll over and play dead.  As shown above, Republicans certainly didn’t. 

So we can sit here and play tit for tat all day long.  At some point, it devolves into an elementary school playground argument.  It’s noisy and doesn’t accomplish anything.  Instead, we need to understand the real argument here — the real consequences of our recent elections.

No single political party has held the Governor’s office and both houses of the State Legislature in this state since the Perpich Administration.  The message Minnesotans have sent is clear:  they want Democrats, Republicans, and IPers to work together to find the best solutions to the issues we face.  The voters want compromise.   They want the parties to take their best ideas and put them together.

What we can’t continue to do is play the games of political chicken that we have seen over the last decade.  We need leaders who understand that politics isn’t a zero-sum game.  The decisions made in St. Paul have real-life impacts on real people.  We can’t continue on the same path.

The contours of a compromise on our state’s $5 billion budget deficit are there — if Republicans are willing to accept some source of new revenue and Democrats are willing to accept some painful spending cuts.  Who is going to be the one to reach their hand across the aisle? 

My message to Jim Nash is this:  let’s ditch the slogans.  Let’s toss away the pandering to narrow special interests.  We can solve budget crises here, in Wisconsin, and in Washington D.C. without obstruction.  It requires a willingness to actually do the work of the people, not mouthing empty platitudes while putting partisan politics first.  Is Jim Nash willing to do that?  It seems not:

We must hold fast to our conservative principals [sic], and not allow them to be watered down. 

No one is going to get everything they want out of this budget battle.  What we don’t need, though, are people who aren’t willing to accept any compromise.


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