The news from the state Assembly chamber early Friday morning was not that Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill passed despite bipartisan opposition from Democratic and some Republican members.
The governor acknowledged in a conversation with a caller he thought was billionaire David Koch that he would use promises of expensive advertising campaigns -- paid for by Koch and others -- to bribe, er, convince a sufficient number of legislators to vote for his proposal.
The news was that Republican leaders of the Assembly and their allies in the Senate are so frightened by the people of Wisconsin that they want to close the Capitol.
Their fear of the voters of the state is evident. Those fears have been stoked by the governor’s crude attempts to distort the nature of the protests with outright lies about the composition of the crowds and discussions -- exposed by the prank “Koch” call -- of using “troublemakers” to disrupt the protests.
But it is a political fear, not a practical or physical fear. And it is an affront to Wisconsin’s history and traditions.
The state Capitol has historically remained open to the people of Wisconsin -- officially when the Legislature is in session, and practically when Wisconsinites have wanted to rally, assemble and petition for the redress of grievances.
The legislators who have voted to change long-established rules and approaches have done so for the wrong reasons. They act as fools or political stooges, not as representatives of the people of Wisconsin.
And they should be challenged, as they are assaulting the very core of our democratic practice.
We are proud that the law enforcement community has stood with the people of Wisconsin to object -- not just to the governor’s attempt to eliminate collective bargaining protections but to the attempt to close down debate.
The Wisconsin Professional Police Association has called on the governor to keep the Capitol open to overnight campers. And police officers from across the state have stepped up, as firefighters did earlier in the week, to join the crowds of Wisconsinites who have slept overnight at the Capitol.
“As has been reported in the media, the protesters are cleaning up after themselves and have not caused any problems,” says WPPA Executive Director Jim Palmer, who urged the governor to “not do anything to increase the risk to officers and the public.”
Palmer adds: “Law enforcement officers know the difference between right and wrong, and Gov. Walker’s attempt to eliminate the collective voice of Wisconsin’s devoted public employees is wrong. That is why we have stood with our fellow employees each day and why we will be sleeping among them.”
The governor is wrong. The police are right.
Wisconsin is a great state, with a great democratic tradition. It is being assaulted by a lawless governor and his allies. It is being supported by the men and women who protect and serve our state.