Thursday, March 10, 2011

Putting a face on that "no" vote in Wisconsin. . .

The Battle of Bargaining Rights ended last night in Wisconsin.

This morning's New York Times describes what happened this way:
The Republicans control the Senate but had been blocked from voting on the issue after Senate Democrats left the state last month to prevent a quorum. But the Republicans used a procedural maneuver Wednesday to force the collective bargaining measure through: they removed elements of Governor Walker’s bill that were technically related to appropriating funds, thus lifting a requirement that 20 senators be present for a vote. In the end, the Senate’s 19 Republicans approved the measure, 18 to 1, without any debate on the floor or a single Democrat in the room.
That single "no" vote intrigued me. It takes guts at any age to be the only person who won't go along. So who was he/she who dared to dissent?

He is Dale Schultz, born in Madison, currently living in Richland Center, Wisconsin. A farm manager and real estate broker,  Mr. Schultz has represented Wisconsin's 17th Senate District since 1991. He has spent the last few weeks encouraging his fellow Republicans to be slightly less intransigent on their position that state employees be stripped of their collective bargaining rights; i.e. he was willing to compromise with Democrats.

Dale Schultz voting "no"
Mr. Schultz issued the following statement after his dissenting vote last night:
As someone who as spent the better part of the last four weeks working toward and hoping for a compromise, this is a difficult night. 
I've had the honor and privilege of representing folks in Southwest and South Central Wisconsin for 28 years, and where I come from ‘compromise' isn't a dirty word. 
I've received tens of thousands of e-mails, thousands of phone calls and letters, and spent hours meeting with thousands of citizens in my district. I've heard personal and heartfelt stories of friends and neighbors, and they ask for just two things. 
First, be inclusive by listening and working with your colleagues on both sides of the aisle to reach a compromise which addresses our fiscal crisis. Second, public employees are willing to make sacrifices on things like wages and benefits, but we need to preserve collective bargaining as a tool which has helped keep labor peace in this state for decades. 
Ultimately, I voted my conscience which I feel reflects the core beliefs of the majority of voters who sent me here to represent them. 
I look forward to working with my colleagues in the days ahead as we now need to join together to work through what promises to be a difficult budget.
The gallery reaction to those18 other Republican senators' maneuver was reported in this morning's Idaho Statesman:
"You are cowards!" spectators in the Senate gallery screamed as lawmakers voted. Within hours, a crowd of a few hundred protesters inside the Capitol had grown to an estimated 7,000, more than had been in the building at any point during weeks of protests. 
"The whole world is watching!" they shouted as they pressed up against the heavily guarded entrance to the Senate chamber.

Gallery view of last night's vote courtesy
The Wisconsin State Journal reported:
Thousands of protesters rushed to the state Capitol Wednesday night, forcing their way through doors, crawling through windows and jamming corridors, as word spread of hastily called votes on Gov. Scott Walker's controversial bill limiting collective bargaining rights for public workers.
While State Senator Dale Schultz' vote may have been lonely, it really wasn't a surprise. On February 22nd, the Wall Street Journal reported that he had floated a compromise proposal  " the Republican caucus early last week, [that] calls for most collective bargaining rights of public-employee unions to be eliminated—per Mr. Walker's bill—but then reinstated in 2013. ..." In that same article, the WSJ described Mr. Schultz as having " ... earned a reputation for working across party lines and was endorsed in his 2010 re-election bid by the state's largest teachers' employee union. He won with nearly 65% of the vote."

So how have his Republican senate colleagues reacted to Dale Schultz' flirtations with compromise and his decision last night to vote "no"? And how's Mr. Schultz viewed by the state's Republican party, outside the Senate halls? Greg Sargent writes in this morning's Washington Post's "The Plum Line:"
Here's a pretty good indicator of just how resistant Republicans allied with Governor Scott Walker have become to reaching a compromise of any kind with labor and Dems to end the standoff in Wisconsin over the Governor's proposal to roll back public employee bargaining rights. 
I'm told that some Republicans in the state senate were so angry at fellow Republican senator Dale Schultz for proposing a modest compromise with unions and senate Dems that they actually threatened at a private meeting to kick him out of the state senate GOP caucus. 
This comes to me by way of a source close to the situation. While the idea didn't go anywhere, and it didn't appear to have the support of Wisconsin GOP leaders, it shows how high tensions are running among Wisconsin Republicans who are under heavy pressure from unions, Dems and mass demonstrations to break with Walker. 
So how did Dale Schultz come to be the only  Republican Senator in Wisconsin willing to support compromising with Democrats? In a March 3rd radio interview on WEKZ-AM (1260) in Monroe, Wisconsin, Mr. Schultz said, among other things that:
Both political parties have a tendency, at least in these days, to kind of overreach, and people are tired of it, I think. ... I'm proud to be a Republican. I've been a Republican for 40 years. I want to do good things. But I also know that each political party needs people that are going to hold them to the highest standard
Politics as a willingness to compromise. Hmmmmmm ... 

It made me think back to a weekend seminar on the Constitution I attended last year at Montpelier's Center for the Constitution. I came out of that seminar impressed with how dependent the success of our American form of democracy has been from the get-go on the ability of measured, intelligent, informed lawmakers to compromise. I think it's safe to say that  the American Constitution resulted from our much ballyhooed Founding Fathers' much less ballyhooed willingness to compromise.

Reading about Wisconsin Senator Dale Schultz this morning, I was glad to know that there is still at least one Wisconsin lawmaker who remembers that.


  1. Thank you for pulling this together. It seems that in our desire to win, or be right, we've lost civility in our government. 27 years ago, the parties came together to fix social security. Bob Dole and Pat Moynihan crossed party lines and put together a plan that eventual passed congress and was signed by the president.

    This compromise was not easy and caused much debate. However, in the end, the fact that the Republican's were willing to accept compromise was celebrated by the leadership, not held out as a weakness.

    “I salute you for the leadership role you played in making this landmark legislation possible…This compromise proves that bipartisanship can resolve serious national problems. It is a clear and dramatic demonstration of how effectively our system works when men and women join together for the common good." (Ronald Reagan)

    While it is true that elections have consequences "victory" carries with it the importance of considering all.

    "With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan..."
    -- March 4, 1865 - Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address

    While it may be over reaching to quote Lincoln and the wounds of the civil war and compare them to Wisconsin's budget and collective bargaining rights issues...this quote captures the importance of considering the rights of the minority.

  2. The art of compromise is the art of governance. Radicals are unable to govern simply because of the purity and intransigence of their views. Radicalism in government destroys us. It pits us against each other. It values no one. It turns governance into warfare.

    Thank you Senator Schultz. May your example help bring us back to our senses.