It's hard to imagine the level of outrage that would be flowing in the direction of the Republican Party today if Republicans had behaved the way the Democrats have over the past week. Who can doubt that The New York Times, Nancy Pelosi, and the rest of the left-wing choir would be chorusing "anti-democratic," "obstructionist," and "radical"?
In early 2009, when the Democrats were triumphant in Washington, President Obama dismissed Republican objections to his stimulus bill (now estimated, by the way, to have cost $821 billion -- $34 billion more than initially projected) with a pithy "We won." Elections have consequences, he explained, and there were limits to his openness to ideas from the defeated opposition.
Fair enough. But Democrats seem to respect the results of elections only when they favor Democrats. In Wisconsin, 14 Democratic senators, a minority, fled to Illinois in order to deny the state senate a quorum of 20 for conducting business. The Republicans, who have a majority of 19 senators, cannot pass their legislation in the absence of a quorum.
What this amounts to, though no one is characterizing it this way, is a move to shut down the government if Democrats cannot get their way. What it says is that Democrats will not abide by the democratic process. If they win, it's majority rule. If they lose, they refuse to participate.
Where is Obama's timely reminder about the importance of elections -- or in fact, about fealty to the rule of law?
And if a Republican "activist" had impersonated a big Democratic donor, say, George Soros, in a phone call to a Democratic governor, wouldn't the chorus be demanding a criminal investigation of the fraud? Instead, Common Cause is demanding an investigation of Gov. Scott Walker for the things he said to an impostor. Amazing.
Now legislators in Indiana and Ohio are copying the Wisconsin playbook. All but three Democrats in the Indiana House fled their jobs and the jurisdiction in order to prevent a vote on legislation they oppose. According to the Indianapolis Star, "Democrats are headed to Illinois, though it was possible some also might go to Kentucky. They need to go to a state with a Democratic governor to avoid being taken into police custody and returned to Indiana."
John Schorg, a "media director" for the House Democrats, told an Indianapolis website that "I cannot confirm or deny any reports about where the members of the Democratic caucus are, because I don't know and I don't want to know." That's public service for you!
There's an opportunity here for an entrepreneurial type: a bus or train service for Democratic office holders. They could call it the Fleedom Train, or Project Run Away.
The Democrats in Indiana are not just opposing right-to-work legislation, but also a series of reforms that may just unfreeze the stale status quo in education. The Republicans, having achieved majorities in both houses as well as the governorship in Indiana, are proposing to expand charter schools, permit parents to use state funds to send their kids to private schools in some circumstances, link teacher pay to student performance, forbid contracts that reward seniority instead of effectiveness, and limit collective bargaining to wages and benefits.
Teacher quality, Gov. Mitch Daniels noted in his state of the state address, "is 20 times more important than any other factor, including poverty, in determining which kids succeed. Class size, by comparison, is virtually meaningless ... Today, the outstanding teacher ... whose kids are pushed and led to do their best, is treated no better than the worst teacher in the school."
Daniels is right about class size. It's a myth popularized by teachers' unions that small classes lead to better results. The unions push it because it requires the hiring of more teachers. But there's no evidence that it works. As the Mackinac Center for Public Policy summarized, "(P)upil-teacher ratios have shrunk nationally for at least the last six decades, yet there have been no quantifiable improvements to student achievement nationally or in individual states."
Democrats in Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, and elsewhere are lining up foursquare with public employee unions and against budget sanity and education reform. Not a bad tee up for 2012.