Russ Stilwell: Energizing
the Democratic base in 1995, 2011
Monday, April 04, 2011 7:18 AM
BOONVILLE - A couple weeks ago, I talked about being “politically boxed in a corner.” We discussed how to get out, what the price might be and are you willing to pay the price.
Isn't it funny what 10 days can do to ease the complexity for an exit strategy, particularly if you had not wanted one for the past month? In case you’re been living under a rock, “The House Democrats are Back.”
Prediction: In less than a week, the House R’s will wish the Dems had stayed in Urbana. They will face a worn-out, issue-driven wide-awake caucus bent on making sure that the issues they hold dear have a voice. And there will be no shortage of Democrat debate, or amendments for that matter.
For the first time in a long time, I suspect that many of the House Dems have read and reread each of the House R’s controversial bills – and there are plenty of them. And they have prepared and reviewed amendments.
Add all this together and throw it in the political blender with a Type-A legislator who hasn’t had a chance to debate for weeks and you’re got late night sessions, pent up passion and Hoosier politics at its best.
The House D’s have been considering how they might return to the capitol ever since they left. Much has happened. What started as a walk-out on Right to Work (and other issues, for sure) ended up being the longest legislative caucus walkout in modern day history – in any state.
There are still a myriad of still lingering issues that the House has on its calendar that will make this session interesting. Did I mention project labor agreements, school vouchers, collective bargaining and the budget?
Political pundits, including this one, have been ranting for a month or more about the Democrat walk-out. It never came close to receiving the Wisconsin national media frenzy. But it did strengthen the will of a whole lot of Hoosiers on the receiving end of the over-reaching republican butcher knife.
Sometimes the House Democrats just can’t help themselves. And sometimes the House Republicans, despite a sizable majority, do the unthinkable and make self-inflicted wounds on their political armor.
History will record two classic wounds: 1995 and 2011. For one, the history is already etched in the books and for the other (2011), history is being recorded. The House R’s had it all in 1995 with a 56-44 majority that resulted from the Republican wave in the 1994 elections.
And then they did the unthinkable. They made sure the Democrat base was energized!
They took on our public school teachers and the ISTA. They conducted a full scale attack on labor and the building trades (remember the rallies?). And for good measure they smacked around the trial lawyers and attempted mid-census redistricting that caused a 10-day democrat walkout. The result? They rallied the Democrat base and lost their majority the very next election.
This year? Time will tell but history has a strong habit of repeating itself. The R’s took on every anti-labor issue imaginable. They shredded the ISTA into pieces. They made our public school teachers the scapegoat for all of our education woes. And for good measure they took their agenda to a whole new level of rallying the Democrat base!
Stay tuned for 2012. It should be interesting fodder. The Democrat base is energized!
What about the return of the Democrats? Will they be subdued into submission? Don’t think so!
My best guess is the five-week 15-round bout the House D’s sprung on the House R’s was the opening of a multi-bout fight. he issues are still there. The D’s are still simmering over the overreaching and the House R’s feel it’s their time.
Not really a good recipe to sing, “Getting’ Together”, from the old Tommy James and the Shondales song from the 60’s. Those lyrics won’t make it past the first week of long night sessions.
Gettin' together is better than ever;
Gettin' together never felt like this before;
Gettin' together is better than ever ;
But the issues are so very real . . . and so very partisan . . . and so very polarized. Gettin’ Together just may not be better than ever! Getting’ together might be lining up for the feature fight in another 15-round fight.
Stilwell is the former House Democratic majority leader and a regular HPI columnist.