The Last Word: Republicans Are Creating Police State in Wisconsin
Last night, Lawrence O’Donnell had Senator Larson (D-WI) and Senator Grothman (R-WI) on his MSNBC show The Last Word to discuss the Republicans attempt to use the state police to “detain” the Democratic senators in an attempt to force a quorum on the union busting bill. Grothman suggested that the Democrats leaving the state was unprecedented and illegal, while Larson correctly countered that the state Constitution allows them to do what they’re doing. Larson further suggested that the Republicans are creating a Police state in Wisconsin with the way they’re handling the unmasked intentions of their phony “budget bill”.
Watch here courtesy of MSNBC:
O’Donnell began by asking Grothman to clarify his earlier statements that the protesters were “slobs”. Grothman refused to back down on that claim on The Last Word, doubling down by saying, “When I talked about slobs, I talked about the people who are there overnight when other people aren’t there. And those people were very disheveled. They’ve made a mess of the capitol. It’s going to cost us quite a bit to clean it up. They bang the drum and just — they bang their drums, they just shout slogans, and they try to disrupt other people….partying in the Capitol….sitting on an air mattress with their girlfriend….”
Grothman is hoping to dismiss the protesters by smearing them all as hippies (why is the Right stuck in the ’60’s?), when in point of fact, the people protesting are Americans ranging from police, firefighters, teachers and yes, drum players. Are drum players not American now? Are all drum players hippies? And if they are hippies, are Republicans admitting that they believe that people who don’t dress like them are not entitled to the same rights as people who do? This sounds like more of Bachmann-esque “who is pro-America” business, a McCarthyesque approach to governing. Last I checked, our Constitution isn’t limited to people who wear button downs.
It sounds like Grothman is simply hoping to avoid the real issues by ad hominem attacks, suggesting the protesters are unclean and therefore unworthy of being heard. And they call liberals “elitists”. Perhaps he is hoping this justifies the questionable constitutionality of content-based discrimination inherent in barring protesters from the Capitol while welcoming lobbyists in during normal business hours.
Once O’Donnell got bored with Grothman’s predictable smearing of Americans outraged over having their rights unilaterally stolen from them, O’Donnell brought it home to discuss Republicans attempt to use police to force their bill into passage. In an attempt to bring Democrats to heel, Republican Senate Majority Leader Senator Fitzgerald signed 14 separate orders of contempt for the missing Democrats Thursday and Governor Walker issued threats about laying off the people. The Republicans have resorted to having protesters arrested for using their free speech, after using numerous tactics to shut down the protesters including blocking access to the Capitol.
Senator Larson: Right. I think it’s unfortunate that the Senate Republicans have gone around the bend on this one, where they’re trying to send the police after us, taking police off the streets, and go to their beck and call. I mean, this after they shut down the public hearing because they’d heard enough from these people. They shut off the legislative hotline because they’ve heard enough from people calling in. Then these people wouldn’t go away, so they shut them out of the capitol. And then they took over our offices and are fining us $100 a day. And that’s not enough. So now they’re sending the police after us. I think it sends a scary message that we’re moving toward being a police state because we don’t agree with their policies. And this is all in reaction to protesters who are trying to defend workers’ rights in Wisconsin. They’re really taking the wrong message here by going for a further power grab. And it’s going to hurt our relationships. And as for the police, I can tell you as soon as this message came out the first person who contacted me was my friend who’s a police officer and he said, hey, let me know if I can help you in any way, this is, you know, b.s.
Lawrence O’Donnell: Senator Grothman, you still have no legal authority to try to get to the senators who are outside of the state, do you?
Senator Grothman: Correct. Although this authority is such that it strengthens our ability to bring them back. And I want to point out, this is not about this individual bill. We are establishing a precedent here that we’ve never had before in state history. And that is can at any given time 14 people shut down the state legislature? If something’s not done now, no budget in the history of the state would ever pass. I mean, we’ve been —
(Grothman is spinning hard; the real precedent being set here is by Republicans who attempted to use a budget bill to kill a global right of collective bargaining, a right protected by the state constitution as well as the U.N. He’s trying to claim the Democrats reaction is the precedent, when in fact, the state Constitution allows the Democrats to do what they are doing, but it does not allow the Republicans to do what they are doing. In other words, the Republicans are the lawless in this scenario, try as they might to mislead people about who is at fault here.)
Lawrence O’Donnell: Senator Grothman —
Senator Larson: That’s not true.
Senator Grothman: Republicans would never think of leaving the state.
(Really? Even if we paid you a lot of money? Please?)
Lawrence O’Donnell: Senator Grothman, the great hero, the greatest hero of your party, Abraham Lincoln in 1840 in the Illinois legislature actually jumped out a window to prevent the other party from being able to get a quorum on a bill that they wanted to move at that time. Was Abraham Lincoln wrong to do that? Should he have been arrested?
Senator Grothman: I don’t know the bill — I don’t know what the law was like in Illinois in 1841. I know what the law is like in the state of Wisconsin now. And in the state of Wisconsin our Constitution is set up so that we vote on people in November and they can vote on bills. It is not set up so that 14 people can at any given time leave the legislature and bring everything to a standstill. As a matter of fact, I —
(You’re a state Senator whining about people using the state Constitution to stop a power grab and you don’t know the history of your own party doing the exact same thing? After all of these weeks? Wow. Read much, sir?)
Senator Larson: That’s exactly what’s in our Constitution. Senator Grothman, you know that’s in our Constitution. That’s why things are not happening. And it’s precisely when things like this are happening, where you’re trying to reverse 50 years’ worth of workers’ rights in our state and you can’t balance the budget on the top of workers, on the backs of workers, teachers, firefighters, and police.
(And here comes Grothman, avoiding the fact that he just got called out on lying about the Constitution —)
Senator Grothman: You have all the rights you want here.
(Except the right to follow the law, the right to collective bargain, the right to free speech, and the right to be heard….but do carry on Senator Grothman.)
Senator Larson: It’s just not fair.
Nor is it legal for the Republicans to send state police after lawmakers in another state, or to deny the people access to the house, to shut out the people but let in lobbyists, or to slip killing collective bargaining rights into a budget bill while refusing to sit down with the unions who are entitled by state law to negotiate over contract issues. In fact, it may not be legal to send officers after senators at all, even within the state.
The Wisconsin State Journal reported:
But it remained unclear Thursday whether the resolution and warrants seeking to force the senators back to the Capitol are legal. The state constitution prohibits the arrest of legislators while in session unless they’re suspected of committing felonies, treason or breach of the peace….
Under the resolution adopted Thursday, the senators may only be taken into custody if they return to Wisconsin, Fitzgerald said. The resolution does not call for their extradition from another state. Starting Friday, the missing senators also will be subject to $100-a-day fines, part of a series of ever-harsher measures taken by Senate Republicans to force the Democrats back to Madison….
Jim Palmer, head of the 11,000 member Wisconsin Professional Police Association, called it an “unreasonable abuse of police power.”
Republicans have attempted to quibble over the usage of the word “detention”, saying it is not the same thing as an arrest since using an arrest is not legal. Apparently, in the Republicans’ world, they would like to use law enforcement to force the other side to sit down with them while they violate the state Constitution by using a budget bill to kill collective bargaining, which is itself a violation of law and contract. Late last night, alarming footage captured by a news crew was released showing Democratic state Rep. Nick Milroy (South Grange) being tackled by police Thursday evening while he was trying to make it inside the Capitol in Madison.
This entire sad debacle is the fault of Governor Walker who did, after all, inherit a surplus in the state budget that he quickly ruined in less than a two months (perhaps a record for Republicans, they really should nominate him for President – imagine how quickly he could bring the country to her knees, finishing W’s job off). In just two months, Governor Walker brought Wisconsin to the point of fiscal disaster by cutting revenue, truly an accomplishment of sorts.
But Wisconsin Republicans biggest accomplishment in the entire collective bargaining rights showdown so far has been their epic ability to play the thug. Now, their last move of sending police after lawmakers while at the same time refusing to obey the laws clearly set up in the state Constitution, while also smearing protesters as somehow undeserving of their free speech, Republicans are doubling down on thuggery and going for an all out police state. Way to make your case, Republicans.
The world is watching Wisconsin Republicans. We won’t forget.