Wednesday, August 10, 2011

In Wisconsin, the System Stands Strong in the Face of Special Interests

The news that incumbents held their majority in the Wisconsin Senate after last night's recall elections was a victory for many folks who weren't even on a ballot.

First, it's great for kids. Thousands of children who will benefit from the state's massive school choice expansion this year don't have to worry about the reforms getting rolled back. Second, it's great for the voters of Wisconsin, who were dragged into a long, arduous, and very costly recall process that thankfully renders the results of next week's elections moot (at least when it comes to control of the Senate majority), meaning they're (mostly) done with the influx of ads from both sides.

But third is the victory for our political system. We told you last month about how the recall effort was not being waged because of some breach of the public trust, a legal transgression, or a moral situation calling into question the judgment of the legislators. This recall came about as a result of a series of legitimate votes that some very powerful interests didn't like.

We're not here to debate any of the non-education related issues that sparked this whole thing, and it bears repeating that our organization is made up of folks from both sides of the aisle, and some who sit right down the middle. But one thing we all agree about is how this entire ordeal—that is, the idea of trying to kick legislators out of office mid-cycle when the only transgression is a disagreeable vote—makes a mockery of the political process.

When these lawmakers take office, there is a tacit or sometimes explicit acknowledgement that those public servants will play by the rules. Few citizens expect to always agree with everyone who represents them, but there's a fair expectation that our representatives will adhere to the fact that, while every vote won't always go in their favor, they'll be able to live with the result. And if special interests (or anyone really) have a problem with a vote, they have a consistent opportunity to do something about it; not whenever they want, but on Election Day.

What should not be taking place is the worrisome precedent that was just set in Wisconsin. Now that they've seen it happen this year, people on both sides of the aisle know that they can circumvent the process of the normal electoral process for, essentially, whatever reason they want. And sour grapes should not drive the policies that shape our country.

These people were sent to the capital to vote on the legislation they think is best. If we don't like it, we can exercise our own vote when their term is up. But if we get in the habit of beginning a recall process every time something happens that we don't like (something does not break the rules), then we'll fundamentally cripple our representatives' ability to govern.

We've seen recently what happens with gridlock in Washington, and we should do our best to avoid the same fate across the rest of the country.

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MAG

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