I was recently chatting with a buddy of mine from my graduate school days at the University of Illinois. We were joking about the times we would go out, try to pick up a young lady or two, and just before we were about to seal the deal, then someone would overreach by asking her friend if she wanted to join in. The end result was going home solo.
At 1:30 Wednesday afternoon, Indiana House Democrats went home solo.
That morning, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels had just handed Democrats the best gift they could get, a rescission of the rules that would have limited the occupancy at the Statehouse to 3,000. After a barrage of public and media complaints, the Daniels folks conceded and went back to the original policy. By the way, I don’t think the policy in itself was bad, but it could have be implemented a lot smoother, to say the least, but I digress.
After the Governor made his announcement, Democrats could have held a news conference with their friends from labor and celebrated how they had fought to keep “the people’s house” open to the people. Then they could have gone into session with some political swag and then fought the upcoming battle over “right-to-work”.
Not so much. Instead of sealing the deal, the Democrats went home to Cinemax.
My Democratic friends had the perfect opportunity to made Republicans the bad guys, but instead the big story of the day was their walkout. A quick glance around the Internet and the Democrats and walking out are the top story. Granted, the Governor made headlines as well, but why would you want to share the space when you’ve got news like that to work with.
What makes matters worse is that despite a show of unity, members are privately griping about possibly not being able to work for 10 weeks. See my latest cheat sheet for what they are saying. And then throw in the fact the Speaker has threatened to enact anti-bolting statute if the Democrats stay away, which will result in $1,000 daily fines.
Democratic leader Pat Bauer accused the Republicans of trying to rush right to work and force it on the voters and called for statewide hearings and to slow down. Correct me if I’m wrong, but there have already been about 20 hours of testimony on this and there is a joint committee session scheduled for Friday at 9 a.m. And anyone who has been paying attention to this issue, knows this has been a GOP priority.
I am confused by the Democrats’ strategy on this one. Instead of taking a major win with the Governor’s concession, they decide to overreach. I don’t see how they win the court of public opinion by not showing up. If I were them, I’d engage in political jujitsu. I’d agree to comeback to the floor provided every member of my caucus gets to give a 5-10 minute anti-right to work speech on the floor. After that, we’d vote and I would make right to work my 2012 campaign issue. And use it to raise a ton of money on the promise to repeal “right to work”. If history is any indication, they could potentially come out ahead, seeing how it was labor issues in 1995 that led them to recapture the House in 1996. However, this strategy requires you to put your ego on the shelf and stop playing Connect Four, but instead play three-dimensional chess.
Indiana House Democrats are blowing a major opportunity in their zeal to stop right to work, which I frankly don’t think will work. For one thing, they’re not held up in a hotel 141 miles away, instead they’re in the room adjacent to the Indiana Supreme Court, so it’s a lot harder to hold your caucus together. Second, and most importantly, they are engaging in a short-sighted strategy that won’t get them what they want. Instead of being the victor, they just come across as being spoiled.