Another large rally took place in Madison, Wisconsin today, as filmmaker Michael Moore and Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) spoke to a crowd estimated at around 12,000 by Capitol police. Other estimates were higher, and in addition to the throng outside, close to 8,000 protesters gathered inside the Capitol today.
The crowd roared in approval as Moore implored demonstrators to keep up their struggle against Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s legislation, comparing their fight to Egypt’s revolt. He also thanked the 14 state Democratic senators who fled Wisconsin to block a vote on the bill, saying they’ll go down in history books.
“We’re going to do this together. Don’t give up. Please don’t give up,” Moore told the protesters, who have held steady at the Capitol for nearly three weeks. Police have said a crowd of about 70,000 showed up on Feb. 19, and an even larger crowd rallied Feb. 26.
“Madison is only the beginning,” Moore added. “The rich have overplayed their hand.”
In addition to the usual witty signs, more palm trees appeared at the Capitol today, a reference to the infamous Fox News piece showing “union thuggery” in Wisconsin with a clip from Sacramento, CA that had palm trees in the background.
Two of the “Fab 14″ Senate Democrats, Lena Taylor and Chris Larson, spoke on a bill with Rev. Jesse Jackson in Chicago today, urging negotiations and an end to the assault on public employees.
The Associated Press reports that talks between Democrats and Republicans aimed at reaching a resolution on the budget repair bill, which includes the stripping of collective bargaining rights from most Wisconsin public employees, broke down on Thursday. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) is not involved in the new round of talks; it looks to be only the Senate Democrats and the Governor. And according to AP, those haven’t been taken up for two days.
WisPolitics, by contrast, says that Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Madison) floated the proposal of moving the collective bargaining piece out of the budget repair bill and into the two-year budget, and that there have been new talks, with discussions over raising the limit on wage negotiations with public employee unions above the Consumer Price Index, and removing the annual re-certification votes for the unions.
This seems like a softening of the Democratic position. Erpenbach even concedes in this article that the collective bargaining restrictions would have more of a chance to get passed in the two-year budget. However, there’s a wild-card there, and that’s the recall elections which could change the makeup of the State Senate. If Democrats were to gain control through winning a series of recall elections, suddenly Scott Walker would have no opportunity to ram through this collective bargaining plan. And those elections could happen by the summer, around the same time that the two-year budget would be up for a vote.
Certainly both sides are feeling some pressure, though in the court of public opinion the Democrats certainly have the upper hand, especially with Walker’s approval rating falling through the floor. His dictatorial and less-than-truthful nature was revealed again today, when the AP and Isthmus (a local paper) sued Walker in Dane County Circuit Court over emails that the Governor claimed to have received:
Two local news organizations sued Gov. Scott Walker Friday for alleged failure to respond to their requests for e-mails that the governor claimed were overwhelmingly in favor of his controversial budget repair bill [...]
“The governor said he had gotten more than 8,000 e-mails as of Feb. 17, with ‘the majority’ urging him to ‘stay firm’ on his budget repair bill,” Isthmus News Editor Bill Lueders said. “We’re just trying to see these largely supportive responses.”
AP reporter Todd Richmond amended his request to include e-mails concerning the bill through Feb. 25.
Obviously there were no supportive responses. And the above ad, from the unions, are starting to hit Republican Senators directly, which raises the pressure.