Walker needs to show he's serious about compromise before he's to be believedUPDATE: Others have now signaled that they intend to skip the brat-and-beer summit, including legislative members from both Democratic and Republican persuasions.
Assemblyman Mark Pocan announced today that he doesn't intend to attend Gov. Scott Walker's "beer and brat" summit.
Walker's invitation came following his recall victory last Tuesday:
"I'm going to invite all the members of the state legislature, Republican and Democrat alike, and what better way to bring people together than some brats and burgers, am I right?" Amid cheers, he continued, "And maybe a little good Wisconsin beer as well."But Pocan remained skeptical of the invite, deriding the event as nothing more than theatrics for a governor with a real problem of being anti-cooperative:
I welcome the spirit of bipartisanship and I am prepared to sit down with the Governor and my friends across the aisle to create jobs and address the concerns of Wisconsinites. However, after people in my district, and statewide, worked tirelessly over the past months to let their voices be heard, I feel that I owe my constituents more results than sharing beer and brats at the Governor’s mansion.Emphases added.
Over the past 2 years, the Governor repeatedly refused to respond or even acknowledge requests to meet with him, roll up our sleeves and resolve our differences
The requests to have policy discussions stand: I am willing and ready to meet with the Governor. After last Tuesday, it's time for us to go back to work with a strong spirit of respect. Still, I refuse to be involved in what appears to be a media stunt -- true bipartisanship will only occur through concrete action made by Governor Walker. Those actions take real conversation in the State Capitol where we have been rebuffed over and over again.
Pocan points it out marvelously that it's odd that Walker, who spent much of the election deriding his opponent's record using questionable statistics and exploiting the death of a young child for political gain, would want to try to bridge the great divide in Wisconsin.
His previous uses of bipartisanship (or lack thereof) have shown he's hardly serious on the matter. Take the spat over collective bargaining last year: when Democrats fled the state to avoid the quorum needed to pass the bill above their objections, it seemed that any chance for agreement was lost. Yet State Sen. Mark Miller kept it up, calling the governor's office when he could to try to reach Walker to strike a deal, asking for mutual respect and compromise.
Unfortunately, Walker was listening to someone else -- a prank caller who disguised himself as billionaire political donor David Koch. Miller's calls to strike a deal were pushed aside.
Even with moderates in his own party, Walker rejected compromise -- Sen. Dale Schultz, a Republican from southwestern Wisconsin, tried promoting an agreement wherein the removal of bargaining rights would only have been temporary, to be reinstated the next budget cycle.
That plan fell on deaf ears, and the hard-lined Republicans, along with Walker, went forward with their bill, again denying the chance of compromise even being discussed. Schultz ended up being the lone Republican to vote against it.
Want another example? Democrats and Schultz, again working together, didn't like a new bill that Republicans were putting forth regarding the deregulation of mining in the state. So, following the new make-up of the Senate after the legislative recall elections last fall, the 16 Democrats and Schultz -- composing a majority -- offered up a compromise bill, allowing for some deregulations to occur while still protecting the environmental interests of the people surrounding the region in question.
The rest of the Republicans, however, again with Walker on their side, said "no dice." They refused to let the compromise bill to even hit the Senate floor. Had it been able to receive a vote, it would have undoubtedly passed. Compromise was achieved, but not allowed to move forward...by the very people now calling for compromise and civility.
Now we find ourselves, a week after the recall election, still divided over many of the issues that face Wisconsin. Pocan's distrust of Walker's intentions are likely shared by half of the state -- while the other half are probably thinking that he's still behaving bitterly.
But while some might criticize Pocan for refusing to attend the event -- what kind of Wisconsinite can refuse beer and brats, after all?? -- he's right to be skeptical of Walker's motivations. Such an event does make good press, after all. However, when it comes to true compromise, Pocan is correct when he states that it will only come from action on Walker's part.
If Walker's serious about instituting real compromise following the recall, he has to show it rather than merely talk of it.