There are the capitalized versions of the words: Republican and Democrat. They connote the parties that carry those names, and the men and women who have represented the people as members of those parties at the federal, state and local levels.
Then there are the lower-case versions of the words, which transcend party labels: You may vote Democratic, but you are a citizen of a republic. Correspondingly, you may vote Republican, but you should want government — whether in Washington, Madison or your home municipality — to operate in a democratic manner.
Over the years, we haven’t had as much small-d democracy in Madison as we should have.
An investigation by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism published Oct. 28 found the Legislature systematically diminishes the voices of the public by:
- Introducing budget amendments at the end of the approval process with no public notice or debate.
- Approving anonymous, last-minute budget motions containing a grab bag of changes, including major policy items that have nothing to do with state spending.
- Changing the scope and impact of a bill after its public hearing has been held, which excludes regular citizens from having meaningful influence on legislation before it is enacted.
You may think that, because Republicans have held a majority in both houses of the Legislature since 2011, we are here to criticize the state officials of the Grand Old Party.
We are. We’re also here to criticize Wisconsin Democrats.
When they controlled the Legislature before the 2010 elections, Democrats played a rather undemocratic game, too — notably with their own end-of-the-session, wrap-up budget bills of anonymously authored items.
We know what we want to see happen, regardless of which party is in control of the Assembly, the Senate or both: An end to the ramming through of major budget initiatives without careful debate and consideration, and/or after public hearings. It’s bad when Democrats do it, and it’s bad when Republicans do it.
The Journal Times Editorial Board is a longtime and fierce advocate of the concept of government in sunshine, that government’s default position should be to conduct its business in the open.
The majority party must remember that when an individual representative of the minority party stands to speak, whether in favor of or in opposition to pending legislation, that person was elected to represent that district. He or she speaks on behalf of the entirety of that district and should be respected as such.
Stifling the voice of the people, or their representatives, at any point in the legislative process is undemocratic, and unbecoming of citizens of a republic.