To Be a Republican Lawmaker in Madison
Randy Hopper is a state senator in Wisconsin. A Republican. He is now holed up with his colleagues — his Republican colleagues — in the capitol. The Democratic senators have apparently fled the state. Hopper says, “None of my colleagues from the minority party decided to come to work today.”
The Democrats are denying the Republicans the quorum necessary to vote on key fiscal legislation.
Hopper says, “I spent two years in the minority, and I came to work every day, even when I didn’t like the bills the majority was passing. I thought it was my job.” The Democrats, he says, “have relinquished their duties. The people sent them here to do a job, and they are refusing to do it. They’re in hiding. They ought to be ashamed of themselves.”
Hopper has received threatening phone calls and e-mails. These are threats of a physical nature. “We are working with law enforcement in my district. They are watching my home and my business.” Other Republicans have had their homes and businesses threatened, too. The unionists have demonstrated outside those homes and businesses.
A menacing old phrase comes to mind (and has been used by others, in talking about events in Wisconsin): We know where you live.
Hopper says, “I’ve always said that they can threaten me all they want, but it’s not going to stop me from doing what the people elected me to do.” And he says more than once, “We’re still here.” The Republicans have not run anywhere.
They have been pushed around (literally), screamed at, etc. The capitol is surrounded. The signs carried by the protesters are “vicious,” says Hopper. There are comparisons of Gov. Scott Walker to Hitler, of course. And there are other signs “I won’t describe to you.”
Hopper says, “I can’t tell you how much respect I have for my colleagues,” operating in an extremely hostile atmosphere.
I ask whether he is going home tonight, to sleep. He says, “We’re not disclosing that. My colleagues and I are not talking about that. We’re working with law enforcement” on the matter.
But “I can tell you that I’ll be here tomorrow. We will do our jobs. I said, at the beginning of this session, that what will determine the course of events here is political courage.”