Keith Ellison denounces "dictator" Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker [UPDATE]

Rep. Keith Ellison, co-chairman of the congressional progressive caucus, ripped into Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker this morning, lambasting him as a dictator for his attempt to strip public workers of their collective bargaining rights.

"He's taking on the position of a dictator," Ellison said in a conference call with reporters. "He won't negotiate. That's not in the spirit of a public servant. He won't even talk."

He's not a terribly smart dictator, either. We've learned that Walker fell for a prank phone call in which he unwittingly divulged his secret strategy for defeating his opponents.

"He's going to fail," because public opinion isn't on his side, Ellison predicted. Walker wants a state that looks more like "Nigeria or Pakistan" when it comes to workers' rights.

Pro-union demonstrators invaded the Wisconsin Statehouse.
Pro-union demonstrators invaded the Wisconsin Statehouse.

Public employee unions have offered to compromise with Walker by agreeing to wage cuts, but Walker is demanding they relinquish their collective bargaining rights too. He says he can't balance the state's budget any other way, but the anti-union bill is part of his larger governing philosophy that seeks to sideline public employee unions completely. His critics say he's just using the budget battle for cover.

A new Gallup/USA Today poll shows that Americans think the Wisconsin Republicans are out of line: 61 percent opposed any law in their state similar to the one Walker is pushing. And AP reports that more than 200 mayors, school board presidents and other Wisconsin officials have voiced opposition to Walker's bill.

Ellison is the second major Minnesota Democrat to join the fight over public employee rights in Wisconsin. Yesterday, Gov. Mark Dayton promised union supporters at the Capitol that he would block any Republican bill in the Legislature modeled on the Wisconsin bill.

Bachmann of Facebook.
Bachmann of Facebook.

GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann has publicly sided with Walker in the fight.

Predictably, she has also denounced President Barack Obama for siding with the unions. Ellison, equally predictably, praised the president for speaking out.

"It goes to the heat of what America is all about," he said. "Americans have a right to free association. ... It's his role and responsibility to stand up for those values."

Update: Full audio from Ellison's conference call can be heard by following this link (QuickTime required.)


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