Paul Ryan should apologize to Wisconsin families

Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the middle-aged “Young Gun” leader of the Republican Party, stepped in it this week when he compared the Wisconsin families protesting Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) drastic and politically motivated attack on their employee benefits to the rioters in the streets of Cairo, Egypt. Appearing on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe" program, Ryan said “he's [Walker is] getting riots — it's like Cairo has moved to Madison these days."

Paul Ryan should apologize. Immediately.

Wisconsin law enforcement officials have described the protests as peaceful. Only a handful of arrests have been made. "For the most part, people have been very respectful and very orderly. It certainly has been a very peaceful protest," Elise Schaffer, public information officer for the Dane County Sheriff’s Department, told Politifact Wisconsin.

Meanwhile, crowds continue to swell in Madison. Media reports have it that Friday’s crowd was more than 40,000 strong. That’s a lot of Wisconsin voters.

For the past two years we’ve watched as the Tea Party movement dominated headlines and created demonstrations against the public policies enacted by President Obama. Real or not, they garnered plenty of media coverage. Now, in Wisconsin, the counter-movement may be emerging.

Other states are worried. Pennsylvania political leaders worry that the same thing could happen in New Jersey. We’ll see. But the anger is stoked. Republicans in Congress this week passed a budget bill that protects nearly every special interest — including preserving billions in taxpayer subsidies for large corporations while slashing programs that support our families. That’s a perfect bill for the Democrats to use as a contrast between the competing priorities of the political parties.

In a discussion with a reporter friend this week, I said I thought that the drastic overreaching of Republicans in Congress and in state capitols like Madison was the equivalent of poking a sleeping bear — and maybe hibernation is over. It was just two short years ago that an unprecedented coalition of 70 million Americans voted against two terms of special-interest coddling and attacks on American families and voted for hope in the future to propel President Obama to the White House and secure record majorities for Democrats in Congress. Now, just weeks after the 2010 elections, we have 40,000 protesters in the streets of Wisconsin.

Perhaps the Republican politicians have committed the same mistake they made after the 1994 elections — drastically overreaching and overestimating their election as a mandate. Time will tell. But in Wisconsin, a waking bear is on the hunt.


David Di Martino is CEO of Blue Line Strategic Communications Inc. The views expressed in this blog are his and do not necessarily represent Blue Line’s. Follow David: @bluelinedd.

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