Jason Stein and Patrick Marley discuss new book

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Jason Stein and Patrick Marley discuss new book

Premiere Date: 
April 11, 2013

Jason Stein and Patrick Marley talk about their new book on the battle over Act 10.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:

We switch gears now and go back in time. It's been just a little over two years, that is, March 11, 2011, since Governor Scott Walker signed Act 10 into law, also known as the Budget Repair Bill. The signing capped off weeks of daily protests attended by tens of thousands of citizens for and against the measure. A new book chronicles that historic political time. “More Than They Bargained For" was co-authored by two reporters who were in the thick of it all. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel journalists Patrick Marley and Jason Stein. Earlier Zac Schultz sat down with the authors.

Zac Schultz:

Jason Stein, Patrick Marley, thanks for joining us.

Both:

Thank you.

Zac Schultz:

Well, in reading this book it's a little bit reliving the episode if you were at the capitol at any point during this. Have you noticed that one side or the other is more interested in going through that experience again, this time in print?

Patrick Marley:

It’s interesting. Some people who were there, many people who were there, say it gives them flash backs, or you know, all these memories come back. I think people both on the left and right are equally interested. It's a unique moment in our history. Although people lived through it, they to want know more about it.

Zac Schultz:

Is there a lot more to know?

Jason Stein:

I think there is. For one thing, both sides, you didn't really tend to know a lot of what the other was up to. I think there was a lot for us to learn as well. There were many things happening and many things going on behind-the-scenes that people are a little more willing to talk about now than they were then.

Zac Schultz:

Why were they, some of those prominent figures? Did you have to coax them into an interview or were they interested in getting their message on point?

Patrick Marley:

Well, we have pretty good access to all of the legislators and the governor from our day job at the Journal Sentinel, so I don't think there's a lot of coaxing there. But there was a certain amount of relaxation they felt by the fact that it was a book rather than a newspaper story, and they knew what we were working on was going to come out some time later, after all of these events. Some of these interviews were happening close to the time they happened. Others were happening a year or more later. So they understood that sort of everybody in the state wanted more perspective on this and gave them,  took a different approach to it maybe than they would for newspaper stories.

Zac Schultz:

And there were still some fuzzy memories, people saying I don't quite remember saying it that way.

Jason Stein:

We definitely had better luck with the people that we interviewed early on in the process who agreed to be interviewed early on in the process. Some of the people who only sort of came in toward the end would say, yeah, I remember this happened. I don't remember when it did. So I'm glad we did it when we did. I don't think it would be possible to do it in the way we did even now.

Zac Schultz:

A lot of people assume because the republicans have the majorities that Act 10 was destiny, the republicans were lockstep, and nothing was going to stop this. One of the things I found from reading the book, is that it seemed like there are a lot of points where this could have gone quite differently.

Patrick Marley:

There definitely was a plan to make it pass and quickly. Governor Walker had a one week day-by-day schedule. He would introduce it and the following Thursday it would be passed into law. But we also found a lot of internal dissent, even before he unveiled it, talked to some key leaders in the GOP who scaled it back somewhat. I don't think any of us knew what would happen when the Senate democrats left the state. It seemed that it could have gone any number of different ways, including with some kind of brokered deal.

Zac Schultz:

We heard a lot about those negotiations during the time. Were they real? Could they have actually made something different in this bill that actually became law?

Jason Stein:

The negotiations between the senate democrats, who were, certain senate democrats who were in Illinois and republicans back in Madison. You know, there was always that possibility. I mean, I think that they were certainly getting close to satisfying certain senate democrats. Would it have happened? I don't know. I think what happened is that both sides dug in so early so quickly, I think both sides before they even really fully knew what was happening, that then it became extraordinarily difficult for them to unwind or untie that knot that they had tied, particularly when none of them knew each other very well. The governor's team had just arrived, just come into office.

Zac Schultz:

Obviously, everything at the capitol is about politics at all times, but how much pressure at home was really felt by these lawmakers on either side and influenced what they did day to day?

Patrick Marley:

Well, there was tremendous pressure on everybody on both sides, particularly in the Senate. The senate democrats left the state and, you know, they started, the recall started. They were being bombarded with calls and emails to them, telling them that they were to come back right away. And of course the republicans from the moment this started, had people not just protesting in the capitol, but on their front lawn, yelling things at them, you know, their children were seeing this through the window. But the effect sometimes was the opposite of what the protestors on either side would have wanted, because it made someone more dug in in their position. They feel common cause with their colleagues from the same side of the aisle and they don't want to give in to the other side.

Zac Schultz:

The reverberations of Act 10 are still being felt. We've got open cases, sing-alongs daily at the capitol by protestors who are still there. How long before you think this becomes history and is not quite so present?

Jason Stein:

That's a great question. I think, you know, in some ways it's a little below the surface now, but there's still so much raw emotion around this law. I mean, I think it will take a lot of time for that to change, and also for people to just appreciate the law and maybe in the sense that to understand it, you know, in that sense of the word, and to be able to say, okay, let's step back from this and see what are the many complex things that happened as a result of it rather than approach it from a purely emotional, whether it's positive or negative, reaction, which I think so many people do now.

Zac Schultz:

All right. Jason Stein, Patrick Marley.  The book is "More Than They Bargained For," a great read. Thank you for joining us.

Both:

Thank you.


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