State Senator Lena Taylor is a polarizing figure in our community, and not in the sense that every politician in our country is polarized along party lines. Surely Republicans don’t like her (although after Thursday she may be looking to change this) but an increasing swath of Milwaukee’s “left” has a fair share of issues with her as well. But she does have her fans – I can recall several public calls to see her likeness muralized after showing up to a few marches during the 2020 uprising.
On Thursday March 18th at 10am at UWM’s Fireside Lounge State Senator Lena Taylor along with Committee Chair Van Wanggaard and some other boring republicans held a get together with their cop friends, where they all got paid to whine for 3 hours about how hard their jobs are, before spending their last hour at worst dismissing public feedback, and at best outright ignoring it. For their part, the two delegates from the city had some pushback on SB117.
I mentioned above how Lena Taylor was present a few times last summer, and in her opening remarks she even name dropped Eric Garner (which we can talk about later.) Her support of these bills makes you wonder if she even heard what it was that the People were even asking for last summer. As a friend put it “Lena we said DEFUND the police. Not DEFEND the police”
If you aren’t familiar with these trash bills, here is a good run down.
When questioned on Senate Bill 124 Senator Taylor would ask if we were familiar with the “cop house model.” This was her most good faith response to questioning, to which activists responded firmly (correctly) they do not support giving cops any more money at all, and if Cops want these programs then they can move their already astronomical budgets around.
Her other responses were less respectful, but far more indicative of bigger problems with the “solutions” Lena Taylor and other Democrats provide. These responses can mostly be categorized in two ways, Lena Taylor telling you that you don’t know how the government works, and that at least these bills are something.
While the second is more insidious, the first is the more insulting, and frankly abolitionists “not knowing how government works” seems like wishful thinking. She wanted us all to know that in Madison you have to compromise, and we simple peasants couldn’t possibly understand. This is a tactic Democrats love. Activists spent the entirety of the Obama years being told that they couldn’t get anything done because of Republican obstruction. A famous recent example is Dems with a supermajority appealing to the Senate Parliamentarian to justify not including a minimum wage increase in the reconciliation process.
This is obviously untrue. In the case with the minimum wage, the Vice President can override the fake-title Parliamentarian. In response to the current Wisconsin DOC fuckery, as we have laid out already, the governor could directly pardon incarcerated people to release them and depopulate prisons. Democrats have long used tactics like these to claim powerlessness, telling us they would really really like to help, but just can’t.
Politicians (Democrats mostly, Republicans don’t waste their time on justifying their actions) will swear up and down that the law-making process is arduous and that change is slow. But when questioned on why they are doing things to make things slower, they can’t give you a straight answer. In State Senator Lena Taylor’s case she will tell you that she respects you for having a wrong opinion and will end the conversation.
Her second and equally popular defense of these bills “at least these bills are something.” She elaborates: “if we were to do this, we would not be in the same place that we are now, which does not document that they are prohibited in the state of Wisconsin. These are not “the perfect”. They may not even be “the good” to some people, but they are not the status quo.”
These bills are not the status quo? When every one of the police’s monologues praised the bills, and remarked that they represented something that they are already doing.
If the police think that these bills represent how their agencies are already working then I have two questions. Number 1, why bother with writing a new law? Number 2, is there any justification for believing these policies would materially change anything?
In business there is this idea of the opportunity cost wherein the cost of one item is the lost opportunity to do something else. AT THE BEST these bills are an opportunity cost, squandering the momentum of the uprising and the general consensus that SOMETHING has to be done about the police.
It is in this binary choice that politicians justify their worst tendencies. In their world view, the only options are terrible laws written to appeal to opponents of reform, or the status quo. We are abolitionists, but we can be pragmatic. If Lena Taylor presented us with reforms that eroded police power, however gradually, we would embrace them.
After passing these laws, Republicans can tell everyone that they did something about police reform, and State Senator Lena Taylor can say that her bills passed and she “led the effort to reform policing in Wisconsin” But, by the cops’ own testimony, the laws will change nothing. If a politician tells you that they are the type of politician who can “get things done” that thing is almost certainly going to be bad!
Lena Taylor justifies the bills as action for action’s sake She’s co-sponsoring pro-police legislation because she doesn’t want to be stuck “doing nothing on police reform”, but I think I speak for all abolitionists and even the reformists in attendance yesterday when I say: “HEY State Senator Lena Taylor, next time you think you are stuck in a binary choice to make a shitty bill or do nothing, you should just do nothing.”