Indiana's Republican legislature tried to pass a major anti-union bill this morning, as is the hot new trend. It would have passed. But thanks to the Wisconsin example, Indiana's Democrats knew how to respond and have fled the state to deny Republicans a quorum for a vote. They're either in Illinois or Kentucky because, as the Indianapolis Star explains, they "need to go to a state with a Democratic governor to avoid being taken into police custody and returned to Indiana." This gets more fun by the day. Aren't you having fun? Well, in any case.

The anti-union bill in Indiana is different, but no less sweeping, than the so-called "budget repair bill" in Wisconsin, which (among other things) would strip public unions of their collective bargaining rights. Indiana's bill would make it a right-to-work state, meaning employers and workers wouldn't be allowed to negotiate contracts that require non-union employees to pay fees for representation. There are 22 right-to-work states now, mostly in the South and West.

Since Ohio's new Republican majority and governor are also planning similar union-gutting measures, those Democrats might as well leave too! It's clear that these newly deep-red states are executing a coordinated attack on unions early on in their new terms when they have some momentum, but they probably didn't expect this level of coordinated resistance. So let's get the battle lines fully drawn and play this out. Will the public turn sharply on Democrats for causing such a ruckus or the Republican governors and legislatures for trying to bust unions so aggressively? The stakes here are enormous and will impact the way other states try to balance their budgets now that federal stimulus money has run out. This is all much more important than whatever symbolic bullshit's being batted around in Washington this week, when Congress isn't even in session.

Speaking of Washington: It seems that national Republicans understand that they're thisclose to crushing their longtime nemeses, the public employee unions, along with the Democratic party apparatus in many blue or purple states. You see Republican senators and congressmen and Karl Rove and whoever on teevee all day, blasting the fleeing Democrats. But where are the national Democrats? Are they just going to stand by while this happens?

Update: There's been an interesting development! Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has called on Republicans in the legislature "to drop the right-to-work bill that has brought the Indiana House to a standstill for two days and imperiled other measures." Dodging (surrendering?) this fight won't help Daniels much in a Republican presidential primary, but it will make his next week less of a pain in the ass.

[Image of the Indiana House chamber on another occasion via AP]