‘Fleebaggers’: A History of Democrats Running Away to Deny a Quorum

WIsconsin occupy (Scott Olson / Getty)
Scott Olson / Getty

Democratic members of the Texas state legislature have fled the state for the second time this year to deny Republicans a quorum to pass voting integrity legislation — flying maskless to Washington, DC, undermining a vote on the right to vote.

The Democrats claim that they are defending democracy. But they are, in fact, subverting it — as Democrats have done for nearly two decades, setting the disruptive precedent that rioters infamously followed at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

The spectacle of runaway Democrats — memorably dubbed “fleebaggers” in 2011, a play on the pejorative term used by Democrats and establishment media figures to describe the conservative Tea Party — has a long and ignoble history.

The tactic was first tried in 1924, during a mutual standoff in Rhode Island in which Democrats, in the minority, refused to allow Republicans to conduct business, and so the Republicans went to Massachusetts in protest. But the runaway tactic has been typically used by Democrats in recent decades — often with the enthusiastic support of the establishment media.

In 2003, Texas Democrats fled in a failed attempt to prevent Republicans from passing redistricting legislation. 52 Texas House members went to Oklahoma for a week, then 11 Texas Senate members spent 46 days in exile in New Mexico. Their effort failed when party unity cracked, as one of the “Texas Eleven” decided to return home and break the logjam.

In 2011, Democrats tried the tactic in several different states as a reaction to Tea Party-driven conservative wins in the 2010 midterm elections.

Wisconsin Democrats fled the state to deny Republicans the majority necessary to pass Gov. Scott Walker’s public sector union reforms. Left-wing activists also held weeks of demonstrations outside the state capitol in Madison to support the runaway Democrats; some occupied the capitol to pressure legislators. Demonstrators memorable chanted: “This is what democracy looks like!”.

Also that year, Indiana Democrats fled to Illinois in an attempt to stop Republicans from passing “right-to-work” laws, which allow employees to take jobs without having to join a union or pay union dues. The legislation passed a year later.

Republicans in Oregon have recently begun to imitate the tactic, fleeing to Idaho and Montana in 2019 to deny a vote on cap-and-trade legislation. They also walked out over climate change legislation in 2020, and COVID-19 policy in 2021. Yet Democrats had used the tactic in the state first, leaving the state capitol in 2001 to block Republican redistricting legislation.

The Texas Democrats are being treated as heroes by their fellow party members. But running away from a quorum means undermining the vote, not defending it.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.