RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

Intro: "A vote to recall the state's Republican governor has huge implications for US politics, but the liberals have missed their cue."

Bill Clinton with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett at a rally for Barrett, who is trying to unseat Governor Scott Walker in Milwaukee. (photo: Scott Olson/Getty)
Bill Clinton with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett at a rally for Barrett, who is trying to unseat Governor Scott Walker in Milwaukee. (photo: Scott Olson/Getty)

It's Class War in Wisconsin, Yet Democrats Sing Kumbaya

By Gary Younge, Guardian UK

04 June 12


A vote to recall the state's Republican governor has huge implications for US politics, but the liberals have missed their cue.

here is a degree of hyperbole one comes to expect from American activists around election time. Given the level of polarisation, this is hardly surprising. Every vote, you're told, is about liberty, justice, the American dream, the constitution or the world one wants to leave your children or grandchildren. Then, often, half the eligible voters stay at home and, regardless of who wins, not an awful lot changes.

So when activists on both sides of the effort to recall Wisconsin's governor insist "everything" is at stake, they should not be taken too literally. Nonetheless, this time they have a point.

The recall campaign was sparked last year when Republican governor Scott Walker pledged to remove collective bargaining rights from public sector unions and cut local government workers' health benefits and pension entitlements, claiming this was necessary to balance the state's budget. Walker, a Tea Party supporter, was elected in 2010 against Democrat Tom Barrett, with 52% of the vote. By February 2011, tens of thousands of protesters descended on the state capitol in Madison. In all 50 states, rallies were held to support Wisconsin unions. Before tents ever went up on Wall Street, this midwestern state was occupied. Unable to prevent passage of his anti-union bill and other measures, labour activists and progressives collected more than 900,000 signatures to recall him.

That makes Tuesday's vote a rare chance for a clear referendum on who should pay for this economic crisis - those who created it or those who have suffered most because of it. So in a state with a larger population than Ireland's and a GDP greater than Portugal's, people here will vote on the causes and consequences of austerity.

Walker's record speaks for itself. In his first year in office Wisconsin lost more jobs than any other state, and was one from last in private sector job growth. He has cut tax relief to low-income families and the state's Medicaid program. He has introduced a voter ID bill that will limit minority and low-income electoral participation, reproductive rights legislation that has forced Planned Parenthood to suspend providing basic services to women and repealed the law that protects equal pay for women.

Meanwhile, according to the Wall Street Journal, union membership has slumped since he banned automatic deduction of union dues from salaries. The WSJ reported that membership of the state's second largest public sector union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, fell by more than half in Walker's first year while the American Federation of Teachers lost more than a third of its members.

Unemployment has fallen, although that is most likely because people have left the job market and, depending on your accountant, he has balanced the budget. He has cut property taxes for the first time in 12 years and given millions in tax breaks to corporations.

In short, he has hammered working people, undermined the capacity of those who represent them and marginalised many of those who might vote for their interests while effecting a massive redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich: a more balanced budget for a more unequal society.

The degree to which he is successful in this project has national implications and resonates with struggles that are taking place globally. Neither the unions nor the poor are responsible for this crisis but across the world they have been scapegoated for it.

In the US, unemployment has rarely been this bad for this long, wages have rarely been this stagnant and corporate profits, as a proportion of GDP, have never been this high. In that context the referendum raises the question: should the burden for the recession, precipitated by a banking crisis, fall on labour or capital?

Conservatives seem to understand this. In a large Tea Party rally of several thousand in Racine on Saturday, speakers railed against "union thugs" "union bullies" and "pinko commies". Walker has been caught on video telling a donor, shortly before he announced the cuts, that he intended to use a strategy of "divide and conquer" to defeat the public sector unions by driving a wedge between them and private sector workers. They also see the broader implications in an election year where the economy will take centre stage. Political and financial support has flooded in from around the country. "We are going to chart the course for the rest of the country," said the state's lieutenant governor, Rebecca Kleefisch, who is also being recalled.

The activists on the ground calling for Walker's recall understand this also. Ask them what's at stake and most will say women's rights, union rights and voters' rights. But the Democratic leadership, both locally and nationally, who have taken over the recall effort, clearly don't. They have run a campaign calling for more consensual governance and less divisive rhetoric and accusing Walker of being corrupt. Bill Clinton, who came to town to stump for Barrett on Friday, called for "creative co-operation", bringing unions and business around the table to discuss common interests. There are times that can work. But not when unions are not allowed through the door, let alone at the table.

Nationally, Democrats have kept their distance. Clinton is the only high-profile Democrat to lend his support to a campaign that is being outspent by more than seven to one. Little wonder that most polls show Walker with a small but persistent lead that only a huge Democratic turnout can override. Indeed it's amazing his opponents are doing as well as they are.

So while conservatives are using Wisconsin as a laboratory to openly wage class war, the Democratic leadership keeps extending their hand and singing Kumbaya. The problem is not simply that Walker is divisive - though that is a problem - but that he's on the wrong side of the divide. Calls for unity are meaningless without first spelling out on what basis people should unite and working out where the disunity came from in the first place.

"You get out of a ditch when people stand on each others' shoulders and the person at the top starts pulling people out," said Clinton. True. But the last people you'd rely on are those who dug the ditch and shoved you in - particularly when they're still building and still shoving. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+31 # Lisa Moskow 2012-06-04 09:45
Points well taken.

The liberals are so nice, so considerate of others, so tolerant.....

Tough love, VERY TOUGH LOVE is needed
-2 # John Locke 2012-06-04 17:18
Lisa are you not informed of the old saying..."Never argue with the boss"
+20 # noitall 2012-06-04 10:14
The Democrats/Liber als have not learned and continue to turn the other cheek. But its our cheek! This "fight a fair fight", "Look forward, not backward", "bipartisanship ", etc. has done nothing except generate loss or a path to loss. In the meantime, the G.O.P.'s no-holds-barred approach; steal the elections at the polls, own the media and distribute lies, kill everything in process; no Obama victory (no matter how much it harms the country), but keep up the spin. This works! We're the Red Coats, they're the Colonialists. The "Red Coats" have been at it for decades and WE the noble Colonialists are FAR behind. The Red Coats have machine guns, we have muskets...and our "army" is drunk on American Idol, sports, and reality shows.
+5 # dick 2012-06-04 10:20
Liberals are so tolerant, so in denial, so divided, so cowardly.
What's going to happen to divided unions? It may be time to abandon Cheesedom & seek greener pastures, when possible.
+5 # KittatinyHawk 2012-06-04 18:44
New York and Vermont have better Cheese and Vt has good organic everything. Vt is taking stands on many things from fracking, to Monsanto Wisconsin perhaps a bigger lesson will be taught to you and all States who are making a rift in the USA. We can start our own companies and you all can keep supporting China.

Get out and Vote y You can take back what is Rightfully Yours.
+20 # mdhome 2012-06-04 10:33
This is so damned shameful, I cannot believe anyone in public service would be such a mean person.--------->
Walker's record speaks for itself. In his first year in office Wisconsin lost more jobs than any other state, and was one from last in private sector job growth. He has cut tax relief to low-income families and the state's Medicaid program. He has introduced a voter ID bill that will limit minority and low-income electoral participation, reproductive rights legislation that has forced Planned Parenthood to suspend providing basic services to women and repealed the law that protects equal pay for women.
+15 # Fed UP 2012-06-04 10:51
This all started with Rahm pushing all the progressives out of 2008 primaries. Now they send in Bill, must think the 1% has this one in the bag.
+14 # Tigre1 2012-06-04 11:06 might be time to get to Brazil. If I were even middle-aged, I WOULD get out of Dodge.

For all of us? get a copy of 'Deep Green REsistance'...N OT for its goofy message of anti-human "Deep" ecology...but it's a GREAT encapsulation of ALL the stuff on underground organizing. Which we will ALL need, even TP jerks when they wake up and figure out what they have been USED for and by whom.
+17 # Anarchist 23 2012-06-04 11:25
Just finished reading William shirer's chapter on the Nazification of German society 1934-1937 in the recently re-issued 'rise & Fall of Third Reich' there are many disturbing parallels to what the various ReThuglican governors are doing in their individual states-destroyi ng unions, lowering wages, over-riding people's elected governments and putting in 'managers' lie in Snyderstan (formerly known as Michigan)the problem with liberals is that they don't see the seriousness of the problem-so based in 'rationality' that they don't see the deliberate destruction that the reThugs call 'policy' Never trust a party that has three inverted pentacles on its symbol.Given that ReThugs' slogan can be summed up as 'the Greatest Evil For The Greatest Number' they should rightfully be called 'Death Eaters' Re-framed that way, what is going on and the bitter end to which it is leading becomes a whole lot clearer.
+2 # John Locke 2012-06-04 17:21
What you don't see is there is a plan and both parties are in on it! We are not! We are the servents they plan on being the masters.
+17 # davidhp 2012-06-04 11:51
If Walker wins this re call election it is proof positive that America is succumbed to creeping fascism - the merger of corporate power with government. The republic of the United States no longer exists.
+10 # John Locke 2012-06-04 17:22
It will also signify how the IQ of Americans has fallen sharply!
+3 # Capn Canard 2012-06-05 07:07
John, lol, I object! The American IQ is/was never any higher than any other nation in particular, awareness is the true measurement of intelligence, an even distribution of information. Believing in illusions, false promises, is a symptom of a parasitic disease that will be fatal to the host. On the "positive side" if Walker's fascists win their victory will be short lived as the demise of American society is a given. Riots and killing in the street is lively to become like good old Beirut, circa 1980's. I can't see this plunge being a smooth and peaceful one like the demise of the Soviets.
+19 # Vegan_Girl 2012-06-04 12:02
Republicans know what they want and go for it. Establishment Democrats, corrupt and corporate owned pretend to fight the right wing agenda but they always make sure they lose the fight. They are actively participating in dismantling the middle class.

I think we need third and fourth parties. These two have long abandoned the American people.
+2 # Capn Canard 2012-06-05 07:11
Goddamnit Vegan_Girl! You are CORRECT! At least in my opinion, without a dismantling of the two party duopoly and introduction of multiple party control there is simply no way that the middle class can ever recover. Moneied interests have their claws dug in deep and it is gonna really hurt for them to loosen their grip.
+13 # dovelane1 2012-06-04 12:13
When finishing up my minor in Human Relations at St. Cloud St. U., I read "When Society Becomes An Addict" by Anne Wilson-Schaef The theory is that we are living in a society that promotes addictive norms, and we then learn addictive behaviors.

All addictions are based on fear. Greed is an addiction based on the fear of not having enough. One of the hallmarks of all addictions is denial. And it beats thinking.

Long ago, syndicated columnist Sydney Harris ("Best Of...") wrote that people want a messiah, not a leader. A leader tells people hard truths, gives them a difficult path to follow, calls upon their highest qualities, not their basest instincts. A true leader doesn't tell us what we want to hear, but what we ought to hear. A leader will rebuke his people, show them their errors, make them want to be better, not stronger or richer, and ask them to make sacrifices for the common good and for the good of their souls. He is rarely followed by many, usually killed by the majority, and venerated only when he is safely dead and need not be taken seriously.

A false Messiah - someone who will give us oversimplified answers, who will justify our ways, who will castigaee our enemies, who will vindicate our selfishness as a way of life, and make us comfortable within our prejudices and preconceptions, who will moralize the immoral, rationalizer the unreasonable, & tell us there will be no consequences.
+3 # Capn Canard 2012-06-05 07:27
dovelane1, well said... never took those Human relations classes while at SCSU, but I do notice that our "leaders" seem to morph into paper puppets who do what is expected of them and then it seems they are easily replaced with the next "leader" and said new "leader" then rewards the system with more austerity, increased militarism, and ever decreasing support of the middle class. Rinse and repeat. Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama... I believe that getting out of this pickle may cause some pain. I will reiterate the idea that we need a multiparty system... 3, 4, 5 and perhaps 6 parties or more.(of course changing the system is where the pain will emanate from, prepare for drone strikes?) This two party system is far too easily controlled by the wealthy.
+11 # paulrevere 2012-06-04 13:21
The left has been in a constant 'fire fight' level of engagement with the right since BC decided to not look back re IranContra traitors (and I do not use that word lightly) and the left thinks it is merely the 4th of July.

For the national leadership to just sit by until the last minute and then send in a guy who is more cliche than persuation speaks volumes...THEY ARE NOT FOR WETHEPEOPLE!!

Wake up loopy dupies for your own have long foresaken you under the magic spell of 'practical politics' and 'lesser of TWO EVIL's.
+12 # Hillarion 2012-06-04 17:49
Pertinent book:
Idiot America,
by Charles P. Pierce.

Just now (Monday eve., I'm rather worried that the USA will become a nasty dictatorship. So glad I'm over 75 years old.
+7 # KittatinyHawk 2012-06-04 18:53
USA will become a dictatorship... Bloomberg in NY I thought the Cigarette thing was good, as long as the bar could have seperate room for smokers as they have rights. But he doesn't stop....he is a Dictator He loves to shove Power down people's throats.
I never see him go after Pink Slime, Monsanto but now soft drinks which is really the parent's to forbid for as much good as that does. But now inspectors have found flame retardent in Your Peanut Butter and in Lunch Meats, mainly chicken. NY News where is Bloomberg?

Tomorrow will be a day to remember. I do believe that if Walker remains, there will be more happening than you will expect. If he is not chosen the slobs will drag it out in Court. I believe it is time you all do something yourselves, because no one is going to do it, no one is picking up the is in your court and time you got your own heads off the computers and actually put your words in action

Wisconsin...get out an Vote the White Trash out. Your State, Your Lives....Vote for America not for Nazis
+2 # genierae 2012-06-05 07:51
There's a lot more going on behind the scenes than we know, our "government" is just an illusion, window-dressing for our benefit. Our politicians march to the drum of their financial benefactors, most no longer care about advancing the people's cause. We express our outrage, they ignore us, nothing gets done to increase the common good. The majority of Americans want progressive change, yet we get obstruction and our country continues to degrade in every way. It may be that we won't survive as a nation, we may have to crash and burn before we can build something new from the ashes. But I am certain that what we build will truly be "of the people, by the people, and for the people". We are waking up, we have had enough, we will not be denied.
+3 # Feral Dogz 2012-06-05 13:38
In case you haven't noticed, most Americans are still quite comfortable with our share of the dream. The roads are packed with vehicles, most with one occupant. Supermarkets are packed with food and people buying it. Every kid seems to have a smart phone of some sort. Significant portions of the day are wasted on the internet and TV, where we get indoctrinated with the need for more symbols of our success and freedom, each serving to increase the need for the next ultimately disappointing "achievement".

Those of us who are unemployed are too busy looking for work and trying to make ends meet with unemployment and food stamps to get up in arms about politics, especially when we can see little difference between the choices we have.

Things will have to get a lot worse before comfortably middle class liberals actually vote their views, much less take to the streets and risk their asses in confrontations with the guardians of property.

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.