Thursday, June 7, 2012

Wisconsin recall defeat is the Waterloo of progressive politics in America

The failure to recall Scott Walker as governor of Wisconsin is a major turning point in American democracy.

The plutocrats (economic elites) have defeated collective bargaining for public sector workers in Wisconsin, an industrial state. And they have shown they can do this with acceptable backlash. And as the Indiana example shows, once Republicans get a chance they will eliminate private sector collective bargaining too.

Decency and self-restraint is not going to keep the plutocrats from attacking organized labor on all fronts. And with organized labor weakened, every progressive gain since the Civil War is in jeopardy. With criminalizing poverty and privatizing prisons, slavery is probably going to make a comeback too.

The Democratic activists trying to put a happy face on this say polling shows Republicans successfully made the debate about whether the recall process was "legitimate". That's one way to look at it. Another way to look at it is: the legislature and the governor took away the collective bargaining rights of Wisconsin citizens and the citizens declined to punish the guy who did it.

The fact that media buys "tricked" Wisconsin citizens into voting upon some other issue doesn't change the basics. Walker took away rights; Wisconsin voters declined to punish him for taking away their rights.

Yes, the corporate media played a role in shifting the conversation to something else. Yes, the paid advertising campaign made a difference. There was a greater than seven to one spending disparity.

But we live in a society where there is a huge power imbalance. What the Wisconsin election showed was that the plutocrats were willing to leverage their economic power to weaken the ability of regular citizens to fight back. And they are going to keep coming back and demanding more.

In a functioning democracy, eventually the overreach of one side is countered by the other side pushing back. But that hasn't happened in U.S. society. The Republicans consolidate wealth and power quickly and mostly install "White" people to supervise the process. The Democrats consolidate wealth and power more gradually and are more inclusive in who gets appointed to supervise the process.

Nominally the Democratic Party was trying to win. But the Democratic Party either can't match the resources provided by the other side or doesn't want to. 

I'm also troubled by polling places not having enough ballots and voter registration materials in both Dane and Milwaukee Counties. Both these counties have Democratic Party officials supervising elections. Everyone knew that a big turnout was necessary to have Walker defeated. When I hear about polling places running short in Dane and Milwaukee, it sounds like the local Democratic officials are either incompetent or not trying to win.

Tom Barrett is the current mayor of Milwaukee. He couldn't get the Milwaukee County Clerk to get enough ballots and registration forms to polling places.

If the Democratic Party isn't going to bring it's A-game to the recall race in Wisconsin, why should I be volunteering, contributing and generally supporting the Democratic Party?

Joe F. linked to "Scott Walker's Win Doesn't Mean What You Think It Means" by Kenneth Quinnell at Crooks & Liars.


  1. So the answer is to just give up? Let the forces of evil win?

  2. ==I am an American fighting man. I serve in the forces that guard our country and their way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense. I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender my men while they have the means to resist==

    I haven't rattled that off for twenty years. And if might be off by a word or two.

    The point is not that the situation is hopeless, but we are playing a rigged game.

    I just wrote an email to my old boss in DC. I'll quote some of it:

    ==I have grown somewhat pessimistic about influencing the direction of our society through traditional methods. I see the Scott Walker recall results as evidence that the economic elites are willing to do whatever to gain control and the institutions that traditionally stood as a check against abuses of power are either too weak or too co-opted to resist outrageous--or what would have been thought of in the past as outrageous--power grabs.

    ==However, I am optimistic that the failure of society to deliver an acceptable quality of life for the middle class and restrain abuses and illegal behavior by the elites will stimulate new ideas about how society should be organized. And I hope there will be new ideas about how to transform society.

    ==I remember, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines did not succeed by working through the UN Conference on Disarmament. It succeeded by bypassing existing institutions and creating its own process to negotiate a treaty.

    ==I think we--the people who want to transform society to more reflect our values--need to brainstorm ways to bypass the existing institutions that are rigged against us and our values and create something legitimate that can operate unconstrained by the elites who currently constrain both our institutions and our discourse.==