Much ink has been spilt and punditry hot air vented in explaining the failure to recall Scott Walker in this week’s election. Yet nearly all of it fails to address the appeal of Scott Walker and his policies for much of Wisconsin’s working and middle class. Walker was able to capitalize on the frustration over the continued erosion of living standards and insecurity felt by most Wisconsinites. Walker provided a false empowerment to the electorate by transforming them from victims to owners of the system. His campaign rebranded the electorate as “the taxpayer” or veritable stockowners of a company they owned: government. The people would take charge of their lives through a Walker-led movement against government waste by union and bureaucratic “elites.” Walker’s campaign thus took on the hue of a libratory project.
While the conventional explanations for Walker’s victory have some merit, they fail to explain the nature of victory or the true threat his strategy presents. To be sure, Walker and his billionaires were able to massively outspend their opponents. The peculiarities of the recall election laws and the US Supreme Court’s Citizen Action case permitted him to rain down endless weapons against the Democrats. The Republican National Committee deployed the full weight of their resources on Wisconsin; while the Democratic National Committee was largely AWOL, appearing only at the end to witness Walker deliver the coup de grace to his opponents. It was a historic betrayal of Wisconsin progressives they will not soon forget.
On strategy, Walker’s campaign was a fairly typical deployment of the Powell Doctrine (itself taken from Harry G. Summer’s musings on strategy following the US’s Vietnam debacle) to use overwhelming force against an opponent. Walker’s campaign carpet-bombed media with non-stop television and radio commercials for a half-year. Meanwhile, they positioned what seems to be an army of professional bloggers to control comment forums in the local press. In effect, they crowded out the public and often aggressively spread outright falsehoods on these sites, thus moving the Internet from a place of democratic dissent to use as a tool for reactionary power. This itself represents a major turn in the management of public opinion.
Ultimately, however, the bottom line is that Walker was able to capitalize on the very crisis and long-term economic decline Republicans helped engineer over the past thirty years–with no small help from the Democrats.
The “Walker won because of his money” claim is surely true, but Walker’s money was not the sufficient condition and efficient cause of his victory. As Sommers argues, Walker won because 1) of the economic distress caused by the reactionary economics practiced in the United States since the late 1970s and because 2) he created a right populist message that found a willing constituency. Sommers thus concludes:
In short, Walker has given voice to the working and middle classes so much hurt by the Reagan Revolution. The people have found their voice in Walker who skillfully and honestly, to his mind, articulates a narrative that resonates with Midwestern sensibilities of hard work and fairness. These concepts may have been distorted beyond all recognition to many observers, but to Wisconsin’s suburban and rural working class they have found their voice in Scott Walker. A ride through their neighborhoods reveals a veritable sea of blue yard signs declaring “I Stand With Walker!” Walker is a formidable candidate and better communicator than Reagan ever was. Analysts and pundits that dismiss his victory as one of simply money over the people do so at their and our peril.
- Scott Walker defeated his opponents in the Wisconsin recall election (atung.net)
- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker survives recall effort – media (legitgov.org)
- Wisconsin voters divided on bargaining, governor – Boston.com (articles.boston.com)
- Scott Walker Wins Wisconsin Recall Handily (snspost.com)
- Ed Schultz Reacts To Walker Victory: ‘Could Very Well Be Indicted In The Coming Days’ (mediaite.com)
- Wisconsin’s union battler Walker is Republican star – Reuters (reuters.com)
- Wisconsin Dems, Labor Poised for a Loss on Walker Recall (blogher.com)
- Wisconsin, Obama And Poor Tom (whitehouse12.com)
- Piers Morgan Refutes Wasserman Schultz Calling Walker ‘Extremist’: ‘The Reality Is He Won’ (newsbusters.org)
We wanted a different outcome, but Wisconsin forced the governor to answer for his efforts to divide the state and punish hard-working people.
Their resolve has inspired a nation to follow their lead and stand up for the values of hard work, unity, and decency that we believe in. We hope Scott Walker heard Wisconsin: Nobody wants divisive policies.
Yes, Trumka wanted to elect the Democrat in this election. We know this because the AFL-CIO always wants to elect Democrats. The Democratic Party and ‘big labor‘ have a special relationship. Trumka wanted ‘big labor’ to have a seat at the table. After all, AFL-CIO unions would need to be at the table in order to ‘negotiate’ the concessions the political and economic elite want unions to make. What Trumka did not want was the elimination of that furniture which never includes the majority of Americans. He thus wanted ‘big labor’ to have more political power than it now has, but not so much political power that that power would threaten to eliminate its seat at the table.
Actually, the election and the campaign beforehand hardly made Walker answer for his class politics. In fact, the outcome legitimized Walker’s class politics. Wisconsin voters affirmed a victory by the political reactionaries in America’s class war. Moreover, Walker’s easy victory made it clear to anyone with eyes that the left cannot challenge the party duopoly that governs America. The labor movement in America lost this election. Left populists lost this election. The system ‘worked.’
Finally, despite Trumka’s claim to the contrary, many Americans want divisive politics. The left especially wants divisive politics. The left wants to improve the lot of the poor, the working and middle classes; it wants to increase political accountability and democratic participation. These goals are inevitably divisive in the United States today. The Trumkas of the world do not want a divisive politics. They are, in a word, complacent. Gomperism lives. Complacency, unfortunately, produces system affirmative outcomes such as we have recently seen in Wisconsin and saw in 2008.
- AFL-CIO chief dismisses regrets in Wisconsin recall (firstread.msnbc.msn.com)
- Wisconsin Recall Results Positive, Spins AFL-CIO Leader (abcnews.go.com)
- Nail-Biting Finish for Wisconsin Recall (huffingtonpost.com)
- AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka Statement on Wisconsin Recall Results (foxnewsinsider.com)
- AFL-CIO chief dismisses regrets in Wisconsin recall (firstread.msnbc.msn.com)
- Unions suffer blow in Walker’s recall victory (thehill.com)
- “WE’LL TAKE OUT SCOTT WALKER,” says AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. (Go to 7:50 in the video.) Qu… (pjmedia.com)
- Scott Walker Defeats Tom Barrett In Wisconsin Recall Election (UPDATE) (huffingtonpost.com)
- Wisconsin Governor Walker Stays, the First to Survive a Recall (jdjournal.com)
- AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka: It’s ‘not the means for recovery that lack, but rather the will’ (twitchy.com)
His was a landslide victory. Walker’s victory affirmed the party-duopoly which governs the United States because both candidates were system politicians in good standing, both accepted managed democracy as legitimate. Democracy ‘won’: the system ‘worked.’
Walker’s victory is an unqualified disaster for the left, at least for any left committed to popular participation, democratic accountability and equality. It does not matter a jot that Walker had enormous financial resources to use in this election, pace those who claim otherwise (see, for instance, this and this). He did not buy votes. The election was not decided by the work of a Republican Party Sturmabteilung. What matters is Walker was a nationally known political reactionary and who had the backing of the reactionary faction of the nation’s economic elite and oligarchs, and who used these resources to muster the popular support he needed to defeat all of his opponents in what appears to have been a fairly contested election. Walker had to be defeated in order for the left in America to deliver on the promises generated by the Wisconsin Uprising and by the Occupy Movement. Anything less than a Walker defeat in this recall election meant a general and decisive defeat of the political left.
How important was this election? In my estimation, the Wisconsin recall election was so important that Walker’s latest victory may well stand alongside Reagan’s destruction of PATCO, the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, Bush v. Gore, passage of the Patriot Act, the 2004 electoral affirmation of the Bush regime and the Iraq Occupation as well as Barack Obama’s steadfast affirmation of the security-surveillance state as recent landmark moments in the dissolution of America’s democracy.
- Wisconsin recall 2012: Scott Walker prepares to defend governorship (wjla.com)
- Scott Walker defeats Tom Barrett to win 2012 Wisconsin recall election (winteryknight.wordpress.com)
- Decision day in Wisconsin: Stand with Governor Walker and rally for Rebecca (twitchy.com)
- Why Scott Walker’s victory in Wisconsin isn’t bad news for Obama’s re-election (thegrio.com)
- Wisconsin Republicans Are Trying to Discourage Voters (slog.thestranger.com)
- How Scott Walker Went to War on His Recall (time.com)
- Sarah Palin On Scott Walker’s Win: Perhaps Union Leaders ‘Need To Be Recalled And Replaced’ (mediaite.com)
- Gov. Scott Walker confident of the recall election outcome (fox6now.com)
- Wisconsin recall vote could foretell November election (mercurynews.com)
- Republican Scott Walker Wins Wisconsin Recall Election (mediaite.com)
David Dayen reports:
Next Tuesday, Wisconsin organizers attempting to recall Governor Scott Walker, Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and four Republican state Senators will turn in their petitions, and they expect to have well above the number of signatures to trigger recall elections in all those races.
- Wisconsin Spring: Organizers Set to File Recall Petitions Against Walker (news.firedoglake.com)
- Battle Lines Stark as Wis. Recall Push Nears End (abcnews.go.com)
- Battle lines stark as Wis. recall push nears end (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Wisconsin recall signatures to be turned in on Jan. 17 (dailykos.com)
- The Wisconsin Democratic Party chairman declines to update us on the number of Recall Walker signatures gathered. (althouse.blogspot.com)
- Here We Go!! (grassrootssouthshore.org)
- Scott Walker’s Wisconsin blooper. (preaprez.wordpress.com)
- Wisconsin Dems To Deliver Walker Recall Petitions Next Week (alternet.org)
- Scott Walker’s Price Tag (huffingtonpost.com)
- Wis. group nears mark for forcing recall election (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
Meanwhile, according to the San Francisco Chronicle:
Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker and GOP leaders have launched a push to ram several years’ worth of conservative agenda items through the Legislature this spring before recall elections threaten to end the party’s control of state government.
Their intent is clear: To pass as many of their unwanted policies as they can before their legitimacy-deficit produces a severe electoral defeat.
Naturally, Wisconsin’s Republicans, like the vast majority of the Republicans in the United States, could care a damn about the nature and extent of their popular support. Their apathy in this matter appears in the voter suppression bill they want to push through Wisconsin’s Legislature (among many articles, see this, this, this, this). Fearing a loss of political power, the Republican Party instinctively seeks to disenfranchise members belonging to the base of the Democratic Party.
- Wisc. GOP Ramming Conservative Agenda Through Legislature, Before Voters Can Push Them Out Through Recalls (alternet.org)
- Wisconsin Dems Push To Invalidate GOP’s Recall Petitions Against Democrats On Basis Of Fraud (crooksandliars.com)
- Wisconsin GOP rushes agenda before recall elections (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Wisconsin: Democrats Allege Massive Fraud in GOP Signature Gathering on Recalls (news.firedoglake.com)
- DK Elections Daily Digest: 5/10 (dailykos.com)
- Wisconsin Republicans Rush Agenda Before Recalls (huffingtonpost.com)
- Wisconsin Republicans rush agenda before recalls (sfgate.com)
- Wisconsin Republicans rush agenda before recalls (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Wisconsin Republicans rush agenda before recalls – The Associated Press (news.google.com)
- Wisconsin! Send them Packing! (skydancingblog.com)
Laura Flanders asks: “When was the last time you heard about a Tea Party rally?”
- A sleeping giant awakes in Wisconsin | Laura Flanders (guardian.co.uk)
- Laura Flanders GritTV: Who says the revolution won’t be televised? (yourdaddy.net)
- Laura Flanders: The F Word: Obama Should Be Ashamed of His Budget (huffingtonpost.com)
- “Michael Moore Is Handing Out Money” and related posts (soldiersperspective.us)
- Laura Flanders: The F Word: Obama’s Deregulation Dance With Wall Street (huffingtonpost.com)
- Laura Flanders: The F Word: No Solutions at State of the Union (huffingtonpost.com)
- Book Review Roundup: Battle Hymns And A Presidential Satire (huffingtonpost.com)
- Laura Flanders: The F Word: Rolling Over on Shirley Sherrod (huffingtonpost.com)
- Michael Moore Tells Wealthy Their Money Is ‘A National Resource, That’s Ours’ (mediaite.com)
While doing so he criticized his usual targets, which he grouped under the name he recently gave them, the Liberal Class. When developing his criticism with respect to the events in Wisconsin, Hedges makes what amounts to an implicit call for an American liberation theology.
The pillars of the liberal establishment, which once made incremental and piecemeal reform possible, have collapsed. The liberal church forgot that heretics exist. It forgot that the scum of society — look at the new Newt Gingrich — always wrap themselves in the flag and clutch the Christian cross to promote programs that mock the core teachings of Jesus Christ. And, for all their years of seminary training and Bible study, these liberal clergy have stood by mutely as televangelists betrayed and exploited the Gospel to promote bigotry, hatred and greed. What was the point, I wonder, of ordination? Did they think the radical message of the Gospel was something they would never have to fight for?
Atheists like me sometimes forget that the teachings Jesus left to posterity are vastly superior to the teachings of the religious institutions which loudly carry his flag. We forget that Jesus would make his way to the side of Wisconsin’s public employees, to the homes of the illegal immigrants in America, to the poor loafing about in America’s cities, and so on. And he surely would find his way to these people just as he had during his lifetime. Why, therefore, have America’s religious leaders remained silent about the battle for Wisconsin (and much else besides)? Why do they emulate the Pharisees of Jesus’ time? I ask because I know that their silence is a fact that is as rare as it would be welcomed in so many other cases.
As for me, I will not waste my time waiting for the Christian right to stand with the poor, weak and threatened. The institutional churches, well….
Peter Laarman addressed the issue raised by Chris Hedges in his essay “Will the Religious Side with Workers?,” which recently appeared in Religion Dispatches. Here are a few passages from his essay:
At this moment, when the embattled US labor movement urgently needs strong community-based allies and much greater moral legitimation, there ought to be no better place to find both than among the faithful. Yet broad-based strategic and moral support from the religious side has been slow to materialize.
In saying this, I do not disparage or minimize the importance of the religious support that public sector workers, in my home state of Wisconsin in particular, have been able to marshal.
I want to ask why many more of the faithful never took sides during the long war against unions and union workers that’s been raging since the mid-1970s — even prior to Ronald Reagan’s 1981 firing of the Air Traffic Controllers.
Where were the vast majority of American religious leaders during these decades of attacks on workers and their organizations? It’s not that labor’s gospel of gaining a fair share of the economic productivity that workers help create is so very different from religion’s stated interest in shared prosperity. And it’s not that no religious figures ever took the side of unions in earlier U.S. history.
Cross-posted to FireDogLake
- “Power Concedes Nothing Without a Demand” by Chris Hedges (via Dandelion Salad) (reclaimamericafromthelunaticfringe.wordpress.com)
- Power Concedes Nothing Without a Demand by Chris Hedges (dandelionsalad.wordpress.com)
- Chris Hedges: America’s Corporate Coup D’état (dandelionsalad.wordpress.com)
- Chris Hedges: Democracy is on life support in the U.S. (dandelionsalad.wordpress.com)
- Chris Hedges Doesn’t Believe In Moral Progress (Except When He Does) (daylightatheism.org)
- Chris Hedges: “Hope” Speech (unedited) (joshuastarlight.wordpress.com)
Once Wisconsin’s Republican Senators made hash out of parliamentary procedure to cleave the union-busting component of Scott Walker’s Budget Repair Bill, it seems as though the Wisconsin GOP had triumphed over their partisan and popular adversaries. The Senators even included no-strike by public employee measures in the new bill. Their will and that of Governor Walker appeared firm as police — but not the Wisconsin National Guard! — began to remove protesters from the antechamber to the Assembly while permitting entry into the Capitol Building through an entrance that included weapons screening. Despite their having to face this repression, the demonstrators refused to yield. The New York Times now reports that:
As thousands of demonstrators converged on the Capitol, the police cut off access to the building on Thursday, creating a taut atmosphere in which Republican State Assembly members were seeking to maintain order long enough to vote on a bill that sharply curtails bargaining rights for government workers.
The State Assembly had been scheduled to vote on the bill Thursday morning. Though it is virtually certain to pass, it was now unclear when that vote might take place.
So, the protest campaign continues. Meanwhile, the demonstrators, their supporters and their opponents can only wait for the appearance of the legal challenges to this bill, challenges which will come soon enough.
Wisconsin’s State Assembly finished its nasty chore and passed the anti-union bill 53-42. Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester, expressed well the absurdity of the moment when he claimed: “‘It will show to people in Wisconsin and throughout the country that we are not afraid to make hard decisions’.” Let us hope that over the coming months that members of the Wisconsin GOP will have many occasions to display their brave nature.
Cross-posted at FireDogLake
- Wisconsin GOP Using Parliamentary Procedure to Push Through Anti-Union Bill (slog.thestranger.com)
- Procedural ploy lets Wisconsin finesse union (geneveith.com)
- Wisconsin Capitol Locked Down, Jesse Jackson Turned Away (riehlworldview.com)
- Wisconsin- Call The National Guard Out On These Bolshevik Thugs (truebluenz.wordpress.com)
- The Wisconsin union fight goes nuclear (salon.com)
- Wisconsin approves anti-union measure – USA Today (news.google.com)
- Outrage in Wisconsin: Thousands Flood Capitol After GOP Strips Public Workers of Bargaining Rights in Surprise Senate Vote (democracynow.org)
- Wisconsin union fight: Did Democrats get their just desserts? – Christian Science Monitor (news.google.com)
- End Run: Wisconsin GOP Strips Rights (blogs.abcnews.com)