The Wisconsin election was not about union power; it was about democracy, and the voters dealt democracy a major defeat, This is what class war by the rich looks like in a land of the shortsighted.
Two major battles in the developing class war in the U.S. have occurred in the past five years:
- the decision to provide Wall St. with a bailout without compensating public control over the negligent and/or criminal financial institutions that got the corporate welfare;
- the victory of Wisconsin Governor Walker in his recall election campaign funded by outside corporate millions.
Real News summarizes the Walker victory:
In Wisconsin, Scott Walker has won the recall election. He remains the governor. Millions of dollars poured into Wisconsin, something like $45 million for Scott Walker, most of which came from outside the state. He outspent his Democratic rival, who spent somewhere close to $10 million—apparently, most of that money came from within the state.
The wise people of Wisconsin have determined that their enemies are those who protect their homes from burglars, those who risk their lives to quench fires, and those who teach their children. Such public workers do not deserve a chance to organize; the government should have the right to break its contracts with them as convenient. Will a Wisconsin policeman now think twice before risking his life to protect a victim? Will a Wisconsin fireman now think twice before entering a burning home to save the owner? And as for Wisconsin teachers, no doubt if they stop teaching altogether, the wise voters of Wisconsin will not even notice.
These two back-to-back elite victories over society may spark the awakening of the naive, short-sighted, and near comatose U.S. public, but at present they signal the nearly complete control over U.S. “democracy” by the super-rich. “Democracy” the U.S. remains in the sense that the voters did in fact have the power to win this one, had they only the wisdom to see their own common self-interest. Alas, “common self-interest” is a concept evidently too subtle for most, in that it is evidently self-contradictory over the short run, so corporate millions “bought” the election not through fraud (as far as I am aware) but through propaganda – convincing a big chunk of Wisconsin’s workers to support the rich rather than maintain solidarity with their own. Time will tell what happens to wage levels and working conditions in Wisconsin now that the rich have clear…and legal control.
It seemed, back in the long, viciously cold winter of 2011, that the clarity of the struggle in Wisconsin between outside corporate greed trying to break the post-New Deal social contract with employees and the public–represented by police, firemen, and teachers–was so incontrovertible that even the most apolitical wage-earner could not help but understand his long-term interest. The tens of thousands who risked frostbite to defend their legal rights to organize so as to defend themselves against corporate organizations offered powerful evidence that Americans were finally awakening from their delusion that Washington politicians were serving them rather than their super-rich corporate patrons. Finally, it appeared, the neo-con/neo-liberal scam against America–so clearly exposed by the highly profitable “war on terror” along with the bailout of Wall St. and refusal of Washington to force corporate leaders to defend themselves in court–would be terminated by an awakened American public.
Unfortunately, the generation-long covert class war of the super-rich has been fought with enough skill that even such evidence as the profitable (for CEOs) war on terror and a corporate self-enrichment scheme that wrecked the U.S. economy has not convinced Americans that they need to fight back.
There is, however, much more to Walker’s victory than simply the self-delusion and shortsightedness of the American voter. One other critical facet is that this one-sided class war has now achieved so many victories that the whole structure of government is aligned on the side of the rich. Black Agenda Report editor Bruce Dixon itemizes some of the legal weapons the rich have put into place to overthrow the New Deal compromise [6/6/12]:
…it was union leaders who damped down the calls for, and explicitly repudiated talk of a general strike. To be fair, under present federal and state laws, a union official who even calls for, let alone is part of pulling off a general strike is probably guilty of multiple felonies and conspiracies to commit, perhaps even RICO and terrorist prosecutions if judges and district attorneys are feeling ambitious. Such an official also risks confiscation of union funds and assets, either outright in a hurry or after prolonged expensive litigation. But that’s what people involved in movements do — they take individual and collective risks and they violate laws for the cause, whatever that happens to be.
It seems that it is perfectly OK for a couple of billionaire CEOs to organize with a handful of their buddies to buy an election, but for workers to organize to defend American society is now a crime. It is no coincidence that the U.S. increasingly looks today like the U.S. of 1929. When the rich control government officials and manage to slant the legal system in their private defense, where can the public go? You young folks better get off the Internet and read Steinbeck before it is too late.
Update: Romney on Wisconsin
“[Obama] says we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin? The American people did. It’s time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.” [Democracy Now 6/11/12.]
It is hard to think of anything more fundamental to civil society than good education and security for citizens in their homes and on the streets. Romney has made the attitude of the new Republican Party toward the American people all too clear.