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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Wisconsin Divided But Not Conquered

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One unkind but perfectly understandable human reaction to the state's voters supporting a dishonest, undemocratic government would be to hope all those people get what they voted for good and hard.

But, of course, nobody would want to live in such a state.

Well, that doesn't really appear to be true at the moment. A record $50 million raised by Republican Gov. Scott Walker, mostly from right-wing extremists out of state, seems to have convinced a small but determined majority of Wisconsin's electorate that's exactly what they want.

Nearly half the state thought much better of most of their neighbors. And, in fact, they still do.

The failure of just the third recall election of a governor in our nation's history won't discourage activists from continuing to fight for government that serves everyone, not just those who happen to be on top at the moment.

The first time Republican Scott Walker was elected governor, some really may not have known what he was going to do and how ruthlessly he was going to do it.

He was a standard anti-tax Republican promising something everybody wanted coming out of an economic crisis: jobs, jobs, jobs—250,000 of them, in fact, just to snatch a totally made-up number out of the air.

It was dishonest political rhetoric, but we hadn't seen nothin' yet.

No one can pretend voters in the recall didn't know exactly who Walker really was and how much contempt he had for Wisconsin's tradition of bipartisan cooperation for the benefit of everyone.

One of Walker's political strengths has always been a mild, pleasant personality that is far more attractive than the ugly Tea Party vitriol that is behind most current Republican policies.

But Walker, with unchecked power as governor as a result of a Republican-controlled Legislature, immediately began destroying any rights for public workers in their jobs, making the largest cuts in history in state education, placing the health of Wisconsin's environment and its citizens in hostile hands and restricting the right to vote for anyone who might vote against him.

History is a long time. And every one of those major state responsibilities had been protected in the past by both Republican and Democratic administrations.

But Walker had no qualms about wiping out decades of bipartisan achievement in a matter of weeks by hook or by crook.

While Walker still has an impressive ability to look into a camera with soft eyes and skillfully fake honesty and sincerity, over the past year everyone had access to recordings of how he talked in private to right-wing billionaires or anyone he believed to be one.

All pretense of honesty and decency fell away as Walker gloated about “dropping the bomb” on state workers and using “divide and conquer” to destroy those who disagreed with him. What sort of person brags about bombing and conquering the teachers who educate our children?

Continuing the Fight

Nearly a million citizens signed petitions demanding a recall in a grassroots uprising that Democratic leaders couldn't have turned back if they'd wanted.

After young Democratic leaders put together an impressive, highly organized effort to attempt to win the recall and prevent further damage to Wisconsin, there's no excuse for people who didn't work that hard to now come down from a mountaintop to shoot the wounded.

Because the recall didn't succeed, continued organized resistance to dishonest and even illegal actions by Walker's majority against the other half of the state is more important than ever.

But don't worry: The kind of people who fight for fair treatment and equal rights for others don't quit. They were born that way.

Recalling three Republican state senators in separate elections, giving Democrats a Senate majority, will stop further dismantling of democracy for now.

The other most impressive achievement in the recalls was the organization and enthusiasm in Milwaukee's black community. People in long lines at inner-city polling places waited for hours, forcing thousands of additional ballots to be printed. The lines of new voters registering were even longer.

The more Walker's temporary majority tries to destroy the hard-won voting rights of African Americans, Latinos and others they don't consider sufficiently Republican, the harder people will fight for their rights.

Many people supporting the recall don't really expect Walker to finish his term as governor. The next public action affecting Walker's political future most likely will come from Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and the FBI.

Fifty million dollars from millionaires and billionaires may temporarily fool some working people in Wisconsin into believing that right-wing policies transferring wealth from the struggling middle class, which needs it, to millionaires and billionaires, who don't, are somehow intended to benefit working people.

But losing a recall election will never stop honest advocates for working families from continuing to fight for economic and social justice when it's endangered.