06 June 2012

On Wisconsin

For Republicans, Governor Scott Walker's victory in yesterday's recall election in Wisconsin is a vindication of his policy of standing up to public-employee unions. For Democrats, it will most likely be taken as proof of the malignant power of money, given the spending advantage enjoyed by the governor and his supporters. In short, Republicans will gloat and Democrats will gripe, but what seems to have happened is that a movement to recall Walker fueled by organized labor was co-opted, inevitably, by the Democratic party and turned into a do-over of the 2010 gubernatorial election. My gut feeling was that the recall was doomed as soon as the Democrats nominated Mayor Barrett of Milwaukee, the man Walker had beaten in 2010, as their candidate to replace Walker in 2012. Whether or not Badger State voters still wanted Walker, they'd already decided that they didn't want Barrett in the statehouse. Democrats should have learned from that, but they were apparently too concerned about turning the recall into a reversal of 2010.

Nominating Barrett made the recall just another Bipolarchy squabble; from what I've read, the Barrett campaign actually downplayed in their advertising the labor issues that led to the recall in the first place. That makes it easier now for the Republicans to see Walker's victory as a positive omen for the presidential election. It is somewhat ominous, no matter how you look at it. There remains a disconnect between the obvious and widespread animosity toward Republicans and the support that Democrats expect as their due and demand as a national necessity. That disconnect will persist so long as people assume that partisan interest, not the people's interest, determines the intensity of Democratic opposition to Republican schemes.

While the recall certainly scared Republicans, in retrospect they should realize that they picked a pretty easy fight. From the time Walker targeted public-employee unions last year, it was easy for him and his advocates to portray those unions as a privileged class that had exploited political connections to get a better deal for themselves than ordinary working people could manage. People in Wisconsin, who reportedly approved of Walker's measures by a narrow margin before yesterday's vote, did not see the public-employee unions as success stories worth emulating but as allies of the ruling political class who enjoyed their perceived privileges unfairly, and on the taxpayer dime. It's easy for working class people to envy other workers' job security, especially when everyone assumes that there are always more state workers than they really need. If there's actually a popular constituency for austerity in this country, it consists of people who assume that only the likes of state workers will suffer from it.

People are funny about their perceptions of parasitism. Sometimes a parasite can get so big and strong from feeding off other people that those people begin to feel that they depend on the parasite rather than the other way around. So things are seen in the private sector, but perceived parasites in the public sector are always assumed to be disposable. This nation appears divided politically between those who expect to solve our problems by purging some class of parasites and those who honestly think that there aren't any parasites anywhere. If that doesn't seem to cover all possible answers or options you see the problem with our two-party regime. Under Bipolarchy conditions there could never be a pure referendum on Gov. Walker, as a recall vote should have been, so long as Democrats get involved. As long as any struggle between Republicans and the working class can be turned into a referendum on Democrats, the workers will labor under a handicap. Bear that in mind as the year rolls on.

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