In Wisconsin, we have on display the strategy of the Republican Party to transform the entire country into something that will, in some disturbing ways, resemble the feudal states of old.
And Democrats everywhere need to pay attention.
Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, who is good friends with GOP budget guru Congressman Paul Ryan, is undertaking an assault—he has threatened to bring out the National Guard—on public workers and their unions that is unprecedented and it is being done in the name of “a fiscal crisis,” the contemporary battle cry of Republican insurgents.
Bryan Kennedy, president of the American Federation of Teachers-Wisconsin, said of Walker and his proposal:
It is a power grab, a coordinated effort to kill the union here. This is essentially the governor saying, ‘Sit down, shut up and do what you are told.’
Kennedy said this morning that the governor’s scheme, “Guts workers rights and essentially takes away the right to collectively bargain.”
William Gould, a former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board—the arbiter of disputes involving private sector unions and employers—said about the assault in Wisconsin,
I think it’s quite possible that if they’re successful in doing this, a lot of other Republican governors will emulate this.
Of course they will. But they will emulate it whether it is successful or not because Republicans believe this is the time to launch a full-throttled attack on the last remaining stronghold of progressivism and liberalism left in our economic life.
It is no secret that public employees and public employee unions have long been a thorn in the flesh of Republicans, particularly conservatives. There is the obvious practical reason: These unionized folks are well-organized and can mobilize in support of those who support them, usually Democrats.
But there is a larger, more philosophical, reason that conservatives want to unleash some pent-up hate on government workers, who, through collective bargaining, have achieved decent wages and working conditions and other associated benefits, which in turn help keep upward pressure on wages and benefits in the private sector. Thus, the public employee unions represent the only bulwark against complete domination of American economic life by the business class. Period.
The governor of New Jersey, Chris Jesus Christie, the savior of the Right,* says public sector unions are “greedy, selfish, and self-interested.” The truth is that Christie and other Republicans, who would never call multi-million-dollar-making CEOs, for instance, “greedy” or “selfish,” don’t like the idea that ordinary American workers can have some leverage in the workplace, some kind of voice that is powerful enough to stand up to the Voice of Business.
And since Republican propaganda has been very good at turning most of the private sector against unionism, the last redoubts left are the public sector unions. It’s just that simple.
And my message to Democrats, especially President Obama, is to not only stand with your friends, but get out on the front lines and lead, while there is still time.
Mr. Obama, who hasn’t exactly been a fearless leader on this issue, did come to the defense of public workers yesterday:
As a general proposition, everybody’s got to make some adjustments to new fiscal realities…on the other hand, some of what I’ve heard coming out of Wisconsin, where you’re just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain generally, seems like more of an assault on unions.
And I think it is very important for us to understand that public employees, they’re our neighbors, they’re our friends. These are folks who are teachers and they’re firefighters and they’re social workers and they’re police officers. They make a lot of sacrifices and make a big contribution. And I think it’s important not to vilify them or to suggest that somehow all these budget problems are due to public employees.
So, I think everybody’s got to make some adjustments, but I think it’s also important to recognize that public employees make enormous contributions to the well-being of our states and our cities.
Now, I know some liberals think that was a rather tepid response, but the Right saw it somewhat differently. Here’s a headline from Fox “News”:
Although all of us wish Obama would speak with a lot more lightning in his voice, that’s just not his style when he’s not on the campaign trail. But it’s important to note that he did hit the right note in his assessment of what’s happening in Wisconsin. After all, he did characterize it as “an assault on unions.”
The good news is that the good guys are fighting back. Thousands of protesters have met the governor of Wisconsin head-on this week, and schools are closed in Madison again today, because teachers are joining the fight at the Capitol. The truth is, though, that Republicans will likely succeed in their union-busting assault in Wisconsin.
And if this sort of thing happens all over the country, it will mean that the last outposts standing against complete corporate dominance of the American workforce will have fallen. More important, it will mean that the Republican Party—the party of business—will have gone a long way in transforming the country into a neo-feudal state.
* Ann Coulter, the Anti-Christ, gets all soggy over Chris Christie. She said the other day,
I don’t care if he wants to run, his country needs him.
Now, I just want to say, that if you make Ann Coulter soggy, you are a very bad man. A very bad man, indeed.