Like many Wisconsinites, I am feeling rather dejected after the disappointing August 9th recall elections. But unlike most of my brothers and sisters, my disappointment stems not so much from the outcome, but from the adherence to propriety and to a faith in inherently corrupt and unjust systems.
I was inspired and awed by the spontaneous and sustained uprisings in February and March and solidarity of the people of Wisconsin. Having lived numerous places throughout this country, there is no other place I would have wanted to call home at that moment. I was so proud to be among the protesters and my tendency toward negativity was suspended for a brief period. And then it ended. People went back to work (or unemployment) and though small demonstrations continued, the massive manpower and money was instead redirected toward recalling six Republican state senators and attempting to replace them with Democrats.
Though I was surprisingly impressed by the bold stand that the fourteen Democratic state senators took to protect the rights of their citizens, and though, having attended hearings in the state legislature, I have found many of these Wisconsin Democratic representatives to be supportive of the needs of the people in the state, I chose not to devote my current activism to the recall elections.
I was at the bargaining table last year when the Wisconsin state legislature and governor's office were controlled by Democrats. Nevertheless, we state employee unions were told off the bat that any increases in any types of monetary compensation were off the table, and that our health insurance premiums would be increased. Game over. Doing anything else was too risky in "this political climate," they said. Having worked in the U.S. House of Representatives previously, I saw firsthand the complicity and complacency of many federal Democrats, but I really had no knowledge of politics at the state level in WI. I learned quickly as, after months of negotiating, even our very crappy contracts were voted against by a couple of turncoat Democrats seeking political leverage from the incoming legion of Republicans.
In the past thirty years, state and local governments -- in fact society in general - have been catering more and more to corporate interests, and consequently corporate interests have been taking over our state and our society. This has resulted in their co-opting of the only two major political parties allowed to exist in the U.S., as well as in the largest redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich in history. In real terms, massive unemployment, poverty, hunger, homelessness, and social decay has spread across America, going largely unnoticed by anyone not experiencing it, or more likely, trying their hardest to deny it. The corporate controlled media does not report it to any substantive extent. They are too busy promoting new products, gadgets and consumer distractions.
In addition to consistent tax cuts for the rich and corporations and the expenses incurred from two-plus illegal and unnecessary imperial wars, the most recent recession in 2008 - caused by the unregulated casino known as Wall Street - has caused most of the fiscal crises in the states and throughout the nation. Yet, the Wall Street bankers committed fraud, the "brilliant" Ivy-League educated economists looked blithely away as the economic system collapsed, and the government officials who should have prosecuted the thieves let the perpetrators go scot free and proceeded to blame vital public employees for the financial woes caused by the rich. They not only allowed the criminals to go away unscathed, they fed these same criminals OUR money so that they could maintain their obscene wealth. Meanwhile, all over the nation, we, who had already lost everything, were being told we had to lose MORE so that those same rich people whom we had bailed out could "save" us through their privatization of all public goods (which, of course, does nothing but fatten their pocketbooks and starve us dead).
These unspeakable acts of reverse Robin-Hood corporate socialism took place under the watch of both Democrats and Republicans. We'd all like for it to not be so, in order for us to be able to easily place blame on one side, and go to the polls to vote in the other direction, but that vote is just a half measure. It often obtains little and changes nothing.
I do not wish to blame the Democratic officials in my state, because many of them - including Rep. Tammy Baldwin, and numerous state assemblypersons and senators whom I have had the good fortune of meeting during these recent months - have proven themselves more stalwart and progressive than most. I also recognize the insidiousness of the phony "grassroots" Tea Party, their corporate sponsors, their Republican allies, and their media propaganda machine. But laying the blame for the desperate state we find ourselves in solely at the feet of the GOP is completely disingenuous. Despite the rhetoric in the media, the real conflict is not between the Democrats and the Republicans; here and throughout the world, there is not a political war but a class war -- and the rich are winning by a landslide. Given that context, trying to exact change through electoral politics is futile because the system is already rigged by the plutocrats, and because if one is not willing to deviate from their system, one is bound to lose.
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