Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Where Was Joe McCarthy From Again? And What About All Those Congressmen Who Were Pro-Nazi During The Run-up To World War II?


My dad was an FBI agent when World War II started. He was a Nazi-hunter-- stationed in Milwaukee. Just outside of Milwaukee, in Ozaukee County, there was a Nazi training camp (or "summer camp"), Camp Hindenburg in Grafton. Wisconsin was crawling with Nazi sympathizers and fascism has always been considered a viable alternative to democracy in certain circles. Joe McCarthy was a hero and so are anti-democracy moles Scott Walker and Paul Ryan. This weekend the New York Times Magazine asked how Wisconsin has become the most politically divisive place in America, but didn't add "again." Dan Kaufman points out that, "according to recent polling, Wisconsin, once known for progressive policy and upper-Midwestern civility, is now the most politically polarized state in the nation." But progressive policy and upper-Midwestern civility isn't all the state has been known for-- not by a long shot.

The fight to turn Wisconsin into a bastion of neo-fascist plutocracy didn't just begin with Scott Walker's anti-democracy jihad and his plans to eliminate collective-bargaining rights for a the state’s public-employee unions. As the Times makes clear, Walker's "move to end collective bargaining placed him at the forefront of a national conservative strategy. His attack on public-employee unions was lauded by Mitt Romney, John Boehner and Karl Rove, and he has received significant financial support from the billionaire conservative donors Charles and David Koch." He told his cabinet he wanted "to change the course of history." This phase of reintroducing fascism to Wisconsin was a counterrevolution and the revolution it was countering was the American Revolution.
After signing Act 10, Governor Walker told a reporter for The Associated Press that the bill was “innovative” and “progressive” — words chosen perhaps because they resonate with the enduring pride many Wisconsin citizens still feel about their state’s pioneering political history. The current Wisconsin Blue Book contains a 68-page essay extolling the achievements of the 1911 Legislature, which included the establishment of the first workmen’s-compensation program, laws limiting labor for women and children and the passage of a forest-conservation act. President Theodore Roosevelt described Wisconsin as a “laboratory for wise, experimental legislation to secure the social and political betterment of the people as a whole.” Native icons like the populist senator and governor Robert (Fighting Bob) La Follette and the conservationist Aldo Leopold still loom in the state’s collective consciousness and legislative record. More recently, Senator Russ Feingold cast the lone vote against the U.S.A. Patriot Act in 2001.

The law that Act 10 overturned had been in place since 1959, when Wisconsin became the first state to recognize collective-bargaining rights for municipal employees. Senator Fred Risser, who began his legislative career in 1956, is the country’s longest-serving state legislator, and he was on the committee that introduced that measure. “That bill was bipartisan, or it would have never gotten through in the first place,” he said. In 1967, collective bargaining was expanded under the Republican governor Warren P. Knowles to include state employees. The Senate voted 31-0 in favor of the expansion. “For 50 years we had relative labor peace,” Risser said. “Not in 50 years was there ever a partisan vote on those contracts. They were almost always unanimously accepted.”

Some Republicans also lamented the end of the long bipartisan consensus on labor rights. Dick Spanbauer, a former Marine and self-described “pro-life, pro-family Christian,” was one of four Republican Assemblymen to vote against Act 10. “The leadership told me, ‘Dick, we don’t need unions anymore,’ ” he told me. “Really? What’s changed? Is a company going to say you don’t need to work 12 hours?” Spanbauer, like his father, had worked much of his adult life in factories in Oshkosh. “They don’t understand anything about the working class,” he said about his Republican colleagues. “They thought you could just go crush somebody’s voice and get away with it.” Spanbauer is retiring this year.

By this time next week, Wisconsin will probably have finished counting the votes in the recall. Scott Walker will have spent over $25 million, much of it from the same kinds of wealthy self-styled aristocrats who were never tried for treason after organizing a coup against FDR. His Democratic opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, will have spent about a million. Walker isn't really campaigning; he's just spending... and spending... and spending. And hoping a few more than half the voters in the state are just clueless enough to vote for him-- and against themselves. All that money has bought him the slimmest of leads. One poll showed likely voters breaking for Walker 50-45% and another showed him up 50-42%. That's all $25 million could buy? Maybe it would have helped if DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz hadn't dragged her ass for so long, refusing to spend a nickel until it looked like it was too late-- just as she had done at the DCCC several years ago when, working for her financial patrons, the Fanjul sugar barons, she refused to endorse 3 Democrats running against 3 GOP incumbents, effectively sabotaging their campaigns and ceding the 3 winnable seats to the Republicans.

Public Policy Polling should have a new poll out this week. Their last-- in early March before the tidal wave of outside fascist money hit the state-- showed that the state wanted the Democrats to take control of the Senate, which would, in effect, stop Walker's agenda dead in its tracks.
A new poll by Public Policy Polling finds that Wisconsin voters would prefer that Democrats control the State Senate rather than Republicans, 48%-41%.  Nearly all Democratic and Republican voters want their own party to control the chamber, but the scales are tipped by independent voters who say they would rather Democrats run the State Senate by a 45%-31% margin.

As controversy continues to swirl around a possible upcoming recall election of Governor Scott Walker, voters say that in general, they think Wisconsin should have recall elections by a 53%-41% margin.  Democrats support the idea of recall elections 86%-9%, Republicans oppose recall elections 16%-78%, and independents support them 56%-37%.

“Recall elections have become a polarizing issue in Wisconsin politics, but a majority of independent voters side with Democrats in having the option to use them,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling.

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