09 August 2011

Natasha Vargas-Cooper - The Great Wisconsin Solidarity Experiment

Today's article is from Slake.

In this article, Natasha Vargas-Cooper does an excellent job of portraying a handful of experiences from the Wisconsin conflict earlier this year.

If you're on the extreme political Right, or number yourself among those who favor the Republican Party's union-busting agenda (same thing, but some folks don't realize that), you won't like this article. Fair warning. You should read it anyway. Why? It portrays, in exacting detail, the visceral sense of betrayal that said agenda, and the tactics its followers employed, created. I'm going to copy and paste a fairly extended section from the article. Read it.
What nobody bargains for is that the desperation setting in among Republicans will not lead to a capitulation, but rather to a shocking political blitzkrieg. On Wednesday, March 9, with only three hours’ notice and the fourteen Democratic senators still in exile, the Senate Republicans announce that a vote will be held on the budget-repair bill, with or without a quorum.

In a meeting room, packed with witnesses, local media, staffers, and anxious Democratic legislators who’ve remained in Madison, the nineteen Republican senators take their seats at a conference table. Thousands of protesters gather outside and chants of “SHAME! SHAME! SHAME!” penetrate the chamber room.

As the roll call begins, the typically mild-mannered Democratic Assemblyman Peter Barca, who has been furiously taking notes during the session, interrupts and begins to read a memo from the attorney general that states meetings of this sort must have at least twenty-four hours’ public notice.

The Republicans ignore Barca, refusing to even glance at him. The “yes” votes are called out one by one, with Barca on his feet pointing to the memo pleading with Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald to stop the vote: “Mr. Chairman, this is a violation of law! This is not just a rule, this is law.”

The rest of the action takes less than ten seconds. Fitzgerald slaps the gavel on the table and the Senate Republicans vote eighteen-to-one to strip unionized public employees of their rights to collective bargaining. Boom, just like that it’s all over.

The only dissenting vote is Republican Senator Dale Schultz from Reedsburg. The absent fourteen Democrats are recorded simply as “not present.” The Republicans quickly scurry out of the Senate chamber and witnesses to the vote start to loudly chant in dismay, with one spectator crying out, “What have you done?”

More broadly speaking, I have mixed feelings about solidarity. As portrayed here, and in most other images I've seen, it's a way of expanding political pressure on an issue by doing the bare minimum possible. It puts faith in the political process.

From the article:
It’s not impossible that Democrats will win back a legislative majority and expunge the anti-union bill. And an incumbent Republican-backed Supreme Court Justice, who had been ahead by thirty points two months previous, narrowly defeated an obscure union-backed challenger only after 14,000 “misplaced” votes were mysteriously produced by a Republican county official days after the voting.

If you don't trust that democracy exists, where's the good of solidarity?

Still, my cynicism aside, this is a well-written and well-thought-out article, and definitely worth a read.

No comments: