Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Need for serious recall

So the campaign to recall Scott Walker is now underway, and there will be others yet to come, making for a wild political year. It's Recall Season in Wisconsin. Some of my friends and colleagues know I have at times expressed a certain skepticism - not because I don't think Walker needs recalling - he played politics of deception to get elected and politics of exclusion once in office, and the trail of money supporting him over the years has yet to be fully explored - but because of concerns about its prospects for success.

If this does not succeed, please, Wisconsin friends, do not become demoralized. This is a hard thing to do when even many Walker opponents are uncertain about using recall as an expression of political disagreement, however profound. He was elected, the wisdom goes, so let him serve his term and oust him in the next election.

But then others say, but just look at all the damage after only one year in office...

So we'll see how this goes. Most news pundits continue to focus their coverage on the elimination of collective bargaining rights for public sector workers and the undermining of the union recertification process itself. We do have a fiercely anti-union politics in this country right now, and this really ought to have surprised no one. Follow the path from Reagan to now. The politics of the corporate right has been taking over our national politics from the bottom up and using slick media tools to ramp up this anti-labor sentiment - along with bogus emotional issues like gun rights, abortion rights, and gay marriage, great tools of manipulation that hide the real agenda of the corporate right.

But if this remains the heart of the public debate, I fear this will not only not succeed but erode the politics of the state further. Because what is really needed is a politics of solidarity that centers on the situation of our state's most threatened populations - the poor, the discriminated against, the disabled, the elderly, immigrants, students, and all sorts of 'marginal' populations (only marginal because our culture puts them on the margins - not only Repubs do this). The advocacy work of the unions themselves needs to be about this solidarity, not only about protecting the interests of their members. The more labor joins with others in that solidarity, the more positive impact this campaign might have on Wisconsin's political culture.

Let's remember, please, that most public sector workers actually work on behalf of these very populations. That's why their demands matter. It's a question of putting the interests of those they serve at the top of their publicly expressed concerns. Many people think of these workers as spoiled or over-compensated, rather than providing vital services that meet the needs of the populations that, you know, have those needs.

The problems this state faces are abundant and frightening. Our state is in the hands of people who have little regard for the majority of us, especially workers and poor people, or for the lands, forests, and waters that make up the beauty and wonder that is Wisconsin. Collective bargaining rights may be the least of our worries if we allow mining companies, developers, and corporate polluters like Georgia-Pacific and immense industrial dairy farmers, to run our state politics, to write our laws and then hand them to the Fitzgerald brothers for passage in the statehouse. Think about the clash between environmental groups and unions over the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline extension. Unions want jobs for their members. Ecologists and climate scientists see the pyrrhic nature of this demand, knowing how the oil tar sands pose a threat to the planet whose consequences are beyond imagining - though we are beginning to imagine it.

There won't be any good union jobs in a world facing ecological collapse.

Or, closer to home, think iron ore mine in the Hurley area - unions also see good jobs while the Bad River Band and environmentalists see the imminent ruin of land and forest, and grave threats to a watershed relied on by many for drinking water.

We need a serious recall - a recalling of values and principles, a recalling of a social contract that understood that inequity and injustice is built into the capitalist system and therefore a strong publicly funded social safety net is required to keep those injustices from tipping into social unraveling and chaos.

We need a recall of the interrelationship between humans and their eco-communities, and how if you unravel those communities, if you ruin and toxify them, you threaten the future of the human as well.

I hope this campaign will focus on the corruption of our politics by billionaires like the Koch brothers who use Americans for Prosperity, Club for Growth and their vast wealth as tools of deception and manipulation of our people. I hope the campaign helps people realize that all this passionate focus on issues like gun rights have been part of that manipulation, great distractions that keep the public focus away from the concentration of wealth and erosion of democracy itself that is what is really at stake here (I get to carry my gun in my belt, who cares if my water is giving me and my children cancer?).

I hope the recall is a recall of what democracy really is and that it will promote a renewal of democratic culture by helping people realize what is really happening here, and how Wisconsin has become a political center for the most anti-democratic tendencies in the country, a testing ground, if you will, for how far these people can go.

I hope it is a recall of the value of dialogue, mutual respect, cooperation and compromise, the supremacy of the right to human well-being within healthy eco-communities over the right to wealth generation and corporate profit-making, the importance of neighborhood and community if we are to return to a social and cultural sanity that is being lost amidst the noise being fomented by these rightists to keep us from caring about one another.

Yes, we need a recall - a really profound one.


All photos: Margaret Swedish

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