Friday, December 2, 2011

The right to protest - if you can pay for it

I wish these guys would quit proving me right - that I don't think they believe in inclusive, vibrant democracy. Now the headlines screaming from the front page: Walker & Co. want protesters to pay to exercise one of the most fundamental rights of democracy, the right to free speech when that right is exercised as protest.

What could be more basic to our constitutional system of governance. We were founded on protest, for crying out loud!! The rights in our constitution are not commodities for sale to those who can pay.

I know these guys don't believe in democracy when it counters their intentions to remake government of, by, and for their corporate backers and billionaire donors. But still, let me give this a try, a lesson in what it means to be a governor.

Now, Scott, you proudly say, ad nauseum, that you are a budget-cutter. You think that a proud statement, rather than an empty statement. It means nothing at all until you put content into it - and your content is hurting the people who are suffering most from the recession, from poverty, from the concentration of wealth in this state and nation.  You also are proud of your slogan, "Open for Business," as if that means anything on its own. It is also empty - until you put content into it. And your content is eroding worker rights and well-being, putting yet more downward pressure on wages, compromising the health and education of our kids, threatening more and more of our environment, our quality of water, soil, food, forests, wetlands, and more.

And here's the other thing about being a 'governor,' as in one who governs (different from one who dictates or uses power to hurt people rather than enhance their lives and participation in the decisions that impact their lives): governors have to create budgets, this is true. Governors also have to defend democracy itself, not try to stifle it. In a real democracy, you would be happy to provide protection for the rights to vibrant protest, opposition, and debate. You would keep the spaces for democracy open. You would understand that providing protection and defense for all the rights contained in the federal and state Constitutions is your absolute mandate.

And if you believed your policies to be broadly in the interests of the majority of your constituents, you would not fear those constituents, their voices, their protests, their recall petitions, their presence in Madison.

That's my lesson on democracy for the morning.

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