My friend John Nichols writes glowingly of labor’s “smart” new plan “to build on the protest
and politics model developed in Wisconsin, where mass protests against anti-labor
initiatives signaled an opening for labor to go on the offensive.” Meanwhile, “key unions
will be putting all their political money into state and local races and related projects.”
What this means, John writes, is that the major unions, like the AFL-CIO, are now into “changing the way labor practices politics. And that’s a very good thing.”
Now, John lives in Madison, and reports from there voluminously, so he surely knows way more about Wisconsin politics than I can ever hope to learn. But I do my best to follow what’s been happening there; and I have to say I haven’t seen a shred of evidence that labor in that ravaged state has actually accomplished anything aside from getting creamed by Walker and his goons.
I know the public workers mounted a terrific and inspiring protest in the statehouse (until Walker shut the building down); I know, because I did my level best to build support for it from out here in New York. But that big demonstration is no basis for a “smart” new politics, because it was a demonstration only—while Walker and his goons have seized real power; and they’re now using it, so far successfully, to turn Wisconsin into hell on earth for working people and the unemployed, and heaven for the likes of David Koch.
So I don’t know what planet John is living on, that he regards it as “a very good thing” that the unions are now following “the protest and politics model developed in Wisconsin.” For that matter, I’m not sure what he means by a “protest and politics model,” because I don’t see where any politics comes into it, if all the workers did in Madison was protest. Certainly they didn’t win politically—although it briefly looked as if they did, when Joanne Kloppenburg appeared to win (and very probably DID win) her election for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. (In that brief moment of her victory, John and others on the left fired off triumphant blogs about it having been a “referendum victory” for “the people.”) But then—as usual—the GOP came up with tons of votes that put Dave Prosser in the lead; and after that, we had a “recount” that—as usual—was marked by gross irregularities, which nearly everyone—left, right and center—totally ignored.
So now, officially, Dave Prosser “won” it after all—a highly dubious “win,” to say the least. And yet there’s now near-total silence on the left, as none of those who trumpeted the “referendum” won by Joanne Kloppenburg are saying anything about the possibility that she was robbed. John Nichols isn’t saying anything, nor are those unions with their “smart” new plans for “changing the way labor practices politics.” Nor is The Nation (which ran John’s piece) saying anything about it—as usual, that journal having long dismissed all talk about election fraud as so much lunatic “conspiracy theory.”
What’s really crazy here, however, isn’t the attempt to talk about election fraud: on the contrary. What’s crazy here is a celebratory article about the unions’ “smart” plans for the next election—without any mention of the GOP’s ferocious and successful legislative push to block as many Democratic votes as possible (a push that finally came to shove on Friday); and also with no mention of the well-established fact that the e-voting systems used throughout the state (and every other state) are non-transparent, easily hackable, and wholly owned and run by private companies affiliated closely with the GOP.
How the unions are supposed to win elections—even by “putting all their political money into state and local races”—-when the system’s been so thoroughly rigged by their (let’s call a spade a spade) staunch neo-fascist enemies is a question John and others on the left won’t even entertain, much less attempt to answer. (I know, because I’ve asked them time and time again.) The fact is that they simply will not, and/or cannot, face it—not John Nichols, not The Nation, not Rich Trumka of the AFL-CIO; and there are many others on the left (like Michael Moore) who just won’t face it, either. In that weird refusal those good leftists are no different from the corporate Democrats, or the corporate media, who just as stubbornly refuse to face it, too.
So what the left believes, apparently, is that, although the GOP has used both vote suppression and election fraud to “win” time after time since Florida 2000 (which, in fact, Gore won, it turned out one year later), somehow things will be work out fine for them THIS time—whether it’s the recall elections in Wisconsin this July, or the “budget referendum” that Ohio progressives want on the ballot in November, or whatever other race they tell themselves they’ll surely win, if they just do enough “smart” protesting, organizing, rallying, fund-raising and getting out the vote.
That is not a “smart new game plan” but a profile of insanity; and if the left does not get over it, this collapsing country never will get well. The only way we can reclaim, and start to realize, the promise of American democracy, is to confront the fact that our election system has been hijacked by the right, whose platform is far too extreme for them ever to win real majority support. Only then can we begin to talk about what’s needed to democratize the USA at last, before the whip comes down on all of us, and then the curtain falls at last.
AFL-CIO’s Rich Trumka on the Post-Wisconsin Game Plan
May 20, 2011
Last week in The Nation, we looked at one of the most positive trends in recent labor history: a pattern of
unions signaling that they will put more of their “political” money into grassroots organizing and coalition building – as opposed to to simply placing the movement’s financial and foot-soldier resources at the service of whatever Democratic candidate happens to be on the ballot.
Unions such as the Service Employees and National Nurses United are investing in smart, grassroots
projects in the states – seeking to build on the protest and politics model developed in Wisconsin, where mass protests against anti-labor initiatives signaled an opening for labor to go on the offensive. At the same time, key unions such as the Firefighters have signaled that, because of their disappointment with Republicans and Democrats at the federal level, they will be putting all their political money into state and local races and related projects.
Now, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is stepping up with a plan for unions to declare “independence” and
back candidates – no matter what their party affiliation – who are committed to support workers and their unions.