Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Wisconsin: Bitter defeat, pyhrric victory

Workers in the Badger state demonstrate in the Wisconsin State Capitol Building
The breaking news this evening is that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and the Republican majorities in the state's two legislative houses have found a way to pass their budget and union-busting legislation.

It's a startling turnaround.  Only yesterday, it seemed that all the momentum was with the working people of Wisconsin.  Governor Walker's approval rating are dropping like a stone.  Rumors were aswirl that he was ready to compromise.  And then, the GOP pulled an arcane parliamentary maneuver, somehow separating the bill into two different pieces.  By doing so, they set a lower threshold for a quorum and were able to vote quickly to pass both pieces.  There appears to be some question about the legality of the GOP tactic, but it is clear that Wisconsin Democrats are appalled by it at the very least.

I hate to say it, especially as reports indicate that angry protesters are even now gathering at the Wisconsin capitol, but this battle may be over.  A bitter defeat.  I feel the sting of it all the way over here in Portland.  How must it burn for my union brothers and sisters in Madison?

The plutocrats, the neo-feudal lords have won a victory tonight.  And it comes at the expense of the common people.

This is a defeat, brothers and sisters.  Taste the cruel, bitter dregs.   But remember, watershed events set a course of their own.

On September 7th, 1812, Napoleon's ill-fated Russian campaign culminated in the battle of Borodino.  Napoleon and all his armies crashed into the Russians on the road before Moscow.  Even in the face of the mighty Grande Armée, Field Marshall Kutuzov, the Russian commander, vowed that the invading French "...shall eat horseflesh like the Turks!"

At the end of the battle, the French commanded the field and the Russian army was in full retreat.  Napoleon rode unopposed into Moscow, apparently triumphant.

But six weeks later, the real results of Borodino became known.  The French army was mortally wounded and out of supply.  By the end of October, the Grande Armée was in full rout toward Poland with the Russian army at its heels. The French soldiers froze and starved to death along the way. Many of them did, in fact, eat horseflesh.

It could be that what happened in Wisconsin, this apparent victory by the plutocrats, awakened the people.  The bourgeoisie may yet find itself in full rout.  It may yet eat horseflesh.

That's what I believe.  I believe that we, the people, have had enough.  We've lost a battle, but the war is on.  And we're just getting started.


Dan Binmore said...

I think it signals a defeat for the Republicans in Wisconsin at the next few elections. The question is what else will they manage to do before those elections happen.

Anonymous said...

The WI movement wasn't defeated, but simply outmaneuvered. Also, the fight does not appear to be over: there is talk of a general strike in WI. We'll see.

PapaK said...

Dade, I think someone is reading your blog. Check out:

This should signal defeat for the GOP in Wisconsin, including a few recalls, but I am no longer astonished by the short-term memory of the American public, so that remains to be seen.

Greg and Barb said...

I am a supporter of some protection for the worker, given the fact that the ratio of the average executive’s paycheck to the average worker’s paycheck is between 300 and 500 to 1. When wealth of 400 people totaling the combined net worth of 50 percent of Americans there is a problem.

However, I find it interesting that union membership in the private sector has been decreasing steadily since the 1950’s (from 36% to 7%) while membership in public employee unions has grown during that time and is currently around 36%. It would seem to me that the private sector is where the protection is needed. Not sure I'm such a supporter of the teachers union. (knowing a principal who has been reprimanded by the Superintendent for keeping union teachers 10 minutes over time in a meeting)

But I think its more than just the union question. It is great to position this as a fight between the working man and their “overlords”, But we should think about it from a democracy perspective.

One of the Wisconsin demonstrators said that the parliamentary maneuver that was “pulled” by the Republicans was “destroying representative democracy”. But how can you have representative democracy when ½ of the representatives don’t show up. Those who were elected to represent the people of Wisconsin simply didn’t do their job. Representative democracy is the hard work of arguing and horse trading until some compromise (which usually neither side likes) is reached.

In this case, it seems that one group basically said “since I cannot get my way, I won’t participate”. Is that really representative democracy? Were not all those representatives elected by the voters? Yes they didn’t have enough votes to stop the majority. But that is how our system works. The legislative branch enacts the laws that the majority wants through their representatives and the judicial branch protects the minority.

Walker’s measure is too extreme. But I think it's time to figure out how to grow America’s middle class once again. I'm not sure what the best answer is. But I'm not sure it's unions?

Dan Binmore said...

I think it signals a defeat for the Republicans in Wisconsin at the next few elections. The question is what else will they manage to do before those elections happen.