Feb 23, 2011

 
 
 
There's a chance that the Democrats may wind up thanking Scott Walker.

It seems that Wisconsin's GOP governor, in his zeal to carry out his party's anti-union agenda, wound up arousing the ire of tens of thousands of public sector workers. Workers who, as it stands now, aren't about to sacrifice their collective bargaining rights to salve wounds left by a financial meltdown that originated with Wall Street and not them.

I don't believe the governor saw this coming.

I don't believe he imagined that he was messing with folks driven more by principle than fear, or that Democratic lawmakers would go as far as to bolt to another state to deny Republican lawmakers the quorum they need to, in effect, strip away more power from them.

Yet Walker's overreach - and the 24-hour media coverage that has followed - could be the Democrats' salvation.

What it does is reveal yet another part of the Republican, Tea Party strategy that is aimed at silencing a segment of America whose subjugation Walker and his corporate benefactors, such as the Koch Brothers, believe is owed to them. Instead of silencing that segment of America, they could wind up angering – and awakening – it.

That America is largely Democratic, black, Latino and female. It's the America of the unions, which, in spite of their faults, have an essential core purpose: To ensure fair wages and that workplaces don't resemble Third World sweatshops and serve as a counterbalance to corporate power.

It's the America where, in 2008, black and Latino people lined up in the cold for hours to elect Barack Obama as the nation's first black president; where, in one historic night, a lot of white people saw how the democratic process that they claimed to revere betray their expectations of privilege.

They've never gotten over it. And they're making damn sure 2008 doesn't happen again.

First, there was the Tea Partiers, who, with the aid of Fox News, hyped deficit spending to the level of crisis just as the president was trying to get his health care law passed. Government became the enemy, even as it saved the hallowed private sector from ruin.

Now the Republicans have turned to attacking public-sector unions. They've managed to shift the ire away from the greedy Wall Street speculators to the teachers, aides and others whose salaries and benefits are a pittance compared to the bonuses that Wall Street executives are now giving to themselves.

And as Republicans, aided by Tea Party hysteria and ignorance, work to take away the voices of the unions, they're continuing to work to take away the voices of those who are likely to vote for Obama again.

A number of voter ID laws are now being introduced in states that have Republican governors. In Texas, for example, where the Latino population grew by 65 percent, the black population grew by 22 percent and whites grew by 4 percent, everyone must show some form of photo ID to vote.

Everyone that is, except for people over 70.
They just have to show a voter registration card. And they're more likely to be white – and to vote Republican.

We need to pay attention to this – and hopefully, the protests in Wisconsin will last long enough to get everyone's attention.

That's because the Wisconsin battle isn't just about whether the public-sector unions ought to pay their fair share in helping states resolve their fiscal crises. It is, in fact, part of a larger war funded by unlimited corporate money – thanks to the Citizens United ruling – to keep power in this country in the hands of people whose idea of freedom means being able to restrict others from pursuing their rights and freedoms.

Especially when they dare use their freedoms to put a black man in the White House.

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