Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Arguably the one Wisconsin recall postmortem you should read

Check out pink scare's take:
But this entire way of thinking about what happened yesterday misses the mark.

In reality, the vote wasn't a referendum on Scott Walker. Voters weren't asked to simply appraise Walker's policies in the abstract. As always, they were asked to choose between the political lines put forward by Walker and Democrat Tom Barrett. The result, then, has to be evaluated in light of those two choices and what voters took them to represent.

Perceptions aside, what did each candidate actually represent? Those liberals most disturbed by the result tend to almost entirely ignore the politics of the Democrat challenger. They've attacked those who didn't vote for the Democrat as dupes who simply don't understand the nature of their own interests, but they've said almost nothing about whose interests Barrett stood up for. Of course, liberals are quite right to say that the interests of the vast majority of Wisconsin's 99% do not align with the politics of union-busting and austerity pedaled by Walker and the Republicans. But what they don't acknowledge is that their interests didn't align with the Democrats either.

As Socialist Worker noted recently, Barrett and the Democrats conceded to Walker on every single issue that brought people out onto the streets of Madison in the first place:

During the Senate recall races last summer, Democrats quietly dropped restoring collective bargaining and union rights from their campaign speeches
In this spring's primary to choose a candidate against Walker, other Democrats attacked Falk, a former Dane County Executive and the labor leadership's favored candidate, as being in the pocket of unions.
In an op-ed supporting Barrett, former Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz jabbed at Falk: "A candidate beholden to big unions is no more appealing to independent voters than one who answers to the Koch brothers."
During a debate with Walker, Barrett made a point to mention that he was not labor's candidate. Rather than put up a defense of unions, the Democrats have treated them as supporters of "special interests" and an embarrassment.
Barrett has ceded further ground to Walker on austerity. Walker's rationale for budget cuts has been a familiar one: the state is out of money and needs to control its expenses. Yet despite the fact that Wisconsin's corporations are taxed at a rate below the national average--and that the current tax burden is primarily on Wisconsin's middle class rather than the rich--Barrett made no attempt to challenge Walker's claims.
Instead, Barrett emphasized that he won't increase taxes on corporations and the wealthy. He told a Milwaukee radio station, "It is certainly my hope that by the end of my first term, at the end of my second term, and at the end of my third term that Wisconsin will take in less tax revenues from its citizens and businesses each year."
While Barrett says he will reverse corporate tax cuts that Walker passed in January 2011, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that "he doesn't want to raise taxes beyond the levels they were at when Walker took office." This means that while Barrett could shift some priorities around, he wouldn't be able to restore most of Walker's cuts, including $1.25 billion taken from education and $500 million from Medicare.
Now, I was out on the streets of Madison when the uprising was white hot. I was joined by hundreds of thousands of other people who chanted, "How to fix the deficit? Tax, tax, tax the rich!" and "They say cut back, we say fight back!". I saw thousands of people who had no direct personal connection to public sector workers stand up and defend their sisters and brothers who were under attack.

If you'd have said that unions were a "special interest group" on par with corporations you would have been booed. If you'd have said that taxing the corporations is wrong and cuts to social services are necessary, you would have been mocked.

But, as we've seen, these were precisely the positions taken by Democrats in the recall campaign.  
We are so very much in need of our own equivalent to Syriza here in the US.