Wednesday, June 13, 2012

While Rome Burns




Over the past week, multiple articles and editorials have appeared in Madison print and internet media bearing a central theme:  Now that the recall elections are over, we must put divisiveness aside, forget the sins of the recent past, and move forward together.  The corollary to the primary “let’s all get along” theme is the “get over it, you lost” theme directed at the left.  I read these articles and tried to feel the emotion of reconciliation these articles preached.  I really tried.  Yet, I felt nothing but numbness.  I watched as Governor Walker announced his “beer and brat” summit, while at the same time his communications director Ciara Matthews tweeted taunts and insults at the Democrats for the failure of the recall.  Yet I still felt nothing.  Until, that is, I read an essay published by the Wisconsin State Journal/Madison.com on Saturday, June 9th.  The article was written by Kenneth Mayer, a University of Wisconsin political scientist, and was titled “Time for healing to begin.” Upon reading the superficial yet shockingly condescending piece, I felt anger.  And, as is often the case lately, I felt like writing.

Mayer’s essay, contained in the embedded link above, essentially said the following: Now that the recall is over, both sides need to get along, Democrats need to get over the loss, Republicans shouldn’t rub it in, and, if we all continue to be naughty, Mayer will put us in a time-out.  Yes, he really said this.

The mindset reflected in articles like this is part of the reason this country is in decline.  Mr. Mayer’s essay completely ignores a simple fact: American politics has rocketed to the right over the past 30 years. This fact has been very well documented by Mr. Mayer’s peers, Ken Rosenthal and Keith Poole, University of Georgia political scientists who publish Voteview.  Rosenthal and Poole’s research demonstrates that all branches of government in this country have marched steadily to the right since the Carter administration.  We now have the worst income inequality in the entire industrialized world, we continue to deny segments of our society fundamental civil rights, and we most certainly have a political system that is bought and paid for by corporate money. We are seeing policy changes that would have been unheard of a decade ago, most of which are hurting middle and working class people in favor of corporations and the wealthy.  Today’s Republican Party is so extreme that they have pinned the needle of the political tachometer, and couldn’t move farther to the right if it tried.

Mayer's piece also ignored the fact that the three primary pillars of the current Republican platform are destroying this country, particularly the middle class.  These pillars are 1) Labor unions are bad and need to be eliminated, 2) Lowering taxes on the wealthy and corporations will create jobs and middle class wealth, and 3) Regulation of business, particularly in the financial industry, is what is holding the country back from true prosperity.  These hallmarks are each destructive in their own right, but the synergy of the three is enough to bring a civilization to collapse.  I will write about these more at a later date, but here are a few facts:

When you superimpose the graphs of the decline of union membership in this country over the past 30 years and the decline in middle class wages, it is clear that the those lines are nearly identical in their free fall downward.  Don't take my word for it, the graph is shown below.  It is important to note that the decline in wages reflect ALL middle class wage earners, not just union members.  This was no accident, it was by design.  If the corporate right can destroy unions, it can lower the pay scale for all workers.  It is a tragedy that this message was not delivered effectively to the majority of the people of Wisconsin last Tuesday.  



The other bedrock piece of the Republican platform, the anti-tax platform, has had equally disastrous results.       You don't have to be a member of the intellectual elite the right despises so much to 1) see the pattern in this graph, and 2) realize that we are currently headed off a very large cliff.


Finally, to understand the effect deregulation of the financial industry has on our economy, you merely need to rewind the nation's movie reel to 2008.  An unregulated financial industry run amok is what collapsed our economy, and we bailed them out for their trouble.

Given that Mr. Mayer makes his living studying politics, I was also stunned to see an utterly false premise underlying this essay:  that there has been parity in the polarization of American politics, and this is all politics as usual.  The state of American democracy today is far from “politics as usual,” and Mr. Mayer should know this.  The corporate interests in this country aren't aiming to the right, they are picking up the whole target and moving it, stand and all.  Unfortunately, each time the target moves, the left keeps aiming for the center, believing it succeeds when it hits its mark.  The left’s incessant compromise with these corporate interests has resulted in a political and economic model that is utterly unsustainable because it benefits a select few over the needs of the many. Continued compromise with such an immoral platform will only result in its further entrenchment in our political and social system.  Yeah, getting along is great, but sometimes you have to say enough is enough and stand up for what you believe in.

The dismissal of the effect of money in our political process is perhaps the most offensive portion of the “reconciliation” essays such as Mr. Mayer's.  Our democracy has been completely hijacked by corporate interests with a limitless supply of money.  The fact that a majority of Wisconsinites have been duped by the carpet bombing of false messages and glossy ads doesn't mean we have to accept it. There have been other times in the world's history where the majority of the people have been very, very wrong.

I am sure the corporate right that dominates our political process would love nothing more than for the Progressive movement in this state to follow Mr. Mayer’s advice:  get over it, pretend everything is fine, and go back to sleep. 

The problem is everything is not fine.  We have a democracy that is broken and sick.  We have an economy that benefits a select few at the expense of the masses.  We have a social fabric that has gone from “I am my brother’s keeper” to “every man for himself.“  In February of 2011, Wisconsinites created a movement that rejected this notion.  Yes, last Tuesday was a disappointing defeat, and many like Professor Mayer would prefer that we eat brats while Rome burns.  However, when you are fighting for something as important as the future of our state, and our nation, surrender is not an option, even if the fight is inconvenient. 

Brian

24 comments:

  1. Well said Brian .... and thank you!

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  2. The news media think we should now all just "work together" because they're used to covering politics like sports -- you know, it's great there are passionate fans, but then the game is over and it doesn't really matter who won. But in politics, which team wins does matter in ways that deeply affect our lives, and our families, and the nature of our communities for years to come. Scott Walker and his billionaire backers aren't interested in "working together" with us, no matter what he says on camera. He's interested in promoting his own political career, and advancing the economic interests of the 1%, who will help him fund it.

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    1. Amen! So, where do WE go from here!???

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  3. Spot-on, Brian. I am continuously amazed and simultaneously dismayed that members of the corporate media who push a line of compromise in the face of financial calamity experienced by the commom man. They ignore how fundamentally destructive for the middle class the Right Wing's economic policies are, refusing to tell the whole story because their masters in the boardroom have power over their pocketbook, and in-effect over the story. The fourth estate no longer watches out for the common man, pushing 'reconciliation' vs. endorsing 'the people's revolution' continuing. We must not give up the fight. Thank you for pointing out their hypocrisy. --Scott

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  4. Keep up the good work spreading the extremist anger that got Scott Walker re-elected! Average people cannot relate to your opinions and are in fact turned off by your actions based on your opinions. Without this mindset leading the Democrat party in Wisconsin, I'm not sure Walker would have won the recall. Thank you again from the bottom of my heart!

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  5. Thank you for a well written article with data and no name calling. You're an example to us all.
    Jim

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  6. I can barely bring myself to read any more postmortems but I am glad that I read your piece. Thank you. I, too, wonder where we go from here.

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  7. I think I will leave wi - this is just too god damned depressing - people who really believe walker are just so misinformed - he's a goddamned crook and he is going to jail.

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  8. An awakening: set our arm clocks for now

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  9. Anyone thinking of leaving Wisconsin will only find the same situation in other states, but probably to a greater degree. Better to stay on the front lines and keep fighting. It took 30 years to get this way. We need to sustain the effort. June 5 was just that, June 5. The fight for social justice, fairness, and equality for all the people must, and will, continue. Don't ever give up. You cannot run away from evil. It will only hunt you down. This truly is "Stand Your Ground". Together we will win to defeat the corporatocracy. Stay strong.

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    1. Very true, Dijon. Thank you. And, as always, thank you Brian for your clear headed wisdom. Rosalita

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  10. Anonymous wrote at 10:50Am, "Keep up the good work spreading the extremist anger that got Scott Walker re-elected! Average people cannot relate to your opinions and are in fact turned off by your actions based on your opinions. Without this mindset leading the Democrat party in Wisconsin, I'm not sure Walker would have won the recall. Thank you again from the bottom of my heart!"

    That comment is pointless and hasn't one fact within the taunt. What extremist anger are you talking about? Is it extremist anger for Brian to state that his premise is that there are 3 pillars of the Republican party which are: " 1) Labor unions are bad and need to be eliminated, 2) Lowering taxes on the wealthy and corporations will create jobs and middle class wealth, and 3) Regulation of business, particularly in the financial industry, is what is holding the country back from true prosperity. These hallmarks are each destructive in their own right, but the synergy of the three is enough to bring a civilization to collapse."

    Are those not the basis of the right wing putsch and ideology of our times as advanced by the Republican party? If you can dispute these 3 points with any facts, then we could move on to Brian's offering of some data and graphs that illustrate his theme. What do you have to offer but right wing talking points, Anonymous? Since you seem to know what the average people relate to, please do tell us.

    The media sells political ad propaganda produced from both sides. The average voter is not being served with real investigative journalism. They are regurgitating talking points spun at them at warp speed by campaign media officers, and gathering facts and information are not being given the time and effort of first rate news operations of the past. It is one corporate media sell fest of ads, sound bites and talking points lapped up by lazy inept reporters, for the most part.

    If you want to tear Brian's essay down, bring some data and make your point that can dispute Brian's offer, or STHU, I say from the bottom of my belly.

    It is people like Brian that provide any basis for intelligent discourse and enough meat in the subject to have a debate beyond sound bite talking points.

    RJD

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  11. I went up North to get away and it worked for a few days. My wife however caught me flipping off houses with "Stand by Walker" signs yesterday. And today I came very close, or at least I fantasized about ripping the head (literally) of some redneck in the grocery store with a "Defeat Obama", and a "Stand by Walker" bumper sticker on his truck. I am still trying to figure it out but getting along is not part of it. We have got to do a better job fighting and I think we need to look at all legal means.

    You don't come in my house and spit in my face and steal my money and my rights and then want to shake my hand and give a hug. You have created an enemy for life one that will some day smile when he has the opportunity to figuratively stomp on you and your kind and will do so at every opportunity that presents itself. I will look forward to that day and work for it diligently.

    Dave

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  12. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  13. Do you really think that Obama doesn't have billionaire backers? And, why is it only the left that is allowed to stand up for what they believe in??

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    1. How many billionaire backers does Obama have left? One or two?

      The fact is that the vast majority of billionaires are backing Romney and the GOP. They have more money than God and are determined to remake the USA in their own image.

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  14. Great post, and to Dave who was up North, I share your sentiments. I too was flipping off every sign in support of Walker. And yesterday, as I was driving home from work, some idiot in a pickup had a pro-Walker bumper sticker. I made it a point to let my loud pipes on my bike really rap as I went past his open window. I just can't believe so many are so damn stupid in this state.

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    1. Thank you for the posts, Dave and Whatiscommonsense! My Walker supporting neighbors are trying to "make nice" with me right now. Wouldn't wave to me when I had my Barrett signs up in my yard, and now just got an e-mail from them about something non-political "thought you'd be interested". .I just feel like screaming STFU. Your stupidity in supporting the damn Tea Party is why we are in this mess. Ironically, the husband is a retired union guy, the wife is a retired professor, one collecting pension and one teacher retirement, I'm sure.

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  15. The bottom line, is the election was stolen. I do not beleive for one second that over one million people signed recalls in the freezing cold of winter time, and then several hundred thousand of those same people just decided to stay home on June 5th, or suddenly had a change of heart and thought Walker was their man afterall. We need to fight for abolishment of the touchscreen electronic voting machines before any more elections occur here. Bottom line.

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  16. Very well said.

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  17. Brian, everything you say is completely true. The problem is that the Republican party has literally become fascist while the Democrats are still trying to play by the old rules. The Democrats fight with one hand tied behind their backs while the GOP goes for the kill. When Democrats manage to get into power, they sit on their behinds and do nothing to empower their base and improve their lives. Republicans love to call Obama a "socialist," Marxist," etc., but our fool president is actually their ally. Supporting Obama is like having a battle comrade who not only refuses to back you up when the fighting starts but shoots you in the back as well. This does not mean that we should vote for the fascist Romney or sit out the election. It means that we must view Obama as a lesser enemy and not a friend. IF he manages to be reelected (a big IF), Obama must be bombarded with criticism and demonstrations from the left. Have you noticed that all the openly racist characterizations of Obama from the right upset us far more than it upsets him? The only time Obama seems to get really upset is when he is criticized from the left.

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  18. I voted on a paper ballot but it was counted with an optical scan machine. I understand that those machines can be "hacked" as well. We really don't know who won that recall election. Republicans steal elections left and right nowadays. They don't follow the old rules and take a chance on losing. Democrats then graciously concede (Chamberlain to Hitler) and unions swear to keep trying. They SHOULD contest every single GOP vote and demand a count of ALL paper ballots.

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  19. nice posting.. thanks for sharing.

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