Ready, Aim, Turn Left … Fire!

My favorite stage of post-election grief:Blaming the people who atually worked their asses off, rather than the angry, ignorant-ass ‘necks who voted the other way:

Actually, it began to disintegrate the moment the leaders (and who were they, exactly?) decided to pour everything into the Democratic Party channels rather than explore the full potential of the power that was latent but present in the streets back in February and March of 2011.

There were both strategic and procedural blunders that need to be accounted for.

Procedurally, decisions were made (again, who made them?) in a very undemocratic way. Here we had 100,000 people storming the square but there was no effort to include them in any meaningful — or even symbolic — decision-making process. No voice votes, no show of hands, no breaking up into smaller groups and reconvening with a set of demands and desires that flowed from below, no people’s mic à la the Occupy movement.

When Republicans lose it’s not because they had shitty candidates or swung the wrong way on issues or picked the wrong ones to run on or should be more centrist or chose the wrong font for their brochures. When Republicans lose it’s because liberals suck, the end, full stop. There’s usually some accusation of fraud in there, and commenting about filthy brown people outbreeding the Noble White Man so what do you expect, but mostly they lost because we’re horrible.

In Wisconsin the “solidarity movement” lost because it wasn’t enough like Occupy?

Love me some Occupy, especially in comparison to just about everybody bitching about Occupy all the time. Occupy changed the national conversation from one about deficits to one about jobs. But if they want to change anything further, they have to change the laws of the land, and you do that by influencing elections. The days of influencing reasonable rightward politicians to change their hearts are over. Eventually it all comes back to who you put in office to make the laws.

As to the glory of the general assembly model, I work in a field dominated by consensus decison-making and it is just as dependent on having receptive people at the end of it for the good outcomes it produces. And if you think for one second that people would take more ownership of a failure if they had a hand in making it happen, well, I heard a rumor that it’s really the Democrats who are the targets of the John Doe investigation.

On the wisdom of recall versus long-term strikes:

There were many opportunities available to challenge Walker’s policies with mass civil disobedience.

One was when the Department of Administration refused to allow the occupation of the Capitol to continue.

Another was when the Department of Administration closed the Capitol doors.

And certainly when the bill was shoved through, that was an occasion to call for mass civil disobedience.

But the call never came.

Nor were more creative strategies tried. The Teamsters with their 18 wheelers, whose support was so emboldening, could have driven down Interstate 90 and 94 at 45 mph all day long for a week’s time to demonstrate that workers in Wisconsin weren’t going to take this lying down.

No coordinated workplace strategies were adopted.

Every union in the state could have caught the blue flu, so that workers in one trade after another would call in sick on alternating days.

Strikes create enemies, too; ask anyone who remembers the Racine Unified teacher strike. Strikes are just as hard to sustain when people are frantic and scared and poor and divided against their relatives and friends. And the current crop of Republicans wants to break unions. Do we think they couldn’t break a strike? With people desperate for work? Do we think they couldn’t wait out a strike, even a series of them, with talk radio and the respectable editorial pages of the major newspapers howling about how terrible this all was and why wouldn’t people just go back to work like good little boys and girls?

If the consensus in the state’s media was that this recall was a horrible imposition on everybody’s time and energy, what would have been the reaction to a strike? What are the chances the local and national press would have taken the tack of pressing Republicans to negotiate with the strikers? What do we think the State Journal’s editorial page would have said about union thuggery then?

I’m not saying that way would have been the wrong way to go, btw. I’m saying we would have been in for the same wheelbarrow full of bullshit, whatever tactics were tried, because these people aren’t responding to tactics and they don’t care about what people really think about their actions. Throwing them out of office was as good a tack to try as any. Certainly it was at least as useful as a long piece about how nobody really listened to the very wise people who knew better all along.

This part of the column, I actually agree with wholeheartedly:

Walker was allowed to run one commercial after another from Thanksgiving to April Fool’s Day with barely a counter from labor or the Democrats. Where was the national AFL with its treasury during this time? This was the biggest pitched battle against workers, and the AFL-CIO barely showed up. Where was the Democratic Governors Association? Where was the DNC?

We cut our own loose far too easily. And far too fast after a loss. The Wisconsin solidarity movement lost because more people in the state of Wisconsin were pissed off at each other than were pissed off at the governor. Their anger was aided and abetted by a compliant media that could imagine nothing more onerous than the work of democracy, a problem no hand-raising in the “womb-like refuges in Madison” (really, using conservative clichés to diss the capital?) will address.

I don’t have advice on what would have been the best way to go, because yelling at people who agreed with me about how they sucked and I knew it isn’t where my interests lie. Education isn’t a bad way to go:

We, all of us, in unions and out, need to start talking to people right now who don’t agree with us and actively work to show them the damage that Walker and his ilk are doing to Wisconsin and to this country.

Because that’s about the future, not about what should have been done in the past by people who were doing the only thing they thought they had in front of them, a path that only looks ill-advised now because it led here.

A.

11 thoughts on “Ready, Aim, Turn Left … Fire!

  1. Maitri says:

    Really wish the WiDems had done and continue to do more outreach with increased Barrett presence in northwest and northeast farm country. Ohio, for instance, has shown that many agrarians are reasonable and don’t vote from their guns or forsaken souls.

  2. Jay in Oregon says:

    I’m really surprised how one of the prevailing sentiments THE NEXT DAY was that removing Walker by going through a recall was a bad idea, destined to fail, should be reserved for official misconduct, etc.
    One: A recall is not an impeachment. Impeachment is typically for high crimes and misdemeanors and what-not; a recall is for officials that are incompetent or, in this case, working against the interests of the people he has sworn to serve.
    Two: As far as I’ve heard, WI Dems and anti-Walker types BUSTED THEIR ASSES to comply with the recall process; this includes collecting a fuckton of signatures, and surviving multiple bullshit challenges by Walker and his cronies. To me, calling the recall “illegitimate” is demonstrably untrue.
    Three: Walker is going to blow Wisconsin to pieces to please his corporate masters and ruin the lives of the people of the state, and instead of having to wait until 2014 and hoping that there’s enough shreds of the unions and working class left to vote him out, you guys got an opportunity to do it two years early. YOU TAKE IT.

  3. Jude says:

    I was going to make a post of this, but what the fuck. I never post anymore anyway. Here goes.
    Jesus, Mary, and motherfucking Joseph. I like how the consensus seems to be settling on “It was stupid to try.”
    Oh really, assholes? So if we hadn’t done anything, if we’d just bent over, smiled, and said “GIVE IT TO ME GOOD, SCOTTY!”, then things would have been okay? That would have shown what, exactly?
    These useless pricks have a narrative ready for any outcome. Say the recall didn’t gather enough signatures in the first place? “Madison liberals out-of-touch with state.”
    Walker gets bounced in a recall election? “Anger over union pay issues cuts governor’s term short.”
    And this? “It was stupid to try and fight back,” this bullshit? Listen, fucksockets: It’s never stupid to try. I’ve got a whole shitload of ancestors who tried, and so does everybody else. You know what happens to the people who don’t try to fight back? Look up Henri Petain. Or Vidkun Quisling. People whose very names and institutions are now synonymous with being pieces of shit.
    When it becomes a sin to stand up and fight back, you can go ahead and mail me my one-way ticket to hell. What a bunch of spineless, stupid assholes. For as much as I hate the Republican base, they know how to fight. Not like our Principled Centrists and Liberal Leaders and Progressive Pundits. Get to fighting or get out of the way, assholes.

  4. robertearle says:

    I find myself thinking about Nicholson as McMurphy in “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”:
    “But I tried, didn’t I? Goddamnit, at least I did that.”
    (And, of course, even though he failed, in the end he had shown Chief Bromden a way to escape.)

  5. pansypoo says:

    we don’t do do-overs here.

  6. When Republicans lose it’s because liberals suck and when Democrats lose it’s because liberals suck.
    At last, bipartisanship! :-)

  7. Jay in Oregon says:

    Yeah, that was a point I was trying to make, Jude. Really? The day after the recall, everyone and their mother just KNEW that it was a bad idea all along?
    If this were coming from the GOP, I’d say their talking points courier was really johnny-on-the-spot that day.

  8. Stroebs says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with your comments, A. Well done.
    I would add two other things as addenda to what you have said: we should not forget the past, and should always remember our true friends are.
    When we talk about Wisconsin folks who identify as conservative and vote against their interests, we need to be aware of the irony involved in making such statements–
    First, I have no argument with pointing out that these folks are voting against their greater interests. But far to often I see such remarks paired with a credulous call for Obama in November. Huh? Talk about voting against your interests! The irony is thick.
    To save space, here’s a nice summary of the issues with Obama, including the ususal “lesser evil” and Supreme Court nominee red herrings:
    http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/05/barack-obama-the-great-deceiver.html
    Also add that Obama didn’t step foot in Wisconsin during the entire recall process. I’ve seen so-called Dems apologize for this as the “smart” move. I’d say its calculating and cowardly to leave the heart and soul of your base out in the cold.
    But I guess the “Charlie Brown” progressives are ready to take another kick at President Lucy’s football in November.
    IMHO, the only reason to work alongside the Obama campaign and to remain neutral about or (gag) nominally supportive of Obama, at least outside the voting booth, is to help GOTV for the WISCONSIN democrats, especially state senators and representatives, that will be up for reelection in November.
    Know who your friends are. And carry on the struggle– FOR WISCONSIN!

  9. k says:

    I’ll stand up for Senator Jauch and Representative Milroy, because they have stood up for me, and the very earth I stand on. ( I live too damn close to that mine they tried to shove through.)
    The rest had better start doing a lot more to prove they deserve me.

  10. Zach says:

    Thank you.

  11. MarcD says:

    I don’t think it was wrong to try at all. But I do think that we blame effort too often in politics. For the recall to succeed, there had to be a 4-5% swing in voters. I think one of the takeaways is that in this case, the 4-5% just weren’t troubled by Walker’s agenda as much as we would have hoped. I don’t believe it was due to a non-visit from Obama or how hard people tried. It was that labor rights and corporatist policies weren’t a voting issue for that swing percent.
    People seem to vote for self-interest rather than collective interest to a greater degree currently. In Ohio, I am convinced the only reason the union busting law was overturned by referendum was because people were afraid to lose essential services like fire. The loss of fire and police protection was the central theme of the campaign. We can second guess that maybe messaging the loss of essential services would have been a better strategy than going after Walker’s legal troubles, but let’s not blame it on not working hard enough.

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