For the progressive movement, it’s put up or shut up time in Wisconsin.
We said that we despise the agenda of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. We cheered the thousands of people who occupied the state capitol in 2011 to protest Walker’s ramming legislation crippling public employee unions through the legislature. We celebrated when a legislature recall election led to the ousting of two of the state senators who backed the legislation. And we were bolstered when a record number of signatures put a Walker recall election on the ballot.
John Nichols of The Nation, who has been reporting first-hand on developments in Wisconsin since the sit-ins at the State Capitol last year, talks to Isaiah J. Poole about the state of the June 5 recall effort and the implications for progressive politics.
But now that it’s crunch time, we are dangerously close to losing it all. And the consequences of a recall defeat are almost impossible to overstate. Imagine the gloating on Fox News and the right-wing blogs if Walker wins on Tuesday, and the claims that our insurgent movement for rebuilding the middle class is bloodied and can be left for dead.
If we are really serious about standing up against the unholy alliance of conservative extremism and corporate money that has imposed an austerity agenda on the working class while further enriching the wealthy, then we need to help the people in Wisconsin who are trying against the odds to win this Wisconsin recall.
We’re asking people this weekend to sign up with Worker’s Voice and contribute time to help get out the vote against Walker.
Workers’ Voice is a new political action committee affiliated with the AFL-CIO that offers get-out-the-vote tools that leverage the power of your social networks with information in the voter file.
You can help identify voters, make phone calls, or send your own personalized direct mail to people you know. And you can do it all from home, no matter where you live. And in an election race that polls suggest could go either way, every phone call, every email, every knock on a door will matter.
What has me particularly fired up is an article progressive commentator Sally Kohn has posted on The Daily Beast, with a headline that claims “Democrats Lose Momentum in Wisconsin: The left has seemed more comfortable being angry than channeling that emotion into influence.”
I respect Sally Kohn and think she’s a smart political analyst. But I would really like to see her proved wrong.
Her sense is that grassroots progressives did a good job pulling together a movement based on opposition to Walker’s policies—not just on labor rights but also on a budget that, like national conservative policies, cuts services vital to the middle class and poor while cutting taxes to the wealthy and corporations. But the momentum fell apart when it came time to take that energy and translate it into actual change at the ballot box.
“Progressives have had a far harder time yoking grassroots activism to electoral politics than conservatives, who quickly managed to translate Tea Party rabble rousing into political power,” Kohn writes.
It is true that progressives need a more solid strategy for electoral and political gains in the face of how, with the aid of the Citizens United ruling, the right and its corporate backers have dominated the political landscape. That is a key focus of the Take Back the American Dream conference, where many of the plenary meetings and strategy sessions will be focused both on how progressives can score gains in the November elections and on how progressives can affect the course of economic policy during December’s “taxmageddon,” when Congress must decide how to handle the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, payroll tax relief and a deal on federal spending.
But, as The Nation’s John Nichols told me in my interview with him today, people power has already accomplished more in Wisconsin than skeptics in either the left or the right expected. As he reminds us, the Capitol protests were supposed to quickly fizzle, but they didn’t. The public was supposed to massively turn against supporters of public employees, but they didn’t. The Walker recall was expected to flail in the midst of the harsh Wisconsin winter. It didn’t.
So now we come to this moment, where it will become clear to the nation whether the 99 percent can in fact use people power to push back against the 1 percent and insist on government policies that restore a measure of prosperity to the majority of Americans, not just those at the very top.
Workers Voice is one way you can help, but it is of course not the only way. However you choose to get involved, this is the time to move from the sideline to the front line.
Then, at our Take Back the American Dream conference, we can do the work of building on a Wisconsin victory. That conference will feature Paul Krugman, Van Jones, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ai-jen Poo, Sandra Fluke, Gov. Howard Dean, Melissa Harris-Perry, Chris Hayes and Katrina vanden Heuvel. (Click here to register.)
When you consider all that is at stake throughout the country, as conservatives continue their assault on worker’s rights and economic security at both the state and national level, we literally cannot afford to lose on Tuesday.