In The News
Walker erases himself along with public trust
By Dominique Paul Noth
Editor, Milwaukee Labor Press
Posted March 10, 2011
Shams, feints and false dealings. If anyone questioned those journalists who conveyed worst fears about the unscrupulous machinations possible from Scott Walker, the
governor sure ended any doubts March 9. He orchestrated a legislative sneak attack violating basic democratic rules and stripping public union rights -- despite his insistence that he never intended any such thing and was merely offering some "modest" proposals about budget fixing, which his supporters eliminated to get this concoction passed in the face of public outcry.
There may be a few gullible FOX News and mass media types who don't want to believe what is going on and some faithful Republicans who remember when their party
contained honorable people who understood the value of discussion and contrary ideas. But Walker has virtually guaranteed less and less of them as they realize how he has used his media friendly manner to mislead and flat lie to even those who sympathized with him.
There's no one left who would make a deal with him if they weren’t wearing a crucifix and a necklace of garlic -- and probably not even then.
Consider. The new bill that strips bargaining rights
eliminated the only reason he said he was touching those rights in the first place, to "repair" the budget. The non-repair bill passed hastily; and probably illegally but it could take court battles of indeterminate length before the gamesmanship is exposed and reversed. Milwaukee County suffered similar game when Walker
was county executive. Months after he left office, the courts intervened and his overreach in privatizing public employees will likely cost the county around half a million dollars, but remember: It was a misled citizenry that embraced such tough stances that helped Walker get elected governor, so now he feels emboldened to reach into the pockets of school teachers and others. Will the suckers line up once again?
Since the details are still unclear of how there could possibly be no financial impact on the state budget in eliminating rights (huh?), and since the budget was the only reason he ever gave in the first place, the new bill may not survive legal scrutiny on many fronts. Certainly the pretense that he was really seeking to empower local governments has totally evaporated. In fact, his two-year budget bill is built on the financial elements now stripped out of the first bill, so to move ahead on it doubly exposes the entire charade of Walker's folly.
It is hard to believe there is anyone left in the state, or the country, who can believe him on any opinion, and yet the Wall Street Journal blithely accepted an op-ed from him that was about a piece of legislation his cronies had just killed! And these Murdoch employees didn't seem to mind a bit. Look for even supposedly moderate corporate
media to continue to invite him as a guest and accept statements that events now prove are only momentary occasions of political convenience.
If you want to credit Walker and his corporate financiers with larger purpose – method behind the madness -- let me offer a Machiavellian suggestion for advancing in the face of hostile public opinion (and not just from unions -- the national polls including Republicans and independents had clearly turned against him). Yes Walker’s presidential hope are pretty well shot for now, but not the money the corporate campaign networks will spend to support him, not the spin they even now are putting on such base behavior. They smell the death of the progressives including unions that represent the major money opposition to GOP politics, and if they can wound them in Wisconsin, imagine what they can do in Illinois or California.
But it is more than that. The pretense of evil unions ruled by wealthy bossed and loaded with
freeloaders was essential to this corporate campaign, and to this point that fabrication was dismantled in Madison, replaced by a realization of
which party really is ruled by wealthy bosses and riddled with freeloaders.
The peaceful confrontation on the effort to crush bargaining rights involved an ever-growing number of citizens, public and non, union and non, keeping their tempers as they insisted on their
rights. That impressed a nation and exposed the big lie of the ads that this was all about union thugs and imported agitators.
And so Walker and his allies have stepped up the
pressure and deliberately sought to goad the opposition into uglier and perhaps even violent action. Hence the falsehoods that he was offering compromise when he selectively
released email proposals he had never agreed to (in private exchanges with senate Democrats). Hence those petty games about denying Democrats their
paychecks (quietly abandoned as legally murky) or fining them for contempt or taking their parking spots, or harassing their families on the pretense they were in danger of arrest. Hence the lockdown of the state capitol to diminish the media impact of protesters and hope images of their growing anger would displace video of veteran legislator Dave Obey refused entrance or a Democratic Assemblyman tackled by police when trying to get to his office.
Combine all that theater with the simple maddening reality that he wants to eliminate basic rights to bargain on benefits, working conditions, sick days, leave, safety concerns, and more. The sick strategy emerges clearly: Walker expected to cold-slap unions into strikes (generally illegal for public workers) or other mass actions that would turn the public against them.
Another purpose is that a strike by public workers, however they describe the action, or a walkout by students, however justified, can be interpreted by Walker as an affront to law and order and a reason to mandate what many believe he really wants, to privatize more aspect of public service and reward his cronies to the detriment of the economic health of the middle class.
Yet events on the ground may be out of the reach of the wiser heads who realize his game and are looking around the political corner, calling for remedy at the ballot box, as public officials and union leaders keep saying. But as one protester heading for Madison told me, "People are
just madder than hell and will not sit meekly by as politicians kick their ass."
Many point out that for nearly four weeks, tens of thousand of protesters have stayed calm and let pubic support gather behind them. But they also ask if that hasn’t been quite enough. "I don't think that larger support will disappear if some folks decide on a job action" one protester told me, an attitude that seems to be gaining traction. "If what was being done to us was being done to most Republicans I know, they would have been knocking heads a long time ago."
Still, union leaders are urging a committed calm, a controlled anger. Loss of control, they fear, might deflect attention from the ballot box, from the recall elections that could sweep the state out of its unexpectedly destructive Republican majority, not to mention the swelling storm to recall the governor himself. That can't by law take place until 2012 but signatures can legally be gathered now for future action and assuredly are.
In that view, it is misbehavior by the opposition that Walker must depend on. Otherwise he can't slow a growing tide that could make him the shortest lived governor in Wisconsin
history. It may be quite a foot race because for a gathering cloud of citizens, even a year is too long to wait to see his back.
Editor's Note: Without apology I have amended a word in the original article. I used a slang term for a dominant self-centered male who mistreats women, and I used that image to suggest this was how Walker was treating unions. The image remains defensible, but the word offended some readers and so I substituted another kind of "slap."