Wisconsin’s Will Is Stronger than Walker’s Bill

Wisconsin’s progressive tradition is a beautiful, inspiring rarity.

It shines not only with Fighting Bob La Follette’s forceful defense of worker and farmer rights against cruel depredation by robber barons at the tail end of the Gilded Age.

It includes, also, the sterling record of efficient, honest municipal governments in Milwaukee and several other cities headed by socialist mayors, mainly of immigrant German origin, who were steadfastly devoted to serving society’s wage-earning majority, its indispensable backbone.

Up north, there were the Finnish-American labor partisans who organized an influential publishing house, consumer cooperatives in communities throughout the region, and collective sports and theater activity even in the smallest rural towns.

Then there’s Wisconsin’s capital, which affectionately came to be known as the People’s Republic of Madison during the turbulent Vietnam years, when its great university and surrounding area were an effective liberated zone where imperialist assumptions of the time stood no chance against popular, countervailing truth.

And let’s not forget Gaylord Nelson, former senator and governor, the visionary co-founder of Earth Day.  On the fortieth anniversary of his green creation, one billion people in 190 countries gently honored our shared, fragile planet.

Which brought smiles to the faces of Wisconsin’s native Ojibwe, whose spiritual outlook calls for decisions in the present that benefit seven generations to come.

My home state’s powerful legacy of ordinary folks’ exemplary struggle for better lives and justice has come full circle, linking with itself and giving dramatic strength to all who are rising by the many thousands to resist Scott Walker’s maniacal imitation of a Guatemalan or Honduran coup.

I just returned from an emergency protest that was held in quick response to the underhanded and illegal destruction of Wisconsin unions’ collective bargaining rights by Koch-funded Republican reactionaries.

Similar rallies took place in over a dozen of Wisconsin’s leading cities.

Never have I seen such anger, or as much steely determination to undo a grievous wrong.

Importantly, in decades of taking to the streets for various good causes, never has there been as much, virtually constant horn honking by supportive motorists, many of whom pumped clenched fists in fervent solidarity.

Wisconsin’s masses are livid with rage.

They won’t accept this crypto-fascistic assault on their democracy, and on everything Wisconsin has so magnificently represented to so many for so long.

Thanks to the time bought by the Wisconsin 14, the Democratic state senators who went to Illinois to prevent an initial voting quorum, Wisconsinites have amply been able to familiarize themselves with what Walker’s dreadful bill contains:

  • the unconscionable attack on collective bargaining;
  • the devastating monetary reductions for school districts;
  • the inhumane cuts on BadgerCare health assistance to the poor; and,
  • the giveaway provision whereby state power plants and other public facilities can be sold to private entities without a proper bidding process.

And, while Walker has demagogued the “deficit” issue, Wisconsinites have angrily absorbed realities about who actually put their state — and the whole nation — into deep debt, and what can best be done about it.

Statistics such as the following are profoundly radicalizing:

Based on Forbes magazine data, the 2011 budget-deficit total for all 50 states is roughly one-tenth the net worth of the 400 richest Americans.

In New Jersey, there are 100,000 more millionaires than teachers, but it’s those teachers who get blamed for state debt, not the massive tax-evasion capacity of the super rich.

Let’s go after the money where it is, not where it isn’t.

Make the wealthy pay to save the USA!

Such sentiment is very widely held in Wisconsin.  In fact, only a rapidly shrinking minority of ultra-conservative Fox News patsies thinks otherwise.

The coming days will see marches, rallies, occupations, strikes, law suits, recall-election petitioning, peaceful civil disobedience, plus methods of protest that will be highly imaginative and totally unique.

What they’ll all display will be the awesome power of Wisconsinites who just got dumped on by contemptible corporate lackeys, and who’ll unite to fully draw upon their noble working-class history to ultimately set things right.

That’s not idle brave talk.

It’s a promise you can bank on!

Dennis Rahkonen, from Superior, Wisconsin, has been writing progressive commentary with a Heartland perspective for various outlets since the '60s. Read other articles by Dennis.