Thursday, June 7, 2012

Falling Down Stupid

As educated individuals deeply familiar with history and human nature, we weren't entirely surprised by the results of Tuesday's election in Wisconsin. Sadly, they were another example of the kind of selective myopia that has allowed the floor to drop out from under the average American worker over the last thirty-to-forty years.

Many of the biggest blowhards on the right - both in the media, and in the Republican Party - are somehow still delusional over Walker's "win." Apparently, they think Tuesday's Wisconsin elections gave them some kind of mandate or template on how to defeat the supposedly all-powerful unions - who continue to make up an ever smaller percentage of the American population.

As we pointed out on Wednesday, even as Scott Walker won the right to keep his job, President Obama beat Mitt Romney soundly in Wisconsin's exit polls - by anywhere from seven to twelve points. Further, Wisconsin Democrats picked up a state Senate seat and now control the Wisconsin Senate - which effectively prevents Governor Walker from doing anything crazy until the end of his term. Finally, this same right-wing template of voter suppression and flooding the race with dark money backfired when the Republican Party tried to snuff out union rights in Ohio this past year.

That said, if those people controlling the GOP's political fortunes want to see Walker's "win" as instructions on how they should move forward in every race this year, we certainly invite them to try that.

What the race in Wisconsin did make clear were two key items - neither of which included voters approving of Walker or his three-card-monty style budget policies that haven't actually fixed anything in Wisconsin's budget.

The first item Tuesday's election made clear was that Wisconsinites still have some standards about what recall elections should be used for - even after suffering through elections approximately every sixty days for the last fourteen months.

In short, most Wisconsinites think recall elections should only be used on officials who have committed official misconduct while in their current office. Walker is under at least two major investigations of potential misconduct he committed while in his previous office. However, Wisconsinites don't seem to think he's done anything truly illegal during his current stint as governor - so they let him keep his job.

The second item Tuesday's Wisconsin election proved is that labor unions are not the powerful counterpart to corporations that the right has been desperately attempting to make them.

Unionization rates in America have been on the decline for decades, for multiple reasons, including jobs being outsourced overseas and corruption in specific unions, like the AFL-CIO. That was thirty years ago or more, however. Times have changed - and unions these days are generally less corrupt than the corporations conservatives compare them to, like Target, Whole Foods, and Wal-Mart.

Whatever the reason, what is also true is that as unionization rates have decreased in America, income inequality has increased drastically since the 1970s. America has turned its collective back on unions, yet without anyone protecting the rights of workers, corporations have done to America exactly what they exist to do - maximize profits at ALL costs.

Unions are not evil. They don't want the corporations that employ their workers to collapse. As writer Hamilton Nolan noted on Wednesday, "Any union that bankrupts the parent company is a failure, because all the union members end up unemployed... A union does not throw off the balance of power in the workplace — lack of a union does."

That balance is now off, severely. If American workers - union and non union alike - want incomes to stop falling, and American businesses to grow, unions must be brought back to power again.

Otherwise, as political scientist Jonathan Bernstein, and founding father James Madison noted, if all elections are high-stakes and at least threaten to be permanent decisions, then the losers will prefer other options to democracy.

That - to us - is falling down stupid.

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