Friday, February 18, 2011

Mayhem in Mad City

We probably should have seen this coming.

You are probably aware of the mass demonstrations taking place in Madison, Wis. in protest of a bill proposed by Gov. Scott Walker which protesters say would cripple public-sector labor unions. Democratic legislators who opposed the bill fled the capital, reportedly for Illinois, denying a quorum because they knew they didn't have the votes to defeat it outright.

Now, Wisconsin has a long history of progressive politics, so such action in that state may not surprise. I would suggest, however, that if this action is successful you'll see more of it around the country.

I say that because of the strong showing by Joe Sestak against eventual winner Pat Toomey in the race for U.S. Senate last year here in Pennsylvania, strong considering that at one point Sestak, as progressive a political candidate as there was here, was nearly 20 points behind in polls before his campaign began focusing on right-wing financial shenanigans. And as bad as the economy is and was for most folks, the idea that a privileged few were making out like bandits just didn't go over well, especially in a state with a strong tradition of organized labor -- which the political right, and thus the Republican Party that it all but owns, has overtly tried to destroy for the last 30 years.

Anyway, Wisconsin has provisions to recall legislators, and I understand that eight Republican members are eligible immediately for recall. If just three are taken down the legislature will become majority Democratic, enough to put the kibosh on that bill and any other legislation considered "anti-worker."

I don't yet know enough about either the specifics of Walker's bill to make a judgment on that or the issues that prompted the protest. I will say this, however: The days of the political right trying to roll over its opponents for political and financial gain may very well be coming to an end. If these demonstrations spark more protests around the country, a strong possibility given what's happening in the Middle East because of improved communication, we may -- may -- see a new chapter in the history of the union movement.

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