Wisconsin Radicalism – Coup D’Etat, Now With Extra Remorse

Those clever journalists – they’ve figured out the Movement radicalism is not about political pluralism. Again. That the ‘Southern Model’ is the template now imposed from above in the North? OK Contestants, here’s the question: ‘When has the Movement ever been about political pluralism?’

People in Wisconsin now regret electing Walker. Too bad. As they say, elections have consequences. A shame that the republic’s antibodies are the woefully compromised media and faltering institutional memories.

All of this was laid bare 2001-2009. Down to the playbook. Cheney already ran the union-busting agenda down Democrats’ throats over the Homeland Security fiasco. The Senate GOP Southerners tried to kill the now successful auto bailout.

Others elsewhere urge us to jettison obviously weakened unions. Their advice? Join the Movement directly engaging with voters without intermediary institutions. That’s the wise and future course they say. As Saruman said to Gandalf about joining him and Sauron.


First, let’s acknowledge that unions — as we all have discussed — are a legacy notion. We say this having been friendly with Walter Reuther’s personal secretary. We also believe that Americans in time will rediscover their original rationale and purpose. We believe however they re-appear in the American landscape, in whatever configuration, something similar in function eventually will be re-discovered. In time.

Second, a contest between liberal democrats (small ‘d’) and the Movement to engage Demos is a loser’s game to the bottom. The Movement already won wealth concentration and preservation. Not to say that all plutocrats are ideologically homogenous. If one takes unions and other institutions out without replacement, it just accelerates Democratic decline into further imitation of the GOP/Movement as merely another courtier for plutocratic crumbs. Tacking their agenda to their patrons’ will.

It’s easy to type ‘give up on unions’. We just did. It’s harder to think through the medium term political consequences of giving the Movement another victory. What are the replacement plans?

This is a vital question. Those devoted to republican thought – from the internal legal and external political science perspectives – have long analyzed and discussed the importance of functioning intermediary institutional participation between the individual and the state. That also goes for political communication, i.e. that the communicator always tries to speak directly to an individual as atomized ‘voter’. But the presence of participatory institutions are an essential stabilizer. Our disintegrating social discourse into 140 characters just another reminder of consequences.

Third, to suggest — often between the lines — that liberal democrats should copy the Movement or aspects thereof is absurd. The Movement is sui generis in American political history for a reason (not so in the Continental, obviously). Building a liberal democratic version of the Movement’? The assignment obviates its successful outcome. History makes that plain.

The lesson of Wisconsin, Ohio et al. is that American voters are willing to embrace top-down radicalism twice within 10 years. As the Decider said, ‘Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice . . .you can’t get fooled again.’ Apparently Americans disagree. Would things be different if the Administration didn’t laugh off losing the House in August 2010? If Obama was willing to sully himself with political engagement? Give up his day job as our life coach? To understand that elections have consequences?

We have to live in the world we have. Who knows what happens in his serenity bubble?


  1. Sam Lowry says

    We’re all socialists now I guess. Too funny how union bashing in Wisconsin is OK up until the real world outcomes of doing so costs their beloved Green Bay Packers a game. Even Scott Walker comes out (sort of) in favor of seeing the unionized refs back at work after last night’s terrible call on the last play of the game. It’s as if rightists can neither anticipate nor accept the inevitable (usually disastrous) outcomes of the ideas they love so much.

    • Dr Leo Strauss says

      That’s some powerful cognitive dissonance Walker’s wrestling with. If some ordinary peoples’ lives were destroyed, it’d be a statistic. As you say, mess with Cheeseheads and it’s a whole different thing.

      Caught a few minutes of Rush the car today on the way back from a meeting. He vacillated between personas – Regular Football Loving Joe and Talking Points Guy.

      In the end, Rightists’ll show remarkable resilience ignoring consequences and staying on message. Two failed wars and an economic meltdown after all are simply airbrushed away, ala 2001-2008.

      Should temp refs prove to the pebble in the shoe more than Iraq, Afghanistan and 2007-2008 collapse, it’d just prove the universe’s deft sense of humor?

  2. Comment says

    Not only did they focus on irrrelevant Bachmann Newsweek covers, but they kept asking: “is it sexist?” As if that were serious or anyone cared. But even if it was, why throw red state chumps any bones? #selfloathinglibs

  3. DrLeoStrauss says

    Hi, it would be encouraging that a sober reaction is shared and leads to forward progress. Nate is pretty much a by-the-numbers young meteor in the City so you’re point is well taken.

  4. jwb says

    I’m not sure Nate has enthusiasm pegged. He seems to believe that the fact that the Dems did not regain control of the senate will adversely affect enthusiasm. Methinks he’s been reading the papers rather than talking with the troops. While there was some despondency on the blogs I visited, I found most thought this was a decent result, not a victory, certainly, but a small step forward in a long war. I guess we’ll see next week whether there is any sign of enthusiasm fatigue.

  5. DrLeoStrauss says

    Three points about the Wisconsin recall effort.

    (a) it is only the first effort to organize and impose political costs on a much better organized Movement;

    (b) ‘progressive/liberal/Left’ still don’t understand how to wage and win integrated political warfare in a Citizens United world. Learning that on the ground will take a couple of cycles.

    (c) The ‘progressive/liberal/Left [sic]’ are still unable to support vital political objectives. Many were unaware of Wisconsin or the stakes. Even in the recall election’s final days ‘liberal media’ focused on Shark Week, Michelle Bachman’s Newsweek cover photo, or a Politico story that Obama 2012 wants to paint Romney ‘weird’. One late night MSNBC show the exception.


    ‘Progressive/liberal/Left [sic]’ should study Wisconsin dispassionately. There are lessons to be learned. For organized politics (as opposed to build another ephemeral edifice doting on a single personality).

  6. Comment says

    If the GOP loses it will be extremely demoralizing – Not sure if many Dems realize that – Many insider elite dems secretly rooting against the unions.

  7. Dr Leo Strauss says

    Walker doubles down with GOP Senate authorizing use of force to bring back Dems in hiding. http://content.usatoday.com/communities/ondeadline/post/2011/03/wisconsin-senate-oks-arrest-of-absent-dems-for-contempt

    Polls showing a majority of Wisconsinites polled support collective bargaining are at this point meaningless. To break the unions in Wisconsin too vital a symbolic victory. When will avowed cynical oppositionists understand this is about ideology and power, not approval ratings or even future political viability.

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