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?