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Wisconsin: Democrats lose to Walker, but the struggle continues

Allan Wood

June 18, 2012

The popular movement behind the recall of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker failed on June 5 because the battle against the Republican extremist was moved from the streets to the ballot box of the corporate Democrats. Once the widespread movement was squeezed into the electoral theatre of the corporate duopoly, it fell victim to the insipid debates, sound-bites and grandstanding that is the norm in American politics.

The recall offered two choices—both of them unpalatable. Colin Millard organized the first protest against Walker’s inhumane budget in February 2011. “The moment you start a recall,” he said, “you’re playing their game by their rules.” That people in Wisconsin were able to collect the more than 1 million names to launch a recall is testament to the groundswell of opposition against the anti-union Republicans. But Democrat Tom Barrett’s budget plans were little better than Walker’s. During debates, Barrett refused to challenge Walker’s budget lies and he went out of his way to denounce labour. Indeed, his fellow Democrats quickly stopped talking about restoring collective bargaining and union rights. Yet the leadership of organized labour unquestioningly supported Barrett. It remains to be seen whether Walker’s victory will make labour in Wisconsin rethink its devotion to the Democrats.

Working people may cast their ballots for the Democratic party, but those politicians are not interested in the needs of the voters. Like Walker’s Republicans, the Democrats craft their policies to please their deep-pocketed funders. When the movement decided—or was funneled by Democrats and the trade union bureaucracy—to rely on the ballot box of the twin party of corporate America, any hopes for a sustained movement against the austerity measures proposed by both parties were snuffed out.

It will be up to working people in Wisconsin—who resoundingly support higher taxes on the rich and oppose cuts to education and healthcare—to relight that fire of protest.

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