Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Post Mortem Nostrums

Ancient election graffiti, Pompeii, c. 79AD

So Walker actually did better in the recall election than he did in the 2010 election. The latest statistic I saw last night before toddling off to slumber was 52/47 Walker -- same as 2010; checking the news this morning it's now at 54/45 Walker.

Oh. Dear.

This despite the fact that Walker is not popular except among the Billionaires as their hired goon, and his policies (well, their policies) are widely  deplored -- even by many of those who voted for him.

The post mortems have largely been piles of horseshit and excuses as is the way in the midst of political carnage. It was all that ad money from the Kochs! It was all the dirty tricks! Everyone's tired of recalls! God, if only Russ had run! etc, ad infinitum.

Let's not forget that one of Walker's promises was that he would get rid of the recall process if he was confirmed in office.

Think about that. One of the principal Progressive reforms from long ago, which I believe was first introduced in Wisconsin (or nearby, I'm too lazy to look it up right now) will be on the block now that Walker has been confirmed in office with a bigger majority than when he was first elected. This is insane. But there you are. That's our politics in a nutshell.

The insight I had was that if the People of Wisconsin were really voting based on their disgust with recalls, then ultimately it's an issue of a deeply flawed electoral and political process; they may or may not be thinking of it in terms of rejecting Progressive reforms, but clearly they recognize a systemic problem with the way our politics and elections are conducted. The way it is is not the way it should be.

If, that is, animosity at the recalls themselves was the driving force behind the failure of the voters to recall Walker and his LG. This idea has mostly been the product of Charles Pierce's insights for Esquire.  Pierce has long been one of the better writers on topics of this sort, and though he may be wrong in this case, he may be right. If he is, then the broader issue of a deeply flawed political and electoral system must be addressed.

If keeping Walker in office turns out to be a comment on the system itself -- not in any way an approval of him and his policies on behalf of the Billionaires who own him -- then there is a good deal of potential for positive change, though not as long as he and his crew are in office. If Democrats were in office, though, it might be more difficult to address the issues of systemic flaws.

At this point, there's no sign that those flaws will be addressed any time soon, but you never know.  People can be spurred to action by all kinds of things, and if the criminal investigation of Walker and his cronies continues and results in indictments, it's quite possible that something unexpected will happen.

Nevertheless, whether the People of Wisconsin decide to do anything about it or not, the problem is systemic. We have a political system that is almost completely unresponsive to the People, and we have an electoral system in which candidates are quite openly bought and sold by a relative handful of plutocrats and oligarchs -- that is when those plutocrats and oligarchs choose not to rule directly themselves.

This is the kind of ersatz "democracy" of the late Roman Empire Republic*, not quite what our Progressive reformers had in mind a century ago. (Actually, perhaps it is, since the Progressives were servants of wealth and power -- and mostly Republicans, too.)

People in office are proud of themselves for defying the People's interests and the People's will in order to serve their real constituents: the plutocrats and oligarchs who choose them and get them elected. We, the People, have not had any significant say in the actual political process for many years (some would say since the foundation of the nation), and our access to the governing process -- and even physical access to those who rule us -- is diminishing all the time.

(As a local side note, a "citizens commission" was set up last year to work with city planning consultants on schemes to "improve" the neighborhood's main street, Broadway. The People of the neighborhoods involved had no say in any of this; many had no idea there even was such a thing as a commission until an announcement appeared in the paper, as it hadn't been discussed with or approved by any of the neighborhood associations. The people on the commission were mostly unknown in the neighborhoods, no one was aware of any request to the city that Broadway be "improved," and no one had any idea who these consultants were, and they became alarmed when they researched some of the projects this outfit had done. It was all just imposed from on high, with the appearance of public participation and input. Complaints were made and noted. The commission continues to work with the consultants on plans for improvements nobody seems to want. That's how government works these days.)

When serving the oligarchs is the primary function of elected representatives, their secondary task is to market their unwanted product to the public. We see it all the time at every level of government from the White House on down. One of the points I made about the election of Barack Obama in 2008 was that he was auditioned (for two years) and vetted on his ability to manage the masses -- which he demonstrated he was more than capable of in some of the enormous rallies he presided over at home and abroad.)

Their skill at marketing unwanted product is actually one of the chief means of evaluating the success or failure of various politicians. Viz: the entirety of the Bush/Cheney reign of error and terror.

At no point are the real interests of the People even considered.

This situation can only be addressed if it is acknowledged, and we haven't reached that point in the wider political scheme of things. It is acknowledged among the rebels and those who have consciously withdrawn from the process, but with the political/electoral firmament the real public interests are avoided like the plague; this holds true for both major parties, most especially for the Republicans, but for the Democrats, too. Elections have no effect political recognition of the People and their interests and will in large part because they are marketing campaigns, not policy considerations.

The only way We, the People have found to affect the course of events is through various forms of rebellion outside the system.

But we need to go well beyond rebellion and create living alternatives.

[ * The illustration above is of election graffiti in Pompeii, c. 79AD, when Rome was still sort of something of a Republic -- at least superficially; elections continued under the Empire, of course, until long after they were completely meaningless.]


  1. Nice post, thanks.
    I live in Wisconsin. I think you are spot on with your observations here. Walker will ratchet up the level of suffering but the blue collar republican voters won't attribute it to his policies. They'll blame "the others" for the problems. You know, the decimated teachers and unions. There is quite a brilliant level of propaganda in this country and so few can see through it. You are correct about the rebellion, I just wonder what form it will take.

  2. Sorry you've had to experience all this first hand, but then you have an excellent insight into what is really going on, too.

    Yes, propaganda can be very effective when it is done right (well...). It doesn't work forever, but it can really bollox up public perceptions over the short term.

    The short term is what the predators and goons really care about in any case.

    As for the decimated unions, they are some of the ones that really need to reconsider what the People are saying and how unions, el al, should be responsive.

    It doesn't mean pre-conceding to the demands of Walker, et al. It means at the minimum advocating for the same sort of pension benefits, pay and working conditions for all workers. They won't do it, of course, because so few workers are union members any more. And if they are not union members, why should they care?

    And so it goes, round and round...

  3. I'd also be interested in your take on this post:


  4. Well, that was a tonic. Thanks for the link. I think he's pretty much spot on.

    His criticism of union failure is valid. Where I am, the unions that my household is associated with have pre-conceded pay and benefit issues, and always made sure the union honchos were provided for no matter what happened to the rank and file.

    It's just sad. It doesn't have to be that way. Or rather, it's going to be that way until the rank and file take matters into their own hands and jettison the parasites at the top and then reform the labor movement top to bottom.

  5. That is the first time I read someone talking about unions that way. At first I wanted to be offended but then I realized he's probably right. I'm a former union member myself so there was some bias going in. I think we need to start a "Human Union." Everyone is invited.

  6. Plenty of the few remaining union members know pretty much what's gone wrong with so many union efforts; the system has atrophied and fossilized to the point where unions are practically useless, and in too many cases they can be actually counter productive.

    The idea of unions isn't wrong, but this isn't the 19th century any more, and the function of a union -- it seems to me -- needs be broadened to take in more than labor matters.

    A Human Union is a good start.