Wisconsin and Us

Carla Hanson

While we got a little wet, Oregon didn't get swept away by the red tide of 2010. But we came within just small margins and a few peculiarities from being Wisconsin of the West. In a difference of just inches, when Oregon rose slightly above the wave, Wisconsin was swept away. A few hundred votes here, a less robust effort in the Tri-county area, and we could have had Governor Dudley and GOP majorities in Salem. Gov. Kitzhaber did win by 22,000 votes, but overlooked in the telling is that almost 40,000 votes were cast for the Libertarian and Constitutional party candidates. In Marion County, solid Democratic incumbent Rep. Betty Komp retained her seat with only a 623 vote margin. Out of almost 49,000 cast votes, Democratic Sen. Alan Bates of Jackson County held off a GOP challenge by just 275 votes.

Oregon and Wisconsin share a history of populism, of progressive thought and activism. As appalled as we were at the results nationwide, the red wash of Wisconsin that took down progressive Democratic Senator Russ Feingold, shocked us to the core. It could have easily been us – not just by way of the results, but we too could have been overwhelmed by policies that came puking out of the Governor's office and the chambers of the Statehouse.

I'm not overstating this. Chris Dudley missed the first traditional General Election Gubernatorial debate to attend a GOP Governor's Conference in Aspen. Scott Walker and Dudley would have been working from identical playbooks; Dudley certainly could have brought none of his own. In Salem, 22 of our legislators – all GOP - are active members of ALEC, and have not been reticent about using the ALEC templates for proposed legislation.

But Wisconsin is not simply a lesson in what could have been, AND a wake up call for our future activism. Wisconsin is now, and is the near future in political campaigns. Wisconsin will tell us if the grassroots stands a chance against the overwhelming odds of a deck stacked by those of privilege and power. In pushing the odds a little, even from 2000 miles away, we can help our progressive cousins get out one more vote and make one more call. We can be one of those nuances that helps our friends get democracy back over the top in Wisconsin.

In our close knit cyber national community, it is not just possible, but essential, to adopt Wisconsin.


Work it

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    Thanks for the well timed post Carla. Scary times.

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    The problem isn't the republicans, its the citizens that vote for them.

    Nobody can educate the uneducated against voting against themselves.

    The war is with ourselves, not the Republicans.

    The war is against ignorance.

    We can't beat ignorance by donating to campaigns, sorry.

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      We can win elections by getting our our people to vote. WI has a Dem voter advantage. Koch Industries took charge of WI by Dem voters staying home. Donations do help in activating Dem voters and registering them and getting them to vote.

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        If people just don't understand/care about any of this how can we or anybody protect them?

        In the end we will get the government we deserve.

        The two party system is a complete failure and I for one and sick of putting any more money into it.

        Kitzhaber was elected because of union labor, what has he done for labor, not a thing.

        The left/right paradigm has to be discarded if this society is going to move forward: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bF6Dt7SS_yw

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          Ah, the Naderites are always so positive, so inspirational, so uplifting! And they have such a record of success. After all, they brought us GWB.

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    There are many in Oregon that would love to see Wisconsin-style union-busting happen here. Wisconsin should be a wake-up call to all Democrats.

    Thanks for posting this KC.

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      I live in Wisconsin and I'm heart broken and deflated by the recall outcome. Walker and similar politicians will take his victory as a mandate to promote their agenda of austerity and scale back of worker's powers. As a Wisconsinite I hope that workers will see the failure to recall Walker as a call to be less reliant on conventional politics. Walker and his ilk will continue to erode worker's rights and workers must react by taking more effective action such as a mass strike.

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    Doubt the average taxpayer considers PERS reform and requiring public employees to contribute a small percentage to their own health & retirement benefits as "union busting". No knock against public employees but this private sector guy envies your benefits plan.

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    Micro-narrowing this discussion into the pros and cons of Pers/reform distracts from the main issue. In Wisconsin, the vote is happening now, and we have to remember, Union busting is a strategy employed nationwide by those on the right. This is, literally, a contest of powerful moneyed interests vs. working people.

    In Wisconsin, Union members aren't simply battling for retirement benefits, but their very right to exist as cohesive units. Collective bargaining has been thrown out on its ear by Walker and his cronies. This assualt on the working folk in the public sector reverberates though the entire economy, and lowers the bar for ALL workers, even those of us in the private sector.

    The more Unions are hammered, the more regressive legislative action we will see. For example, there are already a number of efforts moving forward to eliminate the minimum wage. The House GOP is sure to vote down (today, in fact) the companion bill to the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

    Unions stand for their own membership - to ensure fair pay, suitable working conditions, reasonable benefits and decent retirements. But Unions together stand for all of us and a better democracy for all Americans - and nowhere is that more clear than in Wisconsin, today.

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    "Government collective bargaining means voters do not have the final say on public policy. Instead their elected representatives must negotiate spending and policy decisions with unions. That is not exactly democratic – a fact that unions once recognized."

    It appears Wisconsin voters agree with the above statement.

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      I'm not sure who you are quoting but in Oregon - and depending on the structure of other states - unions don't "negotiate spending and policy decisions" with elected representatives. Unions bargain over wages, benefits and working conditions. And in Oregon there is no question who management represents at the bargaining table. You are well served. First, the negotiators and their bosses are not elected. Second, Kitz and Kulongski are examples where unions helped to get them elected but by no means get (or got) everything they want. The State bargains hard and does not bend even on issues that cost taxpayers zero and improve worker efficiencies and production. If Walker had heartburn over negotiating with unions, maybe he needed to look to his negotiating team.

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