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For the full, original article, feel free to visit the trial by fire.

The votes are in: republican Governor Scott Walker has survived his much publicized recall election, besting his Democratic opponent, Tom Barrett, by a sound 9 point margin.

In his victory speech, Governor Walker – now infamous for his successful campaign to strip collective bargaining rights from over 175,000 state employees last year, as well as repealing equal pay provisions for women -  gloated, “[Tonight] we tell Wisconsin, we tell our country, and we tell people all across the globe that voters really do want leaders who stand up and make the tough decisions,” adding, “the election is over, it’s time to move Wisconsin forward.”

Walkers’ opponent, for his part, was graceful in defeat, and expressed his own desire for the state to move on. Following his concession speech, Barret promptly called the incumbent Governor to congratulate him on a successful campaign, and both agreed that from here on out it was important to cooperate – sentiments, it hardly needs pointing out, wholly incongruous with the emotions of tens of thousands of Wisconsin working families today.

The greatest moment of the evening, however, was yet to come: that night, Barret was slapped by a woman while walking through a crowd of supporters. It was reported that the woman was upset over Barret having conceded so early.

Anatomy of a fight:

Of course, the blame cannot be put solely on Barret’s shoulders. Our defeat was arranged by a vast effort of Democratic Party officials and labor bureaucrats as early as last year, when thousands of party activists swarmed the city of Madison to put down the popular revolt – although at that time it was hard for many to spot; where in Tahrir the state had to resort to batons and rifles, in Madison, they carried clipboards and recall petitions. You can read the whole heart breaking story here.
The dominant discourse coming from liberal pundits, however, takes quite a different view of the defeat.
Some focus on the funding for the election. Mother Jones author, Gavin Aronsen, for example, provided his readers with a complete breakdown of donors to both Walker and Barret’s campaigns, leaving it to readers to infer - correctly – that the race was largely decided by monied interests.  Other commentators have focused on voter suppression efforts by conservatives, while others still have blamed the Democrat’s strategy of running a recall instead of trying to repeal the legislation itself, as was done in Ohio.

But this is merely the anatomy of the election – it only answers the question “how did Barret lose,” not the more important, “how did we lose?” How did we go from one of the most impressive series of wildcat strikes and occupations the labor movement has seen in years, to a failed recall election?

The answer lies in the structure and organizations of the labor movement itself, and not, as others have suggested, in the electoral process, or in strategic mistakes of labor’s leadership. The workers’ movement which exploded in Madison was, in many important respects, a threat to not only Scott Walkers’ administration, but to the union bureaucracy and to the Democratic party.

Because the union leadership’s priority is first and foremost to ensure its own survival, priorities for action are often rather at odds with what is desirable for the rank and file. The recall election demonstrates the principle.

Common pronouncements of a reinvigorated Democratic Party base aside, the fact remains that neither the unions nor the Democrats had any intention of fighting austerity measures in the state – they merely wanted to maintain collective bargaining rights, and were willing to allow Walker’s austerity measures to pass with barely a whimper. This, of course, was a tact entirely rejected by many working people, and the failure to even maintain the facade of representation had wide-ranging implications – partly emboldening teachers to ignore their union leadership, and take illegal strike action on their own.

That autonomous strike action, and the occupations which occurred afterwards, threatened to make both the leadership of the Democratic party and the unions irrelevant – or, even worse – to make them obstacles to be overcome.

The unions, in their bid to begin reigning in the freshly emboldened workers movement, flooded the streets of Madison with speakers and petitioners to literally drown out the rank and filers on the ground leading chants of “strike! strike! strike!”

On every corner of the capitol, soap boxes, microphones and bullhorns could be found, each station equipped with an emcee directing protestors to the nearest petitioner. Big name speakers were called in from all over the country to decry the republicans and extol the democrats.

“We have a great president…” remarked Rev. Jesse Jackson at the capitol building. “We have a great president. But he cannot do it alone. When we do not fight, we weaken him. We do not vote… if we had used our power to vote, we would not have Mr. Walker as Governor tonight.” He then paused to lead the crowd in a chant: “when we vote, we win! When we vote, we win!”

Labor leadership couldn’t have agreed more. The Wisconsin Education Association Council issued a statement urging its members not to go to the capitol to protest, but instead to go back to work, assuring its workers that they would “not back down.”

“Given the abhorrent and illegal action taken by the Senate tonight, MTI has received many calls as to whether those represented by MTI will be at work tomorrow, but rather engage in political action,” MTI Executive Director John Matthews is quoted as saying in a statement. “MTI advises those it represents to report to work tomorrow. The Senate’s improper and illegal action will be challenged in court.” Eventually, like the recall, the court challenges failed as well.

But even after the strategy so clearly failed – obliterating (in all but name) even the state labor bureaucracy itself – the union leadership apologized for nothing. After the absolute disaster that was the recall, which has left the labor movement massively demoralized and in retreat, Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, pathetically tried to spin the defeat as some sort of inspiring moral victory.

According to Trumka, Wisconsin “forced the governor to answer for his efforts to divide the state and punish hard-working people” in “today’s recall election…” The remark was absolutely delusional, but necessary, as Trumka knows that the only possible alternative for workers would have been ignore the mandates of labor leadership and forge their own, independent path.

The message was clear: workers were not to be allowed, under any circumstances, to devise their own strategy or take their own initiative in this fight.

The alternative was worse:

Once the recall was underway, its clear enough that the fight – as far as workers were concerned – was over. With working people firmly put back in their place by both party officials and labor bureaucrats, the initiative was once again in the hands of the political class. Protestors demobilized, occupations squashed and strikers sent back to work, there were now only two outcomes to the fight: a victory for Barret, or victory for Walker. In the final humiliating conclusion, Walker, of course, came out on top.

There is, however, a silver lining to these dark rain clouds – at least in two important ways.

First, a victory for Barret surely would have meant a passive acceptance of austerity (under the guise of democratic consent), as has been the case with nearly every Democratic administration across the states since the 2008 crash. Union leadership, grumbling, has often backed these cuts to benefits, wages and hours, in complete opposition to the real needs of its workers. Now, at least, it is beyond speculation that we do not consent to these attacks.

Secondly, a victory for Barret could possibly have meant the repeal of a number of bills – importantly, the rights to collectively bargain may have been restored, maybe. But it would have meant something else, also. It would have led much of the country to conclude (incorrectly) that labor unions, as they exist today, are still relevant to the needs and desires of America’s working class.

In fact, they are archaic and backwards institutions which only persist because of the massive support they offer to the Democratic party and the passive, whipped workforce they are able to offer to businesses. Barret’s loss may be our gain if it means that there is an opening for the rank and file to reinvent itself.

The devastation of public sector workers in WI may present us with a great deal of opportunity to rebuild labor – to make it more autonomous, and more insurgent.

For the full, original article, feel free to visit the Trial by Fire.

Poll

How could we have screwed this fight up even more?

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23%5 votes
28%6 votes

| 21 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (4+ / 0-)

    -John http://thetbf.wordpress.com/

    by John E Jacobsen on Mon Jun 11, 2012 at 10:16:28 PM PDT

  •  You are missing one important point. (9+ / 0-)

    The recall efforts have overturned the control of the Senate. While it certainly was less that was hoped for it certainly drives a stake into the heart of Walker's draconian rule!

    •  you are missing an important point (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Superpole, OutcastsAndCastoffs

      and you are not alone, hell we are all grasping at straws here.  But:

      The reality is that the Wisconsin legislature is out of session  until next year, after the general election in November.  You say Walker's rule is "over" but that is simply not the case.  A: he will be the governor and B: since almost half of legislators will be up for election in November, we have no idea who will be in control come January; when our side can start casting votes again.

      •  You are correct in a way. But this also precludes (6+ / 0-)

        the implimentation of a special session. But I do understand your point. I would rather be operating in a majority position rather that the way it was prior to the recall situation.

        •  sure (0+ / 0-)

          better to be ahead than behind.  But it is something like the sixth inning, we need to get a lot more runs to win this thing.  :)

          •  Also, and maybe more ... (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Quicklund, ozsea1, JVolvo

            ... importantly, Democrats gained control after the last recall election, but it was the recall election before that which put the Wisconsin Senate in a position that it could not serve as Walker's personal toady.

            So, although the senate isn't in session now, it was in session for about 8 months -- or could've been called into special session -- and Walker wasn't able to go crazy with it as he was when Republicans had the clear majority.

            Moreover, now a majority of the Democratic senators will be able to run as "incumbents" with the nice "Sen." in front of their name on all news broadcasts and in all newspapers.

            Finally, if anyone is going to argue that the will of the people showed that they're opposed recall elections, then I think it also shows that it was the will of the people of Wisconsin to have a Democratic Senate.  Something very powerful must have overridden the objections of a majority of Wisconsinites to the recall process -- at least in a few Senate districts.

            I would tip you, but the man took away my tips.

            by Tortmaster on Tue Jun 12, 2012 at 03:39:13 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  We'll See (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              TurkeyCreek

              My understanding is half of the senate is up for re-election this coming election and all of the assembly.

              We'll see how serious the will of the people of WI is regarding keeping a Democratic Senate.

              "The private economy is doing fine". President Obama 6.8.2012

              by Superpole on Tue Jun 12, 2012 at 06:28:46 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  Special Session (0+ / 0-)

          uhh, why would Wanker call a special session now? with dem control of the senate?

          He and the rest of the reps in WI can have a nice summer vacation now-- and wait until after the election.

          "The private economy is doing fine". President Obama 6.8.2012

          by Superpole on Tue Jun 12, 2012 at 06:25:34 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  He won't cuz now WE control Senate. THAT is the (0+ / 0-)

            whole point.  Act 10 was jammed through in special session, so the lege calendar isn't carved in stone.  We've stopped the bleeding, he can't do anymore legislative harm this year.

            Aka WIN.

            To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. - Theodore Roosevelt 1918

            by JVolvo on Tue Jun 12, 2012 at 12:05:54 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  ??? Gov can call Special Session anytime. Union- (0+ / 0-)

        busting Act 10 was a special session putsch.  He almost got the land-raping mining bill jammed through this spring when the Senate was 17R-16 (sane R Schultz balked at the egregious bill).

        Now we've got the Senate 17D-15 and Fitzgerald isn't calling the shots anymore.  

        That in itself is a win.  We set out to stop/slow FitzWalker from ruining our state through legislative abuse.

        Done.

        We'll see what Nov elections bring.

        To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. - Theodore Roosevelt 1918

        by JVolvo on Tue Jun 12, 2012 at 12:02:23 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  is this a cut and paste job? nt (0+ / 0-)
    •  And those of us here know him as Barrett :o) (0+ / 0-)

      Is this a(nother) cut and paste job from out-of-state?

      To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. - Theodore Roosevelt 1918

      by JVolvo on Tue Jun 12, 2012 at 12:07:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The budget cuts from 2003 sunk Wisconsin (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Superpole, ozsea1

    Cutting taxes is great when you have a surplus. But as far back as Doyle were cutting taxes and covering shortfalls with going in the transportation fund.

    This problem didn't start with Walker, he just walked into a situation set up for him by the previous administration. He pounced on it

    Unions were weaken long before that. The public soured on them for a lot of reasons. They are not the great equalizers that a lot people here believe.

    If we are going to replay this, lets replay this honestly.

  •  Margin was 7%, not 9% (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NoMoreLies

    Still a solid win for Walker.  It was 54-45 at about 9pm election night when the media called it, but the final margin was 53-46. Final results here.

    •  That's assuming you believe the results (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      monroematt, myboo, Habitat Vic, JVolvo

      I don't. There's a lot that needs to be explained. A million people sign recall petitions against Walker but only 1.2 million actually come out to vote against him. County after county reports record turnout, validated by the fact that many had to print more ballots and registration forms, yet they say turnout was only 57%. Something here smells.

      I'm no philosopher, I am no poet, I'm just trying to help you out - Gomez (from the song Hamoa Beach)

      by jhecht on Tue Jun 12, 2012 at 06:16:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  <sigh> (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ozsea1

        "Something here smells".

        That's right-- and that something is the inability (again) for the Democrats to put up the right candidate and do the ground work necessary to get the win.

        Andy Kroll:

        The energy of the Wisconsin uprising was never electoral. The movement’s mistake: letting itself be channeled solely into traditional politics, into the usual box of uninspired candidates and the usual line-up of debates, primaries, and general elections. The uprising was too broad and diverse to fit electoral politics comfortably. You can't play a symphony with a single instrument. Nor can you funnel the energy and outrage of a popular movement into a single race, behind a single well-worn candidate, at a time when all the money in the world from corporate “individuals” and right-wing billionaires is pouring into races like the Walker recall.

        Colin Millard, an organizer at the International Brotherhood of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental, and Reinforcing Iron Workers, admitted as much on the eve of the recall. We were standing inside his storefront office in the small town of Horicon, Wisconsin. It was night outside. "The moment you start a recall," he told me, "you're playing their game by their rules."

        Snip.
        The Walker recall effort would, in fact, splinter the masses of anti-Walker protesters. Many progressives and most of the state's labor unions rallied behind former Dane County executive Kathleen Falk who, in January 2012, announced her intent to challenge Walker. Tom Barrett, who had lost the governor’s race to Walker in 2010, didn't announce his candidacy until late March, his entry pitting Democrat against Democrat, his handful of union endorsements pitting labor against labor. Unions pumped $4 million into helping Falk clinch the Democratic nomination. In the end, though, it wasn't close: Barrett stomped her in the May 8th primary by 24 percentage points.

        By now, the Madison movement was the captive of ordinary Democratic politics in the state. After all, Barrett was hardly a candidate of the uprising. People who had protested in the streets and slept in the capitol groused about his uninspired record on workers' rights and public education. He never inspired or unified the movement that had made a recall possible -- and it showed on Election Day: Walker beat Barrett by seven percentage points, almost his exact margin of victory in 2010. Democrats and their union allies needed to win over new voters and old enemies; by all accounts they failed.

        You can have six million signatures on a recall petition-- if the voters don't LOVE their candidate, they are not going to show up on election day.

        http://www.tomdispatch.com/...

        "The private economy is doing fine". President Obama 6.8.2012

        by Superpole on Tue Jun 12, 2012 at 06:49:39 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent and important points. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ozsea1

    We're seeing analyses like this all over the Left Internet, except, of course, on the Front Page here at DK where the religion of "more and better" is backed up by the Orange Inquisition.

    I'd be a bit more blunt than you here:

    Common pronouncements of a reinvigorated Democratic Party base aside, the fact remains that neither the unions nor the Democrats had any intention of fighting austerity measures in the state – they merely wanted to maintain collective bargaining rights, and were willing to allow Walker’s austerity measures to pass with barely a whimper. This, of course, was a tact entirely rejected by many working people, and the failure to even maintain the facade of representation had wide-ranging implications – partly emboldening teachers to ignore their union leadership, and take illegal strike action on their own.
    Let's be honest.  The D.C. bureaucrats in the public employee unions were happy to go along with all the cuts to pay and benefits as were the Dems in the Wisconsin state legislature.  What worried both were not "collective bargaining rights" per se, but dues checkoff that funds the labor palaces in Washington and Dem Party candidates.

    I'd agree that the bright side of this loss is that more and more people are waking up to the fact that workers will have to ditch the existing business union/Dem adjunct version of a labor movement and go back to organizing and direct action.

  •  Shorter analysis (0+ / 0-)

    More WI voters support Walker than oppose him.

  •  another shorter (0+ / 0-)

    Union and party machines scared of the peon power.

    Both parties are beholden to their corporate sponsors. The Democratic Party deigns to throw us a few bones from the table on which to gnaw and squabble over, but it's just kabuki.

    by ozsea1 on Tue Jun 12, 2012 at 12:03:14 PM PDT

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