The Peeple Vs. Scott Walker / SEIU
Our latest action on Daily Kos is a ginormous series of thank you notes to the volunteers who gathered recall petition signatures against Republicans in Wisconsin. We're over 10,000 thank you notes now, all of which will be delivered, with the help of the local organizers, to each of the several thousand volunteers. You can add your thank you note here.
Today, I wanted to share with you the thinking behind this action. The process was a little meta, and a lot elliptical, so bear with me.
For the past couple months, I have been looking for a way to engage the community in activism around the spending fight in D.C. The problem has been that the fight has just been so utterly bleak. It hasn't been about the deficit, as the actual deficit impact of the deal shows. It hasn't been about cutting spending in general—there is a ton of federal spending a lot of us here want to see cut, such as wars and subsidies to polluters, but that type of spending isn't on the table. Instead, the fight is just about cutting programs that support the poor and working class. Further, it's not if those programs should be cut, but how much they should be cut by. The situation has been just altogether too depressing for worthwhile action.
Despite this, Friday before last, when House Republicans voted to privatize Medicare, there seemed to be an opening for activism on the budget. There was a positive vibe flowing through the community after President Obama's deficit speech, and I had an idea for a action on Paul Ryan that I thought would make a splash. My thinking was that we could do a petition thanking Paul Ryan for finally being honest about the Republican plan to privatize Medicare. We could deliver it at either a town hall back in his district, or at the next Budget Committee hearing. It would probably make the people taking action feel good, let us know which members of the Daily Kos community are interested in taking action on Medicare, and also get some press (all three are keys to making a petition successful). My plan was to launch the action on Tuesday, April 19, after the tax day news cycle had passed.
Then Dick Durbin happened. On Tuesday morning, literally as I was starting to put the Paul Ryan action together, the Senate's second-ranking Democrat made national news for endorsing cuts to Social Security benefits. When I read Durbin's comments, it took all the wind out of sails on the Paul Ryan action. I no longer wanted to join in attacks against Republicans for going after entitlements when high-ranking members of my own party were going after entitlements, and I figured a large chunk of the community wouldn't want to, either. Additionally, I didn't even want to put together an action laying into Dick Durbin, because in his current role as "grand bargain" negotiator such attacks would actually be doing him a favor. All too often, some high-ranking Dems use us netroots types as a foil to present themselves as "reasonable" and "serious." By attacking them as sell-outs, we give them exactly the press narrative they are seeking.
So I was back to square one, with no good ideas for actions on the budget fight. Fortunately, just as Durbin was making his comments, Democratic activists in Wisconsin once again demonstrated why right now they are more worthy of our attention than Democratic leaders in D.C. Recall petitions were filed against Republican state Senator Luther Olsen on Monday and state Senator Sheila Harsdorf on Tuesday. Further, there were rumors of a massive petition filing against Budget Committee chair Albert Darling coming later in the week.
In stark contrast to the national fight, here a revved-up grassroots operation is being endorsed and directly supported by the local Democratic leadership—often at great political risk to themselves—rather than being used as a foil. As a result, they are making historic achievements. With the Paul Ryan thank-you petition fresh in my mind, it wasn't much of a leap to conclude that we should just thank the Wisconsin volunteers instead.
And so, that's what we're doing. Please, tell them how much you appreciate what they are doing, because it is only through efforts such as theirs that we are truly going to be able to win these spending fights over the long-term.