The Common Good

After Wisconsin: Hallelujah Anyhow

I say and say again: there are two responses to anything that happens in life—hallelujah and hallelujah anyhow. Those of us who supported the recall of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker are saying hallelujah anyhow.

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Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker greets supporters at an election-night rally June 5 in Waukesha, Wis. Scott Olson/Getty Images

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Walker came to national attention when he proposed a law that would strip public employee unions of bargaining rights, and protestors occupied the state capitol. Unions poured people power and money into a recall effort and collected hundreds of thousands of signatures to force a recall election.  

However, the people of Wisconsin opposed Walker not only because of his assault on unions, but also because of his assault on the poor. Writing for the God’s Politics blog— “People of Faith United in Wisconsin” — Pastor Phil Haslanger wrote of changes in the state budget that would adversely affect the poor. This aspect of Walker’s policies was largely unnoticed in the discourse concerning union rights.

Scott Walker has survived. His intent to divide and conquer worked. First he sought to divide public workers – teachers and others from police and firefighters. This did not work. He sought to separate public employees from “taxpayers,” as if public employees are not also taxpayers. He brought South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to campaign for him. She boasted of being a union buster. So-called “right to work” is a pillar of conservative Republican politics.

These laws are nothing more than “right to work with no bargaining power laws.” In 1961 Martin Luther King, Jr. called such laws a fraud. He said their purpose “is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone. … Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote."

This was the spirit that animated the recall effort. There is a correlation between the decline of unions and the increase in income inequality. The United States is exceptional among industrialized nations for the large gap between the rich and the rest. When a tiny minority of people in a society holds most of the wealth, the economy cannot thrive. This is a violation of distributive justice.

And then there is the money. Scott Walker raised millions of dollars from outside of the state from super-wealthy donors. What do these contributors expect for the money? I suspect they want the end of unions across the nation and tax cuts for the rich, both of which Walker has already done. Walker has also repealed laws that allowed women to sue over pay discrimination in state court. 

Some people voted for Walker because they do not believe that the recall procedure ought to be used over policy differences but rather for malfeasance in office. Those who supported the recall effort thought Walker’s assault on union rights, his willingness to say that he intended to use divide-and-conquer tactics to make Wisconsin a right-to-work state while not saying this to voters during his campaign, is malfeasance.

Democracy ought to be the equalizer between the rich and the rest. Each person only has one vote. In a democracy we get the political leadership we deserve. The good people of Wisconsin have said yes to divide and conquer politics, union busting, income inequality, the end of equal pay laws for women, democratic elections sold to the highest bidder and a plutocratic reality.

Hallelujah anyhow.

 

Dr. Valerie Elverton Dixon is an independent scholar who publishes lectures and essays at JustPeaceTheory.com. She received her Ph.D. in religion and society from Temple University and taught Christian ethics at United Theological Seminary and Andover Newton Theological School.

 
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