The Socialist Worker had an interesting article last week about why the Democratic Party in Wisconsin was behind. Now I guess we could say why they lost. They made some interesting points that you really had to be in Wisconsin to know about.
It is a painful loss for a movement that emerged from an uprising of workers, students, farmers and regular citizens of Wisconsin who occupied the State Capitol and gave us a picture of what "fight back" means. They were responding to Governor Walker's "Budget Repair Bill" that attacked public sector unions and slashed social programs and education. It was the first time in my memory that I saw such solidarity between public and private sector unions. The occupation was ended by labor officials and the Democratic Party leaders who argued the energy should be redirected into recall elections. For Walker's recall, volunteers collected 900,000 signatures. Unions spent $4 million on a failed primary candidate, Kathleen Falkner and millions more on the election. Walker pulled in tens of millions but ultimately the Democrats were responsible.
1. Democrats dropped restoring Collective Bargaining and Union Rights from campaign speeches
2. Democrats attacked Falkner in the Primary as being in the pocket of unions. Former Madison Mayor - "A candidate beholden to unions is no more appealing to independent voters than one who answers to the Koch Brothers".
3. During a debate with Walker, Barrett made a point to mention he was not "labor's candidate".
4. During the campaign the Democrats treated labor as an embarrassment.
5. Barrett emphasized that he would not increase taxes on corporations and the wealthy
6. The Wisconsin Dems complained that the National Party did not give them the resources they needed. When the DNC did get involved they sent Bill Clinton who praised Romney's business record
Marquette University polls showed 65% of eligible voters supported increased taxes on the rich, 67% opposed the cuts to education, 57% opposed cutting people off Badgercare (Wisconsin's expanded Medicaid). Didn't they see these figures? Barrett didn't campaign on these issues. Why didn't he support universal health care, access to education and blame the corporations and the wealthy? The unions need to challenge austerity. I think that means breaking with the Democrats. Or at least be able to see when Democrats care more about keeping unions in their place than they do about winning a recall.
What we need is a labor movement that is a social movement. That is what we talked about last week at the SEIU Convention. Now we have to figure out how that works, because it didn't happen in Wisconsin.