That’s my favorite sign from the montage footage bellow. Wisconsin has a great progressive history, greater than most states in fact – “Fighting Bob” La Follette was considered the leader of Progressivism until Teddy Roosevelt came back from shooting animals in Africa to challenge Taft for the presidency. In the Wisconsin Historical Museum in Madison they have (or had, when I was there at least) this great exhibit where you can listen to the speeches of various leaders from Wisconsin (including Joseph McCarthy), and the Bob La Follette selection was a commentary on how obvious it is that men are divided into different classes in society, and that differences in power result. I tried to find out which speech it came from online, but alas, I was unable to.
I think what is happening right now in Wisconsin and elsewhere in the country is very exciting. I don’t think teacher unions are all perfect, or that they always act themselves in the public interest – but I do believe that the Republican Party has long desired to crush unions and, for that matter, any form of political action that challenges corporate and financial power. The fact that Walker refuses to accept the compromise the unions have offered – to accede to all his financial demands but maintain their existence, basically, as a union – clearly shows to me that this is not about balancing the budget, but about getting rid of the last vestige of organized labor with any real vitality left.
In any case, this is injecting a much needed dose of class rhetoric into our politics. The more people talk about unions, the more people are reminded that before the culture wars and the large middle-class that the unions helped win, the real political cleavage that mattered was whether you were among those who had to struggle to achieve a decent standard of living, or among those who simply leeched off the labor of the rest of the country while you enjoyed your afternoon yachting excursion.
Anyway, here is a pleasingly upbeat video on La Follette and my favorite montage so far of the protests – and yes, I am a complete sucker for montages set to inspiring music.
You have a progressive history America! Remember Fighting Bob!