This article isn’t about Scott Walker and GOP campaign spending, or a comprehensive look back at the recall effort, which was an admixture of pissed off voters, unions and the opportunistic national Democratic party. This article is also not about Scott Walker balancing the budget (which every Wisconsin governor is legally required to do), nor about his claims of having eliminated the debt, which he simply refinanced. And it’s not about how the recall effort might, ironically, trigger a new dark era in campaign donations and expenditures. It is about how the GOP, through the office of the Wisconsin governor, created a working class civil war, pitting family and friends against one another in an effort to turn the state red.
As a man born and raised in Wisconsin, I can honestly say that I’ve never seen anything approximating the sort of hatred and rancor echoing about the corridors of the state. 2004′s presidential election between George W. Bush and John Kerry was tame by comparison, and Bush was certainly a more divisive figure than Walker. Wisconsin has always been an progressive state, and is sometimes spoken of as “swing” state, which makes it ideal territory to swing more permanently one way or another.
Walker and the GOP knew the move to take away the public unions’ rights to collectively bargain (except police and fireman, traditionally conservative voters) would fracture not only the populace but the unions. Walker said it himself in a recently published video in which he said he planned to “divide and conquer” the unions.
How did Walker and the GOP imagine the unions could be divided and conquered? By attacking public worker pensions, benefits and the rights to collectively bargain, it would force some union members to support Walker’s initiative and others to oppose it, to say nothing of private union members. Walker & Co exploited the very human tendencies to compromise or resist.
After the move triggered backlash from public unions—especially teacher unions, the GOP’s favorite scapegoat—a second round of backlash emerged when the rest of the state (non-union voters) entered the debate through media reports as well as GOP and Democratic propaganda. The public unions had already been divided, now it was time for the Wisconsin population at large to be divided. Walker and the GOP must have known that the anti-public union measures would precipitate a vigorous union response (common political sense) and that this, in turn, might eventually catalyze into broader anti-union sentiment.
People may think that Walker was stupid to have messed with the unions, but it seems rather more likely that it was a coordinated campaign of subversion that was executed flawlessly.
I’ve seen the fruits of Walker’s labor when I’ve returned home: friends and family have turned against one another, picked sides—a veritable working class civil war. Will it end with the recall? Unlikely. If Walker wins, Democrats, unions and those who generally dislike Walker’s tactical gamesmanship will redouble their efforts to defeat him in the next election. If Walker loses, the GOP, its voters and their wealthy donors will do the same.
The events of the last year and a half have created an extremely toxic atmosphere, one which shows no signs of abating. Further proof that the two-party system is fundamentally flawed and exploited by agents on either side of the aisle.