Tuesday, February 22, 2011

This is what democracy looks like

As you've already probably heard, today, nearly all of Indiana's Senate Democrats have followed the Wisconsin 14's lead and jumped ship, probably off to Illinois, the apparent safe haven for the Midwest's MIA Democratic lawmakers.  The cause of the Democrats' disappearing act is similar to Wisconsin's -- opposition to a bill that, if passed (which it is expected to, as both Indiana's House and Senate are majority Republican),  will effectively eliminate certain union bargaining rights:
Today’s fight was triggered by Republicans pushing a bill that would bar unions and companies from negotiating a contract that requires non-union members to kick-in fees for representation. It’s become the latest in what is becoming a national fight over Republican attempts to eliminate or limit collective bargaining.
Indiana governor Mitch Daniels, a Republican, actually opposes the legislation, and has asked GOP leaders to drop it, with no success.  Not only does he oppose the legislation, but he also doesn't plan to send Indiana state troopers out to find the missing lawmakers, but he is fully in support of their decision:
“The activities of today are perfectly legitimate part of the process,” he said. “Even the smallest minority, and that’s what we’ve heard from in the last couple days, has every right to express the strength of its views and I salute those who did.”
The Wisconsin 14, meanwhile, are still assumed to be in Wisconsin, while Governor Walker attempts to lure them back home with threats to basically cancel their direct deposit, forcing them to collect their wages in person, from the House Majority Leader.  They're also planning to push ahead a vote on requiring voters to show photo ID in order to be eligible to vote, which Democrats are strongly opposed to, in the hopes that they will return to attempt fighting its passage.

This, of course, comes just at the heels of another recent development: the fact that Wisconsin Governor Walker plans to sell Wisconsin's infrastructure to the Koch Brothers:
Walker’s bill would allow state-owned heating, cooling, and power plants to be sold to private investors. As if that weren’t bad enough — selling off our public wealth as a short-term budget fix — the bill would also allow the sale to be made without competitive bidding. In other words, Wisconsin’s infrastructure will be sold directly to the Koch Brothers at bargain-basement prices.
Is there anyone left who isn't mad about this yet?  If these measures, and the larger trends of union-busting, are allowed to pass, the outlook is bleak.  As Warren notes
It’s a circle of deception for the American middle-class and intends to further add to the ridiculous discrepancy between the top 1% and the rest of us who work for them… soon with no ability or rights to demand living wages.  If they are not stopped by the workers (especially those very folks who claim these people represent them) then I fear a return to the dark ages of labor, such as the Industrial Age of the 1890's, where we serve the almighty dollar which will have been completely wrangled and imprisoned by the richest ever to walk the earth.
While the protests over proposed anti-worker legislation in Wisconsin and Indiana aren't directly comparable to what's happening in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and other countries abroad, the ongoing fights for freedom and democracy in the Middle East have clearly motivated us in other parts of the world to reconsider what we think we know about our governments, our leaders, and our ways of life.  I wrote the other day that I believe that the Wisconsin protests are important because of the threat that union-busting will have on the Democratic party's future success, but I think it's also important to consider this to be a wake-up call, and a call to continued action for those of us who advocate for the rights of the common person, the common worker, the poor, and the marginalized, everywhere.  

We don't know yet how things will pan out in Wisconsin, or in Indiana.  We don't know yet whether or not  the efforts of the Democrats who fled their home states as a last-ditch attempt to protect their states' workers' rights will be in vain.  We do know, though, that people joining together, willing to get loud and demand their rights, has worked in the past, still works today, and, if we keep at it, will continue to work in the future.  And we do know, too, that state legislators have successfully gotten unfair and damaging legislation dropped as a result of fleeing their states in past attempts.  What we need to remember is that we can keep doing this.  This is what democracy looks like!  This is what it looks like when working people realize that they have been placated and lied to long enough, and they've woken up to hold accountable those who are responsible.  

Important to remember are the wider implications of what's going on; seeing the forest, rather than the trees, to borrow from an over-used cliche.  What's most important is that we  keep letting those in power know that we will no longer allow them get away with making millions on the backs of their hardest-working citizens without adequate compensation and safety; we will no longer allow them to get away with profiting off of our planet's destruction; we will no longer allow them to get away with lying to us and taking advantage of our fears in order to push through their destructive agendas that will hurt us most in the end.  The fight isn't just on behalf of the country's low-level government employees, or its union workers; it's on behalf of every single person in this country who works full-time and is still living below the poverty line, for those who lack good health insurance, for those who are not in the upper income brackets of the elite few.  It's for the rest of us, who are finally fed up with empty promises and leaving our fates up to the whims of corporate America and Big Business interests.  It's about real democracy, which is us

People think that Americans are too sheltered, too coddled, so blind to the realities of the rest of the world, and what a "struggle" really is.  Or that, if Egyptians were Democrats, there wouldn't have even been a revolution in Egypt.  I think that this is a good point.  And, for as much as we like to believe what we keep hearing (it is easier), the Unites States is absolutely not the best at everything; in fact, we're really bad at a whole lot of really important things.  We have a lot to work on, and it's about time that we finally start realizing that.

For those of us falling on the left of the political spectrum, I think our future success from now forward depends on how we continue to respond to similar threats to average, hardworking Americans, and how willing we are to keep fighting, LOUDLY, and PRESENTLY.  This is what's important. It feels so inspiring because it is.  We liberals don't tend to fight all that loudly; we're more apt to blog furiously, or try to otherwise peaceably work it out... at least, that's how we're stereotyped to handle these conflicts.  And I think this is both because and why we consistently don't win.  We aren't as organized, and sometimes, it's true: sometimes we don't fight hard enough.  And this is our proof that we can actually do it, the motivation we need to finally win:  Speak Up.  Be Loud.  Get Heard.  They have to listen.  

...And finally, FUCKING VOTE.  It's probably safe to say that the majority of lazy slackers who are too apathetic to walk down the block and just fucking vote hold typically progressive/liberal views, and would have voted Democrat, if they'd bothered to get to the polls and maybe spend an hour or two listening to their local NPR member station or reading a page or two of their local newspaper to get basic information about the main candidates.  

Look, the right-wing counts on this happening.  We know this.  Let's stop living in that world where we pretend that's an unlikely conspiracy theory, and get with it.  They know that the majority of the country doesn't feel the way that they do, because the people whom their policies benefit make up a very, very small minority.  If they had to tell the truth and allow voters to make their decisions based on real information, they would never win.  Because they are a band of greedy fucks who care not about anything but their bank accounts and the bank accounts of their most valuable campaign contributors.  They know that they wouldn't be in office, fucking up everything for the rest of us while they make even more money, year after year after year, if you fuckers got off your Play Stations and spent half a second helping the rest of us make sure that doesn't happen.  So in 2012: I BEST SEE YOU OUT THERE.  It's literally up to you now, slackers.  We know you're on board; just put down the bong and get out there.

Democracy is within our reach.  Real protection for the working class is in our reach.  Let's keep up the momentum!  We're the ones who believe in the rights of marginalized people, who promote equality and free will; this is the time to stand up and make sure it happens.

And just try to watch and hear a minute of this without getting chills or tearing up: