What in the world is going on in Wisconsin?


Now that voters throughout the country have recoiled from newly-elected Republican governors once their true intentions became clear, the Republican leadership in Wisconsin face the real possibility that recall elections could overturn their control of the legislature. They have therefore conspired to impose a fully-fledged rightwing agenda onto the state, and will be standing fake “Democrats” in the recalls to force primaries on the real Democratic candidates and delay the elections.

According to the Associated Press,  “[Wisconsin] Republicans, in a rapid sequence of votes over the next eight weeks, plan to legalize concealed weapons, deregulate the telephone industry, require voters to show photo identification at the polls, expand school vouchers and undo an early release for prisoners. … Major bills, like the one to legalize concealed weapons, were introduced just days before public hearings. A major revision to the photo ID proposal was released late on a Friday afternoon, just four days before a committee passed it, prompting complaints from the nonpartisan board that oversees elections.”

The conservative onslaught takes the form of many small measures which collectively add up to major changes in social programs. One example of their machinations is a behind-the-scenes deal to get voucher schools into the Green Bay district. The program defunds tax dollars from state schools to pay for tuition at private and religious schools. On June 2, the state budget-writing panel had excluded Green Bay from the voucher plan. But the following day, three Republican senators collaborated to include the unwanted scheme on the governor’s budget. “Nobody’s talking and, honestly, we don’t know how it happened,” said Greg Maass, Green Bay superintendent of schools. Maass considered that “there has been no significant pressure from the community to offer a voucher program in his school district.”

Another bill on a fast track would seriously diminish the rights of tenants. “Senate Bill 107, introduced on May 26 with the backing of landlords and property owners, as well as the construction and building industry … would prohibit local governments from enacting ordinances that limit a residential landlord’s ability to obtain and use personal information from tenants and prospective tenants… The proposal also would preempt ordinances that restrict the ability of landlords to show and lease apartments while current tenants are living in them… .”

As well as ramming through this far-reaching legislation, the Republicans are standing bogus Democrats in the recall elections to force primaries on their Democratic opponents. Wisconsin has open primaries, and this tactic would enable Republicans to game the electoral system, delaying some election run-offs to August. The union-backed group “We Are Wisconsin” point out that this creates a situation where “ ‘legitimate’ Democratic challengers are exposed to unlimited spending by outside groups and pro-Republican forces, which could cause the ‘legitimate’ Democrats in the race to lose the sham primary. There would be no check on millions of dollars in shady outside money coming in to relentlessly attack ‘legitimate’ Democrats, and full-scale mobilization of Republican resources to turn out their voters in the Democratic primary …”

Moreover, there is nothing to stop Republicans from last-minute withdrawals of their fake candidates so some elections would be held in July and some in August in order to create maximum confusion. The Wisconsin Democrats are now seriously considering running their own fake Republican candidates in order to force primaries on the Republicans and prevent them controlling the timing of elections.

“Given the situation Republicans have so despicably concocted to manipulate these recall elections, it is the opinion of We Are Wisconsin that it would be in the interest of Democrats to run candidates in the Republican primaries to ensure the dates of the general election are predictably on August 9th, and that Republicans are forced to win a primary election instead of diverting their unlimited resources to back their “fake” candidates against “legitimate” Democrats. To that end, it would be in the interest of flipping the Wisconsin Senate that interested Democrats contact the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.”

While the cynical Republican electoral chicanery must be fought, these tactics are not a substitute for the continuation of the mass movement that forced the elections in the first place. There is a danger that confining this struggle to an electoral battle will allow the movement to fizzle out, while the Obama administration’s paralysis on unemployment  will disillusion many voters. Militant protests against the confirmation of Walker’s budget can more easily be contained by state authorities and the police without the legitimization of the union leaders and local Democratic party.

While the Democrats are fragmented at state and national levels, secret Republican think tanks have mounted a concerted campaign at every level for more tax cuts, less state regulation of business, and cuts of social benefits.

Clearly, using state legitimacy to force through major fiscal changes before voters turn against them in big numbers is important to the Republicans and the interests they represent. Committed Wisconsin voters are evenly divided between the two parties; but the Democrats must win the large number of independent voters who are opposed to Walker’s manoeuvres. They can only do this by campaigning on all social issues facing Wisconsinites today, and publicly opposing the corporate Democrats at the national level who undermine their fight.

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