The announcement that over a million signatures were gathered for recalling Wisconsin governor Scott Walker has met with a deafening silence from the media. It’s remarkable how little has been written about this significant pushback against Walker’s Tea Party policies, compared with the barrage of commentary that has been generated about the relatively inconsequential Republican primaries.
The Wisconsin State Journal reported: “United Wisconsin, the organization formed to recall Walker, turned in a total of 1.9 million signatures, a number than includes 845,000 to recall Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and more than 21,000 signatures apiece for Republican Sens. Pam Galloway of Wausau, Van Wanggaard of Racine and Terry Moulton of Chippewa Falls.”
In a theatrical move to show that anti-Walker sentiment was not confined to Madison and Milwaukee but was distributed throughout the whole state, “a procession of volunteers from each of the state’s 72 counties hauled boxes of recall signatures from the back of a U-Haul through a path cleared through some 700 chanting volunteers, and up the steps to a room in the state Government Accountability Board offices.”
The number of signatures surprised most observers, but made visible both the extent of hostility to the ALEC-inspired legislative assault on unions and the grass-roots activation of Democratic party supporters against it. The Wisconsin electorate is sharply polarized over an issue which, like the Occupy movement, raises questions of fairness and justice, and won’t be washed away by a flood of campaign money backing Walker. Greg Sargent commented: “… the mere fact that there’s already so much support for the recall suggests that despite the Dem failure to take back the Wisconsin state senate last year, there’s still a tremendous amount of grassroots energy on the ground on the Dem side — nearly a year since the fight in Wisconsin first began — in a key swing state in a presidential election year.”
Ryan Lawler, a board member for United Wisconsin, told the New York Times: “Scott Walker and his supporters tried to demean and marginalize recall circulators, but in Wisconsin winter, an army of more than 30,000 Wisconsin born-and-bred recall volunteers took to street corners, malls, places of worship, dinner tables and sidewalks to take their state back.”
What the Republican primaries express is one extreme political pole, like Walker’s, on a national scale. Romney’s 15 percent tax rate and tone-deaf dismissal of his $370k fees from public speaking as a “small sum” puts him on a different planet from Americans facing poverty and foreclosure. The racist resentment and militaristic name-calling that Gingrich and Santorum have adopted to feed the prejudices of crazed Republican voters is far removed from Main Street America.
The New York Times opined: “[Romney’s] suggestion that it is un-American to talk about rising populist resentment is self-serving and hypocritical. Republicans, in particular, have eagerly stoked such resentments against minorities and the poor. That was the essence of the ‘Southern strategy’ that Republicans, beginning with Richard Nixon, used to urge white voters to defect from a Democratic Party that supported civil rights. It continued for decades with attacks on busing, affirmative action, immigration and welfare, and was sounded most recently by Mr. Gingrich, with his attacks on Mr. Obama as ‘the food stamp president’.”
Social inequality, which the Republicans try to cloud over with wedge issues, is coming to dominate the election narrative. Romney is understandably shy about releasing his tax returns, because, according to Daniel Berman, a former U.S. Treasury deputy international tax counsel and now director of tax at Boston University’s graduate tax program, they could shed light on how Romney and Bain use offshore strategies to avoid taxes. ABC News reports: “In addition to paying the lower tax rate on his investment income, Romney has as much as $8 million invested in at least 12 funds listed on a Cayman Islands registry. Another investment, which Romney reports as being worth between $5 million and $25 million, shows up on securities records as having been domiciled in the Caymans.”
If the Republicans are blatantly the party of the one percenters, the 99 percent have little confidence in the Democratic leadership. U.S. society is as politically polarized as in Wisconsin, and major upheavals are in the offing. Already lawmakers have had to back off from support for SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) laws after internet companies turned to the public, dramatically publicizing their opposition to the legislation by blacking out their sites today.