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Message to Wisconsin: Fight the Power, Forget the Polls

With the recall election for Walker coming up on June 5, every little development, every possible indicator of how the public mood is shifting, can cause ecstasy or agony.

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Victory Within Reach

Thus, much to our audience's relief, there should be no doubt that the successful recall of Walker is within reach.

But clearly, activists cannot allow their mood or focus to fluctuate with the polls in the few days remaining.

There are several key groups where Wisconsin progressives and labor must work tirelessly to shore up support:

  • Youth: While Barrett has a 25-point advantage among voters ages 18 to 30, the recall vote on June 5 will take place while colleges are out of session and students are scattered. To reach the youth vote, especially among people of color, we need to see more events like the Milwaukee rally staged last Saturday by Van Jones’s new organization, Reclaim the Dream, capped by rapper  Jasiri X jubilantly performing his witty and wicked song dedicated to Scott Walker, “ You’re Fired." Van Jones lit up the crowd when he declared, “We’re bringing together people too proud to let Scott Walker take away what their grandparents and parents fought for and won for all of us.”
  • African-American and Latino communities: People of color intensely dislike Walker for his efforts to disenfranchise them, his attacks on Medicaid and other programs serving the poor, and the assault on unions and the public sector, where about 20 percent of African-Americans are employed. There remains, of course, the historic problem of turning out these communities whose voting has been systematically discouraged through conscious efforts by white elites.

However, innovative and deeply-rooted "get out the vote" organizing efforts are underway in both communities. One couple I know has leafleted and spoken to 10,000 people, by their count, outside inner-city grocery stores in recent weeks.

  • Independents: Walker’s pattern of deceitful conduct in office can be more heavily emphasized to intensify support among independents. This lengthy train of abuses includes: Walker’s heavy-handed tactics to ram through Wisconsin’s new anti-public union law; his openly-acknowledged consideration of bringing in "troublemakers” to discredit peaceful protesters at the Capitol; his Milwaukee County operation that triggered the John Doe probe; his reliance on contributions from billionaires like the  Koch brothers and Wisconsin businesswoman  Diane Hendricks; and, most recently, his administration’s premature release of unverified job figures to muddy the waters surrounding Walker’s ranking of  worst-in-the-nation on job creation.

Former Nixon aide John Dean, who has gone through a profound personal and political transformation, perhaps best  summed up the essence of Walker's character: "more Nixonian than Nixon."

  • Private-sector unionists: Walker’s support among union members in the private sector plummeted to just 20 percent at the height of labor protests at the Capitol. But both polling data and anecdotal evidence suggest that Walker has recovered some lost ground among union members not employed by the public.

However, recently-released video footage features Walker  telling “right-to-work” enthusiast Diane Hendricks of his plans to use “divide and conquer” tactics to first isolate and destroy public-sector unions and then, implicitly, to extend the attack to private-sector unions. The Wisconsin AFL-CIO is now working hard to alert all unionists of a recent spate of contract fights over corporations seeking to  insert “right-to-work” language into union contracts.

A more specifically class-based message from the Democrats—perhaps along the lines of Van Jones’ comments—would also help to mobilize private-sector unionists against Walker.

Ultimately, the responsibility in the next 12 days for those fighting to unseat Walker and open the way to a new progressive era in Wisconsin politics is crystal-clear: Forget the polls and fight the power.

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