Before I start in on this, let me first acknowledge good will on all sides in the discussion of these issues. I’ve spoken with numerous people recently about the subject of this commentary, and though I am about to express my frustration with the content of what these people have said, I certainly appreciate their candor in expressing their views to me. I hope they understand my response, though indicative of my frustration, is an attempt to take their views seriously. Nothing is meant as an ad hominem attack, it’s more an expression of my frustration with arguments I feel lead nowhere.
With regard to the above-posted Huffington Post article, I would like to say this: If these are the lessons people think they learned in Wisconsin, I really feel as if I should think whether there is any point to my trying to influence people with my opinions. I think this for the following reasons:
1) Those who believe that “big money” can buy elections are really arguing that there is no point to having elections, because big money will always frustrate the people. If there is no point to having elections, then really, none of our opinions matter. Mine. Yours. Anybody’s. Since I think that’s a hopeless attitude, there really isn’t much point to my trying to influence such people.
2) Those who think the “candidate” was the problem in Wisconsin had put up no electable alternative, but they don’t care about that. For them the only relevant point was that the person nominated wasn’t good enough. There’s no point trying to convince them they should have done something to nominate someone else instead, or run a third-party candidate, or anything involving the democratic system. For them, the democratic system is like something defective they bought at Future Shop. There’s no question of being responsible to fix it oneself, their strategy is to bring it back to the store and complain. Since I think that’s a hopeless attitude, there really isn’t much point to my trying to influence such people.
3) Those who think that “recalls aren’t popular” should consider further why they asked for one, then. If you get a petition signed to start a recall and then let the recall die, what kind of cynical message does that send? “We want to recall this governor, but not really?” Maybe Obama was actually _smart_ for avoiding being associated with the recall, then. Maybe he sensed people weren’t serious enough about it for it to be a winning effort. The thing is, not letting the recall die means getting out there and energetically working for it because it means defeating Scott Walker, not finding reasons why it will fail, or worse yet, should fail. People who want to blame the recall strategy itself, I think, were never onside with in the first place, because it involves having a commitment to the success of the recall they never really had. Since I think that’s a hopeless attitude, there isn’t much point to my trying to influence such people there either.
4) Those who think “labour needs to rethink” need to rethink themselves. The reason public service unions are the first to fight back is because they’re the strongest unions. If they can be broken, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that the weaker unions will not have a fighting chance. Hostility towards stronger unions is a mug’s game, if you ask me. Yes, it’s true that some in “more privileged” unions have sweeter deals than others have managed to negotiate for themselves. But I’ve noticed that people like to have this argument both ways – they get on the unions themselves for being “privileged”, but also get on Tom Barrett for openly stating he was happy that he was able to cut some public service benefits. Okay, well, which is it? Do you want the “fat cat public service” to become more like the rest of us workers, or do you want your candidate to defend the unions every step of the way? It has to be one or the other. My worry is that there are many who don’t even care about the answer to this question…they just wanted to discredit the actual person who was running against Scott Walker. Since I think that’s a hopeless attitude, there isn’t much point in my trying to influence such people there either.
As I said, I don’t mean this as any kind of personal attack – I do take the opinions of those who make these arguments seriously. My problem is that, nevertheless, I think they’re toxic arguments. I think they lead in directions so incredibly bad that I need to rebut them as energetically as I possibly can. But worse than that, I feel that, regardless of how energetically I do argue, I’m unlikely to make any headway because Wisconsin represented a comprehensive rejection of what it is I do think. It seems like people will have to figure out for themselves just how toxic these arguments are, because no one is listening to me on the matter.
I still hope I’m wrong about that, though.