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Politics? It's all about money
12 June 2012, 8:34 AM | Source: Matthew Hall, SBS
The American idea of democracy manifests itself in many ways but one of the more vigorous concepts is the idea of the ‘recall’ election.
Last week, the state of Wisconsin returned to the polling booths after Governor Scott Walker was ‘recalled’ by voters. The general concept is that an elected official can be forced back to an election before the end of his or her term if a sizeable chink of the population disagrees with the direction the administration is taking.
In other words, can we think about this again?
Wisconsin is a state normally known for its cheese but under Governor Walker has been a high profile battleground between the state government and unions. Last year, Walker stripped public workers of collective bargaining rights. Also at stake were benefits and pensions, aspects of employment that not everyone in America’s private enterprise system believes should be a taxpayer-funded entitlement. The issues provoked huge protests and blew up nationally.
Wisconsin is historically a stronghold for the labour movement and last year’s protests reportedly saw over 25,000 people protesting outside the state capitol building as well as opposition Democrat representatives fleeing the state to frustrate the passing of any legislation.
So the stage was set for Wisconsin voters to toss out Walker after his attack on unions. Except, he won the recall election and now has a mandate to do what he wants – especially with unions and public sector workers that include firemen and police.
Walker’s win has been framed by some as the beginning of the end of labour organisations in America. Unions are now officially dead and have no influence, apparently. Similarly, another view is that power now lies with politicians massively funded by corporate interests now allowed a free reign with the recent Citizens United legislation that allows corporations an electoral voice.
A solution? Unions and grassroots campaigns have to fight outside the system or find money. Lots and lots and lots of it.
Does this mean that President Obama should be threatened by a credible Republican resurgence not just in Wisconsin but nationally. Is Wisconsin’s vote for Walker’s aggressive anti-union stance a boost for Mitt Romney?
It’s probably irrelevant. Obama stayed well away from Wisconsin’s election (except for a late tweet of support). Conversely, exit polls showed Wisconsin voters put Obama ahead of Romney by none percentage points.
Still, while there’s a theory that the labour movement is in decline, you don’t win a prize for guessing what’s on the ascent – corporate interests are more powerful.
America, you see, is complicated. But also sometimes very easy to understand. It’s all about money.