Tag Archives: Berlin Wall

The politics of public despair

POSTED BY ORHAN

I’ve been listening to Part 1 and Part 2 of the Ian Murphy prank call to Scott Walker, where Murphy impersonates billionaire David Koch.  Only Walker knows what was in his mind at the time, but a few conclusions about him can be drawn from the exchange.

The word “compromise” is not in Walker’s lexicon: “…if they think I’m caving, they’ve been asleep for the last eight years”, “I’m not negotiating”, “I’ve taken on every major battle in Milwaukee County and won, even in a county where I’m overwhelmingly overpowered politically,…’cause I don’t budge.”

Walker sees his base as consisting of two main groups: 1) wealthy business leaders, and 2) resentful working people, regular people who’ve either been savaged by the system or are just scraping by and are telling themselves, “I don’t have a secure middle class job with benefits and a pension, why should the other guy have those things?”  Today there are a lot of folks like this in America, and Walker taps into this feeling.  He brings up a story in the New York Times that highlights “a guy who was laid off two years ago…he’s been laid off twice by GM…everybody else in his town has had to sacrifice except for all these public employees and it’s about damn time they do”.  Back in the thirties, muckraking journalist Lincoln Steffens captured it perfectly when he quoted a Pennsylvania politician, “We know that public despair is possible and that that is good politics.

Walker is a conservative true believer with the sense that he is riding the crest of history.  He talks about conservatives the way evangelicals talk about themselves: he refers to people as being “one of us” or “not one of us”.  He refers to a Democratic senator who made a lot of money in the private sector as “a little more open-minded” but “he’s not a…conservative. He’s just a pragmatist.”  Towards the end of the call he likens Ronald Reagan’s firing of the air-traffic controllers to the “first crack in the Berlin Wall and the fall of Communism” and compares it to the current situation in Wisconsin: “this is our moment, this is our time to change the course of history”, “…we’re doing the just and right thing for the right reasons, and it’s all about getting our freedoms back”, “The bottom line is we’re gonna get the world moving here because it’s the right thing to do.”

The notion that Walker’s legislation is an emergency measure required by the current crisis is ludicrous.  It’s just a continuation of the agenda he’s
championed his entire career: privatization, deregulation, tax cuts, cuts in social services to poor and working people.  And it’s been the plan all along.

Warsaw, Berlin and Cairo

I’ve been saying (well someone has to give me some credit!) in posts and threads here and elsewhere that Egypt has felt like Poland, where they went through what was  called the Velvet Revolution – for its peaceful aspect and its success. It felt like Berlin at times; today is so reminiscent of that first night in Berlin when the wall came down.

Yes, peril still lies ahead, but this moment is epic. It is humanity at its most noble.

I hope they manage to move forward with the same spirit they’ve shown the world for the last three weeks.

And I hope they succeed in creating a free and democratic nation. Now that would be an example.