This week I went to a meeting about the Republican power grab in our state of Wisconsin. Republicans have had things their way in Madison with majorities in both houses of the legislature and the governorship. Scott Walker was at the top of his game limiting the power of unions and Democrats. He even attempted an ill-fated run for the presidency. However, since 2016 the trends have started to favor democrats and their candidates. They won a series of special elections with including the race for Senate in Alabama and a couple of open seats in Wisconsin. Things became so bad that Walker began delaying calling for special elections, to keep the republicans from losing their grip on power.
He sounded the alarm that democrats were out to get him after years of cuts in education and health care and the growing opposition to the republican policies in Washington. There were predictions that 2018 would be a blue wave year sweeping in democrats across the country and in many ways it was. Democrats won all the statewide races a couple of weeks ago and they received the majority of votes in the legislature. However, because of unfair election maps, they actually lost a seat. The Republicans have become more ideological because they haven’t had to sit down and make any deals to pretend that they are bi-partisan. This unwillingness to compromise was displayed in a horrible fashion in Wisconsin and Michigan when Republican legislators rammed through bills that would severely limited the power of the incoming Democratic governors and attorneys general.
Democrats across the state rallied, testified against the bills and sent emails. Newspapers wrote editorials shaming the power grab. This graceful show was a leading topic on social media. The satirical newspaper The Onion published a story about the Republicans burning down the state in order to prevent Democrats from coming to power. Even some Republicans like wealthy businessman Sheldon Lubar denounced the bills. The stage is set for a prolonged fight over the next for years with lawsuits planned if Walker signs the bills as expected. I will do my part to resist the forces of conservatives and attempt to restore our state’s battered reputation for progressive politics.
It was hard to believe. I had seen so many predictions of the demise of the democratic party by the right and the so-called Berniecrats followers of Bernie Sanders. I came home after work and turned on the computer last night to pay close attention to the midterm elections. I had tried in vain arguing with people about the Donna Brazile book. These people were convinced that the book told them the primary election was fixed by Clinton supporters. Even when well meaning people on facebook posted stories about how the facts clearly pointed to Clinton winning more votes than Sanders they were determined to chew on that bone until there was not a single shred of meat.
At the same time the midterm elections were approaching. There was New Jersey were the hateful bully Chris Christie was term limited out of office. His Lieutenant Governor was running to replace the most disliked governor in the state’s history. But the big enchilada was in Virginia which has been electing democratic governors and residential candidates. I don’t know a lot about Virginia but I had heard about the democratic governors including Douglas Wilder and the outgoing Terry McAuliffe. McAuliffe is a tough talking SOB who will not put up with any bullshit from republicans. Faced with a hostile legislature gerrymandered into safe republican seats, he voted more bills than they could pass. And he did one very good thing for democracy. He restored voting rights for more than 100,000 people who had been convicted of felonies. Many states throughout the south automatically take away voting for life which falls most heavily on African-Americans. On Tuesday the twitter was filled with stories of people who were voting for the first time thanks to him. It was a wonderful night from start to finish learning about the new people who were swept into office in a big blue wave. Transgendered people, black men and women, and a Sikh politician were part of the diverse group who were elected.
It was the beginning of the comeback. If democratic voters want it to be. We can take this as a sign of better days ahead and become even more motivated. The republican legislatures and governors have signed into law evil legislation aimed at curbing our voting rights, restricting our reproductive freedom, putting their hateful religion into our lives and much more. It is time to resist. It is time to begin driving #45 and his evil profiteers from office. It is time for fair legislative districts, it is time for more people to regain their voting rights. It is time to end the rhetoric of defeatism. There were 8 years we were in power and we can regain power if we work together.
I look forward to each issue of Freethought Today, published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. I can be assured that the newspaper will include stories of how FFRF was able to intervene on behalf of people who found religion being shoved down the throats of taxpayers by public officials. Schools, police, city council members and beyond often abuse their authority by bringing their religious views into the workplace. They allow other zealots to make presentations at public schools or hand out bibles, conduct programs intended for a secular purpose such as birth control using religious propaganda or post things such as the ten commandments on public property. Using complaints from taxpayers lawyers from the FFRF are able to intervene and force these individuals to cease and desist. Of course, this is an uphill battle. I am certain that as I write, some politician filled will campaign cash will be spreading some bullshit about America being a christian country. We can stand up for our rights otherwise the real defenders of the US constitution will be trampled.
I have been reading for the past several hours stories about people trapped in debt by payday lenders, title loan lenders and aggressive student loan collectors. The worst case of student loan collection was in New Jersey where a mother received a notice after her son had been killed that she was liable for his student loans.
The state aggressively pursues people offering little information about loan forgiveness and instead sends collection agencies to turn your life upside down. There was also no limit on the amount that a family could borrow, way beyond their ability to pay. As a last gasp some people declared bankruptcy, which could not eliminate the debts, but it greatly reduced their payments.
The stories of payday loans were equally as horrific. I noted that some unscrupulous lenders affiliated themselves with Native American tribes to escape state regulations. And some of them began to mutate as soon as one loan product was outlawed another sprang up. Like the installment loans which offer longer payment plans but interest just as high as their predatory cousins, allowing the crooked lenders to squeeze even more money out of workers.
I consider payday lenders a kind of guinea worm sucking up workers’ blood. And being trapped by payday loans, title loans and high student loan interest could lead a person to desperation. I am going to start following the good guys in this battle and seeing what ordinary citizens can do. The guinea worms have set up fake grassroots organizations to comment on proposed federal regulations and they spread money around to democrats and republicans in campaign contributions. Remember, always follow the money. When crooked politicians say there’s already too much regulation, find out where their cash is coming from. Stand up.
There is a mind numbing array of details in Evicted. the stories of the negotiations carried out with the few consumers who go to Room 400 of the Milwaukee County Courthouse. And the racial breakdown I mentioned in an earlier post. Eviction is eating away at neighborhoods. The evictions follow people through the courts and the credit bureaus and have a ways of snatching people back down into the gutter when they attempt to make something of their lives, get better jobs, buy cars and otherwise re-establish themselves.
There are the rent collection agencies ready to try and garnish. There are the Eagle Movers with their huge business going through poor neighborhoods. And there is the feeling that never goes away the humiliation of the eviction. There are the huge percentages that rent takes out of people’s income 50% or more. And of course there were the words of the landlords pleading their cases in front of court commissioners.
It is ironic that Milwaukee has experienced a boom in luxury apartments and condominiums. Commerce Street is filled with ugly buildings too expensive for the people I have been discussing. What used to be a leisurely ride along the street has become treacherous with cars lining either side of the narrow street.
There are more such monstrosities downtown. The city has gained in tax base. So, to hear of poor depressed areas sounds eerily like you’re discussing the 2 Americas that were predicted long ago. The growing housing gap between rich and poor was not mentioned in the recent elections for mayor, common council or county executive. I tell people that they need to wake up and make certain to vote for these various circuit court judges because you might face them one day.
But when you’re struggling with every day details of life, it seems hard to absorb something that seems so remote. “Hey children, watch that sound, everybody look what’s going down.” For what it’s worth, still relevant today.
I have been wondering as a progressive what has been happening to us in Wisconsin. We seem to be losing a lot of elections and we are gerrymandered into a terrible position in the state legislature. Even if Democrats won more votes than Republicans, we would still lose elections because of the way districts are drawn. We have seen big rallies at the Capitol, and an impressive attempted recall and yet the carefully chosen millionaire Democratic candidate for governor lost. When I went driving, everywhere along the highway, there were huge signs for Walker and the attorney general candidate. It was horrible.
I was flooded with lie after lie on tv with commercials slamming the Affordable Care Act. So now after being traumatized by this experience I am seeing all this attention shift to Walker as a possible presidential candidate. The Democratic candidate for governor has disappeared in her place is the permanent fundraising machine.
Daily I am flooded with emails by Mike Tate Chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party. He is always begging for money, saying that some anonymous people will match my donation and even once or twice apologizing for the volume of emails. These are never emails talking about a strategy or asking what I could do besides give, give, give. Is Mike Tate organizing people to protest about the Right to Work for less bill being jammed through the legislature? How are Democrats going to become an affective minority? What are they going to do besides alienate their base?
I want to put this out there and see what kind of responses I receive. I have my own disagreements with Barack Obama and I am less excited about his than I was when I voted for him the first time around. The idea that we could someone other than a white male leading this country went from being a hope to a reality within my lifetime. However I never responded to any of the previous presidents solely on the basis of their skin color. It was their policies and leadership to which I responded. When I think of W. Bush, I think of ill-considered wars, blowing up the deficit, unnecessary deaths, and stolen elections. Ronald Reagan blew up deficits, gave away tax breaks to the rich, and helped to cripple people in Africa. I truly believed that Richard Nixon was a racist who had no regard for the constitution, the rule of law or human life. Those things far outweighed going to China and setting up the Environmental Protection Agency.
I was in the streets at different times protesting against destructive policies . And lest we forget, even though I tend to vote for the left, I also protested against Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. But none of them have experienced the level of racist abuse that whites have hurled at President Obama. President Obama has helped to turn around an economy that was in free fall, recognized the freedom to marry shown that government spending can provide a positive stimulus. And yet rodeo clowns in the media and political arenas ,elected officials, sheriffs and others talk of openly defying him. Grotesque pictures and jokes appear on the internet, and republicans in congress spend all of their time trying to prevent people from obtaining health care. At the same time, republicans in state houses pass legislation to invade women’s bodies, destroy voting rights and slow the economy.
This is all an example of white skin privilege because African-Americans are more likely to view race as it relates to our presidents than white people do. You have a long ways to go, white racists, before you drive us back into the shadows of fear. We are free and exercising our power and our rights. We will either live together as brothers or die separately as fools.