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One of the more fascinating conflicts to emerge from the Battle of Wisconsin this winter has been Left vs. Left. Phil Hands is the editorial cartoonist for the Wisconsin State Journal, Madison’s daily newspaper and describes himself as thus:
“This debate over Gov. Scott Walker’s budget bill has been difficult for me. I have progressive values. I believe in gay marriage, I believe in mass transit, I believe in global climate change, I believe in abortion rights, I believe in urban planning and I believe in a single payer health care system. But on the issue of public employee compensation and the role that their unions play in our government, I find myself siding with conservatives.
I don’t have a problem with unions in the private sector. Private sector workers should have a chance to collectively bargain for a greater share of the profits they generate. While public sector workers perform valuable services that make society livable, they don’t generate profits for the state government. When public sector unions negotiate, the entity on the other side of the collective bargaining table isn’t some greedy corporation, it’s us, the taxpayers.
I believe that public employees should be well compensated for the valuable work they do. In fact, exceptional public employees should be exceptionally compensated (something that most unions have fought against in favor of pay based on seniority). But like the rest of us in this economy public employees need to make sacrifices.”
He isn’t the only liberal saying this. Neither columnists like Joe Klein or Richard Cohen are big fans of public unions and Michael Lind says they’ve become an anachronism and ” But in order to take advantage of a post-union America, liberals would have to create a popular political movement capable of replacing the lost legions of organized labor at the polls. In other words, American liberals would have to organize.”
I can’t help it but I have to smirk at that remark.
Meanwhile real organizing has been going in Wisconsin for recall campaigns and other political activities which the unions fully engaged in other activists like my friend Ben Manski, who has been toiling away with the Green Party in Wisconsin for many years. In a sense they are creating the “popular front” that pundits and writers like Lind can only talk about in abstract theory, which probably would have never come about had Gov. Walker left collective bargaining alone. Those who would probably have nothing in common with Manski and his crew find themselves in the same demonstrations because of it. It what writers like Thomas Frank have always wanted: more focus on economic issues where the Right is more vulnerable because of many’s fealty to big multi-national corporations or the well-to-do (like the Kochs). Lind and his cosmo crew are more focused in basically providing what Ed Clark always wanted “a low-tax liberalism”. Since the days of Fred Dutton’s Changing Sources of Power their view of politics is the “new class” or well educated and upper middle class will be the one with the power in the “new economy”. No doubt they were hubristic after Obama’s win in 2008 basically validated their view until 2010 taught them a very valuable lesson any VDARE.com reader would know: So long as 83 percent of registered voters are white and so long as the large class of traditionalists and baby boomers still exists and so long as their is a pool of white working class voters in many states across the country which have very little in the way of cosmos, the Right will always have a means to ascent, at least in the short run.
The root of this conflict goes back to Provo vs. Cosmo divide, which truly is the divide which runs through all American politics. It’s the divide between those living and work in cosmopolitan society (like Lind) and those who don’t (like Manski). It divides people who are activists or believe in politics at the grassroots and those are suspicious of it. It’s divides the Left, it divides the Right, it divides Libertarians too. The divide basically determines how one approaches politics, between those who believe in the top-down from those who believe in bottom-up.
The Leftists Chris Hedges has an interesting take on this in thesis “Death of the Liberal Class”