Michigan governors aren’t breaking entirely new ground in the ongoing U.S. collapse into fascism. Sure, they’ll be able to overthrow local elected governments and install cronies and corporations to rule over Americans without the pretense of public servants mediating. But the president of the United States can already do that to the entire country. I wonder if anyone remembers these lines from Congressman Dennis Kucinich’s articles of impeachment for George W. Bush:
“In addition, on May 9, 2007, President Bush released ‘National Security Presidential Directive/NSPD 51,’ which effectively gives the president unchecked power to control the entire government and to define that government in time of an emergency, as well as the power to determine whether there is an emergency. The document also contains ‘classified Continuity Annexes.’ In July 2007 and again in August 2007 Rep. Peter DeFazio, a senior member of the House Homeland Security Committee, sought access to the classified annexes. DeFazio and other leaders of the Homeland Security Committee, including Chairman Bennie Thompson, have been denied a review of the Continuity of Government classified annexes. In all of these actions and decisions, President George W. Bush has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President, and subversive of constitutional government, to the prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, President George W. Bush, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.”
We still don’t know in full what the presidential powers amount to, despite them now resting in the supposed hands of a foreign-born Muslim Socialist terrorist-lover. That nonsense is for public consumption, of course. The consolidating of power in the hands of presidents and governors who answer to corporate overlords is not for public consumption. But it has moved from partially secret imperial decrees to bills passed through legislatures.
Wisconsin’s assault on workers and public services has also been done through a legislature, but only a portion of a legislature in an unconstitutional manner approved of by the governor’s consigliere. This, too, is old hat in Washington, D.C. “My lawyer said I could” has been used to “legalize” such crimes as aggressive war, torture, warrentless spying, and imprisonment without trial. Those policies — no longer crimes — have advanced from secret “legal” memos to presidential decrees under Obama. But the “lawyers” who got them going aren’t through yet. By “looking forward” Obama has left people like John Yoo free to lobby for illegal war in Libya instead of what he should be doing, lobbying for early parole from prison.
Disaster fascism uses 9-11 and the draining of public treasuries in tandem as complementary shocks to respond to. While states work on creating 50 mini-Duces, the U.S. House holds hearings on the importance of hating Muslims, and the Senate holds a hearing the same day on the comical subject of “Who Can Name a Nation That Could Conceivably Threaten the United States’ Trillion Dollar a Year Military?” You’ll notice that the Director of National Intelligence can’t do it.
Wisconsin holds the potential to build resistance, but it has to be properly understood. Michael Moore is right that the needed lesson is the imbalance between the super-rich and all the rest of us. The myths about only the wealthy favoring liberalism while the poor defend the rights of the plutocrats are being exploded. Leaving over half the nation’s wealth in the hands of 400 people destroys representative government, equality of opportunity, and the health of every community in the country.
But Michael Moore is wrong that we were bullied into backing the bankster bailout. We never backed it. Congress did. Bush did. Obama did. The people did not.
And Rachel Maddow is wrong that Wisconsin has created resistance because the Governor’s agenda is unpopular. Almost everything our governments do is unpopular.
What’s different here is the presence of unions, which still exist in the public sector in some states; and the alignment of a just and popular cause with the interests of the Democratic Party, which is far from common; and the presence in Wisconsin of a living tradition of progressive education and activism.
We have to understand this in order to build on it. We must use the courts and our own lawyers and the Democrats. But Democrats don’t grow spines all by themselves. And judges don’t rule for justice in societies that have no use for it. The movement must remain a popular movement willing to continue without compromise, pushing back against the fascist slide, but also willing to push for positive changes, such as the repeal of Taft-Hartley and the creation of the legal right to unionize, whether or not the Democrats want it.
A general strike is needed immediately, with demands including the taxation of the rich and of corporations and of financial investments, cuts to the obscenely bloated military, and legalization of the right to organize in the workplace. We should not work, we should not go to school, until those demands are met. And they can be, and quickly, if we all work nonviolently to make it happen. This is what democracy means, and it need not belong to Egyptians only.
Walking out of school (at 2 pm on Friday!) may seem like an odd way to support public education. But that education needs improvements that should be part of our demands. Do you learn peace studies in your school? Do you learn nonviolence? Do you learn about labor history? Do you learn where the 8-hour day came from? Do you know what Louis Brandeis said about democracy and the concentration of wealth? Do you know that three years ago Bush and Obama and McCain sat around a table and decided to take enough money to alleviate everybody’s hardship all over the country and . . . gave it to Wall Street crooks instead of prosecuting them for their crimes? Are you aware that our government’s financial crises could be solved by ending a war that two-thirds of us want ended? If not, walk out and hold an independent study day, week, or month. And those of you who have learned from history won’t need me to tell you this: please walk out and help teach others.