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Carl Gibson

Spokesman and organizer for US Uncut

June 11th, 2012 12:05 AM

Get Left or Be Left

Dear Democratic Party leaders,

Your lackluster 2012 recall performance in Wisconsin reminded me of another lackluster performance I saw in Mississippi in 2010.

At a local bar's karaoke night in downtown Jackson, a dopey-looking middle-aged man in a jet-black toupee sang "Gimme All Your Lovin" by ZZ Top, drunkenly and off-key, to a group of young women at a nearby table. He was really getting into it until he stumbled off of the stage, knocked over their drinks, and spilled beer all over himself. The music stopped, and the women started laughing at him instead of with him. He sat by himself in the back of the room for the rest of the night. That was the second most painful thing I've ever watched.

The most painful thing I ever watched was when Tom Barrett got his ass handed to him by a proto-fascist governor who ran on punishing working families to reward his wealthy campaign donors with the salaries of public servants. This happened despite massive populist protests in Madison, an army of volunteers getting 1,000,000 recall signatures in the dead of winter and tirelessly knocking on over 1,000,000 doors leading up to the election, and his opponent's brand being associated with corruption. Despite what should have been a slam-dunk at a time when the far right is losing the battle of public opinion, Barrett's recall attempt fell flat on its face.

The Dems lost to Walker but took back the Senate, so I don't blame the unions or the volunteers. I don't even fully blame Wisconsin's shameless corporate-owned media, Super PACs, Citizens United, or Scott Walker's campaign war chest. Rather, Democratic Party leaders simply ignored and dismissed the powerful economic populist narrative that united the world around the Wisconsin State Capitol and Wall Street Occupations of 2011, and proved how out of touch they are with the 99 percent.

President Obama and DNC leadership treated the Wisconsin recall like a statewide race that didn't have national significance and put it on the backburner while the president campaigned for himself in neighboring states. But the RNC and their fascist wing, the Tea Party, outsmarted you in Wisconsin, so their multi-state class war will continue unabated, and perhaps even exacerbated. You'll continue to get pounded until you nominate and fundraise for candidates that are as far to the left as Scott Walker is to the right. I'm talking the kind of candidates who make stump speeches in the same vein of anti-robber-baron populism as FDR in 1934, or Martin Luther King in 1968.

Even British media smelled the stink of your failure in Wisconsin, calling out Clinton and Barrett for their milquetoast, plain-vanilla pitch to crucial voters at a crucial campaign stop. When your opponents actively seek to crush working families and the institutions that protect them, you don't energize those workers by telling them you'll work hand-in-hand with their oppressors. Wisconsin voters didn't force a recall to seek consensus with Republicans. They forced a recall to make a statement against a corrupt Republican regime that cares more about punishing its political enemies than serving the public interest.

Even though Blue Dog Democrat Tom Barrett lost handily to Scott Walker in 2010, establishment leaders still tapped him as the nominee for the recall election. Answer this: Why would the same guy, saying the same things, somehow have a different result against the same opponent he already lost to not even two years beforehand? Would it have killed you to nominate a woman, a person of color, someone younger than sixty, or at the very least, someone who doesn't wear the same color tie as his opponent? Why did you have to pick a boring white male career politician to challenge another boring white male career politician in a historic recall attempt?

Scott Walker made a mockery of the Badger State by ruling as the manager of the Midwest subsidiary for Koch Industries instead of serving as the Governor of Wisconsin. He proudly replaced union workers with prison labor, and oversaw the loss of over 30,000 jobs while middle class wages decreased and corporate profits have never been higher. Democrats chose instead to play defense to Walker's lies.

Even though corporate tax collections in Wisconsin are lower than the national average, Democratic Party leaders never forced the conversation about all the millions of dollars wasted on corporate tax breaks and subsidies that only exacerbated the jobs crisis in Wisconsin, growing wealth inequality, or the troublesome Orwellian police state Wisconsin Republicans gleefully brought about by arresting silent protesters in the Assembly gallery. In a state as polarized as Wisconsin, that type of rhetoric is exactly what was needed to motivate and energize the base. President Obama polled better than Barrett in Wisconsin: if he made good on his promise to put on his walking shoes and march like he said he would when collective bargaining was under attack, or if he used his presidential bully pulpit to oppose Walker's class war, if he did anything more than tweet for Barrett on election day, it may have made the difference.

People like those who run the DNC are the same reason my generation hates Democrats just as much as we hate Republicans, and why we're so turned off by the electoral process. You want votes from young, energetic 21st-century citizens? Stop running old and tired 20th-century candidates and 20th-century messaging. Leave the leadership up to the young leaders who haven't forgotten how to organize for meaningful change.

In the meantime, labor leaders should defy the outdated Taft-Hartley law and call for a nationwide general strike in the wake of the Democrats' recall flop. If the 1 percent is determined to wage class war, let's fight back. It's time to lead the Democrats where we want to go, instead of waiting for them to lead us.

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