Analyzing the 2011 Wisconsin Supreme Court Election

On April 5th, 2011 Wisconsin held an election to choose a Wisconsin Supreme Court nominee. The supposedly non-partisan election turned into a referendum on Republican Governor Scott Walker’s controversial policies against unions. Mr. Walker’s new law will probably be headed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and since the Supreme Court is elected by the voters Democrats saw one last chance to defeat his law.

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

The frontrunner was the incumbent justice, Republican David Prosser. The Democratic favorite was relatively unknown JoAnne Kloppenburg. The two candidates essentially tied each other, although Mr. Prosser has taken the lead following the discovery of 14,315 votes in a strongly Republican city.

Here are the results of the election:

Link to Map of Wisconsin, 2011 Supreme Court Election

For a supposedly non-partisan election, the counties that Mr. Prosser won were almost identical to the counties that Republicans win in close races. There was essentially no difference.

A good illustration of this similarity is provided by comparing the results to those of the 2004 presidential election in Wisconsin. In that election Senator John Kerry beat President George W. Bush by less than 12,000 votes:

Link to Map of Wisconsin, 2004 Presidential Eleciton

It is pretty clear that this non-partisan election became a very partisan battle between Democrats and Republicans.

Nevertheless, there were several differences between this election and the 2004 presidential election.

Here is a map of how Mr. Prosser did compared to Mr. Bush:

Link to Map of Wisconsin, Comparison to Mr. Bush

In most places Mr. Prosser is on the defence. He improves in his areas of strength by less than Ms. Kloppenburg does in her areas of strength. More Bush counties move leftward; fewer Kerry counties move rightward.

The great exception, however, is Milwaukee. In that Democratic stronghold Mr. Prosser improved by double-digits over Mr. Bush. Ms. Kloppenburg almost makes up the difference through a massive improvement in Madison (Dane County), the other Democratic stronghold, along with a respectable performance outside Milwaukee and its suburbs. But she doesn’t quite make it.

Here is a good illustration of the importance of Milwaukee:

Link to Map of Wisconsin, 2004 Presidential Election Margins

As one can see, the two great reservoirs of Democratic votes belong in Madison and Milwaukee. Ms. Kloppenberg got all the votes she needed and more in Madison; she got far fewer than hoped for in Milwaukee.

Much of Mr. Prosser’s improvement was due to poor minority turn-out.

Milwaukee is the type of Democratic stronghold based off support from poor minorities (Madison is based off wealthy white liberals and college students). Unfortunately for Ms. Kloppenberg, minority turn-out is generally low in off-year elections such as these.

Another example of this pattern is in Menominee County, a Native American reservation that usually goes strongly Democratic. In 2011 Menominee County voted Democratic as usual (along with Milwaukee), but low turn-out enabled Mr. Prosser to strongly improve on Mr. Bush’s 2004 performance.

All in all, this election provides an interesting example of a Democratic vote depending heavily upon white liberals and the white working class (descendants of non-German European immigrants), and far less upon minorities.


--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

 

Tax day, Passover week: labor, migration & justice, now...and in 2049

From our Restore Fairness blog-

On this year’s Tax Day that has just passed, several organizations including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), MoveOn, Daily Kos and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) joined forces for ‘Tax Day: Make Them Pay.’ The groups organized peaceful protests around the country outside the offices of big corporations and millionaires that have evaded paying taxes for last year, mostly due to government-mandated tax breaks. According to the site, “In 2009, after helping crash the American economy, Bank of America paid $0 in taxes. GE had a tax bill of $0 in 2010. Republicans want to give a $50 billion tax bailout to big oil companies…” These protests came at the heels of news that corporations such as General Electric paid no federal taxes in 2010, something that has infuriated the millions of workers around the country who work hard and are expected to dutifully pay their taxes on time.

The tax break issue is the latest in a series of developments that have recently charged the country’s politics around the issues of immigration and labor rights, with them coming together in the case of migrant workers. Last month, the country witnessed a major standoff in the Wisconsin state government between Governor Scott Walker (and his Republican-led state assembly) and thousands of labor groups and workers in the state as the Governor pledged to enact a bill to severely curtail collective bargaining. After three weeks of fierce debates, Gov. Walker managed to push the bill through. The Ohio state assembly soon followed suit, with other states such as Tennessee and Iowa heading in a similar direction. This steady erosion of worker rights presents an increasing risk not just to the economy of this country but also to its social fabric. It also echoes a past where worker rights were often ignored, especially in the case of immigrant workers.

Last month, several labor groups and organizations marked the centennial anniversary of an incident that highlights the lack of protection of workers – the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of March 28, 1911, in which 146 mostly immigrant workers died. To mark the centenary of the tragedy, many labor rights groups amplified their push for pro-labor rights legislation to challenge the spate of anti-union labor bills that were passed recently. The 1911 tragedy brings to light the plight of immigrant workers and the exploitation that still continues today. At a rally commemorating the tragedy, one union member, Walfre Merida, described the similarities between the condition of migrant workers today and those that perished in the fire a hundred years ago. Merida stated-

I see that a hundred years since this terrible accident that killed so many people, things have really not changed at all…Safety conditions, none. Grab your tool and go to work, no more. And do not stop. When we worked in high places, on roofs, we never used harnesses, one became accustomed to the dangers and thanked God we weren’t afraid of heights. One would risk his life out of necessity.

As stories of worker rights violations continue to proliferate, we must take heed from our past mistakes in order to avoid a degradation of these conditions in the future. This week – just as Jews around the world gather at the Passover table to recount their liberation from migrant slave labor in Egypt – Breakthrough’s Facebook game, America 2049, immerses players into discussions around labor rights, especially with regards to the rights of immigrant workers. The game utilizes several events and artifacts from the past to highlight the continued struggles of migrant workers in the United States. In the game’s world in which everyone has an embedded chip to mark their identity, players are given the mission to investigate a counterfeiting ring that helps indentured workers – primarily immigrants, though also citizens who have succumbed to crushing credit debt – to escape their unjust contracts and inhumane living conditions, and begin new lives. The game references the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire as a lesson from the past about the respect and rightful treatment of workers. It also suggests a future that is even bleaker because we as a country have failed to recognize the importance of immigrant workers and worker rights to the success of the country as a whole.

Watch a testimonial by a character in the game, Ziyad Youssef, a Syrian man who was lured into a job with promises of good pay and easy hours, but found himself in slavery-like conditions, unable to look after his sick daughter or provide basic amenities to his family:

The United States is currently grappling with an issue that will inevitably affect our national economy and social conditions in the years to come. The denial of legitimacy and basic rights to immigrant workers will only hamper the nation’s growth on the world stage. In a special report on global migration published in 2008, The Economist argued for the widespread acceptance of migrant workers by the richer countries that so desperately need them. Speaking about the United States, the report stated-

Around a third of the Americans who won Nobel prizes in physics in the past seven years were born abroad. About 40% of science and engineering PhDs working in America are immigrants. Around a third of Silicon Valley companies were started by Indians and Chinese. The low-skilled are needed too, especially in farming, services and care for children and the elderly. It is no coincidence that countries that welcome immigrants—such as Sweden, Ireland, America and Britain—have better economic records than those that shun them…Americans object to the presence of around 12m illegal migrant workers in a country with high rates of legal migration. But given the American economy’s reliance on them, it is not just futile but also foolish to build taller fences to keep them out.

Players in America 2049 will discover valuable artifacts from our country’s past that highlight an ongoing struggle for worker rights and have the agency to join the discussion and save the country’s future from the dystopic scenario the game depicts. One of the artifacts in the game is a poem titled ‘A Song for Many Movements,’ written in 1982 by Audre Lord, a black feminist lesbian poet. The poem articulates the connection between suffering and speaking out against injustices, which is what the workers rights protests around the country have been doing and which we must keep advocating until real change is made-

Broken down gods survive
in the crevasses and mudpots
of every beleaguered city
where it is obvious
there are too many bodies
to cart to the ovens
or gallows
and our uses have become
more important than our silence
after the fall
too many empty cases
of blood to bury or burn
there will be no body left
to listen
and our labor
has become more important
than our silence.

Our labor has become
more important
than our silence.

 

 

"Community Unionism"

TNR has a new blog: The Study, aggregating academic papers and thinkers.  For all my efforts to avoid TNR, I'm a sucker for this stuff, and so far, it hasn't disappointed.  Clicking around, I stumbled on this post by Georgetown's Michael Kazin on the revival of "community unionism" in the fallout of Walker's attack on public workers in Wisconsin:

[...] the massive support the unions drew from students, faculty, small farmers, and immigrant rights groups, among others, imparted an old lesson that progressives often forget: to advance its interests, labor needs to look less like an interest group and more like a moral cause that appeals to allies from outside the wage-earning class.

...

A century ago, the horrific Triangle fire helped garment workers make a case for unions as well as safe workplaces. In the 1930s, auto and steel workers gained public sympathy when they struck for “industrial democracy” against autocratic employers. In the 1960s, the plight of low-wage, mostly Mexican-American farmworkers became a favorite cause of liberals.

This year at Georgetown University, another such labor moment occurred—in a modest but still instructive fashion. After a campaign that began in the muck of July, the roughly 200 men and women who work either at the student cafeteria or at one of a handful of campus fast-food outlets (including a Starbucks) are close to winning recognition from Aramark, their employer, whose $12 billion annual revenue makes it one the largest service providers in the nation. The workers, most of whom are black or Latino, have become members of Unite Here, the leading union in the culinary trades.

But they have not done it alone.

Kazin describes a "community union" coalition grown out of frustration, aligning '90s era organizations, College Democrats, the student chapter of the NAACP, and minority workers in a strategic move to tell the personal stories of university service employees to the community (culminating in a MLK day "testimonial" at a local church). 

After a more than a decade fighting for better conditions, just a few weeks ago, according to Kazin, nearly 80% of employees signed in support of representation by the international service union Unite Here.

The fight in Wisconsin has breathed new life into the ideas behind unionization and workers rights.  But to turn the energy into a movement, it's going to require reinforcing the connection between unions and the dinner table.  Conservatives have succeeded to some extent at numbing the country to workers rights, and the dominance billionaires enjoy in the dialog.  Progressives need to take back the frame, and remind the country that, just like the 1930's, unions provide a voice not as easily shouted down by Supreme Court sanctioned corporate "persons." 

What's happening at Georgetown is a microcosmic example that better coalition building between workers and the broad "organizational left," tying the framework to simple dignity and personal experience, is an opportunity to drive the message home.

 

"Community Unionism"

TNR has a new blog: The Study, aggregating academic papers and thinkers.  For all my efforts to avoid TNR, I'm a sucker for this stuff, and so far, it hasn't disappointed.  Clicking around, I stumbled on this post by Georgetown's Michael Kazin on the revival of "community unionism" in the fallout of Walker's attack on public workers in Wisconsin:

[...] the massive support the unions drew from students, faculty, small farmers, and immigrant rights groups, among others, imparted an old lesson that progressives often forget: to advance its interests, labor needs to look less like an interest group and more like a moral cause that appeals to allies from outside the wage-earning class.

...

A century ago, the horrific Triangle fire helped garment workers make a case for unions as well as safe workplaces. In the 1930s, auto and steel workers gained public sympathy when they struck for “industrial democracy” against autocratic employers. In the 1960s, the plight of low-wage, mostly Mexican-American farmworkers became a favorite cause of liberals.

This year at Georgetown University, another such labor moment occurred—in a modest but still instructive fashion. After a campaign that began in the muck of July, the roughly 200 men and women who work either at the student cafeteria or at one of a handful of campus fast-food outlets (including a Starbucks) are close to winning recognition from Aramark, their employer, whose $12 billion annual revenue makes it one the largest service providers in the nation. The workers, most of whom are black or Latino, have become members of Unite Here, the leading union in the culinary trades.

But they have not done it alone.

Kazin describes a "community union" coalition grown out of frustration, aligning '90s era organizations, College Democrats, the student chapter of the NAACP, and minority workers in a strategic move to tell the personal stories of university service employees to the community (culminating in a MLK day "testimonial" at a local church). 

After a more than a decade fighting for better conditions, just a few weeks ago, according to Kazin, nearly 80% of employees signed in support of representation by the international service union Unite Here.

The fight in Wisconsin has breathed new life into the ideas behind unionization and workers rights.  But to turn the energy into a movement, it's going to require reinforcing the connection between unions and the dinner table.  Conservatives have succeeded to some extent at numbing the country to workers rights, and the dominance billionaires enjoy in the dialog.  Progressives need to take back the frame, and remind the country that, just like the 1930's, unions provide a voice not as easily shouted down by Supreme Court sanctioned corporate "persons." 

What's happening at Georgetown is a microcosmic example that better coalition building between workers and the broad "organizational left," tying the framework to simple dignity and personal experience, is an opportunity to drive the message home.

 

Weekly Audit: Massive Protest In Wisconsin Shows Walker’s Overreach

 

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

About 100,000 people gathered in Madison, Wisconsin to protest Gov. Scott Walker’s new anti-collective bargaining law. The state Senate hurriedly past the bill without a quorum last Wednesday. Roger Bybee of Working In These Times reports:

The rally featured 50 farmers on tractors roaring around the Capitol to show their support for public workers and union representatives from across the nation, stressing the importance of the Wisconsin struggle. Protesters were addressed by a lineup of fiery speakers including fillmaker Michael Moore, the Texas populist radio broadcaster Jim Hightower, TV host Laura Flanders, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, and The Progressive editor Matt Rothschild, among others.

The bill is law, but the fight is far from over. The Wisconsin Democratic Party says it already has 45% of the signatures it needs to recall 8 Republican state senators. So far, canvassers have collected 56,000 signatures, up from 14,000 last weekend. The surge in signature gathering is another sign that the Walker government’s abrupt push to pass the bill has energized the opposition.

Polling bolsters the impression that Walker overreached by forcing the bill through with a dubious procedural trick. Simeon Talley of Campus Progress notes that, according to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll, Americans oppose efforts to limit the collective bargaining rights of public employees.

Jamelle Bouie of TAPPED notes that the enthusiasm gap that helped elect Scott Walker last year has disappeared. In June 2o10, 58% of Democrats said they were certain to vote compared to 67% of Republicans. In March 2011, 86% of Democrats and 85% of Republicans surveyed said they would certainly vote.

Firefighters shut down bank

Wisconsin firefighters found a way to get back at one of Scott Walker’s most generous donors, Madison’s M&I Bank, Julianne Escobedo Shepherd reports in AlterNet. Firefighters Local 311 President Joe Conway put a call out to his members who banked with M&I to “Move Your Money.” Firefighters withdrew hundreds of thousands of dollars of savings in cashiers checks. The beleaguered bank closed its doors at 3pm on March 10.

John Nichols of the Nation reports that other unions got in on the act. He quotes a pamphlet distributed by Sheet Metal Workers International Association Local 565:

“M&I execs gave more money than even the Koch Brothers to Governor Walker and the Wisconsin GOP,” the message goes. “M&I got a $1.7 billion bailout while its CEO gets an $18 million golden parachute. Tell M&I Bank: Back Politicians Who Take Away Our Rights (and) We Take Away Your Business.”

Nichols explains that the next big step in the fight to overturn the bill will be the Wisconsin Supreme Court election, set for April 5. Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg is challenging conservative state Supreme Court Justice David Prosser. Legal analysts have raised serious questions about the bill and the process by which it was passed. A court challenge to Walker’s law might stand a better chance if a liberal justice replaces the conservative pro-corporate Prosser.

Guess what? We’re not broke

Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly takes on a GOP talking point, the myth that the United States is broke. It’s a convenient claim for those who wish to make massive cuts to popular programs without having to justify taking them away. If we don’t have the money, we don’t have the money. If it’s a choice between cuts and bankruptcy, cuts suddenly seem not only acceptable, but inevitable.

But the United States has a $15 trillion economy, immense natural resources, a highly educated workforce, and countless other economic advantages. The problem isn’t a lack of resources, it’s extreme inequality of distribution. Over the last 20 years, 56% of income growth has been funneled to the top 1% of the population, with fully one third of that money going to the richest one-tenth of one percent.

Benen notes that the Republicans didn’t think we were broke when they were advocating for a $538 billion tax-cut package, which wasn’t offset by a dime of cuts.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Audit for a complete list of articles on economic issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Mulch, The Pulse and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

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