What Next, Wisconsin? Some Ideas for the Movement by Josh Healy

My man Josh Healy drops another gem of an article for all those watching the drama as it unfolds in Madison, Wisconsin. His first article Class Warfare gave us some good background information and solid food for thought. This one lays out some great strategies..

-Davey D-

I’ve never been so proud to rep Wisconsin.

More than the Packers bringing the Lombardi trophy back to its birthplace, more than the moment I introduced my boys back in DC to the glories of a cheese curd, themassive uprising to defend workers’ rights that has erupted over these past two weeks in Madison has cemented my Badger pride forever.

I’m 2000 miles away from the action inside the Capitol Rotunda, but through text messages, Facebook reports, and (sweet Jesus!) decent coverage from the national media, I feel like I’m just down the block on State Street.

While my analysis is secondary to the activists and agitators in the trenches (snow trenches, to be exact), I want to offer some notes on what has made all this so amazing:

The Movement is Growing By the Day — And Shows No Signs of Stopping.
Since people first learned of Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed death-to-unions legislation two weeks ago, the protests at the Capitol haven’t stopped. The numbers of labor demonstrators has  grown from 1,000 the first day, to 5,000 a couple days later, to over 100,000 people this past Saturday. Thousands of whom have been occupying the Capitol 24/7, sleeping over in the building despite Walker’s attempts to kick them out. People simply won’t go home — and that’s the most powerful part.

The indefinite, growing action is what has created the legislative crisis and national spectacle.  As opposed to most political actions (an anti-war rally or even a fair trade “week of action”), the people’s uprising in Madison has no definitive end date that the Governor and his friends can use to just wait them out. And that’s why they’re scared.

The Democrats Have Showed Some Backbone.
No, not the national Democratic Party, but “The Wisconsin 14“– the Democratic state senators who fled the state to block Gov. Walker’s attack on workers. The state senate needs a quorum of 20 legislators to act on the bill, but the Republicans only have 19 senators. So the Democrats used what power they had, and voted with their feet.

Far too often, Democratic politicians across the country give in (or worse, lead the attack) on workers’ rights and social justice. Let’s support them on the rare occasion they do the right thing — and remember that those 14 senators could only make their stand because 100,000 people in the streets gave them the political space to do so.

The Right-Wing Puppet Masters have been Exposed.
Scott Walker is a stooge, a puppet of national corporate interests. Thanks to a liberal blogger’s prank phone call, we all know who’s pulling Walker’s strings: the billionaire Koch Brothers. Charles and David Koch are viciously right-wing industrialists best known for being the primary funders (some would say creators) of the Tea Party. In the prank call where Walker thought he was talking to David Koch, Walker showed his true allegiance — and it wasn’t to the people of Wisconsin.

The Cops are with the Good Guys?
This is something you don’t usually see: rather than following the standard police playbook of “Taser first, ask questions later,” the police announced their solidarity with the people occupying the Capitol. Wow. The police understand that even though Walker exempted their union (and the firefighters) from the bill, they could be next. Now, many of them are joining with their union brothers and sisters. This is big — just look at Egypt and (hopefully) Libya. When the police join the movement, that’s when the revolution happens.

America has Hope Again.
Van Jones said it best earlier this week: “In the past 24 months, those of us who longed for positive change have gone from hope to heartbreak. But hope is returning to America — at last — thanks largely to the courageous stand of the heroes and heroines of Wisconsin.” Wisconsin is awakening a strong, grassroots Left-labor movement that has been asleep in America for far too long. This past Saturday saw solidarity protests in all 50 states, and there’s even talks that a general strike is on the table in Madison if the bill passes.

This is about more than unions. This is about whose state, whose country this is. To paraphrase George W. Bush, “You’re either with us, or you’re with the billionaire oil tycoon Koch-heads.”

With that said, here’s some things for my Badgers in the streets to keep in mind:

1) Keep the Crisis Going as Long as Possible.
The longer we occupy the Capitol, the longer the Democrats stay in Rockford or wherever the hell they are, the better for our side. It gives us time to frame the debate, show the real issues, build our power and organization, and make the Republicans come to us on our terms.

Gov. Walker might not budge, but 3 Republican Senators very well could. That’s all we need for the vote to fail. Many of those Republicans districts have a lot of union members, and are vulnerable come election time. Many folks are already calling for recall elections. That said, don’t get caught up in electoral politics. Our power is at the grassroots. And remember that Walker did NOT run on a campaign to bust unions. His election was not a mandate for this bill.

2) Make this Bigger Than Just the Unions — Because It Is.
This bill (and soon Walker’s full budget) doesn’t just attack organized labor: he is privatizing UW-Madison, decimating state health care, and attacking unemployed people and all sorts of workers not in unions. If the broad-based movement of the past two weeks doesn’t continue after whatever happens with this one bill, then we’ve lost either way.

Build new relationships — and organization! Wisconsin (and the whole country) needs a real, ongoing coalition of workers, students, civil rights groups, faith leaders, women’s and LGBT groups: the full rainbow spectrum. Some of this is already happening with Wisconsin WaveDefend Wisconsin, and others. The fights will keep coming — let’s keep fighting united.

3) This Can’t Just Be a White Fight.
This is going off the last point. Let’s be honest — most the teachers, social workers, and other public workers who have been the majority of faces in the protests are white. Wisconsin is about as white a state as they come. But when it comes to serious oppression in the Badger State – massively disproportionate incarceration, unemployment, and immigration raids – the people most impacted are usually black and brown. Several Republican legislators have already called for an anti-immigrant law as harsh as Arizona’s. If this movement’s call is to “defend Wisconsin,” who are we defending it for?

The conservative game plan is always to divide and conquer, in this case to pit ‘lazy’ public-sector workers against ‘hard-working’ private-sector workers. Sound familiar? In our appeal to class solidarity, let’s recognize that there are deep racial divisions in Wisconsin — in our schools, our housing, and yes, our unions. Let’s be up front about it, and make this the time to start doing it different. Racial justice groups like my old friends at Freedom Inc. have already joined the fight.

4. Target the People and Structures Behind Walker.
I’m not just talking about the Koch brothers, I’m talking about Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, who protesters smartly picketed last week for being the main sponsor of the current bill. I’m talking about the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, giving corporations free rein to buy politicians through campaign donations. I’m talking about unregulated capitalism, and the idea that human beings are mere commodities to be bought and sold to the highest bidding billionaire. The people in the Capitol are starting to think BIG. Let’s keep it up.

5) Expect to WIN!
This is the most important one. The momentum is on our side: the people, the Packers, even the police are on our side. The nation is with you. Don’t give in on pensions and health care before negotiating. Don’t give in on cuts to Badger Care or turning UW-Madison into “a country club with a nice library.”

I remember walking to a protest on Library Mall once and thinking, “This isn’t going to change anything.” And you know what it? It didn’t. Too often, we think we’re going to lose, and so we don’t even play hard in the game. This time, Madison, you’ve taken your gloves off. I can see it in your eyes. You know you can win. So go do it.

I’ll be there with you, proud as hell.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=5TmSNPpzkWc

original article: http://joshhealey.org/2011/02/28/what-next-wisconsin/

BET’s Cousin Jeff Speaks Out Against Democrats

Cousin Jeff aka Jeff Johnson’s Statement:

cousin jeff JohnsonAug 16 2006: Over the past few days I have been run through the blog and email world as a traitor, an undercover operative, a money chaser, a republican sellout, and many other things. I have been talked about and attacked by people that I have considered colleagues, and in some cases friends, without a phone call or email to inquire about my decision. I have had professional contracts cancelled and future contract negotiations halted all as a result of my announcement Friday August 11, 2006 to officially support the campaign of J. Kenneth Blackwell for Governor of the state of Ohio.

However, I am not angry, bitter, resentful, or moved to retaliate. In fact I understand my brothers and sisters who question my decision, are angered by my decision, and even feel betrayed. Many of you out there think that I have lost my mind; some think that I have sold out, and others think I am chasing money.

This letter comes as my opportunity to tell the people whom I work for (my community) and work with my reasons for making such a difficult intellectual, emotional, and spiritual decision.

First and foremost I am not nor do I have plans to become a member of or work for the Republican Party. When the press release announcing my support speaks to ‘working for the campaign’ it means that I will be on the road speaking about the issues that I believe in and the need for urban and young people to come out and vote. Finally I AM NOT AN EMPLOYEE OF THE CAMPAIGN OR RECIEVEING COMPENSATION PERSONALLY OR THROUGH MY COMPANY FOR MY ENDORSEMENT. I have asked the Campaign to cover Health Insurance coverage costs that I have lost as a result of my endorsement of Blackwell and the campaign has agreed. My first priority is to make sure my children are protected, HOWEVER, the work that I do has never been about chasing the dollars and it never will be.

Beyond that, it is impossible to assess my decision without looking at the historical and current implications of the black political universe in America. Reconstruction thrust former African slaves into a period of being players in the political games of the US as opposed to simply being political pawns used by one side or the other. It was the party of Lincoln, the Republican Party, that former slaves embraced feeling that the party was dedicated to advancing their social and political best interest. Not until the early days of the Civil Rights movement did it become apparent that the Democrats were more interested in pushing for the legislative changes at the legal, state, and federal level that would provide blacks with a better quality of life than the Republicans. And so we shifted our party loyalty from the Republicans to the Democrats.

What made our shift to the Democratic Party so different from our time with the Republicans was that we now had institutions like the NAACP, SCLC, and others that were responsible for making and maintaining our political alliances. During the Civil Rights Movement these organizations and their leadership were responsible for ensuring that those alliances translated into social and political change. And they did. The passage of both the Civil and Voting Rights Acts were in part due to the political alliances made by those like Roy Wilkins and others working in connection with grassroots activists. However, after the death of the Kennedy and King we saw yet another shift.

That post-civil rights shift brings us in many cases to where we currently exist: the era of the professional activist. The post civil rights leadership provided by many we know and some we don’t know has been both incredibly effective in some areas and simultaneously negligent in others. We have seen great gains by many people of color as a result of much of their work. However, many of our leaders and organizations are now supporting these same alliances without the manifestation of social or policy changes for our community.

It must be said that the black community of 2006 is no longer the monolithic community it was 40 years ago. With that there are multiple agendas that exists within the black community, other communities of color, and poor communities. Some of these agendas overlap and some are in direct opposition to each other. Unfortunately in many cases there is no agenda at all and we find ourselves forced to acquiesce to the pre-packaged agenda of the Republican or Democratic parties that in both cases leaves many of our agenda items on the floor (if they ever made it in the room).

We are now faced with a political climate where we are forced to choose one party or the other instead of candidate-by-candidate assessment based on our own agenda. We therefore demonize each other based on party affiliation, chastising democrats that support republicans and vice versa instead of challenging both parties to better represent our agenda and in turn earn our vote. This practice of blindly supporting candidates that do not have an agenda for our community is the paramount reason for my decision.

I believe that there is as much demagoguery and scare tactic rhetoric on the left as there is on the right. As I look at the issue of voter disenfranchisement, I was on the ground mobilizing people in OH in 2000 with the NAACP and in 2004 with the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network. I was present during the finger pointing and name-calling following the election, and I watched as the congress failed to follow the lead of Stephanie Tubbs Jones to get to the bottom of the situation. I questioned some of the pre election tactics and post election posturing of the Republican Party regarding the issue. However, it is important to note that in at least two of the counties where the most complaints of long lines and too few voting machines were reported there were Democrats at the head of the county election process. It was their responsibility to determine how many machines were to be placed at each location, not that of the Secretary of State. In essence both parties are complicit in not doing everything possible before and after the elections to ensure that every voter has full access to the polls and that their vote is counted. Party agendas have taken precedent over people’s access.

Secondly, after looking at both campaigns I do not see an agenda for my community in the Strickland plan. I hear rhetoric about public education, with no strategy to get there. I do not see the few blacks within the campaign being empowered to do what is necessary to engage the community with substance. He has yet to provide support to either of Ohio’s HBCUs even by visiting the campus. I also see Strickland doing black community drive-bys as opposed to meeting one on one with key leaders in the major cities of OH to share his agenda for us.

It must be said that I DO NOT agree with Blackwell on all issues. I am pro-choice and believe in a woman’s right to choose and strongly disagree on any move to take that away. I also do not believe that vouchers will save public schools, merely help a few get out of bad situations. I do however support Blackwell’s move to propose a clear education reform plan to see an increase in classroom spending for public schools. It is reform of this and other types that will push us to repair schools that are bankrupt. I also support Blackwell’s plans for job creation and economic development. He has had the best record of any state official in OH providing state contracts to black owned firms spending over 35% of available resources with minority firms. Finally, he has served on the Board of Wilberforce University for 10 years and continues to support the institution through his presence and resources, moving the President of the University and former congressman Floyd Flake to serve as the co-chair of his campaign (unpaid).

I must again reiterate that I will no longer support those who do not feel a small obligation to support me through their agenda. I would rather know what I am not getting with Blackwell, than have no idea of what I am getting with Strickland. There are many organizations on the left that would tell blacks that Blackwell is bad for them, when those organizations have no black agenda or staff at the highest and lowest levels to carry it out. We must become independent thinkers and not allow others to demonize others as if they are for us.

I am claiming my independence.

It is for that reason that I can endorse not only Ken Blackwell in Ohio, but also Kweisi Mfume in Maryland. While Mfume is running against a popular black republican (if he moves on from the primary), I believe that Mfume will better carry our agenda. As a former congressman and President of the NAACP, he has proven his commitment to our community. I am excited about his campaign and will work as hard to see him win in Maryland as I will work in Ohio for the candidate I believe, at the end of the day, will carry MORE of our water.

As a community, regardless of what demographic of the community you are a part of, I urge you to think independently. If your convictions lead you to disagree, then so be it. Just don’t allow yourself to be plugged into the political matrix moving by a partisan remote control.

In a song titled ‘My Petition’ from her project Beautifully Human, the prolific poetess, Jill Scott writes

‘You say you the know the way to go, and I should follow, but all of your empty promises leave me hollow’

Oh how do I trust you? How do I love you when you lie to me repeatedly and Oh How do I have faith in you when you just don’t come through like you said you would

While it is said she applicably wrote this to George Bush, it could easily be asked to the Democratic Party as well. I would ask that we challenge both as vigorously as we can.

While many of you reading this may still think I am off base, I ask that you would be critical of my decision, but not my character. Challenge my logic, but not my integrity. For while you may disagree with my ideology and more so my methods, I am doing what I believe is best for the people and communities that I have given over ten years of my life to. I simply believe that it is time for us to change the game.

Your Brother,

Jeff

Below is the initial press release from Ken Blackwell who is accused of handing Bush the election via Voter Fraud practices…

From the Ohio Republican Party’s Website: http://www.ohiogop.org/News/Read.aspx?ID=1215

BET Host and Former NAACP Official Joins Blackwell Team

Friday, August 11, 2006

Gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell today announced Black Entertainment Television (BET) host and former NAACP national youth director Jeff Johnson has joined his campaign team. Johnson will serve as the campaign’s advocate to young and urban voters.

”Jeff Johnson is one of the most influential leaders of his generation,” said Blackwell. ”I am proud he has joined my campaign team as we embark on this historic endeavor.”

”Ken Blackwell represents the very best that Ohio has to offer in this year’s gubernatorial race,” said Johnson. ”My feelings reflect the position of many within Ohio’s African American community who believe that Mr. Blackwell has a clearer vision for Ohio’s diverse Black community. I will carry the message that it is time to challenge the antiquated political alliances which have failed to include young and urban voters in their policy agenda.”

Johnson is considered the voice of a new generation of leadership. He engages viewers on issues ranging from violence to voting on BET’s ”Rap City” on Wednesdays from 5 to 6 p.m.

In addition, Johnson is the CEO of Truth Is Power, a lifestyle consulting firm in Washington D.C., and formerly served as the youth pastor at the Empowerment Temple AME Church in Baltimore, Md.

From 2000 to 2003, Johnson served as the national director of the NAACP Youth and College Division. He was responsible for more than 700 Youth Units representing over 60,000 young people.

Raised in Cleveland, Johnson attended the University of Toledo where he was the first person of color to serve as student government president.