Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Wisconsin Proves It

There are only three themes in politics.  There is "We the people are getting screwed!"  There is "They the rebels must be destroyed!"  And there is "Death to the invaders!"  The remedy in each case is simple: War!

You can see this dynamic perfectly illustrated in the Wisconsin Recall War that reaches a decision today, Tuesday June, 5, 2012.  The government employee unions in Wisconsin for years had obtained remarkably generous wages and benefits for their members.  They got this by tireless lobbying and campaigning, using the money extracted by payroll deductions for union dues.

But when Gov. Scott Walker (R) ran on a platform of reducing union power and then immediately began to put his program into action, the unions and their supporters were outraged.  They were determined to fight.

Of course they were.  That is what politics is all about.  It is civil war by other means, a battle for the spoils of office, the opportunity to use the power of the state to reward your political supporters and punish your political enemies.

Whenever your opponents steal a march on you then you mobilize your supporters and tell them that they have been royally screwed, that they are the people and your opponents are powerful barons intent upon destroying every good thing.  So the unions in Wisconsin mobilized their supporters with mammoth demonstrations, and Democratic state legislators attempted to intimidate the governor and Republican legislators by decamping to the neighboring state.  Then they collected petitions and demanded recall elections.

Of course, this response to a cruel world is nothing new.  It was cunningly depicted over a century ago by Anthony Trollope in Phineas Finn.  He describes the political views of Mr. Bunce, the landlord of the hero Phineas Finn.

Mr. Bunce, “a thoroughly hard-working man, doing pretty well in the world... had joined a Trade Union”.
He longed to be doing some battle against his superiors, and to be putting himself in opposition to his employers;--not that he objected personally to Messrs. Foolscap, Margin and Vellum, who always made much of him as a useful man;--but because some such antagonism would be the manly thing, and the fighting of some battle would be the right thing to do.
This is the whole point of left-wing politics: to put yourself in opposition to something: corporations, low wages, the Pentagon, the Catholic Church.  Of course, conservatives play this game too.  We rail against unions, big government, community organizers, and liberal professors.  They are communists and socialists trying to wreck the United States and American exceptionalism.

The question is: what can political action, the mobilization of "civil war by other means" really achieve in this world?  The left has always railed about the futility of war.  They were against the Cold War and are now against the War on Terror, because war never solved anything.  So far so good.  But the left is anxious to prosecute domestic moral equivalents of war, such as FDR's war on economic royalists, the War on Poverty, or conjuring up  threats like the "war on women" and the "war on gay marriage."  Of course they do.  Politics is civil war by other means.  Every political struggle is a war.

The problem with politics, of course, is that the bigger government gets the more it is likely to create victims of government force, people with a grievance about money taken from them in taxes or given to the other guy rather than to themselves.  And that just creates new causes for civil war.

Today's recall election in Wisconsin is just a battle in our ongoing "civil war by other means."  The winners will rejoice and the losers will determine to fight another day.

But humans are not just political animals, determined to contest every insult and right every wrong, even unto the death.  Humans are social animals, that cooperate for mutual benefit.  Whatever happened to that idea?

No comments:

Post a Comment