Wednesday, June 6, 2012


There are billboards on the road from Illinois to Wisconsin inviting people from Illinois to buy cheese and adult videos. There are roadside stands in Wisconsin that exist to sell corn and apples to vacationers from Illinois. The state of Wisconsin runs television ads in Illinois enticing us to visit their magnificent plastic water parks and natural attractions. Real estate agents in Wisconsin have a lot of summer homes for sale to their neighbors to the south. Wisconsin universities recruit in Illinois. Everywhere you look in Wisconsin, they are trying get people from Illinois to spend their money there.

If you listen to people in Wisconsin, though, you get a very different picture. There is a lot of resentment towards people from Illinois. Wisconsinites get tired of having to smile at Illinoisans in order to get tips. They get tired of the idea that Chicago is the big city where things are happening and Wisconsin is a place to go when you want to get away from what is happening. They get tired of feeling inferior, just as people all over the world who depend upon the patronage of outsiders get tired of being in the role of supplicant.

It should be no wonder, then, that Wisconsinites have once again failed to respond to the masses of Illinois activists who spent the last couple of weeks going door to door and making phone calls telling them how to vote in the gubernatorial recall election. When Wisconsinites think of Illinois politics, a lot of them think of governors who go to jail. About the last thing they are going to do is vote for a Wisconsin governor based on advice they get from someone from Illinois.

There are many reasons the recall failed. One of the most important is that the recall grew out of the Wisconsin governor's attack on unions, and almost no one in Wisconsin or anywhere else in the U.S. cares about unions anymore because almost no one belongs to a union. Unions cannot resume acting as a political force unless and until they move from being a romantic memory to being able to deliver a block of votes. They have a long way to go.

Obama is being criticized for not helping get rid of the Wisconsin governor. Maybe Obama could have helped fire up the people who were working for the recall, but they were pretty fired up anyway. If Obama had entered the fray, he might well have stirred up the anti-Illinois feelings and hurt the recall effort. Obama is, after all, a politician from Illinois.

Having failed, the recall supporters are complaining about all the outside money the other side spent. It's not a very convincing argument, since the recallers themselves not only brought in outside money, they brought in outside canvassers from all over the country. It's also not a complaint that will help the recallers in their next efforts. The forces that supported the Wisconsin governor will always have more money to spend on campaigns. That is the state of capitalism and wealth in the U.S. right now. If the lesson of this election is that outside money wins, the recallers might as well give up on politics altogether, because they are doomed to always lose to a better-funded opposition.

The recall proponents will be licking their wounds today. They will be asking themselves whether they should have even tried, and what they should have done differently. Whatever conclusions they draw, the nation must hope that they do not give up. They did not choose this struggle so much as it was thrust upon them. To their credit, they resisted what they saw as injustice. Their efforts may have been unsuccessful, but they were essential. People must stand up to what they view as intolerable and work to win contests which are unwinable. The impossible dream is the one that needs to be dreamed and even to be shared by those damn people from out of state.

No comments:

Post a Comment