Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Sanders wins Wisconsin, but what does it mean?

Her horrible track record on transparency raises serious concerns for open government under a Clinton administration — so serious we believe they may disqualify her from public office. We hope Wisconsin voters give this issue the consideration it deserves when they go to the polls on Tuesday.

So wrote the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last week in an editorial endorsing Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton, yet another major newspaper (like the Seattle Times) which bucked the trend of Hillary-worship. It goes without saying that too many in the news media and voters in this country either naively disbelieve or do not care that Clinton is by the letter of the law a criminal who has escaped justice for doing far more than what her imprisoned associates were guilty of. But are Wisconsin voters so sanguine in the face of the truth? The Associated Press called the state for Sanders 45 minutes after the polls closed, but his victory was disappointingly less impressive that Donald Trump’s disastrous performance. It is just so frustrating how so many voters cannot see (or are not allowed to see by the broadcast media) the rot that lies behind Clinton’s Potemkin façade.

The Journal Sentinel also reported that exit polls appear to show that Republicans voters in the state are becoming more conservative, while Democratic voters are becoming more liberal. It is thus useful to note that the state is distinctly schizophrenic politically. German immigrants escaping the tyranny of their home country after the failed “revolutions” of 1848 (not so different from the failed “Arab Spring”) brought with them the notion of “democratic socialism”—rather than something tied to Marxist philosophy—and the strength of its adherents  could be seen in 38 years of socialist party mayors of Milwaukee between 1910 and 1960. The political and social ideology of state’s most “beloved” political figure, Robert “Fighting Bob” La Follette, who was a progressive Republican, shared much in common with socialist principles. 

But La Follette has been gone for a century, and it is ironic that La Follette’s son was defeated for reelection to the U.S. Senate by none other than Joe McCarthy, one the most infamous members of that chamber. Although in recent decades Wisconsin has generally swung Democratic in presidential elections, on a state-level Republicans have held power on a consistent basis; current governor Scott Walker has been the most regressive governors the state has seen, ever, taking direct aim at voting and labor rights, and slashing social programs and education funding. How could this happen? It is interesting to note that significantly more people voted in the state’s Republican primary than the Democratic. 

Yet for all this, despite the fact I spent nearly all of my pre-adult years in Wisconsin, I can’t say that living there shaped my political and social values (the only things of “value” that I took away from my years there is that I remained a fan of Wisconsin sports teams). It is immensely ironic to me now that maybe one reason why I had trouble making friends is that living in all-white neighborhoods and going to all-white schools is that what people saw in me was much different than what I saw in myself. It was only when I enlisted in the Army that I encountered a rather more diverse universe, and “learned” things about myself that I hadn’t realized before. 

Or at least allowed me to “understand” what came before better. Save for one instance when I was four years old, a gang of white kids held me on the ground and stuffed grass in my mouth, in the apparent belief that I was an “animal,” for the most part I can see now that for some I was an object of “sympathy” because of my “differences,” and for others a “curiosity” in their midst. Were there those who saw me as a more “sinister” presence? No doubt, but there is also no doubt the social and political climate has become far worse now than it was then. Maybe it would have been better if I had been more aware of the truth of my situation, because then I would have been better prepared to face the “adult” world.

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