Herr Gov. Scott Walker, of Wisconsin, has let the other jack-boot drop with proposals for an additional $1.6 billion in cuts to schools and local governments, an assault designed to drive the most basic public services either out of existence or towards privatization through strangulation.
The mostly white-bread state now stares at the prospect of 60-student classrooms, like the nonfunctional regime that is to be imposed on children in Detroit under a Democratic state administration.
Democratic governors in New York, California and elsewhere are no doubt reveling in the carnage wrought by their GOP brethren in America’s Uniparty system, whose depredations expand the political space for their own jihads against the public sector and its unions.
Wisconsin is, in a sense, near-ideal terrain for a showdown with the Tea Party brand of Republicanism. The actors in the drama are overwhelmingly white, putting the raw class nature of capital’s aggressions in stark relief.
With relatively few Black scapegoats to complicate the issue, white folks must confront the bare facts of the way late-stage capitalism tramples ordinary people as it careens from crisis to crisis.
Or, maybe not. White supremacy is a dynamic ideology that has always been central to the domestic functions of American Exceptionalism, distorting not just race relations but all other social relations, as well. Once the foundational N….r has been invented and given life in the public mind, with all his purported logic-bending and society-polluting defects, his characteristics can be imputed to other targeted groups – a ready-made demonization kit.
Public employees in general and teachers in particular now find themselves Ni…..rized as lazy featherbedders, no-count malingerers, fellow travelers with welfare queens and other human malignancies that must be excised so that the free market can work its wonders.
If the white masses can convince themselves that they don’t deserve to be N….rized – and that neither do Black and brown folks – then they may eventually summon the clarity of mind to defeat the two-percent minority that is systematically dismantling the public sphere. This would be something new under the American sun.
The advent of a genuinely new phenomenon, a Black U.S. president, has served to objectively strengthen the hand of raging capital by neutralizing the Black half of progressive America and obscuring the face of Wall Street’s offensive, in which Barack Obama is a key player. Left activist Ben Manski, of Wisconsin Wave, says students and other protesters don’t want Obama to intervene in the fight with Gov. Walker and the GOP legislature because of the president’s cuts in Pell Grants and a whole range of social supports.
Their instincts are good. There is every reason to believe that, if Obama were to go beyond the bromides he dispensed to governors at the White House, this week, he would tell Wisconsin’s Democratic senators, huddled in Chicago to avoid giving Republicans a quorum: "I know that you guys have been enjoying my fair city, but it’s time to go home and sit down and work things out across party lines. We must overcome partisan politics." In an instant, the solid Democratic front would collapse, and the GOP would get its quorum.
Obama has undermined public school teachers as Republican George Bush never could, elevating charterization of the nation’s public schools to national policy under a Democratic administration. As education writer Richard D. Kahlenberg pointed out in the Washington Post, last week, Obama "applauded the firing of every single unionized teacher at Central Falls High School in Rhode Island." He embraced Washington, DC’s former schools superintendent Michelle Rhee, a darling of privatizers in both wings of the American Uniparty, and hosted the anti-public education propaganda film "Waiting for Superman" at the White House.
We await the First Black President’s next capitulation to Republicans on Capital Hill – an inevitability, since he has accepted the basic premises of Wall Street rule: that budget deficits are the greatest threat to economic well-being; tax cuts to corporations are necessary for economic recovery and growth; public workers wages and rights must be curtailed (he unilaterally froze their pay for two years); and war spending, except at the margins, is inviolable.
In principle, there is no difference between corporate Democrat Obama and corporate Republicans – it is only a matter of degree. And the degrees of separation grow fewer by the day. The GOP is all but certain to win the U.S. Senate in 2012, sealing its hold on the legislative branch. We will either have a Republican in the White House or another dreadful term of Barack Obama, who will by that time have helped move the bar even farther to the Right, where his comfort zone lies.
That’s why, win or lose, the battle in Wisconsin and other looming confrontations with the triumphalist Right must produce a politics that is not tethered to Democratic Party structures. Obama-ism, rather than providing the new Democratic dispensation that delusional progressives and masses of Blacks imagined, is a straight-line path to defeat.
The Uniparty system is a corporate trap, and reliance on the ballot box, where money rules as never before, cannot possibly galvanize a direct action movement that will be the people’s only defense in a post-2012 environment. It is a time to fashion new weapons, and bring back old ones. The good news is, financial capitalism is dying. The bad news is, it wants to bring us all down with it – and is, so far, succeeding.
March 3, 2011
Glen Ford is executive editor of Black Agenda Report