Posted by | March 5, 2011 14:00 | Filed under: Top Stories

By James Frye

The Republicans, never to be outdone when it comes to self-delusion, thought they were on top of the world after the 2010 elections.  They’d won over 60 seats in the House, considerably knocked down the Democratic majority in the Senate, and changed the balance of governors and state legislatures in their favor.  An impressive win for them no doubt, but to paraphrase the old Broadway musical, a funny thing happened on the way to a permanent Republican majority.

Where the delusion came in is when the GOPers saw this as a complete voter rejection of Democratic policies and a huge blessing for their ideas.  They thought the voters had given them the political equivalent of James Bond’s license to kill the Democratic agenda.  So they decided to try it out.

It started out unremarkably at first.  The Republicans promised to vote to repeal the entire health insurance reform law, and in the chamber of Congress they now control that’s exactly what they did.  Even though the Senate killed that idea quickly, and even though, if passed, the president was waiting, veto pen in hand, they did as promised and without a real cost to them.

Then came the overreach in the form of the Tea Party-suppported governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker.  Just in case you’ve been living in a cave the last few months, the new governor thought it’d be a swell idea to take this opportunity to deal a final death blow to their dread enemy:  labor unions.   Wisconsin was in line to start the year with a budget surplus, so the new governor pushed through tax cuts for his wealthy supporters which created a budget deficit.  Onto whom should this blame be deflected? Who else but the state’s public employee unions!  In fact, the governor and his Republican legislature decided not only to blame the unions for what they did, but also to take this golden opportunity to try to destroy their ability to collectively bargain with the state and municipalities.

What Walker, and other Republican governors pushing similar moves, was counting on was that they’d get the usual reception to this idea:  some grumbling from the usual leftwing suspects and that’d be about it.  They’d get their way in the end, as usual.  What they weren’t prepared for was that this plan would end up being the proverbial final straw that broke the camel’s back and would kick the progressive movement back to life.

If you’re like me, you’ve read countless articles about the need for a resurgent progressive movement to battle the right and help push our president toward the left and away from the center-right.  What no one could agree on was what would do the trick, issue-wise, to get progressives off their butts and into the streets.

That was before the Republican governors handed us this gift.  Most of our issues before this were important, but remote, in terms of personal effect.  The majority of us will never see the inside of Gitmo, have the need to even consider an abortion, have our emails and other communications watched, or take a same-sex spouse.  Good issues to back, but they don’t really hit home for most of us.  Start messing with our livelihoods and what we have to put up with during work hours, and now you are affecting us on a personal level.

So, as we attend pro-union rallies in the states immediately affected, and those where it could be, let’s take a moment to give credit and thanks to the Republican Party and their new Tea Party-elected officials.  The progressive movement is back and we couldn’t have done it without them.

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Copyright 2011 Liberaland
By: James Frye

Long time progressive activist in the Pacific Northwest and self-studying student of politics