Wednesday Roundup: On Wisconsin edition

Given the massive attack on organized labor that’s afoot in the U.S. these days, tt’s nice to see that it’s not just the Arab world out protesting in the streets.  I’ve been enormously impressed by the scenes in Madison and following news and commentary as I can.  Here are some interesting things I’ve found around the web:

  • In “Plutocracy Now,” Kevin Drum of Mother Jones has a nice, succinct historical explanation for our current situation:  “How did we get here? In the past, after all, liberal politicians did make it their business to advocate for the working and middle classes, and they worked that advocacy through the Democratic Party. But they largely stopped doing this in the ’70s, leaving the interests of corporations and the wealthy nearly unopposed. The story of how this happened is the key to understanding why the Obama era lasted less than two years.”  I’d disagree with that last sentence, in that the “Obama era” was clearly a continuation of the abandonment of labor by the Dems, who were more enamored with their “creative class” than the working class.  But Drum still presents a useful narrative for understanding why labor’s back is against the wall now.
  • Big Tent Democrat over at TalkLeft points out the obvious foolishness of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s exemption of the police and firefighters’ unions from his assault on collective bargaining rights because “he couldn’t take the risk of cops and firefighters going out on strike and allow mayhem to ensue:”  “[U]nless police and firefighters are not prohibited from striking by law (think PATCO), permitting them collective bargaining rights makes the use of a strike more likely, not less. Indeed, Walker’s argument provides stronger support for limiting the collective bargaining rights of police and firefighters than for other state employees. After all, if state employees who are not police and firefighters can strike without causing mayhem, then there is less risk in permitting them collective bargaining rights. But of course nothing Walker has said on the subject has made any sense at face value.”
  • Others have made this point already, but what do you notice, friends, about the differences in the makeup of the police and firefighters’ unions versus the public employees and teachers’ unions?  I bet it’s all just a coincidence that the targeted unions are the ones with women prominent in the membership and leadership.
  • Interested in helping the strikers in Madison?  Notorious Ph.D., Girl Scholar has some phone numbers and links so that you can buy the strikers a pizza or otherwise donate some coin.

And now, the inimitable and flaming red song stylings of one of my favorites from the 1980s, Billy Bragg:

0 thoughts on “Wednesday Roundup: On Wisconsin edition

  1. What hasn’t been mentioned as much in this drama (that I’ve noticed) is that the Republicans have been following a remarkably consistent strategy too for three (more like four) decades. Peel off strategic segments of the working middle classes electorally using cultural issues, “reward” them by stripping them of various material benefits, get some people paying small but increasing “contributions” to things like the cost of employer “provided” medical insurance, and then play to their “resentment” that other people are still not making such contributions. The original concept of unionization was to drive up wages and benefits, which often leaked out to the unorganized labor community for the “competitive” reasons Republicans love (except when they hate them) then use this to organize more segments of the working middle classes. The Nixon-to-Reagan-to-Gingrich-to-now “strip the ball” logic is exactly the opposite, and it’s worked very well for a generation. How this seam holds or doesn’t hold over the next election cycle will tell a good deal of the tale.


  2. Another place to look for interesting music clips is country music leading up to the 1970s. This is when the conservative movement co-opted/embraced country music, previously a music of outsiders and the working class. (Or, outsiders looking in at the American dream.) Nixon was the first president to visit the Grand Ole Opry, arriving after the success of “Okie Muskogee” in voicing the feelings of the silent majority. However, Carter was the one that received endorsements from Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Hank Snow, Willie Nelson, etc…

    One example would be Loretta Lynn’s “Coal Miner’s Daughter” (poverty, unions, women’s work, sacrifice). She was an exceptional defender of the value of women’s work, and an advocate for women receiving social security for work in the home. She did not understand these as fundamentally conservative issues.

    Country music’s slide to the right beginning in the late 1970s elides in a lot of ways with the Republican’s strategies since the 1970s. They found a way to voice working class values in terms of social issues, opposition to social movements in the 1960s, realigning discussions of the powerful versus the weak in terms of big government instead of the bosses in the mine, etc.

    Also, I think you’d like Patsy Montana’s “Cowboy’s Sweetheart” if you can get past the yodeling. Sadly, they’ve taken down all the original youtube versions, but this is a good version:


  3. We should not overlook in this the right wing assault on public education. The assessment obsession is a superb distraction. Development of critical thinking skills? The people’s history? No time for that, we have facts to memorize! If you don’t know what working conditions were like before the labor movement, how do you know to value unions today? If you can’t look at what’s happening in Egypt and say hey, we kind of have a cleptocracy here too, how do you know when it’s time to say enough is enough?

    wini is right on about the roots of country music though I must disagree about yodeling. (Good) Yodeling is a wonder, not something to be got past, imho.

    FWIW, my kids and I have been singing Pretty Boy Floyd a lot lately. “Now gather ’round me children, and a story I will tell…”


  4. Er, uh. Unless you’re a woman who is sexually attracted to those 50’s pinsups, the ones that (non-ironicly) emphasize tits and ass, would you please at least just reconsider using them? They’re kind of triggering for me. I realize I’m probably more sensitive to the presence of sexism much more than most het women, and your blog an all that. (And it is indeed a great blog!)

    It’s just that any image selling or glamorizing the sexual availibility of women tends to squick me out, *especially so* on a blog purporting to be feminist in orientation. Susan Brownmiller said it pretty well:

    “Perpetuation of the concept that the ‘powerful male impulse’ must be satisfied with immediacy by a cooperative class of women, set aside and expressly licensed for this purpose, is part and parcel of the mass psychology of rape.”

    Using those type of sexualized images to accent their posts seems to be a trend among feminists in general nowadays, but it’s never clear if it’s intended as irony. For instance, those pinups from the 40’s were that generation’s version of porn generated for the sexual pleasure of men. If this trend continues, in a couple years feminists will be posting images taken from today’s Hustler without bothering to analyize their own internalized Male Gaze. I’m expecting Feministing to start using that infamous meat grinder image any day now as symbol of their own liberation…

    Anyway, no offence, much love!


  5. m Andrea: no offence taken. Although I use the cute cowgirl pinups as an ironic commentary on the objectification of women, I’ve frequently wondered about the many different ways they might be read, and if my heterosexual male readership is mostly tuning in for the pinups. But, I think they’re really sexy too, and they represent a particular glamorized vision both of women and of the American west that never existed in real life.

    I guess one of the things I wonder about as I get older is the appropriateness of using them not because they’re sexualized images, but because they’re sexualized images of women who are increasingly younger than I am. Now that I’m (theoretically) old enough to be their mothers, it gives me pause. I wonder: if I continue to blog, do I want to be “using” these women when I’m in my 50s? Believe it or not, there are many Elvgren images that I won’t use because they’re really pR0n-y. The ones I use are PG-rated, while there are several out there that border on NC-17 or even X-rated. (Just go to google images and type in “Gil Elvgren,” and you’ll find them pretty fast.)

    I also wonder about the whiteness of all of these women, and the message that sends about my blog. Then again, I think as a white woman that I would probably hestitate to post a provocative image (even a drawing or painting as opposed to a photo) of a Latina or African American cowgirl because that would appear too exploitative. (They exist but they tend to be more contemporary images, some of them obviously pR0nographic. Elvgren restricted himself to images of white women, so far as I’ve seen.) Maybe that’s wrong or too delicate by half, but that’s where I am now.


  6. And, truth be told: you are the first person ever in the three years I’ve been blogging to raise this issue, and that’s rather surprising, don’t you think? (I point this out not to marginalize your opinion, but to marvel that although I wonder about it every time I put up a cowgirl, no other readers have questioned me or called me out on it!)

    At least, it’s surprising to me.


  7. Pingback: Cowgirl Up: my talk at the University of Texas : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present

  8. Pingback: Bill Cronon’s Wisconsin e-mail FOIA’d, $hitstorm ensues : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present

Let me have it!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.