How Wisconsin Stopped Being Wisconsin 01.28.13

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By Charles P. Pierce

Not long ago, the Republican majority in the Wisconsin state legislature passed new rules governing the behavior of the citizens who want to come to watch the state senate do things like, say, turn a huge portion of the northern part of the state into a tacomite mine. You may recall that things got a little overly democratic for Wisconsin Republicans during the last term, when citizens showed up to express their dismay at the leadership of Scott Walker, the goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to manage their midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin. So they have moved to pass new rules of deportment for their various employers who come to watch their employees in action.

Among other things, you can no longer sit quietly in the galleries of the Wisconsin legislature and use your laptop. You cannot read a book or a newspaper. And you damn sure can't make your displeasure felt. No pictures, either. So if your state rep is down there taking a check from the mining company, and then he goes dancing down the aisle waving the check over his head and screaming like a chicken, you can't film him and show it at your next community action meeting.Sit downShut up. Don't move.

This is not the way Wisconsin politics is supposed to work. Wisconsin is where loud, muscular progressive politics was born. Robert LaFollette was not civil, in the way that word is bandied about today. He had no "other hands," and he crusaded for measures that struck power from the oligarchy and made the system more responsive to the people who allegedly were in charge of it. To see this happen in Wisconsin, especially while they're debating this godawful giveawayto the extraction industries, is to see something precious dammed up at its source.

Much of the attention paid to the ongoing war on democracy taking place in the states has to do with the consequences of rigged redistricting, the finagling with the electoral college, and the fragging of organized labor. All of those are important and worthy of notice. But it is in these little things where the real damage is done. The goal is to remove ordinary citizens from the exercise of their government as far as possible, either rhetorically or, in this case, literally. It is in these little things in which citizens are made ignorant of the simple habits of self-government, of the basic autonomic instincts of democracy. Once you deaden those reflexes, the big stuff is a lot easier.

(Thanks to friend of the blog Nicole Desautels Schulte for uploading the videos.)

(UPDATE -- The videos actually were uploaded by Nicole's running buddy, Whitney Thid Steffen. Nicole passed along the tip. Sorry, ladies.)

TAGS: Scott Walker  Wisconsin



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Charles P. Pierce

Charlie has been a working journalist since 1976. He is the author of four books, most recently Idiot America. He lives near Boston with his wife but no longer his three children.


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