Dems have been faulted by conservative journalists for excessive political hyperbole in using the term “war on” in connection with GOP campaigns against unions, young voters, people of color, undocumented workers and women. Call it what you will, there shouldn’t be much doubt that Republicans are dedicated to undermining the political and citizenship rights of these groups.
Not content to wage a war on voting against pro-Democratic groups, it now appears that Republicans have declared a war on free speech as well. We had a staff post yesterday on the draconian anti-picketing bill now making it’s way through the Republican-controlled legislature in Georgia. Today DemocraticDiva Donna Gatehouse has an equally-disturbing blog, “AZ Legislature Attacks Civil Liberties” up at AFL-CIO Now. As Gatehouse explains:
…Women’s and reproductive rights groups will undoubtedly be at the state capitol to speak out against numerous shocking and intrusive anti-abortion and anti-contraception measures before the legislature this session. The GOP majority is apparently so frightened by this prospect it’s trying to make it a Class 1 misdemeanor to engage in “passive resistance.” Common nonviolent protest tactics such as going limp when the police try to remove you from an area or chaining yourself to something could get you up to a six-month month jail sentence.The deadline to introduce new bills has passed but Arizona has a maneuver, called a “striker,” that permits legislators to introduce bills beyond it. They strike out all the language in a previous bill and replace it with a new, and often totally unrelated, bill. It’s supposed to be reserved for real emergencies but it’s used for all kinds of bills, and usually to railroad them through the process with little time for public comment or debate. In this case, the “emergency” is lawmakers facing the unbearable thought of citizens calling attention to their outrageous and undemocratic agenda in the public square.
Phoenix blogger Steve Muratore reports that the “no passive resistance” bill is the idea of Rep. John Kavanagh (R-Scottsdale), who has a long background in law enforcement.
…Apparently, he testified that law enforcement officers are at risk of harm from Occupy protesters who passively resist…What harm? A hernia? Not if they lift with their knees as they’re supposed to.
Given the chance, today’s GOP would make criminals out of American heroes like Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Lewis, who tapped the power of nonviolent protest to strengthen America’s rights of free expression, freedom of assembly and free speech. During Dr. King’s lifetime, there were some Republican leaders of patriotic integrity who stepped up and took a stand in support of the first Amendment rights of protest and free speech. It appears that none who can meet that standard remain in today’s GOP.
By: J. P. Green, The Democratic Strategist, March 21, 2012
On the same day that Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-public employee law takes effect in Wisconsin, public workers in Ohio can celebrate a victory in the battle for democracy.
We Are Ohio, the group leading the effort to repeal Ohio Senate Bill 5, the anti-collective bargaining bill, delivered a record number of nearly 1.3 million signatures to the Ohio Secretary of State today, backed by a “Million Signature March” parade of more than 6,000 people, retired fire trucks, motorcycles, a drum line and bagpipes.
“This is the people’s parade,” said We Are Ohio spokesperson Melissa Fazekas in a news conference after the parade. “You are truly one in a million.”
Ohio’s Veto Referendum
Both Ohio and Wisconsin have had union-busting legislation forced on them by Governors John Kasich and Scott Walker in the name of fiscal austerity, and both states saw massive protests in response to the attacks on workers’ rights and public services. The electoral methods of recourse, however, differ between the states.
Ohio is one of 21 states that allow for veto referendums. A veto referendum is a unique mechanism that allows a new law to be placed on a ballot for voters to either ratify or reject if enough signatures are collected within the statutory timeframe.
About 231,000 valid signatures are required to put the collective bargaining law on the November ballot as a referendum. The 1,298,301 signatures were delivered in 1,502 boxes carried by a 48-foot semi-truck. The Ohio Secretary of State’s office must now sort the signatures by county, count them and distribute them to county boards of elections for validation.
According to the Toledo Blade, “Just the filing of the petitions Wednesday will keep Senate Bill 5 from taking effect on Friday as scheduled. If at least 231,149 of the signatures are determined to be valid, the law will remain on hold until the results of the election are known. If voters reject the law, it will never take effect.”
Wisconsin’s Recall Elections
In Wisconsin, six Republican state senators face recall elections over their vote to abolish public employees’ collective bargaining rights. Three Democratic state senators have also been targeted for recall, in response to their decision to leave the state during the battle that ensued over the controversial legislation. Primary elections for the recalls will take place July 12 for the Republicans and July 19 for the Democrats, with general elections following in August. If the Democrats hold onto their seats and three of the six Republicans are recalled, the state Senate will flip to a Democratic majority, loosening the Republican stronghold on the state.
While papers cannot be filed to recall Walker until January 2012, United Wisconsin, the grassroots organization behind the gubernatorial recall movement in Wisconsin currently lists 189,321 pledges for recall. To prompt a recall election, 540,206 signatures would be required.
“What we saw today in Ohio was a response of millions of people saying ‘no’ to Gov. Kasich’s agenda and standing up for bargaining rights and workers’ rights, because we don’t have the ability to remove him,” said Kris Harsh, spokesperson for Stand Up for Ohio.
Both Mechanisms from the Progressive Era
Ohio does not have a recall provision, thus the referendum drive. But both referendums and recalls are progressive tools that date back to the early 1900s. According to the Ohio Historical Society, “Progressives argued that the referendum made the American political system more democratic.” Referendums were approved as an amendment to the Ohio Constitution in 1912, and the Wisconsin Constitution was amended to allow for the recall of elected officials just one year after Robert “Fighting Bob” La Follette’s death, in 1926.
La Follette fought for progressive ideals — such as recalls and open primaries — to empower average people at a time when corporate bosses ruled the political scene. La Follette’s fight was against railroad barons and agricultural monopolies, while Ohio battled the Standard Oil Trust.
The overwhelming outpouring of people standing up for their rights and for their communities in Wisconsin and Ohio today indicate that the progressive tools given to Americans by fighters like La Follette are just as relevant and necessary now as they were more than 100 years ago.
By: Jessica Opoien, Center for Media and Democracy, June 29, 2011
Protest fatigue? Not in Wisconsin.
Three months after Governor Scott Walker proposed to strip state, county and municipal employees and public-school teachers of their collective bargaining rights, the governor’s agenda remains stymied. Legal challenges,moves to recall Republican legislators who have sided with the governor and the fear on the part of legislative leaders of mass protests have prevented implementation.
That fear is well-founded.
The Wisconsin protests have inspired similar demonstrations in states across the country, including state Capitol confrontations in Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio and, most recently, California and New York.
Yet, the energy in Wisconsin remains unmistakable, and unrelenting.
Three months to the day after the first large demonstration against Walker’s proposal, tens of thousands of Wisconsinites returned to the great square around the state Capitol and to town and village squares across the state to declare: “This Fight is NOT Over!”
“We’ve stopped Governor Walker’s plan to take away workers rights for three months — but he is not done. He has expanded his attack to seniors, college students, local schools and more. And he is still intent on ending collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin,” went the message from the Wisconsin unions and their allies — along with the “This Fight is NOT Over!” battlecry.
Saturday’s mass rally in Madison and other demonstrations came at a time when the Republican-controlled state legislature is weighing Walker’s budget proposal, which seeks to cut more than $1.5 billion from education and local services, while restructuring state government to take power away from elected school boards and local governments.
The fight inside the Capitol over the budget, and the rest of Walker’s economic, social and political agenda will be intense in coming weeks. Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt warns that Walker and allies are rushing “to ram through their right wing priorities on corporate deregulation, school privatization and voter suppression before recall elections.”
The union leader was referring to special elections, which are expected as soon as July, that will determine the control of the state Senate.
Six Republican state senators face the threat of recall elections that could remove them, while three Democratic senators are similarly threatened.
The political intensity of the moment has kept the state on high alert, as Saturday’s demonstrations illustrated.
Organizers of the Madison demonstration — the We Are Wisconsin and Wisconsin Wave coalitions — estimated that Saturday’s rally drew between 15,000 and 20,000 Wisconsinites. Smaller rallies and events were held over the weekend across the state.
The crowd in Madison extended far beyond the base of public employees and teachers to include farmers, small business owners and students.
The demonstration in Madison took place on the same day as University of Wisconsin graduation ceremonies. A number of new graduates, wearing their caps and gowns, made their way to the Capitol after collecting their degrees.
One young woman stood outside the Capitol with a large sign that read: “UW Graduate — Thanks to Wisconsin Public School Teachers!”
By: John Nichols, Washington Correspondent for The Nation: Editor, Capital Times, Madison, WI.
Former half-term Gov. Sarah Palin (R) — remember her? — headlined a conservative rally in Madison yesterday, apparently hoping to generate support for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) far-right agenda. More interesting than the message, though, was the turnout.
Attendees heard fairly predictable rhetoric. Palin, for example, insisted that Walker’s anti-union agenda is “not trying to hurt union members.” The Fox News personality also excoriated congressional Republicans for not being even more intransigent. The whole thing was organized by the Koch brother’s right-wing Americans for Prosperity, and Palin spoke behind a podium with a sign that read, “I am AFP.”
But who exactly heard all of this?
Away from the stage, the passionate arguments went right on, each side claiming the upper hand, the larger crowd, the right side of history. The police estimated a crowd — at its highest point — of about 6,500 people, though it was uncertain how many of those were Tea Party supporters and how many were there to protest. Either way, the figure was far smaller than the tens of thousands of demonstrators that had been reported around the Capitol on several days in recent months.
At the height of progressive protests in February and March, tens of thousands braved the elements to condemn the Walker agenda — and wouldn’t leave. Yesterday, Palin led a parade of odd right-wing figures, at an event paid for by powerful billionaires, and about 6,500 people showed up.
And of those 6,500, most of those in attendance were there to oppose Palin and her far-right allies, not support them.
It’s a reminder about the changing tide. When Tea Partiers organize a rally and bring one of their highest-profile stars to headline, but are nevertheless outnumbered at their own event, which suffered from poor attendance anyway, it’s not a good sign.
By: Steve Benen, Washington Monthly, Political Animal, April 16, 2011