It's Presidents' Day, so today I'm honoring the only Pennsylvanian ever to serve in the White House, James Buchanan, by not getting very much accomplished and letting the various factions here have it out, leading eventually to all-out war. Actually, I haven't been loafing this entire time, as last night I did churn out the lead story in today's People's Paper, urging, appropriately, that workers of the world unite:
But to many involved, the Madison protests go even deeper - it's about middle-class Americans simply having a voice in a nation where politics as usual has failed to stop a massive flow of wealth over 30 years from everyday workers to CEOs, financiers and the top 1 percent.
"This is not about money - it's never been about money," one female marcher, heavily bundled against the chill of the prairie winter, told an NBC News camera on Saturday. "It's about the Republican Party trying to squash Democrats and trying to squash union rights.
Paul Krugman covered the same territory but did a much better job, which I guess is why the man has a Nobel Prize:
For what’s happening in Wisconsin isn’t about the state budget, despite Mr. Walker’s pretense that he’s just trying to be fiscally responsible. It is, instead, about power. What Mr. Walker and his backers are trying to do is to make Wisconsin — and eventually, America — less of a functioning democracy and more of a third-world-style oligarchy. And that’s why anyone who believes that we need some counterweight to the political power of big money should be on the demonstrators’ side.
The thing is, if you want to have an open, democratic debate about what role that unions should play -- if any -- in American government, then lets have that conversation (and I have a good idea of who would win). But that's not what Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is doing. He never campaigned on a platform of eliminating collective bargaining rights, and -- according to the Pulitzer Prize-winning, down-the-middle Politifact -- continues to be a "pants on fire" liar about his intentions.
Given Walker's deceit, the protesters and Democrats have had little choice but to make their case in the manner they are making it, and they are doing a great job so far. When the dust settles, America may actually be thanking us for Scott Walker, for reminding us what is really at stake in the country in 2011