The Ballot and the Battles to Come.

Author:Lueders, Bill
Position:COMMENT
 
FREE EXCERPT

Many a political commentator is saying that the importance of the upcoming midterm elections cannot be overstated. But, of course, it can be.

The elections will serve as a national referendum on the disastrous presidency of Donald Trump and establish whether he will have a compliant or oppositional Congress in what will hopefully be his last two years--or less--in office. They feature an array of exciting new progressive contenders who champion an enlightened approach in such areas as health care, education, and the environment. And they promise to increase the number of state and local officials who will use their power to rebuke Trump's reckless impulses.

But these elections will not undo the harm that Donald Trump has already done. They will not wipe away the hatred he has stirred up against immigrants, blacks, Latinos, LGBTQ people, the judiciary, and members of the press. And they will not in themselves advance more progressive policies. These things will require continual struggle, involving much more profound commitments among progressives than just making it to the polls on November 6.

In fact, it should be acknowledged that voting represents the absolute bare minimum of involvement for citizens in a democracy. Yes, people should vote, but the greater issue is what they say and do between elections. If we are to repair the damage done to our small-d democratic institutions--not just by Trump but by years of gerrymandering and voter suppression, smash-mouth partisanship, rightwing think tanks, and corporatist court rulings--we need an active and engaged populace beyond the polls.

Still, the upcoming midterms, like all elections, will signal the mood of the electorate and set the stage for battles to come. And nowhere are the choices starker or stakes higher than in The Progressive's home state of Wisconsin.

If any U.S. politician presaged Donald Trumps divisive leadership style--the art of pitting one group of struggling citizens against another while the rich make out like bandits--it was Scott Walker. Almost immediately after taking office in 2011, Wisconsin's Republican governor, without warning, declared war on the unions representing public employees, from state workers to public school teachers, effectively ending their ability to engage in collective bargaining. He later signed into law legislation he repeatedly vowed he would not pursue to make Wisconsin a right-to-work state, kneecap-ping the state's remaining union workers.

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