Friday, July 3, 2015

On the 4th, Wisconsinites being treated like colonists in 1776

It's Independence Day weekend, and with our Governor likely to invoke images of the Founding Fathers and numerous homages to “freedom” when he officially stops skirting campaign finance laws announces his run for the presidency a week from Monday, it’s a good time to reflect on the ideas where this country's independence came from.

With that in mind, every once and awhile, it is useful to read the document that is the cause for our holiday this weekend, and realize how it is still relevant to our lives today. This seems especially true in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan here in Wisconsin. So I give you, the Declaration of Independence. I’ll start with the second paragraph – the part that many of your hear quoted on occasion, and will bold some of these passages that I find especially true in Wisconsin today.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -- That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
In other words, it takes a lot to reach this breaking point, but when it is reached, it is the people’s DUTY to make the change, and not sit back and accept what is being done to them.

“Consent of the governed” is a key phrase, because it implies that in the mind of the Founders legislators would have told the people how they intend to govern, and that people should have approved of the policies and actions that are taking place, likely through elections. Does that sound like this crew, who have governed by surprise and instituted numerous policies in this budget that they never ran on last November?

And while Jefferson may have been referring to George III in 1776, the list of “abuses and usurpations” certainly sounds a lot like what many of us see Scott Walker and his accomplices in the Wisconsin Legislature doing in 2015.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good….
This often includes the ignoring of laws if the WisGOPs don’t want to comply to them (remember how Act 10 got passed?). Also think about the recent damages that were rewarded to Capitol protestors for unconstitutional arrests, and how WisGOP Attorney Generals have wasted $1.1 million to fight against marriage equality rulings, and to file suit against EPA rules that the Koch Brothers and other big-business contributors don't like.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
Think about the state’s secretive gerrymandering and numerous examples of the overriding of local initiatives and powers. These moves have skewed the makeup of the state's legislature and laws to something that does not reflect the views of the state and local areas.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
The most recent example is the gutting of the state’s long-established open records laws last night, but it’s far from the only time Walker and his minions in the Legislature have “dropped the bomb” on numerous initiatives without warning. These last four years have featured plenty of “special” and “extraordinary” sessions to limit debate on non-pressing issues, and this budget session has seen numerous omnibus measures be introduced into the Joint Finance with no formal hearing, no public notice, and little connection to the budget items scheduled to be discussed.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people….
This "manly firmness" not only includes repressive laws against unions and women’s health rights, but it also goes back to the centralizing of power and overriding of local government, which Walker and WisGOP have done time and time again.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers….
This reminds me of how Walker and his backers have used every delay tactic in the book on John Doe, and have worked with Attorney General Brad Schimel and DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp to remove any speck of independence in the state’s enforcement divisions. The partisan crookedness of the right-wingers at the State Supreme Court and the WMC-promoted amendment to change the state's Chief Justice also fit with this description.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries….
Hi Judge Rebecca Bradley! Hi Judge Troupis! Hi Judge Biskupic!

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
This is true both in and out of government, not only with the constant centralization of power and removal of public watchdogs, but through goonery in an attempt to squelch any semblance of dissent. We first saw this in WisGOP’s smear attempt on UW Professor William Cronon during the Wisconsin Uprising after Cronon wrote an extensive article that revealed to the public just who ALEC was. It continued with Walker looking the other way while groups threatened violence and other forms of retribution against the signers of recall petitions and others who opposed Walker. Walker has also been more than OK in whipping up the racist/dead-ender part of his fan base through other “divide and conquer” means, often using his spokespersons on the public’s airwaves to do so, without those same stations airing any countering voices.

What we were dealing with in the colonies in 1776 sure seems pretty familiar in today's Wisconsin, doesn’t it? So when do we have our own revolution, and when do we dissolve our political bands with these criminals that are driving the state into the gutter, both morally and economically? Can we wait till next year, and will changing our legislators be enough to stop this assault on the state? Or does it take more, and does it need to happen sooner, with more direct action?

I’m having a hard time saying no to that last question, and I don’t think I’m alone.

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