Scott Walker is harnessing ill will to advance his cause.
The Republican sweep in Wisconsin and across the nation propels us into a new era of right-wing triumphalism.
Scott Walker's presidential campaign starts now.
At the Overture Center on election night, Mary Burke gave a concession speech in which she quoted Vince Lombardi about getting knocked down and standing back up again.
Burke cited the enduring progressive values she championed in her campaign. The biggest applause lines came when she mentioned "women's rights to control our own bodies," collective bargaining and the minimum wage.
Over at Gov. Scott Walker's victory party in West Allis, the crowd booed these same lines as they watched Burke concede on the big screens.
The Walker supporters even booed Vince Lombardi, which, one Twitter user pointed out, shows how much Walker has divided Wisconsin.
It was telling that women's rights, collective bargaining and the minimum wage came in for particular cheering at the Burke party in Madison, and particular derision at Walker headquarters.
These are the fault lines of our national politics.
Walker won in Wisconsin despite that fact that his "divide and conquer" strategy -- stirring up resentment among nonunion workers against public employees who have health care and retirement benefits -- has not benefited the workers whose ill will toward teachers, firefighters and state workers he so successfully engaged.
He put the squeeze on those same insecure workers with his budget cuts and school privatization schemes, and with his opposition to a federal health-care expansion for the working poor and an increase in the minimum wage.
"How did this happen?" one bewildered attendee at the Mary Burke election party asked after Burke's concession speech.
The answer, in part, lies in a coordinated national strategy to advance the interests of corporations and undermine the power of workers, community institutions and democracy itself.
Part of that strategy was the millions of dollars in out-of-state money that poured into Wisconsin from right-wing billionaires like Sheldon Adelson, who dumped $650,000 into our state after U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Randa conveniently suspended Wisconsin's campaign finance law.
Part of the strategy was cooked up at the American Legislative Exchange Council, the national corporate-run policy mill that produced the laws Walker and other Republican governors pushed.
Progressives need their own strategy. Not a one-election strategy. Not another well-funded, good-looking, poll-tested candidate. But a massive grassroots organizing drive that speaks to voters' deepest concerns.
As Mike McCabe, the executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, puts it, "We have one party that's scary and another that's scared."In his book, Blue Jeans in High Places: The Coming Makeover of American Politics, McCabe explains why poor, rural voters in Clark County where he grew up either don't vote or vote against their own interests.
Democrats are simply not offering a forceful alternative to the antigovernment fervor stoked by Republicans: It's been a long time since Democrats were fiery populists, offering big ideas like rural electrification and the expansion of the University of Wisconsin System.
U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin told the crowd at Burke headquarters Tuesday night that it was time for Democrats to go on the offensive: "Tomorrow we will get to work writing the next chapter of Wisconsin's proud progressive tradition."
Ruth Conniff is the editor of The Progressive.