Cameron Turner

*State employees in Wisconsin and Ohio have been heroic and inspiring with their courageous mass protests against anti-union state budget bills. But while I back the protests completely, and I think President Obama’s anemic support is embarrassing and politically short-sighted, I also find myself troubled by a nagging question. Did any of the state workers who are now fighting to save their collective bargaining rights vote for the Republicans who are determined to take those rights away?

Wisconsin and Ohio went for Barack Obama in the 2008 Presidential election, but both states flipped Republican in last November’s midterm balloting.
In addition to sending Republicans to the House and Senate in Washington, voters in Wisconsin and Ohio gave the GOP control of their state governments – where the conservative steamroller is now out to crush public employee unions.

Republicans expanded their 21-12 lead in the Ohio State Senate to 23-10. Power shifted in the Ohio House from 53 Democrats vs. 46 Republicans to 40 Democrats vs. 59 Republicans. The Ohio governor’s race was a nail-biter that ended with incumbent Democrat Ted Strickland losing to GOP challenger John Kaisch by two percentage points.

Results were much more dramatic in Wisconsin. Republican governor Scott Walker – the uncompromising architect of the Badger State’s union-busting “budget repair” bill – sailed into office with 52% of the vote. Walker’s Democratic opponent, Tom Barrett, got 47%. Wisconsin voters also gave Republicans the upper hand in both houses of the state legislature. Before the November 2nd ballot, there were 50 Democrats and 45 Republicans in the Wisconsin State Assembly. On election day that changed to 38 Democrats and 60 Republicans. Democrats had an 18-15 majority in the Wisconsin State Senate before the midterm elections. But voters reversed that ratio to 19-14 in favor of the Republicans.

Union workers tend to vote Democratic, so I suspect that a lot of the folks who’ve been protesting in Ohio and Wisconsin did not cast their ballots for Republicans. But I’ll bet some of them did. Polls leading up to the November 2nd election showed that a sizable percentage of white men who supported Obama in 2008 had turned against him and were backing GOP candidates in 2010. Many of those white male voters may find themselves regretting their election day decisions now that they’ve been forced to march and sit-in at their state houses in a Quixotic battle to save rights which the Republican Party has always opposed.

You’ve probably heard the old fable about the elderly woman who took a half-frozen snake into her cottage on a wintry night and nursed it back to health. The first thing the snake did after regaining its strength was to bite the woman. As she lay on the floor dying the woman pleaded with the snake, “Why did you bite me after I saved your life?” The snake told her matter-of-factly, “You knew I was a snake.”

It seems that some voters may have been just as naïve and unrealistic as the old woman in the story. Nobody with any sense would rescue a snake and expect the animal to show gratitude. Snakes bite people. To expect them to do anything else is to be delusional. By the same token, Republicans in government give tax breaks to millionaires and reduce regulations on corporations while slashing social spending and opposing labor unions. To expect them to do anything else is to be delusional. So, like the elderly woman in the story, working class voters in Wisconsin, Ohio and elsewhere who may have voted for the GOP last November have now gotten exactly what they paid for. They should’ve known better.

WHO NEEDS THE FACTS WHEN YOU’VE GOT PREJUDICE?

*Rep. Peter King, the conservative New York Congressman who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, says he had to convene hearings on the radicalization of Muslims in the U.S. because American Muslims are not doing enough to root out potential terrorists. The facts prove otherwise, but King isn’t about to let the truth stand in the way of his public investigation.

On February 2, the Triangle Center on Homeland Security and Terrorism released a report showing that 120 plots by Islamic terrorists had been thwarted in our nation since September 11, 2001. 48 of those plots – almost one-third — were uncovered because of information and tips provided to law enforcement by American Muslims. That is clear, documented evidence that American Muslims are indeed cooperating with authorities to prevent terrorism.

But when CNN chief political correspondent Candy Crowley confronted Peter King with the Triangle Center figures last Sunday, the conservative committee chairman acted as if the numbers didn’t exist. “I don’t believe there is sufficient cooperation…Certainly my dealings with the police in New York and FBI and others say they do not believe they get the same – they do not give the level of cooperation that they need.”

The Triangle Center report contains evidence that should make us all Americans breathe more easily. It should reassure us that, despite our cultural differences, we are all Americans united against a common threat. But a lot of activists on the right have no interest in a unifying message based on the facts. So, Peter King will ignore reality and gavel in an investigative hearing that will almost certainly stir up more paranoia and prejudice among people who already think that Muslims cannot be trusted.