It's a been a lovely couple of weeks in our recently dawned era of "new civility."
Courtesy of the internet, you can now find more videos than you'd want to see of public union supporters at demonstrations around the country spitting, screaming, punching, shoving, advocating violence, calling people who disagree with them Nazis, and engaging in other behavior your mommy would tell you isn't very nice. That doesn't even include the ones making anonymous death threats against elected officials such as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, which I suppose would be considered felonies.
Last week at the Wisconsin rally a Boston band called the Dropkick Murphys played their latest song, called "Take 'Em Down". Donning my music critic hat, I'd say they sound like the Pogues on a bad day without Bushmill's. The song is essentially a folky rant that evokes the lovely specter of union goonism in all its glory. The first line of the chorus is "we gotta take the bastards down." Yeah, whatever.
Meanwhile from the White House we have Obama commenting about all this that " I don't think it does anybody any good when public employees are denigrated or vilified or when their rights are infringed upon." My first impulse on hearing that is to say screw you, Mr. President, but I think there's much more involved here than people on either side of the issue expressing bad opinions about each other.
The White House recently let it be known that that they intend to raise more than $1 billion for Obama's 2012 re-election bid. One problem with that is that many of the people who contributed to his campaign back in 2008 aren't so happy with how things have gone since then, and many are also unemployed, making them a lot less inclined to come up with some extra cash for the Big O. The public employee unions at this point will be a vital source of funds for Obama's campaign. Now that so many new Republican governors have come into office with huge state budget deficits to eliminate, and with the cost of employees being such a large share of state spending, the power of the unions and their ability to contribute to political campaigns is being threatened. This is an intolerable situation for the White House, and they are almost openly leading the charge in favor of the unions, including VP Biden meeting with unions leaders at a conference in the White House, and the involvement of Obama's campaign wing Organizing for America in bringing out-of-state demonstrators into Wisconsin.
I can't think of any similar situation in presidential history, where a President has actually used demonstrations, disorder and sabotage of the democratic process to protect his political situation. I can remember Nixon visiting some pro-war "hardhat" demonstrators in Manhattan around 1970, but that was as far as that went. Maybe I'm going off on the deep end with this, but I think the most apt parallel in history for what the White House is up to is Chairman Mao riling up the students and Red Brigade against his own political enemies in the early part of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, which plunged China into almost ten years of chaos. That worked for a while for Chairman Mao, but not so well for China.
Clearly the larger public in the United States has had it with their governments being run by and for public employees and their political lackies, with the ever-escalating spending that comes with it. Apparently the President and his party have no trouble employing a by any means necessary approach to holding on to power. That may make them feel proud of themselves and very hopeful, but to me they're looking more and more like Napoleon the 14th. Guess what, Napoleon: we're coming to take you away.