The GOP governors of Wisconsin and Ohio have seen a ghost and are now singing a different song. The ghost is Joe Hill, the long-ago labor martyr who inspired perhaps the most "haunting" of union songs. And this old song that Governors Walker and Kasich are newly singing?
I thought I saw Joe Hill last night, alive as you and me.
Says I, "But, Joe, you're ten years dead."
"I never died," said he.
Actually, Walker and Kasich thought they had killed off ol' Joe Hill in the November 2010 elections that brought the GOP to power in Wisconsin and Ohio. But the Democrats and labor had an amazing win in Wisconsin a few weeks ago (see my earlier blog on that), successfully recalling two GOP state senators in GOP districts. This kind of thing virtually NEVER happens in elective politics! It was downright supernatural!
Joe Hill is alive and well - extremely alive and extremely well - in the Midwest. Labor is not dead nor feeble.
The media missed the significance of the Wisconsin result, instead harping on Democrats/labor not winning three seats so as to have a one-vote majority in the state senate. (They actually have a possible third vote in one GOP state senator.) But Governors Walker and Kasich understood all too well what had happened. They saw the miracle that Democrats/labor had pulled off. They saw Joe Hill's ghost, not in a dream but as their nightmare.
And so they have come, each with hat in hand, to ask labor and the Democrats for a truce. Indeed, Kasich of Ohio wants "to negotiate" with labor about modifying the union-busting law he rammed through in the early days of his administration.
Irony? Kasich wants "to negotiate" about a new law that virtually kills the unions' power to negotiate!
Walker of Wisconsin, who faces a possible recall election next year, just wants to make nice with Democrats/labor, as reported yesterday in the New York Times. Really? After sending out troopers to arrest recalcitrant Democratic state senators a few months ago?
Joe Hill has apparently scared Walker out of his few senses!
And what of the other two ghosts referred to in the title of this posting? They walk because Scary Rick Perry may be setting the stage for a repeat of what happened to JFK and Stevenson in Texas in 1963. When Scary Perry talked last week about Fed chairman Ben Bernanke being "treated ugly" if he came to Texas, old horrors arose. Remember November? November 22, 1963? Dealy Plaza? The "ugly treatment" Texas handed out that day?
"We shall bear the grief of his death until the day of our own." So wrote Adlai Stevenson of the assassination of our beloved John Fitzgerald Kennedy. And he was right. We still bear that grief. And we still wonder what the world and America might have been but for Dallas.
And we remember the "ugly treatment" Texas inflicted on Stevenson just before Kennedy was killed. Stevenson was then Kennedy's ambassador to the United Nations. Why Stevenson went to Texas that autumn of '63, I don't recall, but the images of what happened there are indelible. A mob surrounded Stevenson and spat on him and struck him with picket signs. I still see their hate-contorted faces.
Stevenson tried to warn Kennedy not to go to Dallas because of the "ugly" mood there. Some of the grief Stevenson bore after the assassination was, he later said, the remorse he felt that he hadn't been more forceful in persuading JFK to stay the hell out of Texas.
In spite of this chilling, anguished history, Scary Rick Perry is strutting the "ugly" reality of the Texas culture of guns and violence. Texas kills a lot of people. More executions than any other state by a long shot (no pun intended but it's a good one). It is also the only state - so we were taught twenty-five years ago in law school - that allows you to shoot someone in "self-defense" even if you have a reasonable and safe retreat at hand. "Shoot first and ask questions later."
Worse, Perry is saying it's okay to be "ugly" with government officials you disagree with. Sort of like those Tea Party people who spat on Democratic Congress members who were walking into the Capitol Building to vote for the health insurance reform bill back in 2009. Above them, on the balcony, GOP Congress members cheered for the spitting, fist-waving fanatics. And what about a member of Congress shot in the head in Arizona, Texas' gun-culture-sharing neighbor? Even if the shooter was insane, how did he come to pick that victim and those who were there beside her?
Please, President Obama. Don't go to Texas. Or Arizona. Or the other "shoot first" places. Let the red states gnaw on their red meat. Stay within the true blue states. Please.
And somebody tell Perry to knock it off!