The cowardly "courage" of Scott Walker

24 March 2011
Dear Scott Walker,

Against my better judgment, and definitely against my best interests, I listened to the entire speech you presented at last weekend's GOP convention in Wisconsin Dells.  And even though I shouldn't be shocked, because you really didn't say anything new (just the same old tired lies), I began to realize that there may, in fact, be a method to your madness.  Here's the part I hated most:

"Our lawmakers literally did not only take a courageous political vote, they took a courageous physical vote. They were intimidated, they were attacked, they were abused, their families got abuse you can only imagine in some third world country"

Without us, there is no cheese. Think about it. (source)
Ok, let's just stop right there. "Abuse you can only imagine in some third world country?!" Are you kidding me? First of all, you are such a blatant racist and xenophobe, trying to play up the imagined fears of your "base" by assuming that everything that happens in "some third world country" must be horrifying. And, second, you are such a liar! What "abuse?!" Are you talking about the unverified claim that someone's car got keyed? Or the threatening emails that were received by more democratic Senators than Republicans? Or are you simply referring to the rising up of the inhuman "masses" (like in that spooky, 3rd world Egypt!)?  An empty, baseless accusation that will be lapped up as fact by your empty, baseless base.  But you went on (and I'll quote this part at length so you can get the full sense of how moronic your babbling truly is when you put it down on paper. You should really get a speech writer.):
"But instead of being melted down or pulled back or somehow wavering, it made 'em stronger. It made 'em more decisive. It made 'em more focused on what was important and together we not only got that measure passed - and we're going to see it fulfilled - we're going to turn this state around and balance the budget and put more people back to work again and see a better government in this state. We're ultimately gonna prevail on July 12th and again a little bit later come the middle of August if there's a primary. We're gonna prevail. Because we have to. It's not if, it's when we prevail, because I am convinced, this isn't just about the majority in the state Senate. This isn't just about where the legislature is headed in the state of Wisconsin. This is ultimately about courage. When we had men and women in the state assembly and state senate who could have easily backed away from a vote like this, particularly when the crowds grew bigger and bigger and bigger."
Ok. Let's stop there again. The crowds are getting bigger, and it would be easy to back away, but it takes courage to stand firm. Ok, I get it. Courage. Because the big bad crowd might hurt you - not because the bigger and bigger and bigger crowds have some valid concerns that you should take into consideration. No. Taking the people into consideration is never an option in Fitzwalkerstan, is it? That goes without saying.
"When in Madison, and I remember my friend, Governor Dreyfus, once said, that 'Madison is 30 square miles surrounded by reality,' I thought that a lot over the last couple of months [spattering of laughter], for those in the Capitol it looked pretty grim. When it would have been easier to have backed off instead those lawmakers stood up and did the right thing. The right thing not only for this party but for this state and ultimately for this country, and took a courageous vote. It is an imperative that we do - not just in those areas around those Senate districts - for everyone in this room and everyone else you represent in the state not just in the Republican party but for everyone who cares about the future of our state and our country and our freedoms for you to stand up and do everything in your power to make sure we re-elect these 6 brave state Senators and have a shot at picking up at least 1 or 2 if not all 3 of those...Senate Democrat seats."  
Gag? Barf? What would Jesus do?  Also: Lee Dreyfus died in 2008. And I'd like to see some evidence that you and he were "friends." And he made this famous statement while campaigning in 1978, and  understated the size of Madison by more than half to trivialize it, like you're doing. Madison is more like an 80-odd square mile Isthmus of Reason in a Sea of Tea. Anyway, you go on:

"50 or 60 thousand people don't get to drown out the voices of 5 and a half million taxpayers who wanted to get this state working again...It is time the middle class stand up and say, 'No, we want our government back. We’re not going to have it stolen. We’re going to stand with the people and not let the protesters try to block out our courage. We stand with the middle class. We protect middle class jobs and middle class taxpayers."
So. There's the rub again. The "people" vs. "the protesters." The "taxpayers" vs the "50-60,000 people" (really? come on! at least admit that a minimum of one half of the people of Wisconsin hate you) who are making a lot of noise about nothing, because they are nothing.

And here's the method to this mad, mad, madness: it's rooted in a long history of rhetorical discourse. You're employing the exact same rhetorical strategies used to justify slavery and imperial "missions." In order to convince your supporters that your opponents are worthless thugs who do not deserve any of the "entitlements" they (allegedly) receive, you have to first convince them that we are less than human. That we don't deserve a decent life, because we don't deserve any life at all. That we are, in fact, worthless.

That is how dehumanizing people works. You use rhetoric that distinguishes between "people" and "protesters." Then, later, when you call in the National Guard to shoot at the "protesters," people will already be used to thinking of them as less than human, and they won't mind so much about them being dead. It's also how they build empires.
Your code word for the day was "courage." I lost count of how many times you used it. But the basic idea was that you wanted your supporters to summon the "courage" it will take to publicly condone your mission, your illegal  behavior, and your immoral proposals in order to win the recall elections. And I agree, that is going to take a lot of courage. Because you have to be really, really, really brave to stand in front of decent hard-working people and tell them all kinds of lies about their neighbors, teachers, nurses, and other public workers, and then expect them to start hating those people, just to pass through some legislation that will benefit the very few at the expense of the rest of us - including the vast majority of those you need to get to vote for you. So that takes a lot of courage, I agree. It takes a hell of a lot of courage to look your kid's teacher straight in the eye and say "You do not pay taxes. You do not contribute to society. I do not count you among 'the people'."  But it takes a real coward to do this in the name of the middle class.

The plot from the start has been to distinguish the protesters from taxpayers, citizens of Wisconsin, "real" workers (ie private sector workers). But it's unsustainable. Because workers' rights are human rights, and our humanity - not your greed - will prevail. Because we are taxpayers. We are citizens. We are the people. And we will not let you whittle the people's government down to one man, in the name of "small government" and "big business."


Heather DuBois Bourenane  
Wisconsin taxpayer
Remember how outraged people were when Sean Delona dehumanized Obama in this racist New York Post cartoon (published Feb. 18, 2009)?  We're still outraged. And then some.

Update 26 May 2011: 
Walker often refers to the "five and a half million taxpayers" who supposedly support him and his phony "jobs" and "tools" plan.  In this speech, he said "50 or 60 thousand people don't get to drown out the voices of 5 and a half million taxpayers who wanted to get this state working again." This figure is laughable even without analysis, since it assumes 100% of the people of Wisconsin support Walker (which, ironically, is the sort of statistical analysis one often finds in what Walker would call "third world countries") but Rebecca Kemble inspired me to do a little fact-checking on that.  According to (2009 census data), there are 5,654,774 million residents of Wisconsin. Of these, 23% are under 18 and presumably do not pay taxes (this comes out 1,300,598 kids, some of whom have jobs and pay taxes). Which leaves 4,354,176 adults, many of whom do not have jobs. Not sure how many of those are "tax payers." But even if ALL of them paid taxes, only about half support Walker, at most. So he's overestimating by approximately 3 million people. And by "overestimating" I mean lying.


  1. Update: Of course, I received the usual, useless autoreply. You can see what I think of that here:

  2. Oh my Lord above this is so stinking good. It echoes my thoughts, emotions, and wishes. Wow. Well done.

  3. So insanely well written, Heather. He makes my skin crawl. ~KD

  4. The bridges are burned and the water is teeming with piranha. Where do the Walker supporters go from here?

  5. You are exactly right about the efforts to dehumanize their enemies. We are 'public workers' or if you listen to Belling (gag) or others: crybabies, leeches or, god forbid, Liberals. It is non-stop propaganda from the reich wing, who care nothing about democracy and everything about keeping all of the power and enriching their friends and themselves.