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Wisconsin Becomes the Middle East, and Not a Modern One at That

Law enforcement is looking for state senators in Wisconsin. Not because of indictments or charges–the targets in question are not accused on any crimes–but because the governor and Republican Party are intent on dismantling public unions, and they need the votes of at least one Democrat to pass their bills. In the words of Paul Ryan (not exactly a friend of the left), “Cairo has moved to Madison”.

Tens of thousands of Wisconsinites have amassed at the capitol in protest, and Democratic senators have fled the state. The drama sounds more like a police state than the model democracy that many Americans see their government represent.

Labor unions have been instrumental in mass revolutions current sweeping across the Middle East, leading successful efforts in the cathartic overthrows of regimes in Tunisia and Egypt after decades of dictatorships. While Tunisians and Egyptians have gained a measure of freedom, Americans in the Midwestern state face the prospect of seeing their unions castrated, as public employees can no longer bargain collectively under the Republican bills.

Americans already lack the right to strike like the Egyptians did, as national labor laws forbid “coercive secondary actions”. If you pick strawberries for a farmer, you cannot strike to force Wal-Mart to pay higher prices for the fruits. If you work for an Oregonian logging company, you cannot strike to force your president to resign. (Teachers may have walked off the job in Wisconsin, but their union cannot declare or organize a strike without incurring massive financial damages.)

It is difficult to reconcile what Governor Walker and his party is doing with the attempts of the same party to invade other countries in “nation-building” efforts, ostensibly to spread democracy. Yet in some ways, North Africa seems to serve as a better current example than the land of the free.

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