To freely paraphrase Bruce Catton, from his description in Glory Road of the charge of the First Minnesota at Gettysburg:
…And it now suddenly seemed that the whole class war had come to a focus in this snowy heartland, with a few thousand score Midwesterners trading their livelihoods and lives for the time needed to expose the treacheries of their billionaire-backed foes to the public’s gaze and the action of the law…
In the Upper Midwest, the past few weeks have been pivotal. There are times when it seems that there are so many fights going on that one doesn’t know which ones to join, and then there are times when it becomes clear that one key fight, one key battle, has implications for the future of our nation, if not the world.
Here are just a few of the local news tidbits that have been swirling around in my head lately:
— The movers and shakers of the Republican Party of Minnesota seem to have real problems with knowing how to handle money properly. Jeff Larson, recently hired to be the chief of staff for new RNC Chair Reince Preibus, has come under fire for his odd handling of the piggy bank used to fund the 2008 Republican National Convention in Saint Paul — a piggy bank that was only finally broken last month; CityPages’ Andy Mannix and Mike Mullen have the story. And our old friend Tony Sutton, formerly of the failed taco farm for right-wing operatives, is on the hot seat for failing to pay for the RPM’s share of the costs of the statewide recount last November; this isn’t surprising to those who remember his time as RPM treasurer.
— Their lack of skill with money isn’t stopping Minnesota Republicans from trying to lecture their betters on how they should use it. Just this week, the Republicans controlling the state legislature, seeking to one-up their Wisconsin brethren in terms of brazen, arrogant, bone-stupid cruelty, sought to make it illegal for poor people to use cash. Seriously.
— Another, better thing Minnesota shares with Wisconsin: A dedicated pro-worker community. When nonviolent protesters from CTUL, a local workers’ rights group that’s been organizing people who work for cleaning contractors engaged to clean Cub, Lund’s, and Target stores, were set upon with pepper spray by security guards at a Minneapolis Cub Foods, the uproar was tremendous, so much so that even the local branches of the national corporate media couldn’t ignore it.
— And for comic relief, we have the presidential campaign of Tim Pawlenty. How pathetic is he? He’d spent years destroying Minnesota just to please the GOP base, and then Michele Bachmann waltzes in and within weeks is beating him in Gallup polls of 2012 Republican primary voters.
— Across the St. Croix River in Wisconsin, anyone who thought the battle of the bogus budget bill had ended with the botched passage of the slightly-slimmed version by a Republican Senate pretending to have stripped out all its fiscal parts beforehand, was given a signal heads-up when a Dane County judge issued a temporary restraining order keeping the newly-passed law from being published (and therefore enacted) until she could rule on whether it was legally passed. Scott Walker’s Attorney General, JB Van Hollen, is challenging the law with an argument that’s the exact opposite of what Van Hollen had passionately argued in another situation.
— “Trading their livelihoods and their lives” is no mere hyperbole: Jeri-Lynn Betts, a longtime, dedicated early childhood teacher in Watertown, Wisconsin, is believed to have taken her own life as a result of her despair over Scott Walker’s attacks on her profession; her death highlights the very real human toll of the policies of the state GOP.
— The idea that the whole class war being fought by the GOP and their billionaire backers has come to a focus in this snowy section of the country isn’t hyperbole, either: as Greg Sargent points out, the national Republicans are spending tons of money in Wisconsin using “push polls” to test out some really vicious (and extremely misleading, if not outright false) anti-union messaging.
— Which brings me to the key battle, the key focal point here in the snowy Midwest: The Wisconsin Supreme Court election battle between current Wisconsin Supreme Court justice David Prosser, a former longtime Republican state Assembly member and hardcore conservative Walker ally, and assistant attorney general JoAnn Kloppenberg, who in her life in addition to being a top-notch attorney has been a mother, a wife, a Peace Corps Volunteer in Botswana, and an ESL volunteer.
The court’s current makeup is stacked 4-3 in favor of conservative Republicans. A Kloppenberg win would shift the balance in favor of the progressives, just in time for the court to be asked to rule on the legality of the anti-collective-bargaining law passed by the Republicans in the state senate. And while Prosser’s currently pretending to be a nice little old centrist kinda guy, he’s already telegraphed his intention to be Scott Walker’s right-wing rubberstamp on bills should he keep his current gig.