Well, about fucking time Christopher Hitchens had another column printed in Vanity Fair!
His latest piece deals with the ongoing effort by Governor Scott Walker and his Republican supporters to smash the public employee unions in his state of Wisconsin. Walker, as the self-exiled Democratic legislators and endless protests have demonstrated, has picked a hell of a fight for himself. The state, and in particular the capital city of Madison, as Hitchens knows from personal experience, has a tradition of vigorous progressivism that crosses party lines and stretches back far beyond the aging 60s liberals whom Walker blames for the protests:
To make a stop in Madison, either as author or speaker or both, used to be no ordinary part of a radical tour. You bumped up against a tradition that went back a good deal further than the 60s. . . .Sure, I quoted pretty extensively from it here. But you should still take a minute to read the entire article here, at the Vanity Fair website.
Madison is the home of The Progressive, a veteran monthly magazine edited by my friend Matthew Rothschild that, despite his enticing surname, struggles on yet another shoestring to uphold the tradition of one of Scott Walker’s predecessors: Robert (“Fighting Bob”) LaFollette. In a moment when the proud title of “Republican” is increasingly identified with Ron Paul, Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and even Glenn Beck, it’s a stretch to recall a time when a Republican governor from the Midwest could decide that his faction was no longer “the party of Lincoln,” and emerge as the stoutest critic of oligarchic corporations and the overweening influence of their political “donations.” Favoring a range of causes from workman’s compensation to the direct election of Senators, LaFollette left his gubernatorial post for the Senate, and represented Wisconsin in Washington from 1906 to 1925. . . . LaFollette opposed the disastrous Wilsonian intervention in the First World War and stuck up for the rights of black and native Americans. His wife, Bell Case, was a considerable force in the movement for women’s suffrage.
. . . Governor Walker, to his credit, also seems ready for a bit of class warfare. He has made it unmistakably plain that he wants not merely to outpoint the labor unions on a fiscal and budgetary tactic, but to neutralize and eventually cripple them. . . .
There are national implications to this, as President Obama has recognized in his open criticism of Walker’s union-busting. During the last presidential election, when Obama and McCain were both asked by The New York Times to name books that had influenced them, I noticed that the then-Senator from Illinois had chosen John Steinbeck. He had not, however, made the safe selection of The Grapes of Wrath . . . Instead he chose In Dubious Battle, a neglected and highly politicized novel that stars a Red union organizer in the Salinas Valley during the Depression, and climaxes with a bloody fight between workers and strike-breakers. (The title is taken from Milton’s Paradise Lost: “In dubious battle on the plains of Heaven.”)
I was startled at the time that Obama’s enemies didn’t make more of it: they probably didn’t get the reference. Another dubious battle now impends, in which a part of the Democratic Party’s traditional heart will be engaged with a part of its politically-calculating head.