Their attacks are all carefully aimed at the same critical juncture: institutions that work for people in their daily lives and in the political arena.
By Ilyse Hogue
March 1, 2011
For the past two weeks, all eyes have been glued to Madison, Wisconsin. The collective and joyful resistance to Governor Scott Walker’s power-grabbing budget bill has inspired the demoralized progressive base and put the corporate-backed assault on working people front and center in the national conversation.
But while it’s obvious that the right wing is out to break the back of the progressive movement, it’s easy to miss the strategy that guides their selection of specific targets. Their attacks are all carefully aimed at the same critical juncture: institutions that work for people in their daily lives and in the political arena, those that connect people’s personal struggles across the country to the political struggle in Washington. Once we recognize the critical role these progressive service organizations play in building progressive politics, the right’s broader strategy in Wisconsin and elsewhere becomes clear. Scott Walker is a soldier in the same army as James O’ Keefe and Lila Rose, the right-wing video pranksters who tried to smear ACORN and Planned Parenthood.
Indeed, last month’s attack on Planned Parenthood provoked a sickening sense of déjà vu. Seemingly out of nowhere, undercover activists secretly filmed an employee of a major progressive institution making embarrassing statements. The resulting video makes news and inflames the debate around federal funding of the organization’s services. It was the ACORN attack all over again [see Peter Dreier and John Atlas’s “The GOP’s Blame-ACORN Game”].
ACORN was unique as a national organization that served our nation’s poor people. Wrangling with life’s common but critical challenges like mortgages and housing forms, ACORN employees built trust by offering assistance person-to-person, neighborhood-by-neighborhood. They then leveraged that trust to lobby for federal legislation to address the root causes of the crises facing these communities—predatory lending, lack of community investment and stagnant wages.