A Nation Mobilized

The frothing professional pundit class doesn’t get it: The Occupy movement and related protests of the past year aren’t isolated cases, some fever dream of a disenfranchised fringe and a cabal of leftist academics and Canadian magazine publishers. Instead, these actions are the latest in a long-running battle between political/economic elites and the rest of the country. This is columnist John Nichols argument in his book Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street. In it Nichols traces the line connecting the labor rallies of the 1930s to last year’s protests in Wisconsin. When Governor Scott Walker announced a plan to eliminate public employees’ right to unionize, more than 100,000 Wisconsin public employees, including teachers and firefighters, took to the streets and the state capitol to rebuke Walker’s union-busting efforts. The action helped spark the Occupy movement, which descended on Zuccotti Park only a few months later. In Nichols’ opinion, Walker’s plan was but one incident in a larger conservative effort to eliminate unions, and the outpouring of dissent in Wisconsin and nationwide demonstrates that the nation’s perpetually put-upon workers are fed up and not willing to take it any more. Nichols is an admittedly sympathetic observer, but he brings a reporter’s rigor to his history linking these labor movements, and he makes a convincing case that an organized agenda is driving the country’s increasing class divisions.
Wed., Feb. 22, 7 p.m., 2012

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