Why I voted for Rick Santorum

All’alba del 4 aprile le primarie repubblicane hanno fatto registrare tre nuove vittorie per Mitt Romney, rispettivamente a Washington D.C. e negli stati di Maryland e Wisconsin. Tre conquiste dal sapore diverso, però, che vanno dal perentorio 70% dei consensi del District of Columbia, alla maggioranza relativa del 44% strappata in Wisconsin contro Rick Santorum. Proprio su quest’ultimo stato vale del resto la pena soffermare l’attenzione, perché da un paio d’anni la contesa politica interna in Wisconsin si è fatta particolarmente accesa e controversa. Dopo aver accordato una maggioranza del 56% dei voti ad Obama nelle presidenziali del 2008 e nonostante una tradizione che vuole questo stato storicamente all’avanguardia sia nelle garanzie di contrattazione sindacale, sia nelle politiche sociali, dalle elezioni governatoriali del 2010 il Wisconsin ha improvvisamente virato verso l’ala più conservatrice ed intransigente del Grand Old Party. Il cambiamento ha allarmato gran parte degli elettori democratici, soprattutto in previsione della corsa alle prossime presidenziali.

Keith Busby, Professore emerito di francese medievale presso la University of Wisconsin (Madison), è decisamente uno di questi cittadini allarmati ed irriducibili, che continuano ad interrogarsi sulle ragioni della virata conservatrice del proprio stato e sul modo di invertire la tendenza. In occasione delle primarie repubblicane in Wisconsin, il prof. Busby ha accolto con entusiasmo la nostra richiesta di collaborazione, aiutandoci a capire in che modo le questioni politiche statuali e federali possano intrecciarsi fino ad innescare comportamenti elettorali inconsueti. Il suo contributo, appassionato e personale, ma non per questo meno puntuale ed esplicativo, è un’autentica testimonianza sia dell’importanza con la quale queste primarie sono percepite, sia dell’entusiasmo che coinvolge gli elettori nella disputa.

 

On April 3, 2012, I voted for Rick Santorum. Yes, you heard me right, a dyed-in-the-wool bunny-hugging, bleeding-heart liberal, voted for Rick Santorum. In the Wisconsin Republican primary election, that is. Wisconsin has an open primary, which means that you don’t have to be registered as a member of either of the two parties to vote in its primary. Many Democrats did the same, in the vain hope that “Frothy” Santorum might win the state, further prolonging the scrap for the Republican presidential nomination. It’s called tactical voting. As it happened, my vote didn’t prevent “Mittens” Romney from carrying Wisconsin (44% to Santorum’s 37%, 11% to Ron Paul, and 6% to Newt Gingrich, 1% to the awful Michele Bachmann, 1% to Jon Huntsman, and 1% “uninstructed”). Nevertheless, 289,648 people voted for Santorum, still a horrendously high figure, which means that Santorum supporters are probably standing behind me in the supermarket check-out line every time I go shopping. Usually, I try not to think about it, although sometimes I try to identify them to amuse myself (you can tell an awful lot about people from the content of their shopping trolleys). Romney’s victory was a foregone conclusion and no-one was on the edge of their seat wondering if Santorum would pip him to the post. In fact, in the context of current Wisconsin politics, the Republican primary was little more than a momentary distraction from the real business of the gubernatorial recall, now set for June 5. Just in case you hadn’t been paying attention, let me remind you that in February and March of last year, huge demonstrations were held in Madison (the state capital) against the recently elected Governor, Scott Walker. Because both houses of the legislature were controlled by the Republicans, it was possible for Walker to make “collective bargaining” for state employees illegal, and to enact all kinds of other repressive legislation. The abuse of power through refusal to negotiate when there are no checks and balances is evident for all to see. What is most remarkable in all this, is that Wisconsin has traditionally leaned to the left and has a long “blue collar” tradition. Its long-time liberal senator in Washington, Russ Feingold (the only man to have voted against the so-called “Patriot Act”), was ousted in November 2010 by a clueless but wealthy Tea Party candidate, Ron Johnson, who is on record as having stated that global warming can be attributed to sunspots, whence his nickname of “ol’ Sunspot”. To me, he is more of a deer in the headlights, a bear of very little brain. But that’s just my view, of course. The Democratic candidate in the gubernatorial recall is likely to be Tom Barrett, Mayor of Milwaukee. Barrett was Walker’s opponent in the last election and narrowly lost. He will surely lead a more aggressive campaign this time round, as Walker will pull out all the stops to hang on to power, and after all, it’s all about power, not governance. Walker has been out of state more than he has been in Madison over the last couple of months, raising funds for the recall. He is supported by the secretive billionaire Koch Brothers and the now notorious American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC, which drafts repressive and regressive right-wing, pro-business, legislation which it then expects its puppets in state legislatures nationwide to propose and pass). My sense is that all the television advertising in the world will not help Walker as most minds are already made up. It may be a close call and the Democrat’s best chance of stopping Walker’s radical agenda may be by recalling a number of Republican senators, thereby breaking the right-wing grip on power. Those displaying “I Stand With Walker” signs in their front yards or on their car bumpers may have to be wiping egg from their faces if Walker loses. And it may not even get that far, as Walker could be snared by the federal so-called “John Doe” investigation of several of his appointees when County Executive of Milwaukee County. They are accused, among other things, of setting up a secret e-mail network in order to work for his gubernatorial campaign while they were county employees. These were not passing acquaintances of Walker, but close associates to whom he gave important jobs. It beggars belief to suggest that he did not know they were working illegally on his behalf a mere twenty-five feet from his office. Note that this is a man who left Marquette University in Milwaukee without a degree in the wake of an ethics scandal when he was running for student government. Leopards do not change their spots. And even if he was unaware of the malfeasance of his staff, his judgment of character is so appalling as to be culpable, surely rendering him unfit for public office. (By the way, did I mention I do not support Walker?) The next couple of months are going to be horrendous, with neighbour fighting neighbour, parents fighting children, in a state bitterly divided. I have ordered extra blood-pressure medication, but would really just like to go to sleep and wake up on June 6. With a new governor, of course.

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