The situation in Wisconsin has taken yet another fascinating turn, as (unionized) police officers have joined the ranks of the protesters in the Capitol. It doesn't quite have the same substantive impact as Libyan army units defecting to join the anti-government wave but it's an intriguing development nonetheless. Police are not exactly a profession that one associates with anti-government protests, obviously, and moreover some police organizations actually endorsed Walker just a few short months ago (N.B.: the media's allusion to "the police" endorsing him is incorrect – of over 300 police labor organizations in the state, four of them did). Well, I guess they're un-endorsing him now.
What changed? Even Republican elected officials aren't stupid enough to mess with law enforcement, what with all the War on Drugs, Tough on Crime rhetoric and the constant emotional appeals to our various Heroes in Uniform(s) in place of actual arguments. Indeed, Walker's various Gilded Age union-busting proposals have repeatedly and explicitly excluded police and firefighters (Heroes! 9/11! Bald Eagles shitting red-white-blue chemtrails!) Given the presumption of special treatment and the natural antagonism that exists between cops and dirty hippie protesters, why would they take the unusual step of becoming protesters themselves?
For once and once only I am going to assume that the correct answer is "Cops are not idiots."
I've written at length before on the progression of inter-class victim-blaming in this country since 1980. First they convinced the blue collars to scapegoat the Welfare Queens. Then the suburbanites scapegoated the blue collars and their cushy union factory jobs (hence NAFTA). Then the suburbanites started to cannibalize themselves: first the greedy retirees with their sweet benefits were redefined as Leeches, and now it's the teachers and public sector workforce. While Americans in general have failed to notice how this game of "Find a new scapegoat every 3 years until there's no one left with benefits or a salary over $10/hr " has progressed methodically for several decades, the cops appear to have no illusions about what is happening. They are waking up to reality: "They're going to come for us next."
Yes, they are. Though cops and firemen are left out of
the Kochs' Walker's plans for the time being, imagine that he succeeds in crushing the teachers/public sector unions now. In two years they will need a new scapegoat. It is already well established that the right wing media machine and Teabag-o-sphere can demonize anyone, so why not America's Heroes? Can you imagine a lot of salutes to the bravery of our police and fire departments followed by caveats about deficits, austerity, and "tough choices"? By the time 2013 rolls around and the public has acquiesced to the public sector being crushed, there's absolutely no reason that another manufactured budget deficit couldn't serve as an effective burning Reichstag to rally the timid, scared, angry public behind the whitest "Fuck the Police" movement ever seen.
First they came for the minorities, and I did not speak up because…