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'Egypt in America'

The Christian Science Monitor describes why Wisconsin's showdown between Governor Walker and the public sector unions may have an impact on America.

  1. The area surrounding Wisconsin has turned "red." "No region of the country was more comprehensively recast by the 2010 elections than the seven states of the upper Midwest that arc from Minnesota to Ohio. Where before Democrats had held the upper hand, Republicans now have a virtual stranglehold on politics, controlling both houses of the legislature and the governors’ chairs in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin."
  2. If Walker wins, the other public sector unions in the area will be in trouble. "Walker was the first of the Midwest’s four new Republican governors to push for weakening collective bargaining. But Ohio and Michigan already have bills targeting unions in the works, too."
  3. The fight is over strategic terrain. "If you're going to take away bargaining rights, you leave them with what?"

To those may be added a fourth factor. Politicians in Washington have made the issue national.  NPR reports that "responding to the efforts of Democrats in the nation's capital and elsewhere, including President Obama, to rally around their embattled fellow Wisconsin Democrats, House Speaker John Boehner called on the president Friday to stay out of the Badger State."

Boehner accused Obama and his political organization, Organizing For America, of trying to undermine efforts of Republican governors to cut their budgets by "inciting" protests around the nation.

That idea had already been mooted by Frances Fox Piven, who wrote in The Nation that the only way rollbacks to historic gains could be prevented was to emulate the example of rioters in Greece:

Local protests have to accumulate and spread—and become more disruptive—to create serious pressures on national politicians. An effective movement of the unemployed will have to look something like the strikes and riots that have spread across Greece in response to the austerity measures forced on the Greek government by the European Union, or like the student protests that recently spread with lightning speed across England in response to the prospect of greatly increased school fees.

But the Christian Science Monitor had another country in mind. It went so far as to suggest that Wisconsin could provide an "Egypt-like moment," in which an apparently localized incident serves as a fuse to touch off an ever-widening series of political detonations. What makes such a moment possible, according to Norman Ornstein at the AEI, is that Wisconsin is drawing forces in from both sides like a magnet. The CSM writes:

Egypt in America?

In a time when large and tense demonstrations have become increasingly rare in America, the Wisconsin protests could provide an Egypt-like moment, says Norman Ornstein, a fellow at the nonpartisan American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

"If there's a big tea party demonstration in Madison, we may see a direct clash, just as we had in the streets of Cairo," he says.

One protester's sign at the capitol said, "Impeach Scott Mubarak" – a direct reference to protests that led Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to resign last week.

As it gains momentum, the union protest movement is likely to draw in young social-justice activists, Obama supporters, and even religious groups who fight for the dispossessed, says Bruno.