Welcome to Walkerville


Brandon Buck

The mainstream media would have you believe Walkerville constitutes a major protest. A kind of winter protest 2.0. Using such exalted language as “thousands descend upon the Capitol” or the Capitol grounds are “flooded with protestors,” the media has consistently portrayed the Walkerville demonstration as a massive event, a grand spectacle of spontaneous democracy worthy of our highest respect and veneration.

But in fact what is most striking about the current protest is just how listless, disenchanting, tired, vacant and unemotional the whole thing is. The electricity is gone. Fatigue has set in. A general malaise hangs over the Capitol, and even the protesters themselves appear bored with their own rhetoric; at this point they are just going through the motions.

Middle of the day Tuesday approximately ten tents speckled the sun-baked sidewalks surrounding the Madison Capitol. Only ten. To be fair, city officials keep the sidewalks clear during business hours to ensure the protests do not impede local productivity, but even by 11 pm a mere twenty additional tents lined up.

Because tents flank both sides of the outdoor dining patio belonging to The Coopers Tavern, a popular bar on Mifflin Street, we wanted to find out how Walkerville was affecting business. The bartender on duty, Adam Ginsberg, a graduate of The University of Wisconsin-Madison, said that the bar remains “pretty crowded regardless [of the protest] — this is a popular place.” Ginsberg said that the protestors can sometimes “get kind of self righteous” and added that he did not understand the point of Walkerville.

“At this point, what are they really doing to further their cause,” he said.

Each night organized events are planned by various groups to highlight perceived “social injustices” perpetuated by Governor Scott Walker and other Republican state representatives. To be sure, these are not spontaneous outbursts of democratic fervor, as the mainstream media suggests. Instead, these events are obviously highly choreographed, rehearsed performances put on by representatives that are paid by the unions.

The Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice hosted a “Solidarity Sing Along,” where protestors sang historically revolutionary and subversive anthems such as, “I’m stickin’ to the Union,” “There is Power in the Union,” “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize,” and “Have You Ever Been to Jail for Justice?” The sing along began with a spiritless motley crew half-heartedly lipping the lyrics to a modified version of “We Shall Overcome”

This uncomfortable performance was followed by a mock boxing match pitting the elderly, the disabled, and healthcare professionals against individuals portraying various state representatives, like Governor Walker. The mock fight was symbolic of the general theme of the day: if you support Governor Walker and the Republicans you support killing old people and poor people.

This rhetoric aligns with the larger national narrative produced by the liberal media that the Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) budget plan and other Republican efforts to rein-in entitlement spending amounts to killing Medicare and subsequently old sick people as a result.

But this is simply not true. In fact, as Jason Stein, Patrick Marley and Lee Bergquist of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported back in March, “[Governor Walker’s budget] would provide nearly $1.3 billion more in state money over the next two years — the biggest increase in state spending — to cover fast-growing costs in Medicaid health programs for the poor.” To suggest that Republicans simply want to kill Medicaid is unfair and dishonest.

Yet the tent-dwellers continue to beat the same, tired drum. “Most individuals and families go bankrupt because of exploding healthcare bills that are impossible to pay,” a protestor who goes simply by “Fred” told Media Trackers. What is interesting is that these people can understand how individuals and families go bankrupt because of bills that are impossible to pay, but apparently do not see how the same thing happens to a state government.

Welcome to Walkerville.

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