When I started this blog, I had just gotten back from the Women’s March in Washington D.C., an event that was mirrored in marches across the country. The activism that sprang up in response to Donald Trump’s election as president didn’t end in January 2017. People went home and got organized.
Charles Koch-funded conservatism had already been active in Wisconsin since 2011, and so had the large marches, the witty signs, and a newfound sense of solidarity for those opposed. We were already engaged in battling former governor Scott Walker’s union busting, Christian-conservative values, and environmental myopia. We had already seen how Republicans were able to weaponize their spurious attacks on Democrats. The issues they talked about were never the real issues but a cover-up for their real agenda – making sure the rich kept getting richer through tax cuts and policy favors. Any resulting problems were blamed on Democrats.
For Wisconsin, the Foxconn deal that was announced in late 2017 was one in a series of wake-up calls. The Taiwanese tech company was notorious for walking away from deals in the U.S., and even more notorious for its brutal exploitation of workers at its Chinese plants, where the company responded to a string of suicides by overworked employees by putting up nets on high-rise balconies.
Trump came for the Foxconn ground-breaking, wielding a shovel next to Koch darlings Scott Walker and then Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Under Walker’s leadership, Wisconsin had shelled out millions to widen I-94 for the 50,000 workers Foxconn promised to hire. Local bar and restaurant owners anticipated a bonanza. A few people made a killing selling farmland. And a lot of people lost their dream homes and the family farm they’d lived on all their lives because the city of Mount Pleasant declared eminent domain and seized their property.
Today, there are about 1,000 people working at the Foxconn plant, and nobody, possibly even Foxconn, knows what they actually do. But the 50,000 have not materialized, and there is no sign that they ever will.
Why had Mount Pleasant’s politicians failed residents so badly? Are local governments and municipalities simply designed to be marks? Wisconsin’s Republican legislature has done what it can to make sure they are. With constant, snarling attacks on Democrats that have become articles of belief for rural and suburban conservatives, by braying about socialism and CRT and election “fraud,” conservatives are able to guarantee that people are too distracted to see to what’s actually happening in their communities: the destruction of wetlands, seizure of public lands for private gain, and widespread pollution and depletion of natural resources.
It doesn’t help that local newspapers have largely disappeared and that the Gannett-owned Milwaukee-Journal Sentinel has made significant staff cuts. People are shockingly misinformed about what’s going on all around them. Large businesses like CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) contaminate the water supply in Kewaunee County. Large-scale potato farms drain lakes in the Central Sands region. Wisconsin is in an environmental crisis. But our leaders – especially our gerrymandered, Republican-dominated state legislature – act as though the only response called for is business-as-usual. In Wisconsin, it’s too often the case that what the big money wants, the big money gets. But opposition to far-right conservatism is growing in this state, and my hope is that my blog will serve both as a record and a resource for those who believe the people deserve a voice.