Over the weekend Matt Clark asked me to do a radio segment based my blog series dedicated to The Naked Communist. CLICK HERE TO READ THE LATEST. Of course I agreed even though I was traveling, specifically in the heart of labor union country–Wisconsin. It was the perfect platform personally for me to do a radio interview as I had been thinking voraciously what the cost of communism brought to America through the labor union movement had been. The evidence was very easy to see in the blue-collar towns of Wisconsin. While traveling, a woman sat next to me and told me her life story even though it was quite clear to her that I was trying to read. She complained about air travel and how cramped the seats were, even as her girth was spilling over into my side. She complained that the airline companies just wanted to make “profits” by cramming as many people into the plane as they could—that it would make more sense to have more flights per day so people didn’t have to be so cramped. She then proceeded to declare that automotive travel wasn’t any better. Modern cars broke down too often and the car companies were greedy and only wanted “profits” and they were evil. I asked her what companies were supposed to stand for if not for profit, and she said that they should stand behind the people who work for them. I asked her where she was from, and she stated proudly with a bold Wisconsin accent…………..Madison—the birthplace of the labor movement and progressive party in America. I said, ah-ha, I understand now. She smiled a bit wondering what my reference indicated. I then asked her how she felt about communism—and she went on a half hour tirade about how her father fought against it in Vietnam, and she hung an American flag from her porch every day and was happy to see the communists fail in Russia. I listened with sadness as she had no idea that the roots of her thinking were fashioned from communism, and that she was a functioning collectivist shaped by progressive Wisconsin politics over the last century. It was in this context that I gave a very animated interview from my hotel room to Matt Clark during his Saturday radio show on WAAM in Ann Arbor. Watch and listen:
Wisconsin politics during the 20th Century was shaped by Robert Marion “Fighting Bob” La Follette, Sr. (June 14, 1855 – June 18, 1925) He was an American Republican (and later a Progressive) politician. He served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, was the Governor of Wisconsin, and was also a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin (1906 to 1925). He ran for President of the United States as the nominee of his own Progressive Party in1924, carrying Wisconsin and 17% of the national popular vote.
His wife Belle Case La Follette and sons Robert M. La Follette, Jr. and Philip La Follette led his political faction in Wisconsin into the 1940s. La Follette has been called “arguably the most important and recognized leader of the opposition to the growing dominance of corporations over the Government” and is one of the key figures pointed to in Wisconsin‘s long history of political liberalism.
He is best remembered as a proponent of progressivism and a vocal opponent of railroad trusts, bossism, World War I, and the League of Nations. In 1957, a Senate Committee selected La Follette as one of the five greatest U.S. Senators, along with Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun, and Robert Taft. A 1982 survey asking historians to rank the “ten greatest Senators in the nation’s history” based on “accomplishments in office” and “long-range impact on American history,” placed La Follette first, tied with Henry Clay.Robert La Follette is one of five outstanding senators memorialized by portraits in the Senate reception room in US Capitol. One of America’s top schools for public affairs, located at the University of Wisconsin-Madison bears his name.
From 1901 until 1906, La Follette served as Governor of Wisconsin. During his first term, he proposed to set up a railroad commission, imposed an ad valorem tax on the railroad companies, and established a direct primary system. The Stalwarts blocked his agenda, and he refused to compromise with them.
During the 1904 elections, the Stalwarts organized to oppose La Follette’s nomination and moved to block any reform legislation. La Follette began working to unite insurgent Democrats to form a broad coalition. He did manage to secure the passage of the primary bill and some revision to the railroad tax structure.
When the legislative session concluded, La Follette traveled throughout Wisconsin reading the “roll call”; that is, he read the votes of Stalwart Republicans to the people in an effort to elect Progressives. During this campaign, La Follette gained national attention when muckraking journalist Lincoln Steffens began to cover his campaign.
With the press coverage and his successful re-election, La Follette rose to become a national figure. His message against “vast corporate combinations” attracted more journalists and more progressives.
As governor, La Follette championed numerous progressive reforms, including the first workers’ compensation system, railroad rate reform, direct legislation, municipal home rule, open government, the minimum wage, non-partisan elections, the open primary system, direct election of U.S. Senators, women’s suffrage, and progressive taxation. He created an atmosphere of close cooperation between the state government and the University of Wisconsin in the development of progressive policy, which became known as the Wisconsin Idea. The goals of his policy included the recall, referendum, direct primary, and initiative. All of these were aimed at giving citizens a more direct role in government. The Wisconsin Idea promoted the idea of grounding legislation on thorough research and expert involvement. To implement this program, La Follette began working with University of Wisconsin–Madison faculty. This made Wisconsin a “laboratory for democracy” and “the most important state for the development of progressive legislation”. As governor, La Follette signed legislation that created the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Library (now Bureau) to ensure that a research agency would be available for the development of legislation.
In 1911, La Follette set up a campaign to mobilize the progressive elements in the Republican Party behind his presidential bid. He made a disastrous speech in February 1912 before a gathering of leading magazine editors that caused many to doubt his stability. Most of his supporters deserted him for Theodore Roosevelt.
Embittered, La Follette opposed both Roosevelt and William Howard Taft in the 1912 election. When his former ally, Governor Francis E. McGovern, supported Roosevelt, La Follette broke with him, allowing the conservative Republicans under Emanuel Philipp to take control of Wisconsin in the decisive 1914 election. La Follette’s forces were out of power in the state from 1912 to 1920.
In 1924, the Federated Farmer-Labor Party (FF-LP) sought to nominate La Follette as its candidate. The FF-LP sought to unite all progressive parties into a single national Labor Party.
However, after a bitter convention in 1923, the Communist-controlled Workers Party gained control of the national organization’s structure. Just prior to its 1924 convention in St. Paul, La Follette denounced the Communists and refused to be considered for the FF-LP endorsement. With La Follette’s snub, the FF-LP disintegrated, leaving only the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party.
Instead, La Follette formed an independent Progressive Party and accepted its nomination in Cleveland with Democratic Senator Burton K. Wheeler of Montana as his running mate. The American Federation of Labor, the Socialist Party of America, the Conference for Progressive Political Action and most of the former supporters of the FF-LP along with various former “Bull Moose” Progressives and Midwestern Progressive movement activists then joined La Follette and supported the Progressive Party. Many who today call themselves “progressives” sincerely trace their political roots to the Progressive Parties of Teddy Roosevelt, Henry Wallace or Robert La Follette, Sr. But many others on the left nowadays call themselves “progressives” as a deceptive euphemism for more precise, less popular words that describe their real political objectives and ideology – words such as “socialist,” “Marxist,” or “Communist.” Even through La Follette denounced the communists during the 1924 convention it was only politically that he separated from them, not ideologically. He did however attract the softer version of communism to his party affiliation in the American socialists.
Wisconsin as I traveled around it emitted the classic hope of the early 20th Century progressives—vast spans of middle-class residences, labor unions, and a generally anti-corporation mentality. Socialism was everywhere, even in the Green Bay Packer paraphernalia at the airport the only NFL team that is owned by “the people,” not a corporate owner. All money earned goes back into the club.
The Packers are deeply rooted in the Wisconsin city where they were founded in 1919. They were named after a local meat processing plant, the Indian Packing Company, which paid for the first uniforms. Starting in the 1920s, the Green Bay Football Corp. made a series of public stock offerings. In 1950, 1,900 local residents each put up $25 a share to buy the team.
From the Packers’ web site:
“Green Bay Packers, Inc., has been a publicly owned, non-profit corporation since Aug. 18, 1923, when original articles of incorporation were filed with Wisconsin’s secretary of state.
A total of 4,750,937 shares are owned by 112,120 stockholders — none of whom receives any dividend on the initial investment.
The corporation is governed by a board of directors and a seven-member executive committee.
One of the more remarkable business stories in American history, the team is kept viable by its shareholders — its unselfish fans. Even more incredible, the Packers have survived during the current era, permeated by free agency and the NFL salary cap. And, thanks in large part to Brown County’s passage of the 2000 Lambeau Field referendum, the club will remain solvent and highly competitive well into the future due to its redeveloped stadium.
Fans have come to the team’s financial rescue on several occasions, including four previous stock sales: 1923, 1935, 1950 and 1997.
To protect against someone taking control of the team, the articles of incorporation prohibit any person from owning more than 200,000 shares.”
Silently, many who profess to see communism work in America look at teams like the Green Bay Packers and the progressivism of Wisconsin as hope that socialism and communism will still work. Not long after my radio interview with Matt, which became quite animated at times, I had the profound desire to return to Florida and bask in the capitalism of the Disney World complex. Wisconsin and the people there were too bleak and small-minded for me. They were friendly, but dramatically philosophically limited which was evident in gross abundance by the small town cafes and general business climate. If not for their dependence on the federal government, their social experiments into communism through the mask of progressivism would have failed long ago. Suddenly I am a massive Scott Walker fan as it gives me hope that Wisconsin residents are just now pushing away their history of communist acceptance through Robert La Follette, Sr’s progressive party. As for the woman on the plane with me, she was the kind of person that Matt and I spoke about……..her foundation beliefs were rooted in communism, only she didn’t know it. She believed falsely, just like the union brothers of Wisconsin, home of the Harley Davidson motorcycle and the dream quest of traveling to Sturgis every August on a freedom driven pilgrimage. The labor unions and collective ownership the unions, and Harley riders generally subscribe to are experiments in communism advocated by 20th Century politics implemented before the Cold War with the Soviet Union.
There was almost nothing I liked about Wisconsin. I was never so happy to board an airplane as I was upon leaving. When the wheels left the runway, and the plane moved into the sky, I could feel the oppressive pull of socialism drifting away beneath my feet. As I looked through the window down at the rows and rows of middle-class homes stacked in rows of uniformity I could have been looking down upon a small European town also infected with socialism—soft core communism. The persistence of that socialism doesn’t dissipate until just south of Chicago where Indiana is now a right-to-work state and Ohio at least outside of Cleveland still embraces capitalism. I didn’t argue with the woman, I just listened to her while trying to read my book. She was a mixed up concoction of many political ideologies given to her by years of public education, left-winged controlled media empires, and unionized neighbors who falsely believe they are American patriots just because they stick a flag on the back of their Harley Davidson motorcycle—built in Wisconsin by union workers supporting their publicly owned football team, the Green Bay Packers. Wisconsin is the result of what The Naked Communist warned about, the continued experiment into socialism at the expense of capitalism and a state I am eager to see turn away eventually from the communism of the labor movement and an embrace into the kind of capitalism that drives the rest of America. It is time to close the book on the dark days of communism in America so to save the mind of the poor people of Wisconsin from a doomed philosophy that has left them ignorantly blissful from their lowered expectations and contorted patriotism.