Sunday, August 31, 2014

Milwaukee: The Great Divide

Last year, it was reported that Milwaukee was the most racially segregated urban area in the nation.

Unsurprisingly, Milwaukee is also the most politically polarized:
The area’s been politically divided for years, with urban Milwaukee County voters favoring Democrats, while suburban Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties primarily support Republican candidates. But the red-and-blue divide has grown starker in recent elections. According to Journal Sentinel analysis, only one in eight metro Milwaukee voters lived in a neighborhood decided by single digits in the 2012 presidential contest. Meanwhile, nearly six in 10 lived in a neighborhood decided by 30 points or more. Unlike in many other large metros, where voting patterns are a purple patchwork of neighborhoods and tracts, Milwaukee comprises huge monolithic blocs of deep blue (the central city) or deep red (everywhere else).

Most of this has to do with race. Milwaukee has long been one of the most racially divided cities in the nation. The present political polarization, says Milwaukee native and Boston University professor of political science Katherine Levine Einstein, “is almost entirely driven by racial segregation.” Like many other cities, many of Milwaukee’s white residents decamped to the suburbs in the 1950s and 1960s. But, as the Journal Sentinel points out, Milwaukee “hasn’t experienced a far more recent trend -- the movement of blacks and Latinos into the suburbs -- that’s changing the metropolitan landscape and making the suburbs of some large metros, such as Chicago and Detroit, more Democratic.” The racial divide is reflected in a host of other measures in Milwaukee, from education to poverty to marriage rates.
It is undeniable that racism is rampant in Milwaukee. The examples of it are endless. There is the white flight that the article mentions (and which continues today). Squawk radio is a constant source of race baiting.  It can even be seen in the parks system, with the parks in predominately white suburbs receiving more attention than those in the inner city.  And Ferguson isn't the only town in the nation where people could be killed by the police for being black.

While racism is indeed prevalent, it is hardly the only reason for the great divide in the greater Milwaukee area. Just as great of a reason is the class war that has been going on for decades and is escalating.

With the passing of Act 10, Scott Walker took $3 billion out of the state's economy.  In Milwaukee, making workers pay 12.5% of their health care premiums wasn't enough for Chris "Boss" Abele, who jacked it up all the way to 29% or Milwaukee County employees.  Fellow corporate Democrat Tom Barrett is about to do the same to city workers.

Likewise, Abele has ferociously fought against a living wage being introduced in Milwaukee County.  Before that, Barrett joined forces with MMAC to have the paid sick leave law - which was overwhelmingly voted for by the people - overturned.  Even now, both men are bragging about how they are moving freeway ramps and building skyscrapers for the elite while they are leaving the roads unrepaired and have a problem due to the number of foreclosed homes that people can't afford any more.

Fortunately, there are still heroes that are fighting for the people - whether they are black or white, rich or poor.  People like David Bowen, Randy Bryce, John Weishan and Kelly Westlund.

We can help them help us in a number of ways.  We can support them in their campaigns to get elected, we can get organized and we can vote in November.

1 comment:

  1. Milwaukee has not experienced the trend in other segregated cities where blacks and Latinos have moved into the suburbs. A shortage of family-sustaining jobs has a lot to do with it.

    I have always thought that the fight against development of public transportation like light rail to areas where more and better jobs existed was a key element in Milwaukee's version of benign neglect.

    Paul Ryan now fans the flames for this inhuman vision against government doing anything for anyone (unless they're rich). The Bradley Foundation views Milwaukee as their own political lab experiment. The Greater Milwaukee Committee promotes much of the same. For these oligarchs, the less democracy there is the greater the prospects for imposing their agenda on the people they want to rule.

    Electing people who represent your interests makes all the difference, and that requires people caring enough to vote.