On a day when tens of thousands are taking to the streets in Wisconsin, The Nation‘s Madison-based reporter John Nichols joined Wisconsin Democratic State Senator Chris Larson and Madison teacher Susan Stern on Democracy Now! to talk about the protests. Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s move to take away collective bargaining rights and slash the pay and benefits of workers in Wisconsin has created a massive backlash in the state because so much is at stake for workers around the country. Nichols says the governor and his Republican allies are trying to “disempower” unions like the American Federation of State and County Muncipal Employees (AFSCME) that have been key political players in Wisconsin for a long time.

According to Nichols, rolling back collective bargaining protections has little to do with economics and everything to do with politics. The widespread outrage can be measured in the diversity of the crowds, with high school students protesting alongside older workers. “There’s simply no doubt that these Democratic state senators who really were expected to go along with the process, make some objections, be very angry about it but ultimately go along, they looked out the windows of the capital and saw these incredible, very peaceful and positive protests.” 

For more on Wisconsin’s protests as they unfold, read Nichols’s latest on-the-ground updates.

—Kevin Gosztola