WIN IN WISCO? Six months ago, JoAnne Kloppenburg was a political unknown in Wisconsin. Six weeks ago, she was considered by everyone “in the know” to be politically unviable. But on April 6 the veteran prosecutor stunned the state by apparently upsetting senior Supreme Court Justice David Prosser. What happened? Governor Scott Walker’s antiunion push.
The governor’s attempt to break public employee unions inspired mass protests, several of which drew more than 100,000 to the Capitol Square in Madison. Right-wing politicians and talk-radio hosts dismissed the protesters as “union thugs” and “out-of-state agitators.” That was never the case. But there was always a question of whether the movement that filled the streets would pack a political punch. The nonpartisan Supreme Court contest provided a perfect test. Prosser, a former Republican legislative leader, served with Walker in the State Assembly and launched his re-election bid with a promise from his campaign that the justice would use his position to “complement” the governor’s agenda.
Kloppenburg promised to respect the rule of law and the Constitution, as opposed to the dictates coming from the governor’s office. Her low-profile, low-budget campaign grew from the protests, where marchers carried handpainted Kloppenburg signs, and became a mass movement. The election attracted nearly 1.5 million voters, with record-breaking turnouts in many areas. And after a nail-biter night, Kloppenburg declared victory with a margin of 204 votes. The result was so close that a recount is all but assured, and it will see plenty of spending and spin from the right, as the balance of power on Wisconsin’s high court is at stake. But no matter where things end up, Kloppenburg’s remarkable run proves that this movement has political muscle and knows how to flex it. JOHN NICHOLS
A GREAT SOUL PASSES ON: This magazine notes with sadness the death of Manning Marable—historian, activist, biographer, agitator, teacher and friend. Because he died on the eve of the publication of his long-awaited biography Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention (Viking), many obituaries focused on Marable’s latest work and the bitter timing of his death. His last opus is undoubtedly a great one, but so was the whole stretch of Marable’s career and life, one filled with remarkable insight, grace, intellect and passion. His mind and heart touched many lives, including at The Nation, where we have proudly published a selection of tributes to him on the Lived History section of our website.
Nation columnist Melissa Harris-Perry comments on the crucial role Marable played in building a community of African- American scholars: “As founding director of Columbia University’s Institute for Research in African-American Studies, Manning created a place where students could stretch their intellect in unconventional ways. He encouraged students to study black life using methods and asking questions that typical disciplinary boundaries so often limit and discourage in our work. His institute was a gathering place for people from all over the world who insisted on critical connections between theory and practice. Through publication of his quarterly journal, Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture and Society, Manning gave many race scholars their first academic publications. Those early publications were decisive in the careers of many of the best professors in the academy today. Through his regular column ‘Along the Color Line’ Manning gave us permission to reach beyond the walls of the academy. He reminded us that our work was about something other than our own profession and that we owed debts to the communities who were the source material of our academic writing.”