On Valentine’s Day 2011 thousands of citizens flooded the Wisconsin State House in Madison to protest union-busting budget legislation proposed by recently elected Republican Governor Scott Walker. The measure, which affects to close a $3.6 billion shortfall in the state budget, would require most state employees who are union members to contribute 5.8% of salaries toward pension costs, and an additional 12.6% toward health care premiums, and would also strip public unions of collective bargaining rights for all but basic wages. Union leaders accepted the increase in contributions, but balked at the curbs on future collective bargaining, alleging attempted union-busting.
The underlying political nature of the proposed changes is made evident by the fact that police and firemen’s unions, who typically support Republican candidates (while most other unions support Democrats), are exempted from the new collective bargaining restrictions. When questioned, Governor Walker proved evasive or incoherent on the issue of how such non-fiscal counter measures against collective bargaining can reap financial benefits for the state.
Wisconsin was the first state to allow collective bargaining by state employees, and union sentiment runs deep; protestors remained at the capitol around the clock from the first demonstrations until early March, when the bill was finally passed, except for brief expulsions for clean-ups of the public space. Averaging between 20,000 and 40,000 protestors, at times the crowds grew to as many as 100,000, chanting “Kill the Bill!” and waving pro-union or anti-Walker signs.
On February 17, 14 Democratic State Senators, frustrated by the governor’s refusal to compromise, fled the state for Illinois to deny majority Republicans the quorum necessary to pass legislation. Peevish Republicans instituted petty-minded administrative rules to punish the missing Dems, denying their staffers use of the state’s copying machines unless their Senators were present in the capitol; preventing direct deposit of Senator’s paychecks, which must now be picked up in person; and fining Senators $100 per day for the unexcused absence. State police were dispatched to forcibly return the recalcitrant Dems, but had no authority to continue their pursuit across state lines.
On February 22, Governor Walker was caught out by a prank caller purporting to be noted conservative billionaire David Koch, who had bankrolled Walker’s 2010 campaign to the tune of some $110,000; $43,000 directly and another $65,000 funneled through the Republican Governor’s Association. During the course of the conversation, Walker revealed that his true motivation in urging Democratic Senators to return for continued discussions was not a genuine desire for compromise, but a trick to regain the necessary quorum to railroad the legislation through the Senate.
In an effort to apply political pressure to the Dems, Governor Walker threatened to lay off 1500 state employees to compensate for the lost revenue if the bill was not adopted. By Wisconsin law, any budgetary measure must have a quorum of 20 Senators before an up-or-down vote, leaving the 19 Republican Senators one vote short to legally pass the Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill. Non-fiscal legislation, however, does not require the same standards, needing only a simple majority of the state’s 33 Senators. As the stalemate stretched into March, and two deadlines for layoffs had come and gone without Walker taking action or the absent Democrats showing any signs of return, the Senate stripped all fiscal measures from the bill, allowing passage on March 9 of simplified legislation which only denied the public unions their collective bargaining rights. The Wisconsin Sate Assembly followed suit on March 10, and Governor Walker signed the revised bill on March 11.
Democrats immediately filed legal challenges to the new law, and began recall efforts against eight Republican State Senators who had supported the bill. Within two weeks, organizers had obtained more than half the required signatures (which must equal 25% of the total votes cast in the last election) needed to proceed with the recall process. In retaliation, Republican organizers are also attempting to formulate recall actions against eight Democratic Senators who fled the state. By Wisconsin law, recalls can only be initiated against elected officials who have served at least one year of their first term, and the 16 targeted individuals constitute every one of the eligible legislators, an unprecedented circumstance in US history.
Admitted to the Union on 29 May 1848, the astrological chart for Wisconsin shows a clear propensity for politics to get confrontational and ugly, and politicians to become embattled, with a combination of Jupiter (politics) and Mars (conflict) at 19 and 24 Cancer. The potential volatility of the politics is demonstrated by Jupiter’s exact opposition to the Black Hole at 19 Capricorn, and Mars’ exact square to another Black Hole at 24 Aries, these deep space anomalies promoting sudden reversal, instability, and rapid deterioration of the status quo reality.
But there is a strongly progressive streak as well, as evidenced by Wisconsin being the first state to embrace unions for public workers, and represented astrologically by the close square of Uranus at 20 Aries to Jupiter. Power politics comes into focus with Pluto’s square to Jupiter/Mars from 27 Aries, while Saturn lies in trine to the pairing from 24 Pisces, representing the more conservative side of Wisconsin’s political scene. Saturn is also conjunct TNO Sedna at 26 Pisces, indicating a potential for the governor (Saturn) to become isolated (Sedna, named for an Inuit goddess who dwells in the deepest, most inaccessible part of the Arctic Ocean).
The state’s Sun at 8 Gemini opposes TNO Chaos (disorder) at 14 Sagittarius, and forms the apex of a Yod, or Finger of Destiny, with inconjuncts to asteroid Nemesis (karmic comeuppance) at 7 Capricorn and centaur Chiron (wounding, maverick behaviors) at 5 Scorpio. The Sun is also involved in a Galactic Grand Cross, conjunct a Maser (controversy, volatility) at 7 Gemini, opposed a Black Hole (altered reality, swiftly changing conditions) at 9 Sagittarius and squared another at 9 Virgo, and squared a Quasar (spotlighting, bringing attention) at 6 Pisces.
Potential fiscal difficulties are represented by Venus at 23 Taurus, conjunct an energy- and resource-sucking Black Hole at 24 Taurus, while closely sextile Saturn, which can indicate financial privation or limitation. Venus is also square to Damocles, symbolizing the doom hanging unseen overhead, at 19 Aquarius. A combination of TNO Eris and Neptune at 1 and 2 Pisces suggests a linkage between unrealistic expectations, or an inability to see the situation clearly, glossing over problems until it’s too late (Neptune), with fractious, divisive discourse calculated to produce strife and discord (Eris).
Asteroids Scott (#876) and Walker (#6372) figure prominently in the state’s nativity as well, prefiguring the current governor’s importance in Wisconsin history, with Scott at 2 Libra exactly conjunct the state’s natal Achilles (a point of congenital weakness or undoing) and tightly inconjunct natal Neptune (zealot, ideologue), more broadly trine the natal Sun. Walker at 27 Scorpio is exactly inconjunct natal Pluto, opposed natal Venus, and forming a Grand Trine with natal Mars and Saturn, well illustrating the issues of power (Pluto), money (Venus), conflict (Mars) and conservatism (Saturn) which are quickly characterizing Governor Walker’s administration.
Scott Walker himself has several illuminating ties to the astrological chart of the state he governs. Born 2 November 1967, the Sun at 9 Scorpio lies in tight inconjunct to Wisconsin’s own. The Sun conjoins Mercury at 7 Scorpio, indicating potential for protests and discussions or debates, and affirming communication skills as vital to Walker’s success. Additional solar contacts include asteroid Walker at 5 Scorpio, exactly on a spotlighting, attention-grabbing Quasar and Wisconsin’s natal Chiron (wounding); and asteroid Achilles at 1 Scorpio, indicating a potential as a spoiler, someone who brings undoing to others or points up an inherent weakness.
An astounding exact triple conjunction of Venus, Pluto and asteroid Scott at 22 Virgo signals the potential for devastation (Pluto) wrought in or on behalf of financial matters (Venus), personalized to the governor (Scott), with these points sextile the state’s Jupiter/Mars, trine Venus, and opposed Saturn. Walker’s natal Mars at 7 Capricorn is an exact match for Wisconsin’s natal Nemesis, the point of karmic undoing, while Jupiter at 2 Virgo exactly opposes the state’s Neptune/Eris, bringing confusion and strife (Neptune/Eris) to politics (Jupiter) in the Dairy State.
During the budget protests, transit asteroid Scott has been crossing the Galactic Center at 26 Sagittarius (passing from 22 Sag at its inception to 29 Sag at its end), granting Walker global notice and attention, and indicating his actions as ones of general or universal importance. The period began with Scott in exact square to Walker’s natal Venus/Pluto/Scott conjunction and ended with an exact square to transit Uranus (unrest, rebellion).
When the protests began on Valentine’s Day, a Mars/Sun pairing at 23 and 25 Aquarius lay tightly inconjunct to Wisconsin’s natal Mars (conflict, anger) at 24 Cancer and squared its Venus (fiscal issues) at 23 Taurus, while also squared Walker’s natal Neptune (zealotry, deception, disillusion) at 23 Scorpio. Pluto and Venus in the sky were linked at 6 and 11 Capricorn, straddling Walker’s Mars and the state’s Nemesis, indicating the money-and-power basis of the conflict, rooted in past actions.
By the time the crisis was given a temporary lull with the signing of the bill on March 11, transit Pluto had moved to exactly conjoin that Mars/Nemesis, with the transit Sun at 20 Pisces approaching Wisconsin’s natal Saturn (its governor) at 24 Pisces, while exactly sextile transit asteroid Walker at 20 Taurus (itself approaching the state’s natal Venus), and opposing Walker’s natal Venus/Pluto/Scott. Transit Chiron (wounding) at 2 Pisces is exactly conjunct Wisconsin’s natal Neptune (confusion, disillusion, disappointment) and exactly inconjunct its Achilles/Scott at 2 Libra. Transit Achilles (congenital weakness, point of undoing) at 6 Gemini is conjunct Wisconsin’s Sun, and forms the apex of a Yod with Walker’s natal Sun and Mars, indicating in astrological terms that this as a fated moment not only for the state, but also for the governor.
Due to Wisconsin’s recall laws, Scott Walker is not eligible for removal from office before 2012, by which time the battleground state will be embroiled in a bitter general election, with Democrats hampered by a weakened union membership. The energy will have shifted to the national stage, likely allowing Walker to retain his position, but most probably, not without a fight.