All along the countdown to the recall vote in Wisconsin to put Scott Walker, the Tea Party sweetheart governor, out of business, the lopsided outspending of the pro-Walker forces seemed to be issue one. And one shouldn’t be surprised, given the transformative capabilities of today’s social media explosion, if a particular young man’s emotionally charged denunciation of how Walker managed to keep his job, captured on CNN, becomes a lasting popular culture image. “This is the end of democracy in America,” he moaned. “They outspent us $34 million to $4 million.”
We have long felt that there is something obscenely disingenuous about this country lecturing others about following its lead in the adoption of a democratic system by which to be governed, when democracy as practiced here allows for the kind of abuse that precipitated that young idealist’s lament in Wisconsin. How much of a true spirit of democracy exists where attempts at campaign finance reform are dead in the water? Or where a right-wing majority of justices on the nation’s highest court gives license to outside interests to spend in unlimited fashion to influence the outcome of any election?
Samuel Alito, one of the high court conservatives who voted in the so-called Citizens United decision to open the campaign spending floodgates, dared to disagree with the president when he condemned that abominable ruling during his State of the Union address in 2010. Irony of ironies, Alito and his like-minded clique on the court were placed there by that element which is rabidly opposed, ostensibly, to “activist” judges. Does orchestrating what is in effect an overhaul of campaign financing suggest judicial activism in full stride, or what?
Clearly, it wasn’t already enough to those intent on tweaking this country’s democratic model, that running for elective office had become so convoluted by the money game that office holders or seekers who aren’t well endowed stand nary a chance if they haven’t the wherewithal to raise oodles of cash. Oftentimes, the gripe from Capitol Hill incumbents who opt out of reelection is that they find the ongoing demands of fundraising too obstructive to allow for the level of public service to which they subscribe. That, it would seem, was already too significantly compromising of the democratic ideal. Not quite, apparently. The Supreme Court’s avowed practitioners of “judicial restraint” are evidently not the least bothered by big money assuming central prominence in the electoral process. Wisconsin turned out to be the right place, right time for this “new deal.” The court brethren and kindred spirits on the ground had perhaps their best feel of nirvana to date in the infusion of unlimited dollars in defense of Scott Walker’s dastardly conduct toward working stiffs in Wisconsin.
Walker says that in his campaign for governor he boasted he wasn’t afraid to take “tough” decisions. One is curious as to whether a campaign promise to roll back collective bargaining rights for public sector employees would have made a difference in the election outcome when he originally ran. It requires an extraordinary degree of brazenness to proclaim that you plan, if elected, to reduce public workers’ status to pre-1930s levels. That, having done so after becoming governor, he now gets a pass to remain in office, is very worrisome, even given that mega-bucks blowout a deep-pocketed right wing inflicted on the opposition.
The right-side game plan is obvious. And with support from the likes of that regressive Supreme Court action, the hunger is intense for scaling back whatever this country has achieved by way of progressive advances in the last half century or more. The snow job being a Republican/Tea Party staple, small wonder the masterminds would go for any crafty maneuvers that seem likely to dupe poor schnooks, even when these latter, in taking the bait, act against their own best interests. Demagogic tripe about a no-tax, small-government state or about the evils of entitlements for the underclass are somehow cunningly made to seem a bonanza, not hurtful to lower-level Republican voting blocs. There’s no doubt Obama’s election four years ago has provided cover for deviousness on this order.
Talking heads analyzed to death Obama’s election in ’08. A view voiced by a few was that the historic election gave America the opportunity to expunge its collective guilt about the African American journey in this country. Which is, in our view, just a high-sounding reach for what’s not there. A confluence of factors resulted in Obama’s victory, none of which involved America consciously or unknowingly atoning for what was and still is meted out to African Americans. What’s surely beyond dispute is that a wedge of resistance to the Obama presidency has existed since it became a fait accompli. And this has found expression in hideous displays of opposition to Obama’s healthcare reform initiative; in an uncompromising Republican/Tea Party House majority; and in the kind of disrespect as that issuing from a Republican House member who would shout, “You lie” at the president during a State of the Union address. The beat has been relentless, ever since some folks awoke one morning in November of ’08 and decided the country had ranged too far off course.
The president won’t be on the ballot in Wisconsin until November. But the crushing, no-holds-barred combat engaged in by Scott Walker’s allies is fair warning that nothing less awaits in Wisconsin, as elsewhere, come Obama’s turn.