“When money doesn’t talk, it swears” – Bob Dylan
What have we learned from the failed attempt to recall Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin?
Money swears? In Wisconsin, it lobbed more F bombs than Rod Blagojevich, George Carlin and Lenny Bruce combined.
This is what America looks like now. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling opened the floodgates, unleashing right-wing sewage in the guise of millions of dollars spent on lies. Wisconsin was their test case. If they could buy Scott Walker a full term, they can buy whatever they want, including the White House and Congress.
Other Republican governors will lick their lips, seeing that they can do the same thing, lie about it and triple their donations. The only thing is that they have to deliver to their bosses. That is, the right wing donors and corporations, not the people they represent.
Bob Dylan had it right in 1965 when he wrote
“While money doesn’t talk, it swears
Obscenity, who really cares
Propaganda, all is phony”
in his song “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding).”
We’re all bleeding. American democracy was just tossed on its death bed is now is dying of exsanguination. We are no longer a nation “of the people, by the people and for the people.” America is now clearly devoted only to the wealthy and corporations.
Our Founding Fathers did not believe corporations are people and did not give them the same rights. The founders of American democracy did not equate money to free speech. Those are fictions invented by right-wing majorities on the Supreme Court.
For years, many Democrats and Republicans agreed that democracy was healthier when the influence purchased by big bucks was held in check. Republican John McCain and Democrat Russ Feingold sponsored the eponymous 2002 bill that limited the political influence of money. McCain, to his credit, learned from his mistakes. He was one of the notorious “Keating Five,” a group of senators who intervened with federal regulators to help prop up Charles Keating’s financial institutions. The collapse of Keating’s Lincoln Savings and Loan cost taxpayers $5 billion. Feingold, ironically, lost his Senate seat to a big-spending right winger.
That law was in effect until 2010, when the Supreme Court, in Citizens United, voted 5-4 that money is the same as free speech. That allowed well-funded Republicans to retake the House of Representatives and win governorships all over the country. It also let kooky billionaires single-handedly fund the campaigns of Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich for the Republican nomination even though their support among voters was minimal.
When Walker last year stripped away union collective bargaining rights, citizens in Wisconsin braved the cold Midwestern winter to protest en masse in the streets of Madison. Democratic legislators fled the state to deny Republicans a quorum. A video surfaced in which Walker told a billionaire donor that he was using “divide and conquer” tactics to bring down unions.
Nonetheless, Walker took in at least $31 million in donations to save his job, most of it from out-of-state millionaires. The recall effort had “boots on the ground” in terms of thousands of ordinary citizens knocking on doors, but the anti-Walker forces collected only $4 million, mostly from small donations inside Wisconsin.
What will the fat cats expect in return? They’ve already collected on the $10 million they donated to Walker’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign. Walker neutered union rights, cut taxes for corporations and wealthy individuals, and slashed spending on things like public education. What’s next? How will Walker repay that largesse?
The Wisconsin debacle tells Karl Rove and the Koch Brothers that if you spend enough money, you can blanket the airwaves with attack ads and people can be persuaded to vote against their own interests. It’s the “divide and conquer” Walker told his billionaire donor: let the wealthy grab all the cheese, toss out a few chunks and the mice will fight each other for the crumbs rather than go after the ones who stole all their cheese.
The right wing had already announced that they were planning to spend $1 billion in attack ads to bring down President Obama in the November elections. Wisconsin shows them that they can clear the table if they spend enough. It’s merely a business decision.
I’ve seen it all before. I lived for a decade in Latin America. That’s the way Third World countries operate. And that is precisely where Republican policies are taking the United States. They want to underfund infrastructure, education, health care and anything else that benefits everyone else, as long as they get to keep more of their money for themselves. They have no concept of the common good.
Of course, one thing the Republicans seem to forget is why so many people want to come here from the rest of the world. The Third World is great for the wealthy, who have no social responsibility, but it’s pure hell for everybody else.
John Wright is the author of “The Obama Haters: Behind the Right-Wing Campaign of Lies, Innuendo & Racism” and co-author of “Life Without Oil: Why We Must Shift to a New Energy Future.”