John Nichols: A ‘hugely scary’ money power win

10 Jun

Gov. Scott Walker says that, with his victory in Tuesday’s recall election, he will “tell Wisconsin, tell our country, and we tell people all across the globe that voters really do want leaders who stand up and make the tough decisions.”

The governor’s definition of “tough” is, of course, his own.

He has a right to it. But that does not mean the rest of us must defer to the fantasy.

The work teachers do to educate our children, now that’s tough. The work nursing aides do to care for the elderly is tough. Getting up at 3 a.m. to plow a county road is tough. Running into a burning building to put out a fire is tough.

Attacking teachers, nursing aides, snowplow drivers and firefighters — and the unions that represent them — is not tough. It’s just wrong.

Forty-seven percent of Wisconsinites were mad enough about that wrong to vote last Tuesday to remove Walker as governor. Over the past year, enough Wisconsinites have been so angered by the policies of the governor and his allies that they have voted to remove three Republican state senators and shift control of the Legislature’s upper house to the Democrats. That was tough political work, and if circumstances were reversed, my conservatives friends would — with appropriate pride — be hailing the courage and conviction of a movement that defied insurmountable odds to check and balance not just a governor but an agenda.

That said, Walker’s right about the fact that his victory speaks to the state, the nation and the world.

But if that victory says nothing about toughness, what was the message?

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has a wiser assessment than Walker, who raised and spent the better part of $35 million to defend himself — and had another $15 million spent in his favor by so-called “independent” groups. The story of what happened in Wisconsin, says Sanders, is “hugely scary stuff.”

“There is,” the senator says, “an aggressiveness out there among the ruling class of this country, among the billionaires who are saying: ‘You know what? Ya, we got a whole lot now, but we want even more. And we don’t give a damn about the middle class. We don’t care about working families. We want it all. And now we can buy it.’ ”

Referring to Wisconsin as a “testing ground” for the no-limits campaign spending that has been ushered in by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, Sanders said: “I have a deep concern that what we saw in Wisconsin can happen in any state throughout this country and in the presidential election.”

“I think that people do not fully understand the disaster that Citizens United was,” Sanders said of the 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision, in a conversation with commentator Ed Schultz. “What that did is open the floodgates so that billionaires like the Koch brothers and others are now prepared to spend unbelievable sums of money to elect extreme right-wing candidates.”

Sanders is a leading supporter of amending the Constitution to ensure that all Americans — not just billionaires and corporations — have a voice in American politics.

“Right now, we are moving toward an oligarchic type of society where big money not only controls the economy — they’re going to have a very, very heavy say in who gets elected,” Sanders argues.

What Sanders describes is scary.

But, as he well notes, “grass-roots Wisconsin” mustered 47 percent of the vote in opposition to the money power. And it checked the governor by flipping control of the Senate.

“This is not the time to (throw your hands up in despair). This is not the time to do that,” he adds. “This is the time to organize for taking on all of this money.”

As usual, he is right.

Something scary happened in Wisconsin last week. Wisconsinites should, like all Americans, be frightened. But that fear cannot paralyze us.

Working people should be organizing, just as aggressively as the wealthy, to address that which scares us: an assault by what progressives have historically decried as “the money power” on nothing less than the basic underpinnings of democracy.

via John Nichols: A ‘hugely scary’ money power win.

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