In the movies, the righteous “little guy” usually prevails over the moneyed forces seeking to enrich themselves further at the expense of the public. In real life, not so much.
Today is the Wisconsin recall election. As the media has endlessly intoned, this is only the third time in American history that a sitting Governor has been subject to a recall. (The last time was in California, where we expect such shenanigans.)
Whatever else is at stake in Wisconsin, today’s election is first and foremost about the power of money. Scott Walker, the Governor, is so obviously a pawn of the plutocrats who own him body and–if he has one–soul that he barely matters. For those who’ve been hiding out on another planet (actually, a wise decision) the facts are simple: Walker narrowly won the Governor’s race, and immediately began bargaining with Wisconsin’s public-sector unions for “givebacks,” citing the state’s fiscal woes. The unions largely acceded, agreeing to wage and benefit cuts. After getting what they wanted, Walker and the GOP legislature nevertheless proceeded to strip the unions of their bargaining rights.
In the ensuing furor, it became pretty clear that this had been Walker’s game plan all along, despite the fact that his anti-bargaining position never surfaced during his campaign for office.
Walker’s hard-right ideology–fueled by huge donations by the infamous Koch brothers and other wealthy backers–hasn’t been limited to union-busting. He also signed a bill repealing Wisconsin’s equal pay law, rolling back the principle that men and women doing the same job should be paid the same wage.
In the wake of Walker’s betrayal of the unions that had bargained with him in good faith, there were weeks of demonstrations. Working women were furious at his assault on the principle of equal pay. His closest advisors are under investigation for criminal activities. A former college girlfriend has gone public with a story about how the “pro life” Walker deserted her when she got pregnant and refused to have an abortion. Wisconsin’s job numbers are dismal–dead last, according to one report.
With all this, you’d think this recall would be a slam-dunk. You’d be wrong.
I am not a fan of recalls as a policy matter, but Wisconsin law allows them, and this Governor has been a disaster for Wisconsin. Nevertheless, polls show him slightly ahead going into today’s election, and that shouldn’t surprise anyone who has followed the money trail. The wealthy backers who have actually been deciding Wisconsin’s policies have poured millions of dollars into the campaign, burying Tom Barrett, his opponent, in a blizzard of radio, television and internet ads. Campaign contributions are running 8-1 in Walker’s favor, and in our post Citizens United world, Wisconsin voters have little idea where that money is coming from.
The real question Wisconsin voters will answer today is: can money buy democracy?
This isn’t a movie, and I’m very much afraid the answer will be yes.