The people of Wisconsin have a significant vote to make today, but the significance of the recall election reaches far beyond the provincial. To be sure, the strength and political relevance of organized labor is being tested more than at any previous time since the 1960s. The quality and tenor of political discourse is also being tested there. However, the real significance of the Wisconsin election is the most definitive answer to the questions raised by the Citizens United decision by the Republican dominated U.S. Supreme Court.
The Citizens Untied decision was met with consternation and fears by many people of all political persuasions and affiliations that it would cause the demise of our democracy and lead to a plutocracy: a country run by the wealthy, for the wealthy. In Wisconsin, Governor Walker has represented the interests of the wealthy with a legislative agenda straight out of the Koch brothers’ corporate wish list: tax relief for corporations and the rich, the destruction of unions and worker’s rights, and the destruction of any legal rights for individuals when corporations damage them.
After Walker’s recall, outside interests who have remained anonymous (another consequence of Citizens United) have poured in over $30 million dollars to get Walker re-elected. The Democratic candidate has had a total of $4 million dollars from all contributors combined. Those who argue that money doesn’t win elections are ignorant or naive. Money buys media which can define and obscure issues; it buys voter suppression campaigns and get out the vote efforts. I know, I’ve been there as the Democratic candidate for Governor in Michigan. It was an education in how money is indeed the life-blood of any large campaign, whether it is for mayor, or governor or even the local school board. It certainly has been decisive in electing judges who represent corporate rights over individual rights.
If Walker succeeds, then we will have the first, clear indication of the end of a government of the people, for the people and by the people. Maybe we should get ready to display flags with corporate logos instead of the Stars and Stripes?