Who remembers when George W. Bush was “reelected” in 2004? Despite the fact that the election was bitterly fought and despite the fact that many were questioning the legitimacy of his victory, the President called it a “mandate.” In short, each vote for George W. Bush, each vote not given to John Kerry, was a vindication of his administration’s policies of war mongering, cronyism, torture, looting of Social Security and Medicare funds, intentional government ineptitude, etc. It didn’t matter how many votes he received that November. He felt empowered. And to a point, he was right. One side effect of a democracy, even a democratic republic, especially a capitalist democratic republic, is the belief that popularity equals validation. A good number of people believe that because Fox News is the highest rated cable news network, they are the best. A good number of people believe that because McDonalds has sold trillions of Big Macs, it is the best. A good number of people believe that Walmart, by being the world’s biggest retailer, is providing a service to society. Or to give it the good old American axiom, might equals right.
Less than a year later after Bush’s reelection, Katrina happened. The American people started to wake up. Three years after the election, Bush’s policies finally came home to roost. The economy collapsed. He had stripped the government of much of its revenue. The middle class funded the biggest gambling spree in history. Wall Street lost but somehow got richer while we picked up the tab. By the time Americans got pissed, really pissed, it was too late. George W. Bush was on his way out, middle fingers flying.
The anger didn’t go away. For many, both on the right and on the left, they took it out on the next guy to take office. The right felt our problems were caused by too much government. After Bush bailed out his Wall Street buddies, it was time, they thought, to let the market sink or swim on its own merits. The last thing they needed was someone to come in and give more government money away, even if it was to the poor and needy or teachers and firefighters. Oh, and it certainly didn’t help that the new guy was black.
The left saw our problems as systemic. Our country had been taken over by the vastly wealthy whose only interest was profit. To those wealthy, the American people are simply an inconvenient tool. The cheaper the wages, the higher the profit. The fewer benefits, the higher the profit. The fewer rules, the higher the profit. The lower the taxes, the higher the profit. The elimination of the taxes paid on that profit, bingo. We have a winner. Perhaps if the windows in the limousines are tinted dark enough, they won’t have to see the degradation in the streets.
The left wanted change, and rightfully so. They thought by electing a black guy, especially one who had a very modest upbringing, they were electing someone who understood the issues facing our country. Obama campaigned on the motto of “change” and change is what they were expecting. They seemed to ignore the rest of the motto, though, which had the word, “we.” He never promised to do it alone, yet we dumped 30 years of bad policy in his lap and demanded that he fix it yesterday, without thinking that he would have to navigate his way through a system that is rigged against the American people before he could even begin to comb through the tangled oligarchy. And let’s not forget that he had Congress, most of whom, including many Democrats, were very happy being the beneficiaries of the top-heavy system.
Then came 2010. The right, still seething, was tired of government. The only people they would even consider electing into office had to share their absolute disdain for the position they were running to hold. Tragically ironic, yes, but it was the overriding theme in 2010, the election which ushered in Scott Walker. The left, out of cynicism, stayed home.
I am not a citizen of Wisconsin and if I were, I’m sure I would have wanted Walker out at any cost, as well. He’s a disastrous Governor and he’s emblematic of all that’s wrong with a corporate-run government. His is not an agenda of small government. It is an agenda of crony government, wrapped up in a teeny tiny shrunken public sector bow. I hoped with all my heart that the recall effort would work, but it didn’t and now, we will pay the price.
Like George W. Bush in 2004, Walker now feels that he has a mandate of sorts, and even worse, Republicans like him are inferring that Americans have spoken and destroying the unions, destroying education, destroying America’s infrastructures, are all just fine by us.
The GOP agenda is really quite simple. I’m sure you’ve heard of Grover Norquist’s desire to make government so small it could be drowned in a bathtub. That doesn’t mean he wants services to end. He knows that whether or not the government does it, the trash still needs to be collected. He knows that whether or not the government maintains them, Amazon.com still needs roads to transport its goods. He knows that if the government doesn’t do it, someone will, and at a profit, which again, is their singular goal.
Grover Norquist and the Republican party wants someone to profit off of every single aspect of your life. From conception to death, numerous corporations will have their hands in your pocket, for a hefty fee. Hospitals will tack on a profit on your birth. Corporations will run your schools, for a profit and with an eye on educating you toward their agenda. Companies like Monsanto will ensure that food choices are profitable and addictive, with nutrition never even entering the equation. By the time you graduate from college, you will be so far in debt that if it were another country, we would call it indentured servitude. As you grow older, the debts will mount. You’ll be pressured to buy the big house, drive the status car, keep pace with newer and only slightly better electronics. It’s the American dream. The last thing you want to do is get left behind. The last thing corporations want to do is let you spend even one day not filling their coffers. Heck, they even change laws to fill their for-profit jail cells.
Oh, but that is so 20th century. Sure everything I said above is true, but they are beyond that. The American population is tiny. On a planet of nearly seven billion people, our 300 million consumers seems rather paltry, so they turn their eyes to the rest of the world. The American people, along with the only clout that matters in a capitalist system, money, are being left in the dust.
So, what power do we have left? Most of us, as individuals, or even as groups of individuals, don’t have the kind of money that’s required to get our message out there. Up to $80 million was spent in Wisconsin this year, most of it to boost Scott Walker. It worked. A massive media campaign convinced enough voters that recall elections were an abuse. Even people who disagreed with Walker’s policies voted for Walker. Scott Walker is a wholly owned subsidiary of numerous corporate interests. It’s that simple. And now, now that Walker has in essence been reelected, he has a mandate.
It’s expected that billions will be spent in the Presidential election this year. The people who ultimately decide elections, the undecideds, are particularly susceptible to the 30 second to one minute assaults on critical thought that pollute the airwaves before any election.
Even more disconcerting than the people whose votes can be so easily swayed are those who will cede their votes. As Americans, our financial power has gone to China. The Koch brothers laugh at our boycott of Brawny paper towels. We have one power left and it is tiny, but it is the power of our vote. When you give that up, you might as well roll over and strip down…bottoms up!
We live in a huge country. You are not going to find the perfect candidate or the perfect leader. It’s not a choice of the lesser of two evils, it’s a matter of realistically assessing your priorities and ideals and choosing the candidate who you think would get us closer. You say that President Obama is a murderer? Imagine what would happen with the true neocon backed candidate, Mitt Romney. You say that Obama is in the pocket of corporations? Look and see who is getting the real corporate money and look at who is the real corporate candidate. There is a difference.
More importantly, and this can’t be stressed enough, the Supreme Court has become the most powerful branch of government. While Congress has been busy redistributing wealth through top-friendly tax code, the Supreme Court has been busy redistributing power. No matter what you say about President Obama, his record on Supreme Court nominees has been vastly superior to his predecessor’s.
The rules were made by Republicans, now we blame Obama because he has to play by those rules. If we want to change the rules, all of the players have to be changed, not just the President.
Even if you can’t “hold your nose” to vote for the President, there are many more names on the ballot. Congress has been hijacked by lobbyists and obstructionists. Help elect a new Congress. State elections matter. If Scott Walker has shown us anything, it is that a governor and state legislators can do a lot of damage. If you don’t show up in November, don’t be surprised if we get even more Scott Walkers and Rick Scotts. Municipal elections matter. My city has cut back to only four days a week. In just a few short months, it looks dirtier and more overgrown. If more Democrats had shown up to the polls in 2010, we would have funded the city for our needed services.
I’m not saying the results of the recall were because of apathy. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was stolen, but the recall happened the way it did because Scott Walker was in office in the first place. Scott Walker was in office in part because of cynical Democrats who didn’t feel like showing up in 2010. Now, at least in his mind, he’s been given carte blanche to double down on union busting and people busting.
I can see the ads now, “Scott Walker, road tested, people approved.” For some people, maybe, just knowing that other people give thumbs up to Walker’s policies are enough to give legitimacy and enough to vote to keep his policies going next time around. For others, the people who wanted Walker out, it was frustrating. It was enough to drive them out of politics altogether. Thousands of people put their hearts and souls into ousting one of the country’s worst governors and thousands of people, along with their supporters across the country, saw their dreams of democracy popped like a birthday balloon.
The media is already touting the boost of energy that the election gave to the Republicans. Fortunately, Americans have very short memories. It’s doubtful that the energy will maintain through election day, but while motivation might wane, cynicism most likely won’t. Like in Wisconsin, we will see the Dems being outspent by the Republicans by ridiculous numbers (please think about that next time you criticize Obama for taking corporate money).
If Democrats don’t show up in November, it’s likely that we will have a President Romney. We will have a President who wants to eliminate all unions. We will have a President who wants to eliminate Social Security and Medicare. We will have a President who will nominate Supreme Court justices that won’t stop at corporate personhood; they’ll grant corporate monarchy. We’ll go to war against Iran. Debtors prisons will come back and we will all be in debt. The minimum wage could be eliminated, depressing wages even further. While Barack Obama is not a perfect President, Mitt Romney will be a horrible one and if George Bush and Scott Walker have taught us anything, it is that there are no do-overs and a lot of damage can be done in a very short period of time.
The fact that Walker will remain Governor of Wisconsin is devastating to the people of Wisconsin. The fact that people seem okay with his anti-people agenda is devastating to all Americans. It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that our system doesn’t work for us, because it doesn’t. But still, it is a trap. They have half the people convinced that government doesn’t work, so they vote for people who want to destroy the government. They are working, successfully, at convincing the other half, that participation doesn’t work. Sure, they’ll make headlines by removing people from the voter rolls, but their real victory is in telling people that they can’t make a difference, so why bother and the more our apathy and anger helps propel them into office, the more they can rig the system against us making a difference.