Well, you’d think that all the lies and intentional divisiveness, the recording of his conversation with a hoax caller he thought was one of the Koch brothers, the video of him promising a big donor about his plans to divide and conquer Wisconsin by going after public employee unions as a prelude of a lunge at the jugular of a right-to-work campaign, taped just a few months before he testified before Congress that the law ending collective bargaining rights for those unions was mandated solely on budgetary grounds, would have been enough.
Or you’d think the indictments and convictions of so many former staff members from his time as county executive in Milwaukee, the ongoing state and now federal John Doe investigations precipitated by his failure to turn over documents despite claims to be fully cooperating with investigators, the campaign cash being diverted into a criminal defense fund for himself – a move that is only legal when a political figure has been informed that he is the target of a criminal investigation, would have been enough.
Or you’d think that all of it, plus the hubris, the close-set eyes with their blank reptilian gaze – you’d think any or all of it would have been enough to get the bum recalled.
But no, for a host of reasons. And now we need to look at some implications of the failure to launch a successful recall campaign against Scott Walker.
For one, and most obviously, the Tea Party base of the GOP has been energized by a healthy double-dose of victory and the Schadenfruede-and-Bile cocktail that is this wing of the polity’s favorite beverage. Tuesday night’s end-zone victory dance on Fox News is all we need to know on that score.
Walker’s resurrection will also do nothing but embolden the terrorists among our crypto-fascist uber-rich. He has proven that with enough campaign cash you can indeed piss on people and convince them it is raining. The avalanche unleashed by Citizens United, coupled with a lackluster economy, virtually guarantees us a Romney Presidency and perhaps even a GOP-controlled Congress. That’s means, among other things, at least the partial privatization of Social Security and Medicare, new initiatives to privatize the country’s national parks, forests, and waterways, and the appointment of John Roberts clones to the federal bench and Supreme Court, locking up the judicial system for Corporate America for a generation to come. It also means the elimination of what little there is of financial or environmental regulation, a Drill-Baby-Drill national energy policy and, in all likelihood, a joint attack on Iran by the U.S. and Israel, as well as further erosion of what little is left of any Constitutional rights other than the one that allows us to buy weapons pushed by the NRA.
At the state level, the consequences are likely to be equally dire. More audacious efforts to pass voter-ID and union busting right-to-work laws, privatization of public education, bills attacking women’s reproductive and fair wage rights, a rash of new, punitive legislation aimed at immigrants, and so on.
Did this have to happen? Barney Frank, who’s no dummy, thinks the recall was the wrong fight at the wrong time – a position that seemed to have been shared by the DNC, which had to be shamed into putting $500,000 into the recall campaign – by which time it was already too little, too late.
But there’s good reason to believe that it wasn’t just the supposed fecklessness of the campaign that kept the national party from supporting the recall drive. Scuttlebutt from the DNC holds that party bigwigs decided in all their cynical wisdom that it would be better, overall, for Obama’s re-election chances to keep Scottie-boy around as a poster child of everything wrong with the GOP. If so, then once again the DNC was too smart by half; Walker’s victory endangers Democratic chances come November rather than enhancing them.
There are, after all, times when from a moral as well as from a long-term strategic perspective, you have to fight even if you think you are going to lose. You have to fight not to gain victory but to establish that there are principles that must be defended or abandoned forever — no other choice. After Tuesday’s debacle, it’s going to be very difficult for the Obamamites to finally descend on Wisconsin (or Ohio or Michigan) and say to the leftists, liberals, and centrists in those states, “C’mon guys – time to give your all to re-elect the POTUS!”
The Democratic leadership’s ineptitude aside, the Walker victory also points to larger issues transcending partisan politics.
It seems no coincidence that the recall failure took place a bare five days after hearings held by Sen. Al Franken looking into harassment of patients at Fairview and North Memorial Hospitals by employees of the nationwide debt collection firm Accretive posing as hospital admissions staff. Not only did these tactics violate laws prohibiting such harassment but it appears that at North Memorial, and probably Fairview, confidential patient medical information was handed over to the firm in violation of federal laws protecting patient privacy. Accretive has been caught colluding in similar fashion with hospital administrators in other cities as well.
This may seem far removed from the Wisconsin recall elections, but I see a metaphorical connection between the two. We are living in age when, in the name of a system designed to concentrate obscene amounts of money in the hands of a very, very few while assigning everyone else to an ever shorter sliding scale ranging from economic hardship and fear at one end to abject poverty and abandonment at the other, both Scott Walker and Accretive are faces of that system with the mask ripped off.
Here in the U.S., we enjoy more autonomy (and anomie) than ever but with less real agency than at any time in our history; since World War II, popular culture has reflected the predominant unspoken fear of the time: movies about monsters born of genetic mutations spawned by nuclear radiation in the 50s; zombie movies in the 00’s and now the 0-teens. The latter should come as no surprise; with Stage-4 Capitalism approaching its inevitable climax of permanent contraction and with more and more of us slipping toward the poverty line, we are being stripped even of the faux-agency represented by “consumer choice.”
At such a time, faced with the equally faux choice represented by a partisan duopoly featuring, on the one hand, a party representing brute economic exploitation and de facto disenfranchisement and, on the other, a party representing brute economic exploitation and de facto disenfranchisement but with a human face, we should not be surprised when voters choose to align themselves with the former rather than the latter. At least voting for a Scott Walker offers the opportunity to vent the sense of impotence and inchoate rage that is overtaking the country.
A sense of impotence and inchoate rage that is now slouching like some rough beast toward the birthplace of a new and even darker era.