Walker is best known nationally for his anti-labor legislation and for having a phone conversation with a prankster who passed himself off as multibillionaire David Koch.
During the phone conversation Walker revealed that his attempt to destroy the rights of public sector union members in Wisconsin was part of a nationwide Republican campaign against union members. Among other things, Walker said that he was talking to Ohio Governor John Kasich “every day.”
Walker also indicated that he intended to lie to the Democratic members of the Wisconsin State Senate (who were boycotting the State Senate Chamber in order to prevent the Republicans from jamming through their anti-worker legislation) in order to get them to return to the State.
Needless to say, one immediate consequence of Walker’s conversation with the fake “David Koch” was that the Wisconsin State Senators continued their boycott for a few weeks longer.
However, that phone conversation had important long-term effects as well. First, it gave the citizens of Wisconsin a behind the scenes look at a politician who was planning to lie as a matter of course. Second, and more importantly, it showed that Walker was simply one of a number of extremist Republican governors (including Governors Snyder of Michigan, Scott of Florida and Kasich of Ohio) who are so obligated to the moneyed interests in general and the Koch brothers in particular that they ignore the will of the people.
It seems that the spectacle of the Governor of Wisconsin taking orders over the phone from a fake billionaire has incensed enough of the citizens of Wisconsin to start a recall petition drive.
In order to force a recall election, 540,000 signatures must be collected in 60 days. After 12 days, 300,000 signatures have been collected. At this rate 1.5 million signatures will be collected, nearly three times the number needed.
Polls indicate that Walker would lose a recall election at this point in time. Accordingly, the Koch brothers and other multibillionaire friends of Walker are financing a television ad blitz to try to save Walker’s career. Many Wisconsinites are angered by the Walker ads on the grounds that they insult the intelligence of the people of Wisconsin. I’m not so sure that these ads deserve to be singled out, because for the past 20 years all Republican ads have insulted the intelligence of anyone who has been paying attention.
The moneyed interests have been increasing their influence over the direction of our country for the past 40 years, and have had control over every major policy decision that has been made in the last 20 years.
One of the many tactics they use is to try to divide the working class against itself. It reminds me of the story of a corporate CEO, a union bricklayer, and a sales clerk who sit down at a table. In the middle of the table is a plate with 12 cookies on it. The CEO takes eleven of the cookies and then turns to the sales clerk and says, “You better watch that union guy, he’s planning to take your cookie.”
There is nothing new about the tactic of trying to divide the working class against itself. In the 1890’s financier Jay Gould (one of the “robber barons”) boasted that he would “get one half of the working class to kill the other half.”
The defeat of Issue 2 in Ohio has been the first major victory of the people over the moneyed interests that I can remember in over a decade. The protests against the thieves on Wall Street are the largest demonstrations since the demonstrations against the war in Iraq. For the first time since the 1930’s populism is stirring in America. Not coincidently, the last time that we had such a concentration of wealth in so few hands and such tremendous disparity of income was 1929.
The barons of finance are not concerned about the fact that according to every poll, large majorities of the American people disapprove of them. There was a story a few weeks ago that described how some traders in Chicago dumped McDonalds’ applications out of their windows onto some demonstrators below. Such arrogance is typical of the moneyed elite, and goes a long way towards explaining the ads that insult the intelligence of the viewer. This arrogance also might explain why the elites seem to be oblivious to the increasing anger of ordinary Americans.
If the citizens of Wisconsin recall Walker, it may provide the momentum for a populist victory in the Congressional and U.S. Senate elections in 2012, as well as some state legislatures. Such a victory would constitute an important step towards restoring our democracy to a government that represents the people rather than the highest bidder.
Paul Schwietering is a resident of Union Township.