Despite the inordinate amount of time various media entities spent assessing, reporting and analyzing the Wisconsin recall election, it should be all but forgotten by the time November 6 comes around.
Time, that excellent road grader, will have made the unsuccessful ouster of Gov. Scott Walker little more than a bump on the path to the White House. How big a bump, though? That’s a provocative consideration.
Pundits such as Rachel Maddow declared that the adventure in recall was nothing less than the most important election prior to presidential voting, but it was just as plausible that this was inside stuff, a state political squabble with no particular bearing on national affairs.
However, if you follow the money, it becomes apparent that a lot of well-to-do people not even living in Wisconsin had a tremendous interest in keeping Walker in office. The same guy who raised $11 million to take the job in 2010 was able to put $30 million in the coffers in 2012, including big donations from 13 Forbes magazine-certified billionaires, such as Sheldon Adelson (Newt Gingrich’s campaign sugar daddy); Rich DeVos, founder of AmWay; and at least one of Sam Walton’s kids, none of whom are residents of America’s Dairyland.
That’s just the people who put their names on the checks. Even more money poured in, compliments of the Supreme Court’s baptism of corporations as people, from front groups not required to disclose the names of donors. In all, Scott Walker was able to outspend his opponent, Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett, by a ratio of roughly eight-to-one. About two-thirds of Walker’s donations came from outside the state, according to Mother Jones, compared with one-fourth of Barrett’s.
Who had the most to lose from Walker remaining in office? Following the money reveals the obvious. With significant PAC donations from the service employees’ union (SEIU), government workers (AFSCME), the teachers’ union and AFL-CIO, some of Walker’s most dedicated opposition came from the ranks of organized labor. They knew what to expect from the governor, who had been caught on a live microphone before the election promising his 14th billionaire backer, Wisconsinite Diane Hendricks, that he would take care of collective bargaining rights for the public employee unions: “We’re going to…use divide and conquer.” The richest woman in Wisconsin signed her check to Walker’s campaign for $510,000.
It’s likely no accident that unions are figuring into the 2012 electoral equation. Adding to its traditional empathy with management instead of workers, the GOP, in the post-Citizens United era, is capitalizing on the fact that the Democratic Party has far fewer billionaires to tap for funding (in Wisconsin, Tom Barrett could not enlist even one) and relies heavily on the support of unions, not only for cash but for personnel to work on candidates’ behalf.
The math is brutally simple. If unions can be neutralized, then so can the Democratic Party. Eliminating unions is a key step in a Republican march toward one-party rule and the unimpeded implementation of a political agenda legitimizing a corporate state.
So what does this have to do with us? After all, Alabama’s already a right-to-work state run by business-favoring Republicans. You might be surprised to learn that one out of 10 salaried workers in the Sweet Home is a union member. In addition to 178,000 card-carriers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are also 15,000 non-union workers represented by a union or covered by a union contract. Decent numbers, considering that a lot of Alabama union jobs have been eliminated by corporate downsizing and outsourcing work to foreign countries.
Republican functionaries are concerned that any rise in union membership would be an invitation for manufacturing entities checking out Alabama as a potential site for expansion to seek elsewhere. After all, paying good wages and providing benefits to workers is exactly what profit-centric corporate ownership is not interested in. If Scott Walker is able to make his anti-union crusade public policy in Wisconsin, you can bet the copycats atop Goat Hill are taking notes on how to make it happen here.
“As Wisconsin goes, so goes the nation” might become the rewrite of the old political axiom this year. After all, Forbes reports now that Mitt Romney has 30 billionaires backing his play, and with the shadowy resources of well-funded super-PACs such as Americans for Prosperity and American Crossroads ready to deploy, the country will soon be awash in the GOP’s liquid assets.
There’s this anomaly, though. Exit polls taken as Wisconsin voters trooped out of the polls showed that, despite giving Walker victory, they preferred Barack Obama over Mitt Romney by margins ranging from six to twelve points. The ceaseless pounding of commercials and ads reiterating the GOP talking points throughout the state for all those weeks resulted in neither a Walker landslide nor a Romney plurality.
Who knows? In November, the best man just might win again.
We don’t usually follow up on our columns here, but it was reassuring to note that the environmental calamity we warned you of last week has been postponed. The U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Forest Service , which this week were to auction oil and gas drilling leases in 43,000 acres of the Talladega and Conecuh National Forests, have decided against it for now. The agencies’ perceived attempt to slip this sweetheart deal for energy companies past an under-informed public backfired, thanks in part to the Southern Environmental Law Center’s protests.
The sale hasn’t been called off. In fact, the BLM is still gung-ho about opening up your pristine forests to oil drilling and, worse, hydraulic fracturing — fracking — of subterranean rock with high-pressure water and chemicals to extract natural gas.
Alabama is not a right-to-live state. If you worry about profit-seeking energy companies despoiling the wilderness that belongs to you, keep an eye on this story, not just here at Weld, but also at the SELC website at www.southernenvironment.org/alabama.
Courtney Haden is a Weld for Birmingham columnist. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.