Saturday, June 9, 2012

Two Perspectives

These two guest columns ran in today's Wisconsin State Journal.  I read this one first:

Now that the recall is over, can we look forward to some relief from the vitriol that has characterized Wisconsin politics?
Both Gov. Scott Walker and Mayor Tom Barrett have expressed a desire to heal rifts. Let me offer some thoughts on how we might do this. The key? Stop undermining the legitimacy of the electoral process just because you lost.
And lest anyone think I'm picking on the Democrats, I'll respond by saying what parents have said to squabbling siblings for thousands of years: "Knock it off. Both of you. I don't care who started it!"
Let me elaborate.
Democrats: You lost the recall because your guy got fewer votes than the other guy. It doesn't matter how much you loathed Walker, or how hard you worked, or that you considered this the most important election since, well, the last election that was the most important ever.
You lost. Nobody expects you to be happy about it. But you get another chance in a few months.

Stop blaming the American Legislative Exchange Council, or Super PACS, or the Koch Brothers, or Citizens United. Stop insisting that the only reason you lost was you were outspent 3-to-1, or 5-to-1, or 10-to-1, or that democracy has ended because billionaires can buy elections.
Arguing that you lost because people were too stupid to see the brilliance of your position is not a good way to get more people to conclude that your position is brilliant.
And by the way, stop comparing Walker to Hitler. It's insulting in so many ways, and it's not clever, and it's not funny. Oh, and that mailer listing the voting activity of our neighbors? Really creepy. Don't do it again.
To Republicans: Stop gloating, and enough with the jokes about how delicious the tears of Democrats are. You'll get your turn in the barrel eventually.
And while we're at it, you need to stop the absurd claims that the only reason Democrats can win elections is vote fraud. I saw a dozen blog posts about buses full of union folks coming from Michigan or Illinois to cast fraudulent votes. Reince Priebus said Republicans have to win an extra 1 or 2 percentage points just to overcome vote fraud.
Not only is this preposterous, it is also enormously damaging to the legitimacy of the process (and it's particularly absurd because, well, you won; where are those claims now?). I know lots of you know someone who knows someone who once saw 10,000 people cast fraudulent votes, most of whom were dead besides. But yelling the same thing over and over doesn't make it true.
Stop saying the only way you can lose is because of fraud. It's a phantom.

To both Democrats and Republicans: Stop insisting the other side is stupid, evil, corrupt or wants people dying in the streets. People disagree about politics. Always have. If you doubt this, read The Federalist, or the Magna Carta, or Aristotle. Not every political dispute can be resolved your way just because you think you're right.
Moreover, "Shut Up!" is not a very attractive rhetorical tactic.
And if you have a better way of resolving political disputes than by elections, which I doubt, let's hear it — as long as it's not "do what I want."
In short, everyone needs to calm down and stop thinking of elections in life or death terms. You win and lose elections because you get more (or fewer) votes than the other side. Screaming that there is no way you could lose except that you were outspent, or outfrauded, or outlied is silly because it's wrong and totally unhelpful. Harmful, in fact.
Show that you can win with class, and lose with grace. And do it before you know the results, OK? It's not like this is the last election we'll ever hold.
So cut it out. I'll give you both timeouts. I will.

Kenneth R. Mayer is a professor in the UW-Madison Department of Political Science.

Next up was this one:

There has been no shortage of attempts to spin what the results of Tuesday's recall election mean. One unquestionable takeaway is that in this election, money mattered. A lot.
Gov. Scott Walker's billionaire backers, along with outside spending from corporate-funded special interest groups such as Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and the Republican Governors Association and shadowy groups such as the "Coalition for American Values" outspent Democratic challenger Tom Barrett and groups supporting him 8-to-1, according to Mother Jones.
Don't think that makes a difference? Then consider just one example of what that kind of spending advantage means.
In a 30-minute evening television news program, the place from which most people get their information, you'd barely notice the one or two Barrett ads sandwiched between five, six, seven or eight Walker ads.
How did Gov. Walker rack up such an astounding cash advantage?
In addition to having a lot of really wealthy "friends," Walker exploited campaign finance laws to play by different rules than his opponent as he mounted his unprecedented $30 million cross-country cash grab.
In a regular election cycle, both a sitting governor and the opponent are limited to accepting an aggregate maximum in donations of $10,000 per individual. However, Walker was not, and in some cases is still not, limited to this contribution amount.
The result? Walker raked in twice as much from $10,000 plus mega-donors alone than his election opponent Tom Barrett raised in total for his campaign.

Based on One Wisconsin Now's analysis of Walker's campaign finance reports, he raised over $7.3 million in campaign contributions from just 167 individuals exceeding the $10,000 per election cycle limit.
And we haven't even touched on the role the foundation controlled by Gov. Walker's campaign chair played in trying to drive public opinion, such as using columnists whose paychecks depend on foundation grants to dutifully pass along talking points spoon-fed to them by the campaign — but that's a column all its own.
Debate away about the meaning of the election results.
But cutting funding by $1.6 billion for K-12 public schools while giving corporations and the wealthy $2.3 billion in tax cuts is no more popular today than it was last November when recall petitions began circulating.
Can you really argue Tuesday's election results were an endorsement of policies that make it more difficult for women and armed service veterans to fight workplace discrimination? Or think that Gov. Walker won a mandate for more tax increases on seniors and working families and even higher tuition for University of Wisconsin students?
The inescapable, bottom line fact is Walker and his wealthy, right-wing allies bought a win.

Mike Browne is Deputy Director of One Wisconsin Now, which advocates for progressive causes. 

What do you think?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Something I Just Read

Looking at current affairs, he expounded on the need for party realignment in order to come to grips with such pressing issues as the tariff and monetary standards, and he claimed that "the difference between democracy and socialism is not an essential difference, but only a practice difference."  In using government to address social and economic problems, socialists rushed in where democrats trod warily, but with the growth of huge corporations, he asked, "(M)ust not government lay aside all timid scruple and boldly make itself an agency for social reform as well as for political control?"  He went further in his lectures at Johns Hopkins in 1888: "Government does not stop with the protection of life, liberty, and property, as some have suggested; it goes on to serve every convenience of society ...    The state is not a body corporate,---it is a body politic; and rules of good business are not always rules of good politics ... Businesslike the administration of government should be---but it is not business.  It is organic life."

Anybody want to guess whose biography I'm reading?