The ballot box just isn’t working for the 99%. 12 years of electoral politics have done nothing to stop the alarming erosion of the very foundations of our nation. Time and again our choices are narrowed by big money and back room deals. Time and again the least deserving claim victory.
Scott Walker’s recent triumph in Wisconsin is less about the failure of the Madison uprising/ progressive movement and more about the ability of the 1% to dominate the political process and sell us unverified elections.
Unlike many other states, Wisconsin had no budget deficit pre Walker. Walker’s ‘Budget Repair Bill” was only needed to fix the budget he broke. Buried in its pages was a nasty poison pill in that stripped state workers of their constitutional rights to organize and collective bargaining.
The response was electric and the Madison Revolt was born. In spite of the freezing weather, crowds grew to 100,000 or more and the movement sustained itself for months All across the nation people rallied in support. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse for Walker, a clever journalist exposed him as the fawning servant of corporate bad actor Charles Koch.
The Madison rebellion like it’s cousin Occupy was ‘come-one- come-all’.
Was channeling the broad based energy of such a movement into the narrow confines of a recall election the next logical step or their first big mistake?
Something Doesn’t Quite Add Up
Less than an hour after the polls closed on June 4th, the mainstream media sounded the trumpets for Walker victory. They were quick to credit Walker’s lavish spending (upward of 10-1: mostly from out of state billionaires) and even more eager to pronounce the Wisconsin rebellion DOA.
The the same media that lied us into war, soothed our consciences as we became a nation of torturers and assassins, called Florida for Bush before time and sold us the loser was now telling us that the man that looked like public enemy number one had just been crowned king, again. What proof do we have that they are telling us the truth about this or any election? The fact is, very little.
Exit polls were showing Walker and Barrett neck and neck right up to closing time. Within an hour, Walker miraculously, overtook Barrett by a healthy and strangely familiar 7%, ( nearly the same margin that put Walker in office pre revolt). Absentee ballots (12%of the vote) had not even been counted.
“It’s Not the people who vote that count….”
Within hours Brad Friedman of Bradblog.com raised a red flag. Wisconsin voters use paper ballot but they are not hand counted. In fact no human eye ever sees them nor will they without the unlikely event of a court order.
Votes are scanned and tabulated by the machines built by the usual suspects; Diebold, Sequoia and ES&S. Their scanners are just as flawed and unreliable as their big brothers, electronic voting machines. They regularly malfunction, can easily be hacked, finagled and have awarded elections to losers. The manufacturers of these machines are openly partisan (GOP) and highly secretive about their technology.
Diebold scanners were hacked as early as 2005. They use a memory card that can be penetrated without discovery and ‘dangerous programming technology’.
ES&S was told by US Election Assistance Commission that their scanners do not meet federal standards in December of last year. These same scanners caused problems in a recent election in Montana when it miscounted ballots that used a different ink; an error which could easily have been exploited. The ease in which ES&S scanners can be hacked was a subject of documentary film. In Florida optical scanners declared two losers, winners.
While overly eager to announce a winner, the media were more reluctant to report on the thousands of homebound college students (100,000 in the top 5 schools alone) who were disenfranchised by GOP revisions to the voting laws and a strategically timed election.
It appears to have slipped their minds that both the 2010 and 2012 elections suffered the effects of serious vote purging by a Walker friendly SOS and misleading robo calls from Walker supporters in various right wing groups.
Democrats Take a Dive
When the decision was made to channel the energy of the Walker revolt into a recall election, the Democrats took over the driver’s seat. It didn’t take them long to drive the movement into the ditch.
Progressives and unions had their candidate in Dane County executive Kathleen Falk until late March when the Party threw in a spoiler; the 2010 loser Tom Barrett. What followed was a lengthy primary process that created many internal divisions and left their candidate only one month to make his case.
Barrett’s poor record on worker’s rights and public education lost him union support and rankled many front line protestors. He was never able to unify and inspire the people he was meant to serve.
Walker and his minions had a full six months to obfuscate and obscure the issue. They took full advantage of the obscene amount of corporate cash to air a range of bizarre ads.
Right wing radio did its bit (often the only radio in rural areas) and gave Walker 25 x more air time than his opponent, in violation of FCC rules. Not a peep from the Democrat’s FCC or the Party itself.
The Democratic Party’s response to a full frontal assault aimed at damaging their credibility was just as baffling as their decision to trot out the same lackluster candidate. They kept Obama safe at home with his mouth firmly shut (in spite of his campaign promise “to put on a pair of comfortable shoes….and walk the picket line’) and slammed the purse strings shut.
Journalist David Lindorff believes that progressives and workers were deliberately sold out by Obama and the Democratic Party. He thinks they made a decision in advance that it was a losing battle and didn’t want to be associated with it. David makes a convincing case for his argument. He warns unions to stop giving kneejerk endorsements to Democrats and put their hard earned dollars elsewhere.
Democratic tolerance for GOP owned and operated voting machinery, targeted purges and advantageous election dates, secret source codes, custody issues, corrupt SOS’s; problems that only disenfranchise Democratic voters, is positively saintly.
No Democratic strategist loses their job after misreading public sentiment and losing one election after another. The bland, uninspiring candidates they field, fail to motivate voters. 60% of us stayed home in 2010, voting ‘none of the above’.
Genuine populists who try to run with the Donkeys meet stiff resistance, are bought off, abandoned or are eliminated by gerrymandering. Even if Barrett had won, the people of Wisconsin would not have gained a champion according to Mother Jones reporter Andy Kroll. “After a few days of celebration and self-congratulation, those in the Madison movement would have found themselves in the same box, in the same broken system, with little sense of what to do and, in a Barrett governorship, little hope.
We Are About To Find Out What Happens Next.
In his thoughtful article “Rolled in Wisconsin” Kroll goes on to say that the ‘energy of the Madison Revolt was never electoral. It cut across political boundaries and interest groups. He goes on to say that it’s a system that ‘stifles…and silences the kind of voices and energies’ the movement embodied. It’s “their game, their rules”.
The Madison revolt spread around the nation in heartbeat and enabled substantive change in other states. Six months of Occupy changed the conversation and built a global movement for justice.
The energy that drove Wisconsin to say ‘enough!’ didn’t die at the polls. It is still smoldering just beneath the surface, waiting for another Colin Millard to stand up and say ‘this far and no farther’. It’s the energy that is created whereever the few oppress the many. It will continues to build no matter how much politicians lie and no matter how many times the corporate media turn reality on its head….until justice is served.
In the past civil unrest has exploded into violence and destruction. Unfortunately, it is often the oppressed who suffer the most when the lid finally blows. I don’t think this is what any of us want.
We must create new ways of channeling this energy. We have to dig deep, use all our creativity, talent and make full use of the wonderful technology that is at our fingertips. Once more we have to learn to set aside petty differences and pull together. It’s time for a paradigm shift and it’s happening on our watch.