And the effects have rippled outward. The sight of 70,000 protesters — teachers, firefighters, nurses, students, parents with children – occupying the Wisconsin State Capitol in February 2011 ignited activists around the country. Just as the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt motivated people around the world, including in Wisconsin, the occupation of the Madison statehouse helped inspire the occupation of Wall Street a few months later.
Let me state the obvious: I want the recall to succeed. A victory for Democrat Tom Barrett would not only create an opportunity to roll back Walker’s worst anti-labor, budget-slashing measures, but would also send a clear message to those who are masquerading as deficit hawks around the country: We’ve had it with starve-the-beast politics. We’re done with leaders whose idea of austerity is to cut education, health care and vital public services in order to give more tax breaks to their millionaire friends.
Walker’s GOP legislature, like so many Republican statehouses around the country, has pursued a “divide and conquer” strategy, as Walker himself admitted to a billionaire donor. His legislative efforts, backed up by the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity, and the extremist, corporate-funded group
American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), are meant to cripple labor unions and disenfranchise poor and minority voters.
Make no mistake — Walker knows his recall has the potential to be a resounding progressive victory. That’s why he’s raised $31 million to stay in office, compared with $4 million raised by his opponent. Two-thirds of Walker’s money has come from outside Wisconsin, and his donor list reads like a list of Who’s Who of America’s Billionaires. Sheldon Adelson — Gingrich’s Daddy Warbucks — and Amway founder Richard DeVos have each given Walker $250,000. And remember the “Swift boat” ads against Kerry? Houston home builder Bob Perry, who backed that smear campaign, wrote Walker checks totaling $500,000. As the recall fight comes to an end, this record amount of money from ultraconservative outsiders has kept Walker alive.
Money in politics is nothing new. In 1816, Thomas Jefferson lamented that corporations that “challenge our government to a trial of strength” were undermining the will of the people. But the battle lines have radically shifted. Ever since the Citizens United ruling welcomed unrestricted corporate money into our elections, the interests of the 99 percent have been badly outmatched by anonymously sourced dollars.