I Can’t Recall: A Walker Update
Among the documents released last week as part of the John Doe investigation into Wisconsin recall campaign activities was an email from Governor Walker to none other than Turd Blossom himself. The revelation was cause for jubilation for Team Blue here; it looked like a smoking gun. Prosecutors proclaimed Walker was at the center of a criminal enterprise.
Not so fast. As we have seen, Walker, like Rove’s other protégé, George W. Bush, who roams the earth oblivious to his odiousness, is a Teflon candidate. As lawyers in the inscrutable John Doe investigation continue to pile up billables, it is clear that the real fight, starring the Koch brothers and the Wisconsin Club for Growth, versus the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board and a few antique advocates for clean and fair elections, is to eliminate all laws pertaining to third-party money in political campaigns.
Walker’s strategy has been to venue-shop for sympathetic judges, countersue prosecutors when desperate, plea, stall, and enjoin until the cows come home, in the hope that campaign finance law will be strangled in its sleep by the friendly Wisconsin Supreme Court.
In a land where money talks, verily hollers, Walker’s ascent to the White House will rely only on the number of truckloads of simoleons crossing state lines to fluff his gentle image, bury opponents in mountains of mud, suppress voter turnout, and generally render elections a putrid experience (the Rove Method). I chronicled the 2012 Recall Walker Campaign in a book called I Can’t Recall. Here are some excerpts . . .
I Can’t Recall
As the year 2012 dawned in America’s dairyland, thousands of badgers, battered and bullied by our union-bashing governor, arose from their dens to roust the weasel Scott Walker. In his first year in office he had provoked immediate and intense public revulsion to his policies. Protests at the state capitol were larger than any in the state’s history. On March 12, 2011, one hundred thousand citizens occupied Capitol Square. Whose house? Our house. The people could no longer stand Walker.
How the hell did Walker get elected in the first place? He conveniently kept his plan to rewrite labor law in Wisconsin on the down low, for one thing. He was the only guy talking to the workingman (and I do mean man), for another. He exploited the bitterness people feel toward the current system. He lied to them, of course, but he had a story for them, a narrative, as the pundits say. The business of business. Every man by his own bootstraps. No burdensome regulations. And he had a plan. Stir up resentment and envy. Demonize opponents (women, minorities, pointy-headed intellectuals, college graduates, tree huggers, etc.). Scapegoat teachers and public employees. Peddle the snake oil of GOP “freedoms.” We’re broke he said, and then he broke us.
Scott Walker’s first act as governor was canceling a high-speed rail project that would have connected passengers from Chicago to Minneapolis, with a shiny new train station in downtown Madison. The plan was in place, the money was there: $800 million in federal dough. The project was a ray of light, a sense that we could solve problems. Was that so wrong? But Walker chose to pour $1.7 billion dollars of our own money into an automotive clusterfuck the Wisconsin Department of Transportation calls the “Zoo Interchange,” a vision of the future, circa 1955. A fantasy in concrete. He believes that public transportation is French and gay. The money was returned to Uncle Sam. It was too good to be true. Fucker stole my train.
Scott Walker is from the suburbs. The birthplace of the “Get Off My Lawn” party. Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, where the landscape is mangled by the motorcar. Automobile dealerships stretch to the horizon. The home of fixed elections, factory outlets and discount warehouses, jiffy marts and liquor barns, storage shed rental by the month. Mall walkers and Sikh killers. Armed and estranged boyfriends. A nebulized landscape where fast food pilgrims and Miller-enlightened Argonauts roam. Pedestrians tread not there.
In the cockpits of Escalades and Yukons, blue-toothed suburbanites navigate their fears of the dark, of minorities, public transportation, libraries, parks, teachers, tax-supported amenities, civilization, fear itself.
Plenty of free parking though.
Back when Walker was in those suburban short pants, collecting right-wing trading cards, President Reagan broke up the Air Traffic Controllers Union and brought a bulge to young Scotty’s trousers. Reagan was an American hero who stood up to union workers, welfare queens, and America-hating liberals. Scott sees himself as Reagan’s heir, but with less hair. (Raygun, a bottle brunette with an old-school dye job, had a steel-belted, rust-proofed helmet of American Century follicular righteousness.)
The truth is Walker was always a trusty lapdog to the oligarchy, transferring the wealth upwards, privatizing resources, globalizing our workforce, and hacking away at “entitlements.” Not long after his inauguration, he took a phone call from a person whom he believed was David Koch, funder of the Cro-Magnon morons and mossbacks of the hard right. The caller was actually Ian Murphy from the Buffalo Beast, doing his best impression of a right-wing asshole.
Believing he was confiding in a fellow nutcracker, Walker said he was considering introducing “troublemakers” into the groups of protesters that had assembled at the state capitol. (A criminal act.) You’d think that getting caught kissing up to Koch of Kansas would embarrass the governor of Wisconsin. Nope.
“I had all of my cabinet over to the residence for dinner. Talked about what we were gonna do, how we were gonna do it. We’d already kinda built plans up, but it was kind of the last hurrah before we dropped the bomb.”—Scott Walker, in a phone call to the fake David Koch
State law requires that a governor hold office for a period of one year before becoming subject to recall. The very minute Scott Walker became eligible to be recalled, the people of Wisconsin took off like bats out of hell to gather signatures. It took just eight weeks to find more than a million Wisconsin citizens who wanted him gone.
ASAP. Auf Wiedersehen, asshole.
A million nay votes. Hallelujah! Our zenith. That was the mountaintop for the Recall Walker movement, a moment of real democracy and citizen empowerment. We annoyed Walker with our presence every day at the capitol. We harassed him at his public appearances. Chased him down when he traveled to other states. What a pleasure to dump all those petitions at Walker’s feet. Yee-haw. Surely this would get Scott’s attention, an unprecedented, grassroots Bronx cheer from Wisconsin citizens. We mooned the fucker with a statewide, pants-dropped, ass-pressed-against-the-governor’s-mansion-window display of disapproval.
This was the first step in a recall process that would ultimately be gamed by the Republicans (strategy: run fake candidates) and fucked up by the Democrats (strategy: nominate neoliberal corporatist retread) and change nothing at all. Woo-hoo.
Yes, Wisconsin’s recall procedure was a little clumsy. When the required number of Wisconsinites had called for Walker’s head, an election was called. This is where the ninnies of the Democratic Party, originally against a recall, stepped in and gave us the scintillating summer rerun with that nice man Tom Barrett that went so horribly wrong.
Clinton clone. Milquetoast liberal. The righteous uprising of Wisconsin citizens that occupied the capitol, that gathered over a million recall signatures, that looked like what democracy looks like, coagulated into a been-there-done-that encore presentation of the electoral turd parade of 2010.
As the recall election drew near, and the contest boiled down to a do-over between Walker and the guy he shellacked last time, I knew that we were screwed. This poster was for my peeps. A last minute effort to get out the vote. Motivate my base. How cool would it have been to send Scott packin’? Sue me if I indulged in some premature euphoria for that which was not to be.
A guy can dream.
Finally, in June, the recall election took place. A huge number of people made a special effort to oust our malodorous governor. But it wasn’t meant to be.
And so the year in Wisconsin politics ended as it began. With Walker still in power. The recall movement subverted. There is good news: Tammy Baldwin, a true progressive, won the U.S. senate seat, sending Tommy Thompson packing. The people of Wisconsin discovered the power of collective action and exposed the decadence and cowardice of the establishment Democratic Party.
I hope the energy and vitality of the Wisconsin uprising will live on and the power of citizen action will hold back the raging Pleistocene id of the Republican Party. We successfully deferred Romney’s dream for a return to a Dickensian yesteryear. But the elites of both parties serve money and power, what’s new, and so it falls to the faceless heroes at the bottom to resist the rollback of social progress and the repeal of the New Deal. The demonstrations at the capitol in Madison were likened to pro-democracy movements around the world. The drama of our struggle together has awakened us here in Wisconsin. We may have failed to recall Walker, but surely the memories of our joyous revolution will not fade. Will they? I can’t recall.