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Peter Clothier Headshot

War on Democracy?

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I share the view expressed in Thursday's lead editorial in the New York Times:

When Gov. Scott Walker moved to strip Wisconsin public employees of their collective-bargaining rights last year, a few weeks after taking office, it was clear that he wasn't doing it to save the state money. If that had been the case, he would have accepted the unions' agreement to pay far more in health care and pension costs. His real goal was political: to break the unions by demonizing their "bosses," ending their ability even to collect dues and removing them as a source of money and energy for Democrats.

Am I a conspiracist -- or simply a realist -- for believing that the monied interests in this country have been working for years to acquire a stranglehold on the political system?  Or that there is, as Hillary Clinton once famously asserted, a "vast right-wing conspiracy"?  She was widely ridiculed, of course, for that incautious statement.  But I have always believed she spoke the truth.  The recent public television special on her husband, former President Bill Clinton was an alarming reminder of the similarities between the difficulties of his presidency and that of Barack Obama.  He was the target of the same legislative obstinate non-cooperation, the same hatred, the same personal attacks.  His legitimacy was questioned.  From his first day in office, as with Obama, the main objective of the Republicans was to get rid of him as fast as possible, or at the very least to disempower him until they could re-empower themselves.

I wrote yesterday about the role of money in the Wisconsin election.  I am not alone, I know, in my fear that money has already purchased our legislative process -- and, indeed, the very highest level of our judicial system.  Citizens United is only one in a series of decisions that raise doubts -- since Bush v. Gore! -- about the impartiality of the Supreme Court.  The disempowerment of the unions as a political force has been the goal of the wealth-driven right wing for years.  In tandem with nation-wide state legislative actions to cull electoral roles and gerrymander political districts, the effort has clearly proved effective.  Not effective enough as yet, it seems, for the corporate powers, who continue to pour vast sums of money into contests like Wisconsin's in order to achieve their goal.

The preeminently white male right wing establishment is determined to fight back against the rising surge of power shifting into the hands of women and "minority" voters.  The poor are easy for them to keep in line.  It's my hope that their attempt to stem the demographic tide of rising consciousness among those who do not think like them and wish to challenge their power will eventually prove as vain as King Canute's.  My fear is that their defeat will come too late, only after their assault on democracy itself has damaged this nation beyond repair.  They risk bringing about the irreversible decline of the very nation they loudly claim to honor and protect.

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