Wednesday, November 03, 2010
Microcosm: Election 2010
I thought that this exchange on the loss of Russ Feingold from this morning's Democracy Now! roundtable sums up the nightmare that was Election 2010 quite nicely:
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you, John Nichols, about Russ Feingold.Boy, did Florida get hosed. For another microcosm, see the election-night remarks of the Senate's shiniest new oligarchitarian, who declared that we dare not tax rich people because we all either work for them or sell stuff to them, except that, no, wait, there are no rich or poor or middle-class because "we are all interconnected," kinda like in Tom Joad's one big soul if The Grapes of Wrath had been written by Ayn Rand. Coopting interconnectedness to sell oligarchy—dang, this guy really brings it. I can't wait for the crashing and the burning. What form will the scandal take, do you think? Financial? Sexual? Racial?
JOHN NICHOLS: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: The National Journal writes, "The scope of the Democratic devastation is perhaps most evident in Wisconsin. [...] Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold was ousted by Republican Ron Johnson. Democrats lost two seats in the House and control of both [...] chambers of the state legislature."
JOHN NICHOLS: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm, mm-hmm. Yeah, it was a devastating result. And, you know, look, we can sum it up a lot of ways. First off, we ought to explain that we’ve lost the one senator who voted against the PATRIOT Act, the one senator who voted against every free trade deal.
AMY GOODMAN: The Democratic senator.
JOHN NICHOLS: No, no Republican voted against the PATRIOT Act in the Senate. But the one who voted against every free trade deal, because it was bad for workers and farmers, the one who voted against going to war in Iraq and then was the first to ask for a time line to get out of Iraq, the first to ask for a time line to get out of Afghanistan, and the one who said that Bush should be censured for warrantless wiretapping.
LAURA FLANDERS: And the one who opposed the bank bailout and voted against—
JOHN NICHOLS: And voted against Geithner.
LAURA FLANDERS:—confirmation of Tim Geithner.
JOHN NICHOLS: And the only Democrat who voted against the bank reform bill, because he said it didn’t really do what needed to be done. So we have lost a pretty remarkable player.
And you ask yourself, how can that happen? Well, the fundamental reality is, in Wisconsin—I’m going to sum it up—in the night of the last US Senate debate, when Russ Feingold and his millionaire opponent were debating for an hour, the news story in Wisconsin was not the debate. It was that the last auto plant in Wisconsin closed that day, the Kenosha Chrysler engine plant. And so, they had this video of a factory closing. Now, it happened that Russ Feingold spent his entire career trying to keep that factory open, but that factory was closing on Barack Obama’s watch, on the Democrats’ watch. And frankly, I think that it’s not just Feingold. You go right over into Illinois, you see Phil Hare, a former union leader and absolute stalwart defender of working-class people, who voted against the President on a number of issues, went down, got beat, because I think that the national narrative was, Obama gets elected, he’s supposed to stand up for workers and farmers, and he didn’t, so we’re going to switch. And it did happen in a lot of states.
LAURA FLANDERS: But the question then becomes, you know, what happens next? I mean—
JOHN NICHOLS: Yes.
LAURA FLANDERS:—in many ways—and somebody used a great phrase describing Glenn Beck, one of the sort of media motivators for the tea party movements—he’s the false prophet of profit, you know. And that’s absolutely true, I think. There’s certainly racist, as I say, wing nuts, whack jobs and whitey-whiteness in this movement, but there are also people who have been vulnerable to the message: Obama’s not looking after the regular guy; we’ll look after the regular guy. Again, without a media that will say, "That’s no regular guy"—you know, Ron Johnson is not a regular guy.
JOHN NICHOLS: He’s a millionaire.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about who Ron Johnson is.
LAURA FLANDERS: A millionaire with $100,000 of BP stock.
JOHN NICHOLS: Well, this is the fascinating thing about Ron Johnson. Ron Johnson had never been involved in politics. He said that he got—he decided to run for the US Senate from watching Fox. And you actually had Dick Morris on saying, "Wow, Russ Feingold is vulnerable. Somebody ought to run against him." And Ron Johnson, watching the show, said, "Oh, I’ll do it." His entire economic training, as best we can tell, came from reading Ayn Rand. I’m not kidding. He says that in debates. He thinks sunspots cause global warming. I mean, this is a guy who’s way out there. And you say, "Well, why doesn’t the media stop this?"
AMY GOODMAN: And his wealth comes from?
JOHN NICHOLS: He married a wealthy woman.
RICHARD KIM: Spent $4 million just in the primary. And then the—
JOHN NICHOLS: Well, no, you’ve got to understand, he gave—somehow, out of this very small packaging company, he gave himself first one $5 million loan, then another $5 million loan. But really, this is the important thing, because it ties together all the stuff we’re talking about. He did put $10 million in upfront. But Karl Rove and a lot of these other people have wanted to get rid of Russ Feingold for a long time, because he’s the face of campaign finance reform. So that outside money came in in huge amounts.
And here’s the most fascinating—kind of the capper of the whole thing. On Tuesday, a day early, the Wall Street Journal wrote a dance-on-the-grave editorial with a drawing of Russ Feingold, saying, "Wow, we’re finally going to get rid of Russ Feingold!" The enthusiasm of that editorial—I encourage people to go back and read it—the enthusiasm of that editorial summed up really what was going on. Johnson spent a lot of his money, but literally millions, perhaps tens of millions, of dollars in corporate money came in to get rid of Russ Feingold.
LAURA FLANDERS: And it wasn’t just Feingold. The editorial talked about the death of campaign finance. The effort to restrict campaign contributions by corporations is dead, they said. This is the end of that liberal experiment.
Well, the next Congress should be entertaining for connoiseurs of dark comedy, anyway.