Monday, September 19, 2016

John Doe just latest example of degraded politics, society

I think Bill Maher has hit upon part of the disease that seems to be eating up this country from the inside these days. In his “New Rule” segment from this Friday’s show, Maher mentions that American politics and many American politicians seem to have no standards of decency or truth anymore, and never pay a price for it. Because these people are able to get away with it by being re-elected in office and continuing to get air time on TV and radio, it’s helping to cause our government to become gridlocked and dysfunctional.

Sure, it’s ironic to hear a call for “decency” and higher standards from an often-Islamophobic comic that does a lot of blowjob jokes, but bear with it, because Maher’s basic point is correct here. The key quote: “Donald Trump didn’t create this swamp, he just rose from it.”

And this is especially true in GOP Bubble World, where the key to success and re-election has less to do with sound policies and solving problems than it does with being the most vocal, hateful fool that sparks the rubes’ passions, which gives you a few minutes of attention on talk radio. As Maher mentions, when asshole Congressman Joe Wilson yelled “YOU LIE!” at President Obama in 2010, he was rewarded with a large infusion of campaign donations, and don’t think other politicians haven’t made similar connections between outrageousness and increased financial support.

This type of degradation and sleazy politics have become par for the course here in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin GOP rose and have stayed in power in the 2010s by distracting enough middle and lower-class white people by stirring up hatred against people of other races, along with “privileged” classes like teachers, unionists, and academics. And 9 hours a day of hateful GOP-perganda on AM radio reinforces those messages and divisions instead of talking about how we can solve the state’s obscene racial gaps in education and opportunity, and figure out how to get us out of the bottom 5 in the nation for entrepreneurship, Internet access, and quality of roads.

The other way Wisconsin has been degraded and damaged in recent years is through the destruction of its previous reputation of clean politics and quality public services to promote a high quality of life. The Capital Times wrote an outstanding editorial this weekend bemoaning how far this state has fallen in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan, and the disgusting pay-for-play revelations in last week’s release of the John Doe docs laid bare just how far we are falling short of the ideals that used to be central to the way things were done in Wisconsin.
The drafters and early amenders of the Wisconsin Constitution established a framework for honest and responsive governance: strong constitutional offices (not just a governor but an independently elected lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer and superintendent of public instruction). The Legislature was large, and accountable to citizens at the grass-roots rather than to monied interests. The state Supreme Court was nonpartisan and duty bound to uphold the rule of law. Democrats and Republicans and Progressives embraced the ideal of Wisconsin and the “Wisconsin Idea” that extended from it.

But one of the drafters of the state constitution warned that Wisconsinites needed to be vigilant. “There is looming up a new and dark power,” Supreme Court Chief Justice Edward Ryan warned in 1873. “The enterprises of the country are aggregating vast corporate combinations of unexampled capital, boldly marching, not for economical conquests only, but for political power. … The question will arise and arise in your day, though perhaps not fully in mine: ‘Which shall rule, wealth or man? Which shall lead, money or intellect? Who shall fill public stations, educated and patriotic freemen, or the feudal serfs of corporate capital?’”

THE DAY HAS COME. The feudal serfs of corporate capital rule Wisconsin, as Britain’s Guardian newspaper has revealed in a detailed examination of documents associated with the John Doe inquiry into wrongdoing by Gov. Scott Walker and his cronies. The details are disgusting. A governor of Wisconsin is seen jetting around the country, begging for money from billionaires like Donald Trump. Legislators are little more than errand boys for big business interests seeking to avoid basic accountability — even when children are exposed to lead paint. And Supreme Court justices decide cases precisely as their campaign strategists and donors desire.

Partisans of the two major parties clashed last week over the revelations. But this is bigger than party politics. This is horrifying. And this is not Wisconsin. Scott Walker is making a great state into something small and vile. The governor has been exposed. He has shamed himself, and he has shamed Wisconsin — a state that some of us remember, and love.
And there’s only one way for our state and our country to regain its reputation for decency and working across the aisle to solve problems and improve life. That is by voting against politicians who appeal to hate, who concentrate more on striking ideological poses and gathering power than dealing with issues, and electing politicians that will demand that the public be able to see the puppet strings that are dangling from the backs of our elected officials.

Don’t kid yourself, politicians who fail to stand up to Trumpian or Walker-like bigotry and corruption in order to “go along with the game” are every bit as guilty as the sleaze who have driven politics into the cynical gutter it exists in today. All of them who turned a blind eye and voted to maintain this corrupt, hate-filled system (or not voted, as Maher notes about Senate filibusters) must pay the price ASAP, or our system of American governance will be broken permanently.

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