Many conservatives have said that the failure of Wisconsin voters to recall Republican Governor Scott Walker sent a clear and unmistakable message: that Americans are sold on the modern conservative agenda. But the numbers speak a different story. Sixty percent of those voting for Walker believe gubernatorial recalls should be reserved for governors accused of “official misconduct.” Though Walker’s actions in Wisconsin may not sit well with those opposed to his agenda (such as selling off state assets in no-bid contracts and cracking down on unions), he did nothing illegal. This failed recall was as much about recalls in general as it was Governor Walker.
But Walker and his policies are noteworthy because they are endemic to the contemporary conservative agenda: crony capitalism, mass privatization, the shifting of the tax burden from the wealthy to the poor and middle classes, dismantling safety nets, the selling of state assets to individuals and businesses, complicating the voting process, skewing campaign financing to benefit the wealthy and making government so small it can be drowned in a bathtub.
Conservatives do not want the government to function to the public benefit, they use it to benefit those in the private sector that can and are willing to purchase officials and favorable legislation. They want to take us back to the days of robber barons and exploitative labor, seventy hour work weeks and company scrip. They hope to whittle away at the government until it is simply a legislative extension of private, monied interests. Beyond military protection and upholding property rights, they do not want the government to function at all.
Education is suffering: the Republican solution is to cut funding and privatize schooling. Police forces and firefighters are overburdened: the Republican answer is again to cut back on funding these essential services. Public transportation and safety nets are to be done away with. Every aspect of daily life is to be sold to the benefit of some private concern. All the while middle and lower class taxes rise while those of the wealthy continue to plummet, as they have done for over 30 years.
Reform is what is needed, not slash and burn economics. Progressive opposition, though not without fault, has had little ability to effect change since January of 2009. Republican obstructionism under this President has been unprecedented and shows no sign of abating. The GOP went so far as to hold the debt ceiling hostage in 2011, a move that brought the first ever downgrade of the U.S. credit rating. This is not fiscal responsibility.
For those thinking of voting for Mitt Romney, consider what that would mean – a further shifting of the tax burden down the economic ladder; the continuing de-funding of essential public services, safety nets, education and infrastructure; lax environmental and worker safety regulations on corporations; and don’t forget the possibility of war with Iran, as the political right has lost none of its jingoism despite the economic and human travails resulting from recent foreign interventions.
Conservatives do not want the government to work for you, they want it to work for those who can afford to buy shares. They want to take what belongs to us all and sell it to the highest bidder. They speak of reform when they intend to redistribute upwards. They speak of fiscal responsibility but they show no restraint in increasing debt, so long as the money finds its way into the ‘right’ hands. They want to run this country like a corporation, but it is not a corporation. It is not a business conglomerate and it cannot hope to function as one. This is a nation of people – rich and poor, liberal and conservative, of various backgrounds and ethnicities, wants and needs. America’s founders granted us a nation for the people, and corporations are not people.
Republicans are not attempting to solve our country’s problems. They do not believe the government can work and they labor tirelessly to prove that axiom true. There is no ideal candidate, not for any of us. But there are wrong candidates. And anyone seeking office who tells you that government cannot work, that the government can do no good, should never be trusted to participate in its function.