Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ayn Rand, states rights, and Wisconsin politics

I just want to put a bit more context to what I wrote yesterday. While the struggle goes on over various specifics of the Walker regime's policies, and thousands begin to get focused on senate recall campaigns this summer, it is important for us to appreciate the context of this swift rightist turn in our state's politics.

While for many, the extremes of the Walker/Fitzgerald agenda has taken by surprise, what is going on here is part of a billionaire-funded, corporate right strategy underway for decades - since the civil rights era broadened voting rights, since a succession of federal governments broadened social programs and safety nets (very bipartisan, from FDR and LBJ to Eisenhower and Nixon, right up until it crashed into the rightist Reagan wall in the 80s), really heating up in 2008 when we had the temerity to elect an African-American president.

We have to keep insisting on this - many rightist billionaires and their minions do not think African-Americans equal to them, and additionally even those who do are happy to manipulate the nation's latent racism to get their people elected to office or sitting on state and federal courts. Things changed when Obama was elected - they changed a lot!

Billionaire funders through folks like the rightist true believer Karl Rove, with his enormously powerful Crossroads GPS funded by, you know, a handful of billionaires, are manipulating our political system beyond recognition in a very short time. Over the past couple of decades, corporate money has helped get people like Scott Walker or John Kasich (OH) elected into office not because of their smarts or because they represent a vast grassroots constituency, but by the power of their money, building campaign treasure troves, funding experts in messaging (you know, stuff like, "Wisconsin is open for business," or "we're broke," while you finance big tax giveaways to the corporate sector), buying controlling interests in cable news stations, investing enormous funds in TV and internet ads that pop into our attention spans on a daily basis.

And they have a philosophy of demonizing and bankrupting government, then steering newly freed up public funds to the corporate sector, as we have written repeatedly here. They scorn the 'masses' and think they should rule without the cumbersome workings of a democracy. They are states rights people bent on finally winning the Civil War 150 years after it began.

We have to know what motivates them, what they want, in order to know what we are up against. To understand Paul Ryan, and the lie he tells when he insists he cares about health care for the elderly, it is important to understand what motivates him, what philosophical beliefs shape his political career. If he says reading Ayn Rand inspired him to get into politics, and if he insists that all his staff read her stuff, then we best understand who she is and what she believes - and that should put a chill down the spines of all who care about the well-being of our families, communities, the state, and the nation.

So, here's some more reading for your reflection:

about the billionaires' class war against the rest of us, with reference to Ryan and Rand, from Robert Parry at Alternet, an excerpt:
The conflict is now over the Right’s determination to concentrate even more money and power in the hands of the rich by hobbling any government capability to protect the people’s general welfare.

If the Right wins, individual Americans will be left essentially defenseless in the face of unbridled corporate power...
Lately, Ryan has been trying to torture a connection between his philosophical beliefs and his Roman Catholic background. Whatever one thinks of the institution these days with all it scandals and such, it has a very progressive social teaching that contradicts much of what he proposes for the US budget. One ordained minister, Rev. Jennifer Butler, reflected on the Christian-Rand contradiction for Huffington Post. Read it here.

Finally, we are approaching the edge of the states' rights precipice in our federal Supreme Court. The NY Times wrote about this most serious threat to our democracy a few days ago, and, trust me, this really is a more significant news story than Palin's self-promoting, self-aggrandizing bus tour or Rep. Weiner's, um, Twitter problem. Seems Chief Justice Roberts is prepared to rule that states have sovereign authority and are not subject to federal law.
The principle at stake dates back to a 1908 case, Ex parte Young, in which the Supreme Court held that federal courts have a paramount role in stopping a state from violating federal law. Despite the 11th Amendment’s protection of a state from being sued in federal court, all state officials must comply with federal law, which the Constitution calls “the supreme Law of the Land.” 

Think for a moment about what it would mean to live in this country if states could decide not to abide by environmental laws, or civil rights laws, or labor laws, or child protection laws, and on and on, without danger of federal enforcement.

So while Palin and Weiner absorb hours and hour of the air waves, we are being denied crucial information on who is taking control of our politics and for what reason. If Roberts gets his way, we won't recognize this nation a few years down the road.

I think we ought to make Wisconsin an example of how citizens come together to reclaim a democratic culture - broad and inclusive - and a mission for government that has to do with the defense and promotion of the well-being of all its citizens, the common good, and the good of the commons.

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