Democrats have to make Walker's money the issue.
Less is more
Many people have been fighting for publicly financed campaigns since the early '80s or even earlier. We have tried almost everything but nothing has worked to persuade incumbents to take the plunge even though the public is on our side. We had a chance in Governor Jim Doyle's first term but it didn't happen.
Things keep getting worse. The Supreme Court's Citizens United decision is about as bad as it gets. Once in a while, an opportunity comes along to change history. Recall Walker, for example. Wisconsin voters have another opportunity this year to demand real change. We can actually control our gubernatorial election. We do not have to rely on incumbents to save us — we just need faith in the voters.
If Democrats treat the upcoming Walker campaign as "business as usual," Walker has a very good chance to win despite the embarrassment of his record-setting recall because he thinks his pals will buy the election for him and for them.
Could that happen? Of course. Because the Koch brothers and others could throw up to $50 million in out-of-state money into the race and blow the Democratic candidate off the air with thousands of 30-second TV spots.
How can we counter the millions of dollars Walker is counting on? Not by trying to keep pace with his fundraising, that's for sure. Can't be done. In my view the best strategy is to make his money the issue. We must urge the candidates seeking the nomination to agree to spend nothing in the primary or the general. (The candidates should raise money for out-of-pocket expenses but not big contributions from PACs, unions, corporations.) You can bet someone will say, "Unilateral disarmament is foolish." My response: If you have no chance to raise $20 million to $30 million, don't try. Spend all the time persuading the 1.1 million who signed a recall petition to get out and vote! If they do, Walker loses.
Instead of spending 10 hours a day dialing for dollars, the candidates should speak to the voters. Engage in debate, get people involved again.
If the million people who signed petitions see the candidates going to Wall Street for money just like Walker, they won't vote. You will hear people say, "See, they are all the same." I want to shout, "No, they are not!" What voters crave is honest candidates who will rely on real live voters rather than corporate corrupters — candidates who will represent the middle class not the special interests.
We need an open primary, as Fighting Bob La Follette demanded a hundred years ago. Let the people decide who is the best candidate in a wide-open primary and tell the folks in the back room to stay there.
Is this a dream? Yes and no. It is a dream but so was the recall! If money becomes the main issue, and it will, we win if we are honest. Let Koch put millions into our governor's race while we go about the task of involving the real people, not the "corporations are people" crowd.
And think about this: Why should Koch pick our governor? He doesn't live here.
(A version of this article originally appeared in the opinion section of the Capital Times.)
January 26, 2012
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Ed Garvey is editor and publisher of FightingBob.com.