OK, I don’t have a 6 year-old daughter. But If I did, I could imagine her reaction after a ride around in my fictional minivan circulating Darling recall petitions, listening to right-wing talk-radio, or an afternoon surfing her favorite political sites on the web. Her big, trusting eyes would stare up at me, the slight hint of tears forming in the corners.
Daddy, why does the Bad Man Lie?
My heart sags under the weight of this difficult civics lesson. I have tried to shield my precious from the onslaught of Republican talking-point misinformation, but I can’t – it’s everywhere. Even if I could avoid the 24/7 talk-radio hosts who, for reasons I still don’t understand, are allowed to conduct endless, unpaid advertising for right-wing causes and Republican candidates, there are still the issue ads paid for by shadowy out-of-state business interests. Her innocence thus taken too young, I am forced to parent-up and explain the facts of life, too soon.
Because they have to, Sweetheart.
If the Wisconsin Crisis has taught us anything about the quality of discourse in the public arena, it is that the kind of radical right-wing Republicans that currently have a stranglehold on our state government cannot win by telling the truth. They have to propagate lies to win elections and to remain in office. They cannot tell us – before, during or after – what they are actually doing and why. How can you tell the Republicans are lying again? Easy – Charlie Sykes’ lips move.
The right-wing echo chamber was drowned out during the height of the Wisconsin Crisis, as the gruesome details of Scott Walker’s power grab became more evident every day and the organic and organized reaction, in the form of ten of thousands of protesters descending on the Capitol everyday, captured the imagination of the state and the nation. As Walker’s Unnecessary Crisis unfolded in real time, polls showed (and still do) that the majority of the electorate supported the collective bargaining rights for public employees and the unions he sought to destroy. The polls also show the majority disapprove of the heavy-handed way that Walker and his lock-stepping Republicans in the legislature were steamrolling their extreme, Washington-think-tank-generated agenda through a now-declared illegal process.
During the time several weeks ago when the Wisconsin Crisis was leading the national news, the tinny voices of the radio squawkers were drowned out with the truth of what was happening before our saddened eyes. Now that the dust has settled somewhat, the Republican message massagers have regrouped and, no doubt with the help of the putrid Frank Lutz (who came in so the governor could sit on his lap at the height of the Crisis) and others, designed a campaign of lies and exaggerations in an attempt to discredit those who would dare object to Walker’s union-busting designs and to prop up an increasingly-unpopular governor in free-fall.
You can tell when the Republicans have settled on their talking points because literally everybody on talk-radio follows them. From Sykes to Belling, on down to third-rate near-amateurs like Weber, Wagner and McKenna, the right-wing radio clowns are the most unoriginal radio personalities in “entertainment” history. They are willing to give the entire substance of their shows over to the Washington think-tanks, driving the Big Lies into the heads of their blissfully-ignorant angry-white-male listeners.
This week, it was all about the “hate” and “mobs” on the left, attacking their poor, innocent politicians and fellow travelers. Hate mail and hate nails supposedly sent to Republican legislators and an embarrassing (to me) blogger who also happens to be a professor at my otherwise proud alma mater, the UW Law School (see you at the 25-year reunion in September, y’all!). And blah de blah blah. All of these anecdotes are trotted out as supposedly representative of the broad-based anti-Walker movement in the state.
First of all, it is entirely likely that some of this is being generated by right-wing interlopers pretending to be protesters. To the extent one or two or five of the protesters have gone off the rails, it doesn’t mean that any of the hundreds of thousands of others would support the threats or have anything to do with them. One of the radio geeks – I forget who, since they all sound the same and say the same things – claimed on Friday that nobody on the left would criticize the threats because that’s how we operate and that’s what we want and that’s who we are and so on and so forth. Well – although, as a target myself of some overheated shit in my comment section through the years, I think, if they are really offended by any of this (they’re not) they should stop being such big babies – those kind of threats, serious or not, are obviously wrong. That’s easy. But they don’t have anything to do with anything in the larger picture, and the wing-nuts know it. The entire “union mob/thug” meme is a smear and a deliberate distraction.
And then there is the “federal employees have less bargaining rights” Lie. I discussed this in my last post, in the context of a post by Rick Esenberg – who, by the way, did not delete a comment I made on his blog (it went to spam, which says something about my status in the web-filter community). In response, Esenberg backs up on his blog and tries to put the best spin on things. But the Lie continues.
Esenberg misrepresents me as being “upset that I and others suggest that other states and the federal government restrict collective bargaining rights of public employess [sic]”. No, I never said the bargaining rights for federal employees were not restricted on wages and benefits. “Mike's point is that federal employees can bargain over things other than wages and benefits. Fine. I never said otherwise.” Oh, yes he did:
- March 9th: Walker’s bill “restrict[s] collective bargaining rights that don't exist for federal employees”. Wrong. The union-busting bill restricts all of the significant non-economic collective bargaining rights (hours and working conditions) that definitely do exist for federal employees.
- March 10th: “Most federal employees are sunject [sic] to similar restrictions.” Wrong again. Federal employee rights to bargain everything other than wages and benefits are not restricted in any significant way.
- March 14th (comments): Esenberg writes the right to “bargain” over a sliver of base wages, which is all that’s left in the Walker bill, is “equal to or greater than that provided in roughly half the states and for most federal employees” and “still more robust than those enjoyed in half of the states or by most federal employees”. That’s crazy. As I have written before, all that’s left of bargaining under the union-busting bill is a small number that could just as well be written on a cocktail napkin and filed by a clerk with DER (after it gets stamped NO). The only thing it is “equal to or greater” and “more robust” than is nothing, and federal employees retain many more bargaining rights than nothing.
At least Esenberg expands a bit on that last “point” in his most recent post.
“Well, Mike seems to claim, you shouldn't say that Wisconsin public employees would be left with collective bargaining rights greater than or equal to employees in half the states and most federal employees. Why not? It seems to me that, for most people, wages and benefits are the most important conditions of employment.”
In the real world, perhaps. But the public employees in Wisconsin universally agreed to accept the benefit, pension contribution and wage issues during the first week of the Crisis. At that point, the important issues became job security – in the form of effective language and enforcement of discipline, layoff, transfer, contracting-out – and other traditionally-important aspects of a union contract. Indeed, Walker has bragged about how there doesn’t have to be layoffs by seniority after the bill becomes law. Hey, Rick, guess who still has the ability to bargain layoff language. That’s right – federal employees
The Big Lie about federal employees having less bargaining rights supports the Bigger Lie – that all the public employees cared about and what they and their supporters were marching about was the benefit contributions and wage restrictions. That Lie is still being foisted by all the usual suspects, including the secretive (for funding) Club for Growth ad campaign, the one that claims everyone is the private sector is making sacrifices and public employees refuse to. It deliberately misleads about what Walker did and what the outrage of the masses is all about.
But if they would just come out and just say they are using the elimination of virtually all collective bargaining rights for public employees, the annual re-certification requirement and the outlawing of dues deductions from paychecks in order to wipe out public employee unions entirely, we could have that conversation. But that would be considered so radical that it could not be supported. Even with their campaign of Lies, it’s not being supported now.
So, my dear hypothetical doe-eyed daughter, that’s why they Lie. Because they know, without the Lies, their radical agenda cannot stand.