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(First the yada: Because of the syndication deal, this column appears here a week after is newspaper release)

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Democrats do not like to hear that they’re in danger of losing. Trust me. On any number of occasions, when I’ve been in a room or a TV studio with them, the mere suggestion that the other side might somehow prevail engenders the disgusted reaction one gets for fouling the air. Try mentioning that Mitt Romney actually might beat Barack Obama, and see how you become an instant pariah.
So it has been with the Wisconsin Scott Walker recall campaign. Appearing on a panel with a union leader, my reminder that polls showed Walker might escape was met with barely disguised scorn. Labor, after all, had pushed the vote in this fight to the death over public employee collective bargaining and benefits. “People Power,” he insisted, would prevail. After all, we like to believe it is the essence of a democracy like ours.
Unfortunately, Wisconsin showed once again with the Walker cakewalk that these days “people power” is obliterated every time by “money power.”
According to the nonpartisan Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, the conservative anti-recall forces had accumulated $45.5 million, largely from the major corporate donors bent on the destruction of unions. The pro-labor effort had collected $18 million. By the time the muck settled on election day, the right had outspent the left 7 to 1. Game over.
What’s fascinating is how so many Democrats are shying away from the obvious implications this has for the big game, meaning the presidential election. They want to pretend that “What goes in Wisconsin, stays in Wisconsin.”
The exit polls, after all, show that President Obama still holds a lead over challenger Romney there, and the state has been in the “D” column for the past six presidential elections.
Could be, but that was before the Supreme Court Citizens United decision, which declared the nation a constitutional plutocracy. Now, the super-rich can blatantly drown any notion of representative government in a flood of money.
Any upstart who might have the temerity to mildly suggest the notion of fair play can be swept aside. That’s what makes the liberals, who live in their cocoons of self-righteousness, so vulnerable. No matter how much they assure each other that they have virtue on their side and that Americans will vote in their obvious interest, the self-styled progressives miss an important point.


What you buy with a huge financial advantage is an ability to confuse. So those who would clearly benefit if the manipulators didn’t get to plunder their savings are frightened by distortions, old-fashioned red-baiting and bigotry-mongering. When they are deluged with this propaganda, they don’t know what to think.
If we needed proof, we certainly got it in Wisconsin. Not that more proof was necessary. The Republicans have made no bones about the fact that their single purpose is defeating Obama and his party, the country be damned.
The Democrats are left to the hand-wringing that is their normal pastime or hoping that the far right will overreach. While ultraconservative excess is always a strong possibility, it doesn’t really make for a strong campaign strategy for liberals, particularly since so many in their ranks are still seized by an “oh, it can’t be possible we’ll lose” mindset.
In retrospect, the prospects for the Democrats might have been harmed by the GOP primaries. The never-ending freak show might have encouraged a belief that they were safe from attack from such a disorganized opposition of losers.
They reckoned without the legendary ability of Republican troops to march in lock step, even if they aren’t enthusiastic about the one leading their parade.
It’s too early to conclude that Barack Obama and his supporters have blown it, but his labor backers suffered a deep wound, and if they aren’t seriously alarmed by what happened in Wisconsin, the time soon will come when it’s too late to rescue themselves.

© 2012 Bob Franken


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