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Walker’s tradition: falsehoods

The Republican Party has been infused with fundamentalist fervor for decades, but the level of involvement by “Christian” extremists in the GOP has jumped off the charts in the last few years. These people, who fancy themselves the arbiters of what they call “family” and “traditional” values, now virtually control the Republican Party’s primary elections in many places.

Among this faction’s dearest allies is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. But as the governor faces a historic recall effort, he has clearly shown his willingness to toss aside the “traditional value” of honesty.

Perhaps the best example of this is Walker’s long list of statements rated false by PolitiFact Wisconsin. PolitiFact has fact-checked 39 Walker statements and found 27 of them to be “mostly false” or worse. The governor’s record of falsehoods has increased as the recall effort has heated up. Walker’s last statement to be rated some variation of “true” was back in the late spring or early summer.

If Walker is so willing to play fast and loose with the truth in his own statements, then it should come as no surprise that his latest special interest-funded campaign ad is based on a giant lie. The ad features a Monona Grove School District teacher who gives a fictional account of how his district weathered Walker’s cuts to education. The ad would leave a viewer thinking that Walker’s reckless cuts did no damage at all to the district.

In fact, the Monona Grove School District superintendent has verified that the district has indeed had to lay off teachers, cut needed programs – and even had to close a building. The district’s school board president is concerned about filling an even larger shortfall in funding next year. 

So special interest-funded attack groups are trying to support Walker with shady tactics and dishonest claims. The worst example comes from the right-wing attack group Media Trackers. This group specializes in promoting false allegations and unproven innuendo on right-wing talk radio. The group gained notoriety recently with the false claim that two African-American women caught on camera signing a recall petition in Milwaukee were underage. In fact, they were both in their early 20s. This lie got a troubling amount of play in several media outlets, only to be proven completely false after someone took the time to actually fact-check the accusation. 

Media Trackers accused a progressive get-out-the-vote effort earlier in the year of trading a barbecue meal for absentee ballots in the last round of recall elections. The Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office investigated and found that no law was broken. The DA’s findings in no way resembled Media Trackers’ allegations. A Media Trackers representative actually gave a sworn statement during the investigation that didn’t match the organization’s rhetoric on the subject.

Apparently, members of the organization value honesty only when they are under oath. It would be a welcome change of pace if they also valued it in their public statements and accusations. 

These examples remind us that right-wing extremists like Walker value political power over everything else. Even though they wear a phony mantle of “traditional values,” one of the first casualties of their politics is the traditional value of honesty.

Dirty tricks fuel recall effort

Not even three weeks into the Scott Walker recall, the effort has gathered overwhelming momentum. Organizers recently announced that they obtained more than 300,000 signatures in the first 12 days, after collecting 105,000 during the first weekend.

In total, 540,000 signatures are needed to trigger a recall election. 

In response, Republicans have employed every desperate measure they can imagine. They even resorted to trying to change the recall rules in the middle of the game. For instance, the GOP has essentially filed suit over its own redistricting plan in a mad scramble to hang on to control of the state Senate.

In addition to Walker, the recall effort targets three of the governor’s rubber-stamp senators, all of whom are vulnerable in their current district boundaries. So Republicans are suing to move up the date that their gerrymandered redistricting maps go into effect.

In effect, they are suing themselves. They passed the legislation saying that the map would become effective with the November 2012 election. Now they’re counting on the GOP activist majority on the state Supreme Court to come to their rescue. They’re asking the court’s partisan majority to overrule their own redistricting legislation. 

Meanwhile, right-wing front groups are working overtime to thwart and otherwise defame the recall process. The shady operatives at Media Trackers videotaped young African-American women from Milwaukee signing a recall petition. They posted the video online and then appeared on Charlie Sykes’ right-wing radio show to make wild, unsubstantiated claims. Without providing any support, they told listeners that the young women were under age and not eligible to sign the petitions. 

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin followed up, documenting that the two women were eligible to sign the recall petition. But that didn’t stop Media Trackers, Sykes and the usual right-wing suspects from alleging fraud. Their goal was to sully the recall process, and they weren’t about to let the truth get in their way. 

If the Republican Party goes to such wild extremes to suppress citizens’ rights to call for an election, you can imagine how far fringe activists are willing to go. Zealots have tried to sow confusion through creation of a variety of fake websites. There have been several reports of right-wing activists tearing up recall petitions, which is a felony in Wisconsin.

The progressive organization One Wisconsin Now has created a $10,000 fund to help fight such crimes. The group also created a recall petitioner’s rights document, available at their website, onewisconsinnow.org.

All of the desperate right-wing measures have only served to invigorate recall supporters. Voters are signing petitions at a break-neck pace not only in Madison and Milwaukee but also in rural counties all over the state. 

If the Republican establishment is using dirty tricks now, just wait until the signatures are submitted. They’ll try every possible method to invalidate as many as possible. That’s why we cannot rest, even though we’re working at a remarkable pace. Not only will a very large number of signatures guard against more Republican dirty tricks, they will also serve as a clear statement that Wisconsin is ready to exercise its constitutional right to hold a recall election. 

Walker’s recall starts now

After 11 months of one extreme policy after the other, Wisconsinites finally get their opportunity to start the recall process against Gov. Scott Walker. The Democratic Party of Wisconsin, United Wisconsin and other grassroots groups launched the recall process on Nov. 15 and fanned out across the entire state with recall stations in every county. 

For the effort to move forward, they need to obtain at least 540,000 valid signatures. But organizers have set their goal at 650,000-700,000, which would provide some padding if some signatures are invalid. 

This effort is every bit as necessary as it is unprecedented. Walker and his administration have shepherded just about every radical right wing idea through the Legislature since taking office. The assault on the rights of working people through the elimination of collective bargaining rights garnered much of the attention earlier this year, but the list of destructive policies goes much further. 

Wisconsin has always taken pride in its education system. Walker cut what amounts to $1.6 billion from public education over the current biennium. He cut more from education than any other governor in the country.

The Department of Public Instruction recently published a survey showing that Walker’s drastic cuts forced schools to lay off teachers and increase class size. The UW system has been cut by $250 million and technical colleges have lost $70 million. How will Wisconsinites compete for jobs in a sophisticated international employment market without adequate educational preparation? 

The Walker administration also detailed a plan to cut Medicaid by over $500 million, which could throw 65,000 Wisconsinites off safety-net health care programs. Over half of the losers will likely be children. Walker, of course, has enjoyed taxpayer-financed health coverage for most of his adult life. 

Walker vowed during the 2010 campaign to create 250,000 new jobs. But now his administration has admitted that he will fail to deliver on that promise. While doling out tax cuts to the wealthy and special interest supporters, Wisconsin has lost jobs. In fact, the state is in a continued downward cycle of job loss even while the nation, albeit modestly, has added jobs.

The reason is Walker and his rubber-stamp Legislature have focused on just about everything but jobs. During their latest so-called special session on jobs, they failed to pass a single jobs-related bill. Instead they wasted time on requiring abstinence education in schools, attacking women’s right to choose and passing the legislative wish list of radical groups like the National Rifle Association. The special session focused on a right-wing social agenda rather than job creation. 

Even though Walker has only been in office for 11 months, the list of damaging actions by his administration is far too long for one column. That’s why the unprecedented action of recalling him is not only justified but absolutely necessary. 

To successfully accomplish this critical goal, everyone’s participation is needed. You can find out where to sign a recall petition by visiting wisdems.org/recallhq or unitedwisconsin.com. After you’ve signed the recall petition, please consider volunteering your time to collect more signatures.

Opinion: Recalls bring out worst in GOP

Since Republicans took over state government they have gone about trying to permanently rig the state’s entire electoral system in their favor. Apparently they are intent on misusing every tool at their disposal to ensure their continuing monopoly on political power in Wisconsin. 

After forcing a radical agenda on the state, they clearly seem insecure about their future electoral prospects. Otherwise why would they try so blatantly to stack the electoral deck? They have established one of the strictest voter ID laws in the country – a law that disproportionately affects traditional Democratic voters, including the elderly, students, minorities and the poor.

They tried to wrestle rule-making authority away from the non-partisan Government Accountability Board. They tried to radically redistrict the state behind closed doors. They’re trying to split Wisconsin’s electoral votes in presidential elections.

As if this long list of tampering wasn’t enough, now right-wing Christian Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, is trying to rush through even more disgraceful legislation. 

The recall effort against Gov. Scott Walker is set to begin on Nov. 15, so perhaps we should have expected something like the newly proposed Lazich bills. One is a fairly transparent attempt to make Walker’s recall all but impossible. In it, Lazich proposes that every recall petition must be formally notarized, which would at least slow down the recall effort.

The new law also would open an entirely new set of arguments that Republicans could use when they inevitably file lawsuits challenging the coming recall against Walker. Ironically, Walker himself opposed one of the changes that Lazich has proposed to the law when he served as a state representative in 1999.

A new batch of Republican state senators also will likely face recalls next year, and Lazich is trying to fast-track yet another bill to help stifle that process. The gerrymandering and backroom redistricting that Republicans engaged in earlier this year was set to go into place starting with the November 2012 election. The redistricting was designed to
make it easier for Republicans to win.

But now, facing more recall challenges, Republicans have decided they want to make the new Republican-friendly districts effective immediately. But they only want the effective date moved up for the state Senate, not the Assembly. Only extreme desperation or shocking arrogance can explain such a transparently brazen effort.

The legality of such an effort has already been called into question. GOP state Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, recently announced that he would not vote for the legislation, which could prevent it from moving forward. 

Regardless of the end result of these latest Republican abuses, it is the attempt that tells us everything that we need to know about today’s Wisconsin GOP. The only thing that matters to them is winning, and they will do everything they can to keep the public from holding them fully accountable for their radical agenda at the ballot box. 

One thing that has certainly been proven this year is that the threat of being held accountable through recall has truly brought out the absolute worst in Wisconsin Republicans.