Catching up with Charles P. Pierce’s irreplaceable The Politics Blog, I found a gem that needs to be passed around and admired by all who can appreciate it. Pierce, who graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee, zeroed in on Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s stupid attempt to change the mission of the state’s university system—known and celebrated as the Wisconsin Idea, which was born out of early 20th-century progressivism—and Walker’s subsequent lies about what he was doing.
Pierce summarized the history of the Wisconsin Idea, mentioning “its greatest political advocate, Robert LaFollette,” and Teddy Roosevelt, who appealed to it “as the source of the Progressive movement.” Then Pierce produced this sparkling description of the dangerous political game being played by some powerful Republicans:
The forces that Scott Walker represents are the same forces, dressed up in modern drag and operating with the speed and efficiency of modern communication, that Roosevelt and LaFollette and the rest of them saw as threatening to the creative process of self-government back at the turn of the last century. The money power does not need the political entity that is the United States of America except as an organizing infrastructure through which private profits can be insured and increased. The money power does not need its fellow citizens as anything but disposable commodities, and anonymous, interchangeable units, in the mechanism that produces those profits. That is the political and social reality against which The Wisconsin Idea was raised up to combat. It depended vitally on the intellectual ferment of the state’s universities, and the products of that ferment as applied in pursuit of a better life for all the state’s citizens. The forces for which Scott Walker is only the most recently popular front man are threatened by education, and by knowledge, so they use all the power they have to frighten people about new ways of looking at things, about fresh knowledge, about the process of education itself. They force a kind of mental surrender of the rights of the people to create and sustain a self-governing political commonwealth by convincing those people that anything done together, through the mechanisms of self-government, is a threat to personal, private liberties. You can see it in what Walker’s trying to do to the University of Wisconsin, and you can see it to a smaller degree in the way that potential Republican presidential candidates have bamfoozled themselves on the subject of childhood vaccinations. We conquered polio, and smallpox, and measles because we all worked together, and when intelligent people offered us a cure, we made a national movement out of the effort to eradicate these diseases. The government and the universities and the people they produced showed the way, and the country made that cause its own, and we by god eradicated these diseases. We didn’t do this as a mindless and fearful herd. We did this because we educated ourselves on what the experts told us was the best way to prevent these diseases. and then we acted on the knowledge that we had gained for ourselves.
Now, though, a substantial portion of the population has been taught that the worst people in the world to trust are the people who know the most about anything. They have nothing to say to us. We have our good old common sense which, I have learned, grows less sensible as it grows more common. This has been a lesson devised by people whose power is threatened by the act of creating a political commonwealth in which their power needs must be scrutinized and, if necessary, limited. That is the game Scott Walker is playing. It is far from a new one, and it still can be lost.
That line—“a substantial portion of the population has been taught that the worst people in the world to trust are the people who know the most about anything”—describes perfectly right-wing radio and Fox “News” and most of the rest of the conservative media complex.
Sitting at or near the top of that complex is a man named Matt Drudge and his The Drudge Report. Guess who Drudge is pushing as the Republican presidential nominee? Yep:
Details on how Drudge is promoting Walker, a radically conservative union-buster, can be found at Media Matters (“Clear GOP Frontrunner”: How The Drudge Report Shills For Scott Walker). With Drudge in his corner, Walker can count on Limbaugh and Hannity and most of the other know-nothing zealots on the right, on radio and television, to support him during a bruising primary battle with Jebby the Bush.
As for the rest of us, Charles Pierce is right: Scott Walker is playing a very old game on behalf of profits-above-people forces, those “money power” folks who see the rest of us as little more than “disposable commodities, and anonymous, interchangeable units, in the mechanism that produces those profits.”