Acting as the appointed Brietbart concern troll, CNN's Dana Loesch descended upon the Wisconsin Recall post-mortem panel to innocently inquire as to why it is that union dues and membership dropped ahead of the recall. In Loesch's world, those evil unions were punished by working people for spending their money on "Democrat candidates."
With feigned concern, Loesch asked why it is that 36 percent of union households voted for Walker in the recall election, and whether the steep decline in union membership after Walker's union-busting law went into effect could possibly be responsible for that, along with everything wrong in the world, and also "dispirited" someones, though I'm not entirely clear on who she thinks is dispirited.
Because you know, she's so concerned. And so genuine.
This question came toward the end of the panel, where participants had concluded that two major factors played into the recall. Harry Weisbren sums it up this way:
Two main points emerged during the discussion: that the power of Wall Street and the 1% to subvert our democracy by buying elections is getting exponentially worse, and that the Democratic party failed to understand the broader occupation-inspired movement growing in response to this dynamic.
And it was Harry himself who took Loesch out to the woodshed to set her straight. At just over 2 minutes in, he gives her the answer she's looking for to her question about whether ordinary people feel dispirited:
WEISBREN: I think the ability of the 1 percent billionaires to spread political propaganda - to have expensive television commercials - is an unparalleled power that we've never seen before. It is able to manipulate people to vote against their own interests and it's a specific plan to subvert democracy by making democratic discourse something you can literally buy.
This attitude that money is speech, that corporations can take over the voices of working families and drown them out is something that is shameful and I think the attitude that union dues are the same as checks from Wall Street is pathetic, frankly.
Yeah, Weisbren spluttered and spit, but he made his point loud and clear. I'm not sure I completely agree with the television advertising being as much of a factor as the other areas those billionaires spread their money around, but his point is well-taken. What I saw in Wisconsin was a lot of money funding a ton of propaganda from the likes of the MacIver Institute, Freedomworks, Americans for Prosperity, and other billionaire-backed organizations. To me, those groups do far more damage than television ads.
There's a lot about Wisconsin and that recall we don't know yet. The politics in that state are ground zero for the November 2012 election, where the recall question will be out of the mix, but the money will flow like a river to those willing to toe the billionaires' line. There are questions about voting machines, questions about voter suppression, questions about whether mailers and robocalls misled people into not voting, and of course, questions about how breaking the unions, and with them people's voices, will play into November's general election. But to the extent that ordinary people are drowned out by corporate interests, Weisbren is right.
I will note for the record that in late 2011 an unnamed billionaire benefactor funded Breitbart News Network (don't choke on the irony) to the tune of $10 million. They like that number, $10 million. As Digby says, to them it's just pocket change. Take your pick on the names: Friess, Adelson, Koch? Could be any of them. Breitbart had ties and common goals with each, and I view his legacy as one that is far more insidious than a few ads on television.