As we all know, Ron Johnson is the newest senator of Wisconsin, ousting Russ Feingold from the seat he has held since 1992 and costing the American people one of their greatest advocates. I’m here to say, Wisconsin, you should be ashamed of yourselves. You should be ashamed because you let big interests rule the day and you let economic uncertainty cloud your judgment. Instead of looking at the facts, you let manipulative rhetoric decide for you.
While money can’t be called rhetorical it is certainly persuasive. I knew it was coming when the Supreme Court ruling Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission opened the doors for unrestricted funding of television advertisements. These ads consist of 80 percent of a campaign’s budget and the third party associations that can now produce them do not have to disclose the companies who fund them. Three million dollars of special interest financing flowed into this election from these outside sources, with 92 percent going to Ron Johnson. That three million is roughly half of what Feingold and Johnson put up individually for their campaigns, and the Citizen’s United case allowed it to be spent. Citizen’s United repealed the McCain-Feingold act, a landmark law in campaign finance reform, and forced Feingold up against a shadow force with bottomless pockets. A force Feingold fought as “the number one enemy of Washington lobbyists.” Voters let them buy his seat out from under him, something Feingold believed unthinkable. He said “A Senate seat can’t be bought; it has to be earned. We will never let the special interests drown out the voices of the people.”
Sadly, what Feingold didn’t anticipate is that instead of drowning out those voices, special interests only had to appeal to them. Appeal to them emotionally, utilizing fear-mongering and negative advertisements. What I can’t figure out is how a state I believe to be generally rational could be so stupid. Yes, Feingold voted for the health care bill. An historic bill that will expand coverage to 32 million Americans, a bill that allows children to stay under their parents’ insurance until age 26 and prevents insurance companies from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions. So where is the evil? If we believe Johnson, then this bill must increase the deficit, encouraging a spend-spend-spend government those Tea Partiers have been warning us about. But that doesn’t hold up either. The health care bill is projected to cut the deficit by $143 billion over the first 10 years and $1.2 trillion dollars in the second 10 years. OK, but the stimulus definitely failed right? Except that it has already created 1.6 million to 1.8 million jobs and its ultimate impact will be roughly 2.5 million jobs. While imperfect, it has been credited by a wide range of economists as preventing a more serious recession (that recession you all seem to forget was made in the Bush Presidency, but I digress).
What else did Johnson tell you about his plans for Washington? I’m kidding, what plans? Let’s get back to him aimlessly swinging at Feingold. In one ad, he questioned Feingold’s maverick-ness, saying he voted the party line, as if Republicans are guilt-free of the same offense. In reality, you got rid of the only member of the Senate who voted for your civil liberties and against the Patriot Act, when we ourselves did not fully understand its implications. You voted out a man who was the number one enemy of Washington lobbyists, who always honestly defended Wisconsin’s aversion to pork barrel spending and partisan politics. But you let Johnson point out that the deficit has grown over the past 20 years, through Republican held Congresses to Democratic ones and back again, and you believed him when he pinned it on Russ Feingold. You let him twist the reality that we had a senior Senator who did not answer to the powerful interests in Washington into a negative, and again, you believed him.
You failed Wisconsin; you let special interests and cheap campaign tricks rule. You replaced historic contributions with a man who never even bothered to tell us his own agenda. It’s like Feingold worked tirelessly in a McDonald’s, where, despite serious pressure, he managed to cook you a steak. Then, Ron Johnson came along and told you what you had wasn’t a steak, and that Feingold was just like the rest of them, making fake cheeseburgers. So instead of eating the “steak,” you should fire Feingold and hire Johnson instead. He never promised you a steak in return, but I can’t say with complete certainty he won’t try. What I can say is that the McDonald’s of the world didn’t work so hard to defeat Feingold because they wanted more people like him. So good job Wisconsin; enjoy the fast food and the next six years of indigestion.
John Waters ([email protected]) is a junior intending to major in journalism