© Josh Sager – February 2015
The first stages of the 2016 primary election are in full swing, and prospective candidates are ramping up attempts to differentiate themselves from their fellow reactionaries. Prospective candidates for the GOP nomination are aligning themselves with the various strains of conservatism (religious, economic, populist, and military) to attract donor support, with which they will fund their future campaign.
In most cases, these candidates are largely limited to making rhetorical points and promises to donors, while lacking any ability to cause real change. Almost every GOP candidate is either an ex-elected official or somebody who has never held office, thus they lack any power with which to back up their promises, unless they are elected in 2016.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case as Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal and Chris Christie are serving governors with the ability to affect real change to back up their rhetoric. Walker, in particular, has great power to cause damage to his constituents because he presides over a state where his party has control over the legislature, thus can pass virtually any right wing priority.
Here are two striking examples of this from the last month:
Both Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal have championed crippling budget cuts for public higher education that will almost certainly reduce the quality of their state college systems while increasing tuition. Governor Walker enacted the largest such cut, totaling approximately $300 million over the next two years, while Governor Jindal plans to cut a mere $200 million. These cuts may damage the Wisconsin and Louisiana, but they are political gold to Walker and Jindal, as they prove how willing these governors are to screw over the common person for the good of the rich—obviously, an attractive characteristic to the right wing donor class.
This week, Scott Walker and his Republican legislative allies fast-tracked a “right to work” law that will reduce the power of unions in the state. By eliminating the requirement that people who benefit from union negotiations pay for the union activities, this “right to work” law reduces union membership/resources and allows businesses to have greater power over worker compensation. When compared with analogous workers in union states, middle class workers in right to work states make $1,500 less, are less likely to be given health insurance, and have fewer sick/vacation days.
What is good for the political prospects of right wing politicians can be absolutely toxic for the welfare of a state. Cutting public services and taxes while attacking the rights of workers is a narrative that only benefits a very small segment of the American population—unfortunately, this small group has a lot of money and has proven itself willing to throw large sums of that money at any politician who is willing to support their ideals.
The primary season is only starting to ramp up and there is plenty of time for these politicians to pass a whole host of damaging laws. Given what they are willing to do before the race starts, one can only imagine what governors like Walker and Jindal will do if they are behind in the polls and need a boost in funding to create more ads.
In all likelihood, taxes, worker protections and regulations will be slashed across red states over the next year so that the Republican Party can garner increased support from their base and donors. The real effects of these partisan policy changes will not be felt before the election—most policies have a delayed reaction—thus the ill-informed public will not have a chance to repudiate the politicians who have hurt them. By the time the American people realize what has happened, many of the politicians who sold them out will be starting their next term in office, thus immune from consequence for a minimum of two years (by which time the outrage will likely be forgotten by most people).
To avoid this, the media must hold these politicians’ feet to the fire and demand that they answer for their craven partisan choices. The majority of the American people don’t want the same things that the donor class do, and any politician to go against public opinion in order to gain “campaign contributions” (read: bribes) should be forced to explain themselves before the election and while their jobs are in jeopardy.