Democracy Died First in Wisconsin – Long Live the Oligarchs

The Wisconsin recall election was the first major test of the new era in American politics. That new era began in January of 2010 when the US Supreme Court ruled in “Citizens United v. FEC” that the political voice of We The People was no longer as important as the voices of billionaires and transnational corporations.

Now we know the result, and it bodes ill for both 2012 and for the tattered future of small-d democracy in our republic. A few of America’s most notorious oligarchs – including the Koch and the DeVos (Amway fortune) billionaires – as well as untraceable millions from donors who could as easily be Chinese government-run corporations as giant “American” companies who do most of their business and keep most of their profits outside the US – apparently played big in this election.

I say “apparently” because the Supreme Court has ruled that we no longer have the right to know who is really funding our election commercials, or even our candidates themselves. Thanks to an irrational and likely illegal Supreme Court ruling, we have moved into an era of oligarch-run politics. As much as $40 million of our oligarch’s money was spent in Wisconsin in a handful of local races – a testing laboratory for strategies that will now be used against Democrats nationwide in 2012.

And so now we enter the battle of the oligarchs over the next fifteen or so months. As the old saying goes, when the elephants fight, the mice get trampled. In this case, the mice aren’t just the voters. It’s democracy itself. America is now – demonstrably, as proven by Wisconsin – just a few years away from the possibility of a totally corrupted, totally billionaire- and corporate-controlled political system. Political scientists call it oligarchy.

The Citizens United election experiment is over, and the oligarchs won. Long live the oligarchy.


concerned_surgeon's picture
concerned_surgeon 10 years 45 weeks ago

You are quite wrong. SOME of the super wealthy are using their wealth to influence decisions in Congress. The most offensive and obvious is the pledge not to raise any taxes. The economic theory and evidence are quite clear about the issue of the tax burden on the wealthy and corporations. Lower taxes for the wealthy, as has been done since the 1980s, increses the gap between the rich and poor. Conversely, increasing the tax rate of multimillionaires will decrease this gap.

The evidence is also clear that there is a strong relationship between the level of inequality in society and the health of society. As Thom pointed out on his show, this is well documented in the book, The Spirit Level.

Raising taxes on the wealthy will also help stimulate the economy. With higher taxes, more money will be redirected into the business, rather than taken out as profit. Doing something with this money, research, development, etc, will create jobs and consumers. With a healthy middle class, demand will increase and the economy will grow. This further increases revenue for the government, which will reduce the stress of deficit.... Hence, lowering the tax burdens on the wealthy and corporations have a significant role in the economic and ill health our country faces.


kevin baggese's picture
kevin baggese 10 years 45 weeks ago

you lnow with this type of crookedness smothering the election process,with greed and criminal practices the norm on wall street and blatant political and judicial(clarence thomas etc>)corruption being financed by transnational corp.does anybody ever wonder if somewhere,sometime jeff skilling from enron fame is sitting there and saying-how the hell did i get sent to prison compared to what these guys have been doing and getting off scott free!!oligarchs-to say the very least!!

Martin Sandberg's picture
Martin Sandberg 10 years 45 weeks ago

@Lindawyeth: Exactly right - no matter how they choose to speak together, with one voice, their right of free speech shall not be abridged. The corporation is merely one type of association, no more or less privileged than any other type of association. That's the whole point, individually or as a member of a group, identified or anonymous, congress shall make NO law!

SmmhdT's picture
SmmhdT 10 years 45 weeks ago

Strike the last comment in the blog: "Long live the Oligarchy."

The oligarchy must die.

And we can't blame the oligarchs for this. Oligarchs do what they do. It is our complacency and naievite. It is our own selfishness and prejudices that are exposed when we progress once again down this path. That's the gift and the challenge in this. If the unionized blue collar workers could have embraced hippies, liberated women and gays in 1972 we would have triumphed... and on it goes. But they weren't coming for the steel worker then, were they? No were most of us FAA workers when they got canned by Reagan. Nor are most of us government workers now. But it's interesting that in the 80's government work was looked down on not because those government workers had it better than everyone but because it was felt you could do so much better in the private sector. Now those government slugs have it better and therefore who cares if they get trimmed a bit... divide and conquer. and we get another opportunity to learn. It's inclusiveness that is our greatest strength as a people and that's why it's divisiveness that is the first thing they sew. We should learn to hear it and instantly ask; "Who is getting shafted now? Who am I being asked to defend now?" Then "we the people" will rise again.

rwkieffer's picture
rwkieffer 10 years 45 weeks ago

Lest we forget, an elitist, monarchial, oligarchic run country is what sparked the American Revolution - it wasn't "high taxes", it was "taxation without representation". Do you think the Republicans and special interest groups who support them, and are "cornering the American wealth", are representing the interests of the middle class and under privileged? Not! This is “back to the past”.

gmandrilling 10 years 45 weeks ago

The only question I have is, who will be our Spartucus. You see what has happened in England. Do you know the difference- We the People have weapons. Best wishes to all

fbacher's picture
fbacher 10 years 45 weeks ago

No one is talking about taking all of the money from the super rich. We are talking about them paying their fair share of taxes. But besides money, the super rich are very powerful simply by their immense wealth. Power tends to corrupt and it has corrupted them. Their power allows them to cast millions into poverty, to overrule the desires of millions of voters and the power to have laws made that benefit themselves at the expense of others.

Many of the rich consider their riches as proof that they are superior to others and worthy of control. They are just modern day Aristocrats.

fbacher's picture
fbacher 10 years 45 weeks ago

The choice seems to be either regulated capitalism or regulated democracy.

DeanOrff's picture
DeanOrff 10 years 45 weeks ago

I agree with you 100% Thom. Just a suggestion on wording. I think a lot more people know the meaning of the word "Monarchy" than the word "Oligarch." To describe the conservatives/Republicans/ Wall Street, I've been using "Corporate Monarchy", "Monarchists", the "New American Monarchy", "Wall Street Monarchy", "Stop Monarchy/the Monarchists -- Save Our Democracy" and so on.

Everyone knows the meaning of the word "Kingdom" --- so I've been using "Kingdom ruled by Wall Street CEO's" to describe the main goal of the Republican Party. ("Monarch/ist" Party? - there's another idea).

Why am I using all these words? Because, to the independent thinkers and anyone who Hasn't been brainwashed by the Conservative Indoctrination Machine, - it's obvious that they are accurate.

Christopher Goodrich 10 years 45 weeks ago


Thank you for all that you do to help all living things and our environment. I must say that I'm surprised at how defeatest you are in your assessment of the outcome in Wisconsin. I grew up in Wisconsin and I don't see myself moving away any time soon. In my 56 years I have never gotten any more politically involved than to cast my vote. I consider voting a very important priviledge. Things changed for me with the injustices being inflicted upon our great state and I volunteered for this cause on many ocassions. My wife, daughter and mother-in-law also participated and they had never gone beyond voting either. We came VERY close to our goal and there are moderate Republicans who are now taking publicly about working with the Democrats in a more collaborative manner. This brings me to the question of whether "we the people" will be able to mobilize to counteract the power of the wealthy. As much as I appreciate the efforts of the organizers in Wisconsin the volunteer experience has MANY problems. My background is in facilitating teams through processes and solving complex problems through this collaboration. I saw a number of opportunities to improve the process and I know that the process could be significantly improved by working to understand the network of problems and then applying the creativity of the participants. I've seen this work in product development, manufacturing and non-profit volunteer endeavors. I truly believe that we can create a flexible model of mobilizing "we the people" that will much more effectively harness the potential of the people who are motivated to participate. It's a tall order and it will take a great deal of persistence but I know it can be done. thanks again for all that you do to make the world a better place.

one of a few 10 years 45 weeks ago

I do not understand why so many people cannot see (or refuse to see) what is happening to our country. There is evidence. There are facts. Still, many people seem unable to see and believe.

Also, there are so many people are dealing with the reality of what has happened over the last thirty years while our country has been taken so far to the RIGHT (which is SO wrong for the country).

I have to admit that many of us are kept in the dark when we make poor decisions about who to listen to or what to read. However, there are so many good, honest people who are smart...

Naomi Klein, author:

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein (Jun 24, 2008)

Thom Hartmann, author and communications (Free TV):

Thom Hartmann explained the other day that:

1. the Federal Reserve is a Private Corporation

2. made up of "Member Banks"

3. which own 12 Regional Banks"

4. The Federal Reserve "prints" paper

5. They loan this "paper" out out 0% interest to their banks

6. The banks buy U.S. Treasury Bonds and "earn" 2-3% interest.

7. They have been allowed to get away with this theft by saying, "Oh, it's paper." (Like they do not "mint money, coinage," as listed in the constitution)

8. They collect the interest on say, three and a half TRILLION non-dollars.

They stick the REAL interest (made off their "paper") in their banks and laugh the whole way there.

We all need to read and listen and take positive action to get our country to be a better place.

vivjfriday 10 years 45 weeks ago

What are the figures for the spending on this election? I listened to this broadcast and his comments suggested that a significant part, if not most, of the $ was from conservative special interest groups. The total purse for this was 35M-40M. Reuters and Mother Jones did not give actual data, but they said that it was about even, with most of it going towards Democrats.

However, the general right-wing chorus is really off on this one. James T. Harris of WI, the "honey badger," has his own show, and he, like many of the other Tea Partiers, said that the Unions outspent R's 3:1, which would be an incredible 30M.'s picture
trucker@greater... 10 years 44 weeks ago

There is absolutely NOTHING the least bit "horrendous" in pitting the common people against the rentier. The _FACT_ is that economic rent does indeed belong to the people and that it takes a properly functioning government to collect and redistribute it. The oil under the inherited Texas ranch is as much the rightful property of a dude living in Delaware as it is the "owner" that inherited the ranch. All naturally occurring resources are rightfully accessible to all naturally occurring persons because no one ever EARNED such resources; they are a gift to all. Rightful private ownership comes into being in the hands of those who PRODUCE that which is to be owned. Even then, the rest of the community must be compensated for the natural resources that were taken in the production process and thus no longer available to the rest of the community. It might make sense for the oil to "belong" to the oil company that is actually "producing" products from the oil. It makes _NO_ economic sense for the oil to belong to a ranch owner, or for money to be bestowed on the "owner" for simply being the "owner".

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