Remember those Russ Feingold campaign t-shirts from several years ago that had a healthy spine printed on the back? It was all about how the junior Senator from Wisconsin was willing to stand up and be the often lone dissenting voice on the Patriot Act and a variety of other wildly important issues even when the loudest voices were calling him a traitor for doing so.
His current, main opponent in the campaign for that senate seat, millionaire businessman Ron Johnson, should have similar shirts printed. Only his would feature a sclerotic set of vertebrae. Instead of standing up for honesty and even a small shred of decency, Johnson continues to prove willing to pander to the basest notions of his paranoid public.
The most recent proof of that fact comes from this video of our Republican candidate for the senate laughing and mushily approving of incredibly inflammatory remarks directed at President Obama.
The exchange in question goes a little something like this:
Audience Member: Today I am very, very worried about this country, where it is going. As I study history and look at the historical thing I see right now a liar, a cheat, a criminal, a dishonest person who lied his way into the White House; and we are sitting with a Marxist anti-American, American-hater sitting in the White House, who seems bound and determined to destroy this nation.
Different Audience Member: Rich is that your question?
Audience Member: Yes. Do you agree? Let me finish. My point, I guess what I'm saying it is so important for people like Mr. Johnson who understands this [inaudible] to be elected. It's important for the people who are out there who don't understand what this whole thing was about, that they begin to understand so that a Reagocrat[?] like Feingold, ah...Dumocrats like Kagen and others out there are removed from office so that this country gets back on a...gets back on its path. Do you kind of agree with that? (Laughter)
Ron Johnson: I'm not... I'm not going to argue with... arm wrestle you about it.
Back during the Bush II administration, any little criticism of the president frequently garnered angry accusations of treason and America-hating from many on the far right. "We're in the middle of a war," his devotees would cry, "you can't question the government or you're helping the terrorists!"
That was then, of course, when Republicans held a solid majority at the federal level and had nothing much to worry about in terms of passing whatever legislation they wanted, or waterboarding whoever they wanted.
As soon as there was a scary Democrat sitting in the White House (with all those expansive powers they'd first bestowed upon one of their own), however, the far right's focus shifted rapidly from vigorous defense of the executive branch to rabid offense. It's not an uncommon occurrence there are plenty of people on all sides of the political spectrum who resort to that kind of extremist loyalty, even Dumo...ahem...Democrats.
The right must be given credit, however, for giving rise to a particularly onerous flavor of hypocritical wailing and gnashing of teeth. They preyed on deep-seeded insecurities about things like job loss, fear of the foreign, and plain old ignorance of the real meaning of things like universal health care and immigration. Misguided citizens imagined that beast into being and politicians desperate for their votes either outright agree or give tacit approval of the whole thing, giving it teeth.
Johnson appears more than ready and willing to jump on that bandwagon, carefully courting the so-called Tea Party vote by tacitly agreeing with many of their sentiments. All the while he dances just far enough away so as not to fully ally him with a movement that more than a few die-hard Republicans have icky feelings about.
Simply put, whereas Feingold even when I've disagreed with his decisions almost always displays clear vision and thoughtfulness, Johnson doesn't have the spine to stand up for anything in particular other than his own candidacy.
Heck, he can't even make up his mind about his stock holdings in BP.
A quick note on e-cigarettes
To everyone who's been asking: Yes, there's more to come on the subject. Lots more. I appreciate your patience!
After so many years of fighting to see Nike held accountable for their support and use of sweatshops in the production of their apparel, there's finally some payoff for groups like UW's Labor Licensing Policy Committee and the Student Labor Action Coalition.
Nike announced that it will pay into a relief fund to support workers fired from two of their contracted factories in Honduras. Those businesses have been accused of paying well under legal wage limits, as well as "not paying into Honduras' national health care system and keeping the deductions that were taken out of workers' checks." It's a start, anyway.
Meanwhile, the situation is looking up for the principal fired from St. John's Lutheran School in Baraboo last spring for having the audacity to suggest that women should play a more equal role in the church. Supporters of both John Hartwig and a more open-minded policy have started a new school where he'll again be principal. This one, the Community Christian School, is to be non-denominational, however, and presumably far more inclined to call on female students in classes.