No Plan Stan
A lot of folks have been saying (or at least strongly suspecting) from the beginning that Ron Johnson was an empty suit when it came to policies and plans. Now, however, we have solid evidence to support the assertion.
In a recent interview with the editorial staff of the Green Bay Press Gazette, Johnson was asked about his plan to help create jobs and boost the middle class. He had nothing.
Unless, that is, you count acting like a deer caught in a pair of speedily onrushing headlights as a solid plan for job creation. Maybe for the street clean-up crews.
Thing is, this is pretty much just par for the course with RoJo. He's made a campaign of being a blank slate onto which disaffected conservative voters could project their hopes and dreams. No one -- Democrat or Republican -- has a truly good idea of just what kind of senator he'd make if elected, though. Johnson's continued dodging of most press interviews and debates has made sure of that.
So far (and so depressingly) the strategy does seem to be working.
Though a recent WPR/St. Norbert poll shows Johnson and Feingold now in a dead heat, the fact that it turned into such a squeaker of a contest at all speaks volumes about the effectiveness of being the fresh-faced, unknown candidate with only vague platitudes and talking points for a platform.
It also helps that Johnson enjoys significant financial backing, both in the form of the nearly $7 million he's loaned himself and the copious amount coming to him in the form of third-party attack ads and campaigning.
That outside money -- the direct result of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgate for direct corporate, union, and non-profit spending in campaigns -- has proved to be a serious boon to Republican candidates in this election. While Russ Feingold has actively discouraged third-party groups from airing attack ads against his opponent, Johnson has no such compunction.
RoJo takes a more see-no-evil approach. At one of the few debates he actually agreed to have with Feingold, Johnson said that "he hasn't objected to third-party attack ads in his favor because the groups behind them have a right to free speech. He also said he has no control over the groups."
Feingold's own disinterest in such ads is certainly seen as a mark of pride by his most ardent supporters, but the sad fact is that it's hurting him in this heavily moneyed election cycle. These third-party groups overwhelmingly support (some estimates have it at a 10-1 ratio) GOP candidates. Organizations like the Republican Governors Association, the Club for Growth and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are all throwing their cash -- much of it coming from undisclosed donors -- behind right-wing candidates they believe will be sympathetic to their favorite causes.
Which is to say that very wealthy, very shadowy figures from outside of Wisconsin are doing a bang-up job of buying our election.
Jack over at The Sconz points out that while Democrats may crow about their higher rate of direct campaign contributions, the fact is that GOP supporters are more likely to give to these third-party groups -- and in turn, these groups can do the lion's share of the mudslinging on behalf of their preferred candidate, leaving him or her free to claim that they've risen above such unpleasantness. And that works.
It's a vicious game, really. I, for one, don't wish to see Feingold tacitly supporting petty outside attack ads. The ideal solution would be to undo the Citizens United ruling and advance the campaign finance reform for which Feingold has so ardently fought. Elections shouldn't hinge on who has the biggest corporate sponsors.
Companies are not people.
But right here, right now in this election we don't have the luxury of a fair system. Instead we must work, and hope that the electorate sees through the mudslinging and puppetry of the Johnson campaign and its backers. We should decide to stick with the guy who's been fighting tooth and nail for their interests for years now.
(You can track some of the outside spending via the Stealth PAC database newly provided by Public Citizen here.)
(Immediately following Johnson's less than inspired interview with them that I mentioned above, the Green Bay Press Gazette endorsed Feingold.)
The State Supreme Court will be taking up review of a case involving a 14-year-old who was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, and whether or not such punishment constitutes the cruel and unusual sort looked down upon by the Constitution. It will be an interesting case to watch, as it may well determine how we treat juvenile capitol offenders in the future. Frankly, I don't think it makes any sense to throw kids that young behind bars with no hope of parole, ever. The whole point of jail is to rehabilitate, save for the really extreme cases that sometimes occur with adults. But children are not yet done developing -- physically, mentally or emotionally -- and it seems exceptionally unjust to treat them as though they don't still have a lifetime of potential change and growth ahead of them.
The Cap Times endorses Green Party candidate Ben Manski for the 77th Assembly District. I haven't been paying nearly close enough attention to this race (partly because I don't live in the district, which, I know, bad political commentator) but it is shaping up to be an incredibly interesting one. Democrat versus Green, with an afterthought of a Republican challenger, in a very blue district. And the Green has a shot! In addition to the Cap Times nod, Manski also won support from the Teaching Assistants Association, Fred Wade, and Peg Lautenschlager. From what I've seen, I'm fairly pro-Manski winning this thing -- but still, it's always a serious uphill battle for third-party candidates, even in local races.