So, what exactly is a populist?

The subtitle on a recent Mother Jones on-line article about Kathleen Falk described her as a “progressive populist”, right under the major headline that labeled her a “labor-backed liberal.”

Kathleen Falk is a former Dane County Executive running to be the Democratic candidate against Scott Walker in the upcoming recall election. She’s a good person, a strong candidate, and definitely a progressive. I would be happy to vote for her if she is the one to ultimately face off against Scott Walker, but populist?

When I think populist I think of someone a bit more removed from the power brokers. Kathleen Falk is seeking support from traditional Democratic sources, collecting endorsements from labor organizations, and working her contacts within the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. Those strategies might be the most effective ones at this unique time in Wisconsin history, and they might win Falk the election, but they aren’t those of a populist.

Maybe I have an out-dated concept of what that word means. So what exactly is a populist? lists the following as the first modern definition for “populism”:

any of various, often antiestablishment or anti-intellectual political movements or philosophies that offer unorthodox solutions or policies and appeal to the common person rather than according with traditional party or partisan ideologies.

I’m not sure the phrase “any of various…” is an effective way to begin defining something, but the rest of the definition would seem to fit the way traditional media and political pundits labeled Ross Perot during his independent run for President in 1992. I remember the implication when “experts” called him a populist. They were being dismissive, suggesting that populism meant appealing only to the unsophisticated.

I’ve also seen the term used as a gentler way of saying panderer. When Newt Gingrich recently promised $2.50-per-gallon gasoline if he is elected President, he was pandering. Some media figures, however, have described his pandering behavior as “populist.” Huh? Robert M. La Follette was a populist. Russ Feingold is a populist. Newt Gingrich is a panderer. (I’ve heard “grifter” too, but I think that’s harsh.)

Here are the other definitions of small “p” populism on

“grass-roots democracy; working-class activism; egalitarianism.”

“representation or extolling of the common person, the working class, the underdog, etc.”

That’s getting closer, but there’s something missing in those definitions when I think of a figure like “Fighting Bob” La Follette. Here’s my definition:

A populist has the faith of the people, and has faith in the people. A populist is a leader who amplifies the message of the people until it cannot be ignored by those in power. A populist exposes fundamental flaws in the established social order in a way that boosts his or her popularity among those whose interests are being ignored or minimized. A populist uses that popularity as the main asset in political campaigns rather than relying primarily on money and connections. Finally, a populist offers solutions that go beyond altering policies by making fundamental changes in power structures.

Promising cheap gasoline is not populism. Populism is voicing the frustration of people who are just trying to get to work every day and are tired of being victims of oil companies, then calling for major changes like limits on oil speculation.

I haven’t seen anyone mentioned as a candidate for the Wisconsin gubernatorial race that I would call a populist…yet. While popularity alone doesn’t make one a populist, it’s a required element, and the most popular potential candidates have all said they will not run. We are seeing the maturing of a new populist movement in Wisconsin, though. Maybe one of the leaders who gained exposure from that movement can attain the title of Wisconsin’s next great populist. Maybe by running for governor and winning.

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Protesting Scott Walker
photo above by Dave Hoefler on Flickr

Minor Omission: Teacher in that ad stands with Scott Walker AND National Right to Work Legal Foundation

Channel3000 did a nice clarification on the anti-recall add by Kristi LaCroix in their “Reality Check” feature and that got me looking at the whole thing again.

The gist of the original ad is that those of us who are recalling don’t really have grounds for taking that action, we just have ‘sour grapes’ and Scott Walker is this principled man who said he’d do something and followed through.

With what the ad presents, we think Ms. LaCroix is merely a teacher admiring her unpopular Governor. No agenda.

“I’m not big on recalls, and I think at this point, in my opinion and I’m only speaking from the I, it feels a little like sour grapes,”


The ad forgot to include the anti-union ax Ms. LaCroix has been grinding with unusual vigor. She went so far as to file a brief in federal court supporting Walker’s Wisconsin Act 10 this summer. And naturally she gained the support of the National Right to Work Legal Foundation.

NRWLF runs the National Right to Work Committee PAC and the State Employee Rights Campaign Committee. The National Right to Work Committee PAC is one of those outfits that tries to keep legislators toeing the anti-worker line whether they be Republican or Democrat. [Reminds me of DeMint.]

It ran a series of ads in multiple states to help hobble the proposed Employee Free Choice Act. National Right to Work Committee told TV audiences the act would outlaw secret ballot elections for union representation, when in truth, it would have allowed workers to unionize more easily — by showing they had a majority of sign-ups by cards.

The group also did a pretty good job of taking the message away from the fact that the bill would create real penalties for companies that broke the law during union organizing campaigns and negotiations.

And this well-heeled group naturally keeps its claws constantly in each of the 50 state of our nation. From StealthPAC: “In 2002, the NRWC ran ads attacking six Republican incumbents for refusing to introduce right-to-work legislation.1 Among the targeted lawmakers was Rep. John Cooksey (R-La.), who the group said had pledged to co-author right-to-work legislation. Cooksey was campaigning in the state’s U.S. Senate primary at the time.

Bonus Fun Fact:
Here’s a fun little surprise for the folks who read to the end. The name of NRWLF’s secretary in 2007 was Anne M. Coulter. You don’t suppose it is THE skeletal, shrill Anne Counter who we’ve come to know and loathe on Fox etc?

Ready, Set, Recall! by Carrie

A guest post by Carrie:

Tomorrow is opening day of the Signature Hunting Season in Wisconsin!

Thousands of people are poised with clipboards and petitions to fan out across the state in order to gather about a million signatures to recall Governor Scott Walker and Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch. Although it may sound insane to attempt such a thing in November and December weather, we’re excited. Talk of recalling Scott Walker began almost as soon as he was elected but, according to state law, we had to wait a whole year to begin.

We have already recalled and replaced two Republican Senators this summer, and we may try to recall more Senators while we’re at it with our clipboards. I’ve been calling Wisconsin’s unprecedented grassroots effort “overthrowing our state government one recall at a time”. Thanks to the far-sighted framers of our state constitution, we can take these extraordinary measures—although recalls demand extraordinary effort so they will never be undertaken lightly.

Last week, all over the country, voters occupied ballot boxes to express their strong preferences. For example, Ohio’s unpopular anti-collective bargaining measure was overturned by a huge majority. Now is the time for all Americans to pay very close attention to the health of our democracy and to Occupy Polls. We must remind our legislators—through elections and occupations and protests— that they were elected to represent people, not the powerful special interests that lobby and donate to their campaign coffers.

Note-It was my error originally in repeating a paragraph at the end of the post. Apologies. –blue cheddar

Where do you go to get trained to collect signatures?
Where can you party with the petitioners?
Check out:
These MAPS!

Eagle Scout Walker Prepared to Earn Election Fraud Merit Badge

To my knowledge nobody has recently verified that Governor Scott Walker actually earned an Eagle Scout badge he frequently claims as proof of his personal integrity.  (I was a scout, too. I didn’t earn a lot of badges. I just liked camping.) If he actually did attain the rank of Eagle legitimately when he was a young man, Walker’s subsequent actions show that the badge is no guarantee of goodness. Based on the verifiable record of his post-scouting career, I fully expect him to bring a backpack full of dirty tricks to the recall Jamboree set to get underway against him in November.  He’s had years of experience cheating, and he’s good at it. Why fix something if it ain’t broken, right?
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Are you Recalling Scott Walker? November 15th is the day.

At last the “Is it better to start the recall of Scott Walker ASAP or wait?” debate is over.

The group “Grassroots People to Recall Gov. Walker” – which I believe shares some leaders with the group Dane Grass Roots – came out long ago saying November 5th – the earliest legal start date – was their intended date to file papers. In July Mike Tate was quoted by Reuters saying “The most likely scenario, and one that the Democratic Party will support, is a recall effort of Governor Walker in November of 2012.” Meanwhile, the single-issue non-partisan group United Wisconsin has been steadily collecting pledges to recall Scott Walker since the snowy protests in February and at last check their database held 202,516 of them. Thus, United Wisconsin has developed not only name recognition as a leader in the recall, they’ve developed THE recall list.

At last, tonight, Mike Tate Chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party appeared on the Ed Schultz show to announce a November 15 kick-off date. Once the papers are filed, about 1 million signatures will be gathered within 60 days to provide a buffer in case some signatures get thrown out. [This I learned in a United Wisconsin meeting] Assuming 540,206 valid recall signatures are verified by the G.A.B., an election will be called.

From the Democratic Party of Wisconsin: “This is it. On Nov. 15th, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin will join with our friends in the grassroots to begin the recall of Scott Walker.
That means we have only about a month to organize, train and fund an army of volunteers…”

I assumed that the recall election would fall on the same date as the GOP primary, but that’s not so. Reid Magney of G.A.B. told dane101 that “There are so many moving parts that it’s impossible to get an election to coincide with the spring primary” and he said the G.A.B. anticipates a primary which will definitely push the election later. The Republican presidential primary will fall on April 3rd per Act 45.

There will probably still be casual speculation over whether Walker might throw changes into his own recall given a recent flex of GOP power over the Government Accountability Board. Specifically, GAB dropped a proposal that would make some aspects of the recall signature gathering process easier and more in line with other existing election procedures. GAB dropped the proposal when it became clear that the decision would be passed from Republicans in the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules over to Walker to possibly be approved, tabled interminably, or killed. Walker gained additional powers over state rules when Assembly Bill 8 was passed in May. Previously, the administrative rules were written by state agencies and reviewed by the Legislature.

What do you think? Do you still have the drive to recall Scott Walker? Do you think Wisconsin does?

Walker is a weasel not a badger. Recall Him.

Photo appears here with the permission of Michael Matheson [Thanks!]

Was that a bird? Was that a plane? Nope. Just the truth flying through the sky.

This is a message that flew behind a small plane as it flew over a stadium filled with 80,000+ football fans Saturday.
The full message was “Walker Is a Weasel Not a Badger RECALL HIM.” A 2nd plane flew bearing the message “Recall One WI Now”

Update – I got tweets that there was a 3rd plane: “we have three planes in the “people’s Airforce I saw them over camp randall on Saturday towing anti-Walker signs.”
“there were three banners, with variations on Recall walker.”
” 1) Walker is a Weasel Not a Badger Recall Him 2) Recall Walker 3) Recall Scott Walker One WI Now.” – source: @MadtownBetsy

For the record, the Badgers won against the Nebraska Cornhuskers, 48-17. I don’t care a bit for college football, so whatever. But I really loved seeing these planes fly. You can thank the organization One Wisconsin Now for this idea.

MadisonGuy of the blog Letter From Here has another very nice shot:
A Weasel Not a Badger

And here’s a brief video.

If you were at the Wisconsin protests, you remember the Walker/weasel comparison quite well:

Image from ontask

Shhhh I'm huntin' weasels.
Image from blueCHEDDAR

Scott Walker can put the squeeze on his own recall with rule changes

Scott Walker has the power to put the squeeze on the recall effort against him by changing administrative rules.

The process of distributing and verifying recall signature forms as well as stickering student ID’s for voting were on the table in yesterday’s Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules. Kevin Kennedy, G.A.B.’s director, made the case for downloading a recall petition template and pre-populating it with addresses in a process already used in the case of absentee ballots. Kennedy added that single-signature petitions are already accepted by G.A.B. for candidate nominations.

But in heated discussions, it was also made clear that whatever power the supposedly non-partisan Government Accountability Board has in interpreting and administering state statutes in the recall process could be rendered useless by Scott Walker.

Senator Lena Taylor said: “You gave this governor the authority to accept or reject administrative rules. By you choosing to take this from the GAB to have them shift this from policy to a rule, you give the governor authority to decide on this.”

“Legislative Council agreed, saying that the “new procedures would require gubernatorial approval of the scope statement as well as the final version of the rule.”- Rebecca Kemble’s piece in the Progressive.

It’s because Walker was granted greater executive authority by the Republican-dominated state legislature in May.

From a May 23rd piece at Blogging Blue: “Under legislation he signed into law earlier today, Republican Gov. Scott Walker will gain the power to block administrative rules written by state agencies and other elected state officials. Previously, administrative rules were written by state agencies and reviewed by the Legislature, but Republicans in the State Senate and Assembly were all too willing to cede that power to Gov. Walker, in the process weakening the ability of their branch of state government to act as a check and balance against the power of the governor.”

The committee postponed any vote on the matters discussed and Vukmir said, “We’ll take that under consideration and we’ll decide that in the next few days. We need to take the time to think about issues that were raised here today.”

For more on this meeting, including the awkward and revealing statements of the committee’s co-chair Sen. Lydia Vukmir, read Rebecca Kemble’s post Is Scott Walker Going to Make the Rules on His Own Recall? To see the meeting for yourself, visit this link on wiseye.

Photos are from friend, Nicole.

Vukmir: “This is not about the people, this is about the GAB.”