Occupy the GOP: Art for Gov May 8

Endorsements for candidates in posts here do not represent the opinions of all regular contributers, blue cheddar, or the blog’s many guest writers.

As I wrote earlier, of the four Democratic candidates vying to face Walker in the June 5 Wisconsin Recall election, my pick is Kathleen Vinehout, who has said this on more than one occasion: “If you don’t like big money in politics, vote for the candidate with the least money. If you don’t like politics as usual, vote for the unusual candidate.”

So I’m following her advice, and on May 8 I’m voting for Arthur Kohl-Riggs, who is running as a Lincoln/La Follette progressive Republican. I love the idea of a progressive running as a Republican. This is taking the fight right to Walker himself, to his territory, his own party. This is taking the offensive position. It is nothing less than an occupation of the Republican party.

The Republican party began right here in Wisconsin, in the city of Ripon in 1854, as an abolitionist force opposed to the expansion of slavery into the western territories. The first Republican president was none other than Abraham Lincoln himself, to whom Art bears more than a passing resemblance. Obviously the party has strayed far—very far—from its noble beginnings.

Arthur is serious in his determination to defeat Walker. By running against him as a Republican, he’s showing himself to be a clever, resourceful young man capable of thinking outside the box. And he is young—23 years young. In our struggle against the corporate takeover of our state, most of us thought we had no choice but to rely on the often disappointing Democratic party, but very often Democratic candidates are beholden to the same corporate forces we are fighting against and are only slightly less repugnant than their GOP counterparts.

In a way, Art’s running as a Republican brings us around full circle, creates a simultaneously new and old, authentic and innovative space in which to carry on our fight. Voting as a Democrat in the primary means choosing among four candidates—all of them good, none of them perfect, none of them eliciting the fervor of the day-after-day winter protests of February and March 2011 nor the dogged determination of the campaign to collect recall signatures.

To my mind, right now, voting against Walker is paramount. And Arthur is giving us a chance to do just that, quite emphatically, on May 8 as well as on June 5. And given that my positive feelings about the four Democratic contenders aren’t anywhere near as strong as my negative feelings toward Walker, what I really, really want is to vote vehemently, adamantly against Walker.

Arthur has developed what he calls a living platform—living, because it will grow and take shape as he responds to the concerns of the people. The one thing that has incensed me most about Walker has been his refusal to listen to the people of Wisconsin. He and his cronies in the legislature have treated us with utter contempt. The people of Wisconsin need a governor who will listen to us and identify with us, who will bear in mind and heart the present and future well-being of the people of Wisconsin.

John Nichols writes:

Arthur Kohl-Riggs runs in the Wisconsin Republican tradition, a radical tradition that embraces labor rights, human rights and democracy. That’s what Wisconsin Republicans believed in for far longer than they have embraced the boilerplate language of contemporary conservatism—as espoused by Scott Walker.

“I am a Lincoln-La Follette Republican, a real Wisconsin Republican,” says Kohl-Riggs. “Scott Walker is the fake Republican.”

Arthur wrote a great piece for the Cap Times this week in which he says, “I love Wisconsin for what our state has historically valued and for how tirelessly we will fight against those who do not have the people’s best interests at heart.”

You can see Art’s interview with Wisconsin Eye here and his interview with Channel 3 News here.

Arthur’s campaign is fun. Think of it—fun! The tag line at the top of Art’s web page says “Art for Gov: Not currently the subject of an ongoing John Doe investigation!” A couple of the homegrown, grassroots campaign posters I’ve seen show Arthur dressed in top hat and bow tie, clearly evoking a young Abe Lincoln, literally running, with a tag line that says “Arthur Kohl-Riggs ‘Running’ For Gov.” It’s not that he’s not serious. He is in earnest. But the wise know it’s best in a sustained fight against evil to nurture a healthy sense of humor, which requires perspective and humility, guards against discouragement, and keeps enthusiasm and optimism fresh and vigorous.

I’m delighted that Arthur has stepped up to challenge Walker directly on his own political turf. At worst, he may help us to keep Republicans from “messing around” with the Democratic primary. At best, we give Walker the boot a month early.

For my part, I’m completely fed up with the corporate takeover of our state. I’ve had enough of big money in politics, and politics as usual makes me utterly ill. The thought of voting in the Democratic primary on May 8 smells a lot like politics as usual to me. Whereas every time I think about voting for Art on May 8, I smile.

From Wisconsin’s Department of Unmitigated Gall

I received a charming little missive in my inbox today from none other than our illustrious guv himself:

E-update from the Desk of Governor Scott Walker
One of the most important duties I have serving as your Governor is to provide you directly with updates related to the operation of our state government. In an effort to improve communication, periodically I will be sending out an e-update to provide you with more information about what is going on in state government.

The e-mail smells like a pathetic effort at damage control. Um, guv? Kinda late, dontcha think? You have the nerve to send an e-mail bragging about your accomplishments? Yeah, right. All over Wisconsin we feel the weight of your many accomplishments: slashed education funding, rescinded collective bargaining rights, less access to health care, voter disenfranchisement, and 15,000 fewer jobs since July. This is like getting a missive from the devil crowing about how it’s even hotter in hell these days.

Then I stumbled on this statement made to Talking Points Memo by the Wisconsin state GOP communications director, Ben Sparks:

The Republican Party of Wisconsin is committed to ensuring that Wisconsin electors are not disenfranchised during this recall process. The Democrats have shown they are committed to preserving the status quo, where a man is able to sign a recall petition 80 times, and their frivolous attempt to intervene in this lawsuit only reinforces their willingness to force this baseless recall on Wisconsin voters at any cost.

Say what?!? There’s enough unmitigated gall in those two sentences to make your eyes water.

The Republican Party of Wisconsin, the same outfit that brought you voter suppression a la mode, is “committed to ensuring that Wisconsin electors are not disenfranchised”? Whoa. I want to hear Sparks say that to the college students, the working poor, the elderly, and every other disenfranchised voter in Wisconsin.

And which “status quo” do you suppose Sparks is accusing the Democrats of being committed to preserving? I’m guessing he was not thinking of the status quo of state workers having collective bargaining rights. Or the status quo of clean, transparent governance. Or the status quo of Wisconsin’s great public education system. The people of Wisconsin long for a return to that status quo, Mr. Sparks.

But wait! There’s more! The lawsuit Sparks is referring to is the one brought by the Walker campaign and the Wisconsin Republican Party against the Government Accountability Board asking that the GAB eliminate duplicate or false signatures on recall petitions. Because, of course, it’s not enough that the nonpartisan GAB just do its job as clearly stated in state statutes.

This nonsensical lawsuit actually claims that the guv’s “constitutional rights are being violated by the state’s petition review process.” And Sparks calls the organizers’ request to be involved in the judicial process “frivolous”? Really?

In an interview with Talking Points Memo, Jeremy Levinson, the attorney for the recall organizers, said, “It’s the first time I’m aware of a recall-related lawsuit where only the official who is being targeted for recall gets to be a party, and the folks who are working to recall that official are shut out of the process.” Apparently its frivolous for all the players to ask for a seat at the table.

It's Not Over

And who is Sparks to talk about the “willingness to force” anything “on Wisconsin voters at any cost”? This from the people who used every dirty trick in the book to cram their loathsome “budget bill” down the throats of the people of Wisconsin, who repeatedly refused to listen in spite of unprecedented protests and vehement objections. The people of Wisconsin wouldn’t have had any chance to make themselves heard had it not been for the fourteen Democratic state senators who fled the state in February.

Finally, only someone who has never listened to anything the people of Wisconsin have been saying for the last eleven months would refer to the Walker recall as “baseless.”