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Advertising in Wisconsin Recalls Offer Broad Critique of Republican Ideology

Chris Bowers is right that the Wisconsin recalls represent a progressive community “in the arena,” willing to fight the class war before it decimates the middle class. Even though the recalls were initiated over the issue of collective bargaining – a specific element of the class war – the bulk of the advertising that has been used to attack state Senators who face recall gives a broader critique of Republican ideology. It’s about taking away education funding in favor of tax breaks for billionaires. It’s about taking away money from cops and firefighters in favor of corporate handouts. It’s some of that old-time populism. And in the context of Wisconsin, where the party is actually aligned with the grassroots, it has that credibility which is lacking in Washington, where Democrats often fight just as hard for billionaire tax breaks.

Bowers writes about the above ad:

Watching ads with this simple message—elected officials taking money from the middle class and giving it to rich people and big corporations—makes it easy to understand why Republicans get huffy whenever they think Democrats are engaging in class warfare. When you fight the class war from the other direction, it can be very effective […]

Democrats are fighting a class war in Wisconsin, and they’re winning. Granted, there have been prominent ads in the Wisconsin recall elections with very different messages, such as the DLCC hitting Republican Dave VanderLeest on his criminal record, and our Daily Kos ads targeting Randy Hopper for his mistress getting a state job and a raise. While those are good ads, any electoral victory that would come as a result of them would not strike a blow in the class war or build progressive power. Electoral victories stemming from the personal flaws of the candidates you oppose are one-off, tactical success stories. Electoral victories stemming from your core ideological messaging are strategic successes that build real power.

If you can show that a message of populism from the left works, with a broad critique of trickle-down economics and a message of shared prosperity and opportunity, maybe you can convince those who agree with this view of the world that they have representation. Maybe you can convince them to only support those politicians who support them on this view of the world. Maybe you can roll back the tide of corporatism that both parties have found variously compelling, under the swoon of fundraising dollars.

We’ll see the outcome of the Wisconsin recalls over the next month. The next step would be recalling Governor Scott Walker, and Republicans are planning on some dirty tricks on that score. But if nothing else, this shows a real nervousness on the part of Republicans that their opponents are finally willing to tell the people what they’re all about.

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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