Tuesday, June 5, 2012 was a momentous day in US history. In a very real sense, it may have even more important than the ominous day in 2010 when the US Supreme Court handed down the Citizens United decision. That decision created the potential for big corporate and individual billionaires' money to destroy American democracy, but until this past Tuesday, no one was sure if this could really happen.
Certainly there were signs of this in the 2010 election, but the influence of big money in that campaign was disguised, at least to some extent, by the faux-populist Tea Party movement. By supporting this right wing fake "grassroots" movement, the corporate lobbyists, the billionaires, and their leading mouthpiece, Fox News, deluded a large part of the public and the media into believing that there really was a huge groundswell of support among middle class and working class Americans for an agenda of transferring wealth upward to a small, privileged elite; an agenda that was so starkly opposed to the economic interests of ordinary Americans whose standard of living was sinking like a rock.
However, signs that the Tea Party was being heavily supported, if not actually founded, by, well heeled corporate lobbyists and right wing billionaires, and that the popular support for this movement was the direct result of a barrage of corporate "small government" propaganda, were played down or ignored by the media. Therefore, the far right wing takeovers in the House of Representatives and in many state houses and legislatures were attributed only to a popular reaction against the president and the bad economy.
While certainly this reaction was not entirely without justification, the media did not fully take into account the hundreds of millions of dollars that were spent in 2010 to elect far right wing candidates whose avowed goal was to make the economic situation of average Americans even worse by taking away their union bargaining rights, health insurance, government services and social safety net, so that their rich campaign backers could benefit from lower taxes and less government regulation.
In retrospect, the 2010 election was at least a prologue to the complete takeover of America's election system by big money. However, in the runup to Wisconsin's election this week, there was much less of a right wing "populist" groundswell of support for Governor Scott Walker's agenda of enriching his billionaire campaign backers by his cynical openly avowed strategy of "divide and conquer".
There were few if any rallies or demonstrations by Tea Party members or other right wingers to support Walker's authoritarian tactics in ramming through a law stripping public service empoyees, who are hardly a privileged elite economically, of their collective bargaining rights. This law did not come out of a groundswell of popular demand; it was opposed from the top, despite the opposition of Democrats in the Wisconsin Senate, who left the state in order to publicize the dictatorial way in which the Republicans were ramming through this law with the support of the Koch Brothers and other billionaires.
(Incidentally, the latest election reports this week indicate that the recall effort has enabled the Democrats to take back the Wisconsin Senate - so while Walker survived the recall, he no longer has any power to impose his agenda on the people of that state- something the media are also generally overlooking.)
In contrast, nearly all of the expressions of popular will concerning Walker's union-busting tactics came from the democratic, pro-union opposition - the mass demonstrations and takeover of the State House after the law was passed, the rallies and get out the vote movement. Clearly the voice of the people of Wisconsin was on the side of the the working people who stand so much to lose economically from Walker's pro-billionaire "reforms".
Then why was Walker able to survive the recall by a comfortable 7-point margin? There is only one possible explanation. With the help of Karl Rove and the Koch Brorthers, Walker outspent the Democrats 7-1 The effect of this cannot possibly be overstated. One of his key "selling points" was the absurd propaganda to the effect that a recall is not "appropriate" unless there has been actual misconduct by the official involved. Even some pro-Democratic commentators have bought into this utter nonsense. But is there really any such tradition? When Arnold Schwartzenegger ousted Governor Grey Davis in California's recall election only a few years ago, did anyone make such an argument?
But, because of months of constant TV ads arguing that a recall without actual misconduct by Walker would be against Wisconsin's "tradition of fairness", exit polls showed that as many of 70 per cent of the voters in the recall election, including many union members, untinkingly accepted this utter nonsense. Obviously, Wisconsin's voters accepted many of Walker's other billionaire-financed falsehoods as well, including the main one, namely that union members seeking a decent standard of living through collective bargaining were destroying the state's economy, and the only way to fix this was to impoverish working people in order to give tax breaks to the rich.
What does the above have to do with immigration? The answer is: everything. If average Americans can be persuaded by big money that their standard of living will be improved by breaking unions and rewarding billionaires, they can be manipulated into believing anything, Orwellian style, no matter how absurd. Now, everywhere in America, labor unions, and not only public serivce ones, will be on the defensive, their very right to exist questioned by millions of voters in every state. More than a hundred years of worker protection may be obliterated by billionaire campaign money.
Is there not another more than hundred year-old American tradition that is also under attack from America's billionaire financed right wing, a tradition which is an even bigger and more unpopular scapegoat for America's economically hard pressed white middle class? What, would happen, for example, if the same billionaires who put and kept Walker in power start running relentless ads, month after month, in favor of a total moratorium on immigration?
Roger Algase is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been practicing business immigration law in New York City for more than 20 years.