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Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012

Feeling Like a Million

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To quote soon-to-be-recalled Republican Gov. Scott Walker at the end of a telephone conversation with a man he thought was right-wing billionaire David Koch: "Thanks a million!"

The dramatic filing of more than a million signatures from all across Wisconsin to recall Walker already has served one highly desirable public purpose.

The overwhelming number of signatures abruptly ended the fallacious argument perpetuated for weeks by right-wing talk radio that fraudulent or duplicate signatures would be necessary to reach 540,000 signatures, the extremely high number required for a gubernatorial recall in Wisconsin.

The argument never made any sense. Before a single signature was submitted, right-wing radio and Walker himself were telling made-up stories about people signing petitions 80 times or signing the names of Disney characters.

The only people with any incentive to add Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck or multiple signatures to petitions were dishonest Republicans who wanted to sabotage the recall drive.

The 30,000 volunteers collecting signatures across the state for two months, enduring the Wisconsin cold and ugly snarls from abusive Walker supporters, wanted every signature they turned in to count.

Since every signature was going to be reviewed not only by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board but also by the Walker campaign itself, any signatures from cartoon characters or repeated 80 times would immediately be thrown out.

Every volunteer soliciting signatures—and I speak from personal experience—was required to deliver signed petitions to a local campaign office to be screened by trained supervisors for any possible omissions that could make them unacceptable under state law.

Even minor variations, such as a signer writing "Milw" rather than "Milwaukee" or omitting a zip code, were corrected and initialed by the circulators.

There is, in fact, one very good reason why there still could be some duplicate signatures. It has nothing to do with dishonesty among those circulating recall petitions. It's because of the dishonesty of Walker's supporters.

Before the recall drive even started, Republicans began bragging on the Internet that they intended to impersonate petition circulators, get thousands of signatures under false pretenses, warn signers it was against the law to sign more than once and then destroy all the signatures they acquired.

Some might have signed more than one petition because they feared a petition they had already signed could be fraudulent.

Projecting Dishonesty

Republican claims of dishonest recall organizers is an example of the psychological disturbance Sigmund Freud called projection.

Freud defined projection as denying your own most undesirable qualities and ascribing them to someone else to justify engaging in reprehensible actions against them.

Boasting about circulating fraudulent petitions and then accusing Democrats of fraud was simply a continuation of numerous dishonest recall tactics by Republicans.

Last summer, Republicans ran as fake Democratic candidates to create unnecessary primaries against legitimate Democrats to delay recall elections to allow Republicans to stay in power longer.

Before Democrats began the real recall against Walker, a Republican supporter started a fake recall against the governor to give Walker an additional week to raise unlimited campaign funds under state law.

Like national Republicans who fought health care reform by making up imaginary "death panels" plotting to exterminate senior citizens, Walker has openly adopted dishonesty as a political strategy.

Walker has begun using the millions of dollars he is raising from right-wing extremists from outside the state to flood the airwaves with TV commercials in which he looks straight into the camera and brazenly lies that he has saved union jobs in Wisconsin.

Saved union jobs! Most voters on either side know one reason Walker is being recalled is that he "dropped the bomb"—as he described it—by ramming through the Legislature a law destroying collective bargaining for public employees.

And instead of saving jobs, Walker's hundreds of millions of dollars in giveaways to large corporations have resulted in six straight months of job losses in Wisconsin at the same time jobs have been increasing in the rest of the country.

There's a long list of other reasons for recall: some of the largest cuts to education in the nation; gutting state aid to our counties, cities, towns and villages; denying health care for poor children and their families; creating obstacles that disenfranchise voters; rejecting nearly a billion dollars in job-creating high-speed rail funds.

There are well-deserved negative consequences to Walker for building political power through dishonesty. The most obvious is surrounding himself with sleazy, dishonest people.

The continuing Walkergate criminal investigation already has resulted in charges against aides accused of stealing tens of thousands of dollars from military veterans' families and sexual exploitation of a high-school student.

Historically, public officials are successfully recalled for either destructive, unpopular policies or criminal corruption. The recall of Scott Walker sought by more than a million Wisconsin citizens is shaping up to be a two-fer.