The Cap Times’ John Nichols is really a nice guy in person. I say that up front because I don’t want anyone to get the impression from his columns that, when he is freed from his typewriter, all he does is wander the streets of Madison with a parrot on his shoulder named David Koch. “Capitalism, free markets, destroys the environment!” the parrot squawks in our daydream.
No, I want to stress that Nichols is normally a rational human being, even when he’s participating in the anti-Act 10 rallies he’s covering and suffers from fantasies that he’s the modern incarnation of Jack Reed.
A normally rational human being, even though Nichols wrote:
Charles and David Koch made Scott Walker the governor of Wisconsin, and they have sustained Walker in that position. These rigidly right-wing billionaires have provided essential funding for Walker’s campaigns, for so-called “independent expenditures” on his behalf, and for the legislative allies who have provided the governor of Wisconsin with the state Assembly and state Senate majorities that have allowed him to govern without checks or balances.
So no one seriously expects Walker to say “no” to the Kochs.
“Squaaawwk! Koch Brothers!”
What has set off Nichols’ writing tic this time?
The Koch brothers have for years funded a faked-up “movement” to demand that state officials take advantage of an obscure (and never previously used) subsection of Article V of the Constitution, which allows two-thirds of the states to call a convention that might propose amendments to the founding document. The Kochs and their allies want to use the “Convention of States” to propose a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. More than two dozen states have made the call.
Now, we can debate whether or not the Convention of States is a good idea. There are some real concerns to have about this scheme. However, arguing that it’s somehow bad because David and Charles Koch favor the idea is not debating the idea, it’s indulging in vilification of individuals to try to discredit an idea. That’s propaganda, not reasoned analysis.
But then Nichols goes for guilt by association with his obsessions. Nichols wrote:
When the Kochs say “Jump!” Scott Walker asks “How high?” So it came as no surprise that the governor of Wisconsin and his legislative allies moved this fall to make Wisconsin the 28th state to support the convention call.
“Squaaawwk! Walker jump? How high? Give us a cracker!”
This may shock Nichols, but if there is some parallel universe where Governor Scott Walker, a conservative Republican, doesn’t support efforts to force the federal government to balance the federal budget rather than indulge in Obama-level deficit spending, it could only be the creation of a Star Trek transporter accident. Walker doesn’t need Charles and David Koch to tell him to support a Constitutional Amendment to balance the federal budget.
What’s even more absurd is that Nichols doesn’t even make an attempt to inform his readers of how this supposed Koch Brothers’ mind control works. Is it a Vulcan mind meld? Or some drug that they slip into the governor’s water? Because if Nichols is seriously claiming that the Koch Brothers’ money has this sort of undue influence on the governor, then perhaps Nichols can explain why Walker defies the Koch Brothers on issues like marijuana legalization, crime and incarceration, and even immigration. Is there some secret deflector shield that protects the governor’s mansion, but only part of the time?
On the other hand, if Nichols really believes that everything that the Koch Brothers believes is bad, is Nichols going to abandon his positions on crime and incarceration, immigration and even marijuana legalization? Or, if you can only agree with the Koch Brothers if they have given you money, how much has Nichols received over the years from the Koch Brothers? How much Koch Brothers cash have Madison Democrats received to agree with David and Charles Koch on marijuana legalization?
So what is Nichols’ real problem, if it isn’t the Koch Brothers, other than he has to fill space at the Capital Times? Nichols is upset at the composition of the delegation being sent by Wisconsin to the Convention of States to debate the balanced budget amendment. It seems that the delegation, coming from a state run by Republicans, will have too many Republicans representing us.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) will appoint three state representatives, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) will appoint three senators and the governor will get to appoint one representative. Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz (D-Happy Endings) gets only one appointment, as does Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse).
“For those doing the math, this means the Wisconsin delegation to a convention held next year would have a 7-2 Republican bias toward the position advanced by the Koch brothers,” Nichols wrote.
According to Nichols and the Capital Times, this “crushes Wisconsin Democracy” according to the headline. Nichols thinks we should popularly elect the delegation statewide instead:
The delegates should not be politicians appointed by politicians. They should be representatives of the people of Wisconsin, elected in statewide voting on a high-turnout election day. Ideally, such voting would be on an officially nonpartisan basis — even though we well understand that big money now seeks to influence nonpartisan voting just as aggressively as it seeks to influence partisan balloting.
A task as vital as the development of an amendment — or amendments — to the U.S. Constitution ought to be steeped in democracy. Instead, Walker and his allies have arranged for it to be carried out by partisans operating behind closed doors and without any input from the voters of Wisconsin.
Nichols writes as if some unelected cabal is making the appointments, but the appointments are all being made by elected officials. The voters had input when they elected Republicans to control state government, and the bill creating the delegation passed after open debate in both chambers of the legislature. Somebody needs to remind Nichols that’s what democracy looks like.
If Nichols and his fellow progressives want to derail the process, perhaps they should find some more Democratic candidates capable of winning elections in Wisconsin rather than complain about the Koch Brothers.
But what’s really ironic about Nichols’ position is that so much of Progressive politics is about taking public policy decisions (and even private decisions) out of the public’s hands and putting them under the control of supposed experts. Nichols wants popularly elected delegates to this convention, but he and his allies would remove so many other aspects of government from public debate, from environmental policy to education. Nichols even believes that the right to free speech should be curtailed if some non-progressive voices like the Koch Brothers actually try to speak on public policy and candidates for public office.
Finally, what’s really pathetic about Nichols op-ed is that he’s ignoring history. You know, the history that supposedly every conservative is on the wrong side of. How does Nichols think the delegates were chosen to the Continental Congresses who declared our independence and wrote the Articles of Confederation? Or to the convention that wrote the U.S. Constitution
If having the elected officials of out country’s state legislatures decide who should represent their citizens in writing the Constitution was good enough for the Founding Fathers of our country, then it should be good enough for Governor Scott Walker, John Nichols, and Wisconsin.