Ironies abounded in the Sunday New York Times’ front-page feature about union efforts to force the recall of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. The newspaper is right about the fact that the recall may turn out to be a warm up for the presidential election this fall, but it speaks volumes about both the bias of the piece that nowhere in it does the Times mention the fact that all the recent polls of the contest show him ahead and gaining ground. Flawed though the piece was, it also served to skewer one of the main political narratives that the Times has worked so hard to promote in the last year: that the Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision was undermining democracy.
As the article illustrates, far from the court’s defense of freedom of speech harming the political process, what it has done is to allow the free flow of ideas — and the cash that helps bring those ideas into the public square — to flourish as the public is presented with a clear choice between Walker’s attempt to reform public expenditures and the union movement’s effort to defend the status quo.
The Times makes clear that the unions, just like their conservative opponents, have been allowed by the law to put forward their positions unfettered by the attempt of liberal campaign finance laws to restrict expenditures. And while the paper does its best to bolster the contrived story line that this is a battle between working people and the billionaire Koch brothers, the political showdown in Wisconsin is one in which the voters will be allowed to decide whether state employees will be entitled to force the state into bankruptcy. The result is a political free-for-all in which both sides are having their say. Had the Times and other supporters of campaign finance laws had their way, the unions and the conservatives opposing them would have been largely silenced.
The Times does deserve credit for puncturing part of the left’s propaganda campaign against Charles and David Koch, the industrialists who have been falsely smeared as the plutocrats funding a vast right-wing plot to destroy democracy. It turns out liberals attempting to promote boycotts against companies owned by the brothers, including Georgia Pacific, have been criticized by the unions that represent the firm’s workers because the brothers’ companies treat their employees well and have negotiated fair contracts with them.
The attempt to demonize the brothers because of their support for conservative think tanks has flopped. So, too, may the recall, in large measure because Wisconsin voters, who elected Walker and a Republican legislature in 2010 when they campaigned on the measures that they have since passed, understand what is at stake in the election. The recall is nothing less than an all-out power play by unions who realize that their grip on power and the public purse is slipping. Reformers like Walker are determined to put in place a process that will prevent Wisconsin from being pushed to insolvency by public worker contracts that are negotiated with a figurative gun to the state’s head in the form of strikes.
That the Times can write more than 1,200 words about this without mentioning the fact that Walker is leading in the polls says something interesting about the paper’s bias. But it is even more interesting that the thrust of the piece proves that the editorial position of the paper about Citizens United trashing democracy is utterly without basis.