Andy Schmookler: Is Mark Obenshain Virginia’s Scott Walker?
Months ago, when I publicly characterized the Virginia state senator from my district as “the man who would be Virginia’s Scott Walker,” I had no idea that there was or would be any direct connection between those two politicians. But now Wisconsin governor Scott Walker has announced that Mark Obenshain will be the chairman of his presidential campaign here in Virginia. So the link turns out to be more direct than I’d thought.
I had linked the two men based on two factors. First, that both these politicians are funded by the Koch brothers. And second, that fact – combined with the widely held belief that Obenshain is preparing to run for governor of Virginia in 2017 — strongly suggested to me that there’s a real chance Obenshain might do to Virginia what Scott Walker has done to Wisconsin.
It is the meaning of the Koch brothers’ funding, then, that is at the heart of the matter.
Never in American history has anyone been so successful in using their private wealth to buy control of the American democracy as the Koch brothers. Their skill at choosing politicians who will advance their anti-democracy agenda (as well as at funding organizations like ALEC to write laws they want and get state legislatures to pass them) has been astonishing. So when they fund a politician, it is reasonable for us to assume that they know what they are buying.
In 2013, the Koch brothers gave Mark Obenshain’s campaign $60,000. That’s less than the millions they’ve given Scott Walker over the years, but Scott Walker is already a governor and a major contender for the Republican nomination for president. And $60,000 is still a lot of money: you’d have to find 1200 regular citizens donating $50 each to match it.
And if Obenshain does seek statewide office again in 2017, his connection with the Koch brothers will likely intensify. Indeed, the announcement from Scott Walker – another member of the Koch team – naming Obenshain to head up his campaign in our important swing state, suggests that connection is already growing stronger.
I heard through the grapevine, when I published the idea of Obenshain as “the man who would be Virginia’s Scott Walker,” that some in Obenshain’s inner circle took great pleasure in the idea. And why not? It suggests the fulfillment of ambition. And the two men are in alignment: in their recent announcements, Walker declared that the two men shared the same values, and Obenshain applauded what Walker has achieved as governor.
So what would that mean for Virginia, if what Wisconsin has experienced under Walker were to be repeated here under a governor Obenshain?
This should be all anyone needs to know about Scott Walker (and through him, about the Koch Brothers’ agenda for America):
In America today, corporate profits are a larger portion of the GDP of the United States than at any time in our nation’s history.
In America today, the proportion of GDP that goes to workers’ wages is lower than it has been in living memory.
In this situation, this is what Scott Walker has done in Wisconsin: he has cut taxes for the rich corporations, and waged war against his state’s workers.
If you like having the middle class hollowed out, with a widening gap between the very richest and all the rest, you’ll love having a Koch-brothers-funded governor.
Here’s another predictable consequence. Wisconsin has generally been a politically healthy state. But never have the citizens of that state been so bitterly divided as during Scott Walker’s governorship.
If you like bitter enmity among the citizenry, which the Koch brothers have helped foster with a strategy of divide-and-conquer, then you’ll celebrate Virginia having its own Scott Walker in the governor’s mansion.
The strategy of divide-and-conquer points to the central political danger of our times: what is being conquered by being divided is the American people as a whole. For we Americans are in the process of losing our democracy to the power of Big Money.
Huge majorities of the American people recognize that money is playing too large a role in our politics. But it’s deeper than that: Big Money – epitomized by the Koch Brothers – is actually stealing the gift our founders gave us. Right before our eyes, America is being turned into an altogether different kind of society from the one our founders wanted for this nation.
Those who see the main thing that’s happening in America today will not celebrate the idea of an Obenshain governorship, nor of a Walker presidency. The Koch brothers didn’t pick them to serve the people, but to serve different masters.
Andy Schmookler’s new book is WHAT WE’RE UP AGAINST: The Destructive Force at Work in Our World—and How We Can Defeat It.