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Notes on a Republican Campaign for Congress

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NOTES ON A REPUBLICAN CAMPAIGN FOR CONGRESS


Mike Gallagher is running for Congress in Wisconsin's 8th District, and few have ever launched a campaign with a bigger bankroll or a wider array of political connections. He raised an astonishing $520,000 within the first two months of his run, most from outside of Wisconsin, so he has been able to fund a saturation campaign, including sophisticated back-to-back TV ads -- attack on an opponent followed immediately by self promotion. His oversized signs have peppered the district with remarkable suddenness .


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Gallagher is a former U.S. Marine intelligence officer whose campaign webpage showcases him as a "thought leader on national security issues". Until returning to Wisconsin eight months ago he lived in Washington DC where he was a national security advisor for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as well as an advisor for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's Koch-funded, but ultimately failed, presidential bid. He even did a "tour" with the Drug Enforcement Agency. Perhaps most telling, though, has been his advisory position for the rightist John Hay Initiative, an organization with a goal of "defending conservative internationalism" with funding from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, a key money source for far-right interests and think tanks. JHI has a stable of "thought leaders" who, collectively, connect to such as the Hudson Institute, American Enterprise Institute, Council on Foreign Relations, CIA, Homeland Security, World Bank, and the Rand and other corporations with strong military/governmental ties. Gallagher even has is own super pac, Midwest Growth Pac (here and here), so despite his claim as an outsider who is "not a politician", he is, in fact, as much an ultimate insider, with his vast network of military/industrial/political connections, as anyone who ever initiated a congressional bid.


Gallagher's campaign presentation is a classic formula of patriotism, militarism, faith in God and love of local football that works so well on the credulous American intellect. There are the requisite darling children, parade/county fair scenes with plenty of flags, worried senior citizens around kitchen tables, and the promise to defend the Constitution. Basically it says Washington is broken, but our guy is young and clean cut -- a new generation -- so send him to Congress to fix things. It's a campaign format that is superficial, cynical and directed at a population too ill-informed and short-sighted to remember that the Iraq War, which has generated many terrorists as well as ever increasing hordes struggling to drive us out of their countries, was based on lies (here and here and here). It assumes, correctly, that most voters have no idea that the rest of the world considers the U.S. and its imperial "conservative internationalism" to be the greatest threat to peace on earth. And it overlooks the appalling fact that violations of the Constitution have become accepted as standard procedure ever since passage of the mistitled "Patriot Act", a complex document that had been waiting in the wings to be rammed into law as soon as the public could be made sufficiently fearful. How, exactly, do ostentatious, self-proclaimed defenders of the Constitution, such as Gallagher, decide on which parts to defend and which to ignore?

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Herewith some key points in Mike Gallagher's campaign:

He wants to "rebuild" the U.S. Military.

He wants to cut taxes.

He wants to cut spending.

He wants to do away with unnecessary regulations.

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This is the kind of oblique claim that is absolutely maddening for a thinking voter, because the points, taken together, just don't add up. American taxpayers are already on the hook for 37% of the world's military spending. How does one increase a military budget that already supports 800 military bases encircling the globe, and eats up 54% of discretionary spending, while at the same time cutting both spending and taxes? Where, exactly, does Gallagher see fat within the government that could be trimmed to pay for increased military outlay? Also, what regulations -- originally put in place to protect the public and the environment -- does Gallagher consider "unnecessary"? Pesky details he doesn't deal with and, apparently, doesn't want to. Pointed questions asking for specifics and directed through his campaign website go unanswered. Nor do regional journalists delve for such detail. Gallagher's is a prime example of the kind of campaign -- glib, jingoistic and short on specifics -- that Americans have come to accept as a kind of norm. Alas.

As for Mike Gallagher himself, he is the kind of military and foreign policy "expert" who represents an imperial worldview that has brought us to our present condition. Sending him to Congress because he "knows how to get things done" would be like trying to put out a fire by adding gasoline.

 

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Bill Willers is emeritus professor of biology, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh now living in Middleton, WI. He is founder of Superior Wilderness Action Network (SWAN) and editor of Learning to Listen to the Land and Unmanaged Landscapes, both from (more...)
 

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