With less than two weeks before Wisconsinites go to the polls and possibly vote six Republicans out of the State Senate, the billionaire Koch brothers and their well funded roster of right-wing front groups have poured millions in out of state money into attack ads and voter suppression campaigns. All the while, left-wing labor groups like We Are Wisconsin have countered the right-wing attacks by pooling millions of dollars from out of state nurses, police, firefighters, teachers and other union workers.
This week, Koch funded tea bagger organizations rode into Wisconsin on the Tea Party Express III bus. Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips, writing on his website and speaking at tea bagger rallies, compared the grassroots citizens of Wisconsin that protested Governor Scott Walker’s union busting and educations slashing bills to Nazi “brownshirts” and “storm troopers”.
In an article published this weekend, Mother Jones points out that another group on the Tea Bagger Express III tour, Patriot Action Network, called Wisconsin’s Service Employees International Union “Obama’s brownshirts”.
This bizzarre comparison between nurses and teachers that are peacefully protesting and fascist blackshirts and brownshirts has always been confusing to an English/History major like myself. The fact is, Nazism and Fascism are right-wing ideologies that have openly attacked socialists, unionists, and liberals. Much like the tea baggers that rode into Wisconsin this week on their brown bus.
Just in case people are not clear on what I’m talking about, allow me to quote one of my college history textbooks for a moment. Below is a quote from textbook, The Twentieth Century and Beyond: A Global History by Goff, Moss, Terry, Upshur, and Schroeder, seventh edition:
“The most import and successful right-wing movement of the immediate postwar years was that of the Italian Fascist Benito Mussolini…Mussolini and his black-shirted Fascists … aided by the alarm created by strikes and land seizures in 1919 and 1920, Mussolini played on the fears of communism and socialism shared by those afraid of losing their property and by those opposed to Marxist Atheism. The Fascists attacked and at times killed their leftist opponents…Many of the rich and powerful were willing to countenance Fascist brutality in the hope that it would destroy leftist forces” [p. 163].
Of course, Adolf Hitler’s brownshirts were modeled after Mussolini’s blackshirts, right down to their menacing looking uniforms. Like in Italy, Hitler’s brownshirts first went after the unions and socialists, before even attacking gays and Jews.
Now let’s consider a few things that have happened across the country during the rise of the tea bagger movement. Remember, the tea baggers, as they use to like to call themselves, formed as a “grassroots” movement in response to president Obama bailing out the auto industry and signing a stimulus bill that helped created no less than 2 million jobs. A bill, I will add, that helped end the free-fall in unemployment numbers that was created by the right-wing economic policies during the W. Bush era.
However, the tea bagger movement really didn’t gain traction until Fox News and the Koch brothers started promoting them and secretly funding the movement. It turns out much of the tea bagger movement is not actually a “grassroots” movement, but actually made up of well funded right-wing “astroturf” groups. Meaning, much of the tea party is made up of essentially, as Source Watch and the Center for Media and Democracy calls, “front groups”. A front group is an organization that claims to have one interest, but actually has secret corporate backers with hidden agendas.
According to Source Watch this is true of Judson Phillips’ Tea Party Nation organization. Tea Party Nation is a for-profit organization that doesn’t have to report where it’s money is coming from. Phillips day job has been that of a civil litigator, defending DUI’s and personal injury cases in Tennessee. Remarkably, that didn’t work out too well for him. In the past ten years, Phillips has filed Chapter 7 bankrupts and has had no less than three liens against him. Phillips claims the liens are now paid off. Which is no surprise, since according a former associate of Phillips, Kevin Smith, the Tea Party Nations PayPal account for merchandise was linked directly to Phillips’ wife’s bank account.
Phillips new found fortune has come during the rise of the tea bagger movement. During the health care debate, in which Obama signed the Affordable Health Care Act, which provided nearly 30 million more Americans with affordable health care while simultaneously helping to reduce the deficit, the tea baggers escalated their attacks on liberals, socialists, and unionists.
At town hall meetings, tea baggers mocked sick people with pre-existing health care conditions, screamed at disabled people that tried to speak-up, and spit on legislators that supported extending health care to more Americans. When members of local union offices announced that they would start attended the town hall meeting, their offices began receiving death threats. For example, according to one official at local AFL-CIO office, one email read:
“I will be going to a local town hall this weekend, all you union members BEWARE!” an emailer wrote at 9:40 Saturday morning. “We will be waiting for you. better make sure you have arrangements with your local ER. today is the day when the goon meets the gun. see you there.”
By the end of the whole sad event leading up to President Obama signing into law the Affordable Health Care Act, we saw tea bagger/Patriot thugs advocate breaking the windows of Democrat congress members in order to “make defending ourselves at the muzzle of a rifle unnecessary.” Of course, a few members of congress soon found bullets and bricks coming through their windows.
Tea bagger supporter Glenn Beck jokingly called for the poisoning of former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and spent months promoting tea bagger events on Fox News. All the while, on one his many chalk board of conspiracies, Beck tied George Soros, the Tides Foundation and the ACLU into an evil plot to create a New World Order.
Then, just weeks later, crazy Glenn Beck follower, Bryon Williams, loaded up his pick-up truck with weapons and beer and drove down from mountains of Northern California to San Francisco with the intent open fire and kill the workers at the Tides Foundation and the ACLU. However, the beer got the best of Williams and he ended-up in a shoot-up with police after being pulled over for swerving on the highway, just miles from the Tides Foundation.
Now, with just weeks from the Wisconsin recall election of six Republican state Senators, the union supported We Are Wisconsin office mysterious burns down and out of state billionaire financed tea baggers have rolled into Wisconsin calling school teachers and nurses “brownshirts.” Last week, another Koch funded group, Americans for Prosperity, was caught placing phony election ballots with the wrong date and mailing locations on the doors of Democrats in Wisconsin. The organization has now purchased $150,000 in TV air time in Wisconsin. Putting AFP’s overall out of state funding at more than a $500,000.
This week, the big brown Tea Bagger Express III bus rolled into Wisconsin. Apparently, the tea baggers are on a mission to call Wisconsin’s firefighters, school teachers, and nurses “brownshirts”. Ironically, the tea baggers big brown bus arrived the same week a union supported organization’s office was mysterious burned down to the ground. More than one week later, the fire is still under investigation. Tea bagger Judson Phillips likes to say the union workers (school teachers, nurses and firefighters) are “not the brightest” in the state. Of course, that comment is coming from an ambulance chasing Tennessee attorney that had to file for bankruptcy. However, now Phillips is riding around in a brown bus, funding by the Koch brothers, and calling the ordinary citizens of Wisconsin “brownshirts.” Oh the irony!