Saturday, December 8, 2012

Conservatives Let Their Dollars Occupy Lansing

Lansing, MI – Between two thousand and three thousand working people were gathered in front of the Capitol Building in Lansing to let their legislators know they did NOT want so-called right-to-work legislation to pass in the lame duck session.

Many of them had been inside the Capitol but now hey were locked out of the building itself plausibly due to a disturbance. Adding insult to injury, the thousands who had come to the Capital were not allowed to occupy the lawn or to speak from the steps.

Stretched out on the lawn on either side of the sidewalk were large, nearly empty tents. As I approached I could hear a speech given by Ronald Reagan being broadcast from somewhere on the steps.

It may be impossible to see in the photo, but buried in the mass of working people there is a podium with a speaker on it and hanging on the tent is a banner that reads, “Americans for Prosperity”.

The media will undoubtedly report the arrest of several unruly people in the Capitol and how the building was locked down for many hours while visitors stood outside chanting, “Let us in!”. Reporters will likely report that lawmakers pushed through so-called right-to-work bills while the doors were locked to visitors and lobbyists.

Here is what won’t be said, while thousands of working people were being deprived of access to their elected officials, a few well funded special interests groups was occupying the lawn, the front steps and the hallways of the Capitol itself. Outside the building, just over a dozen supporters of so-called right-to-work, backed by thousands of dollars, had secured the entire front lawn and the steps. Inside the building a few lobbyists backed by many more thousands of dollars had secured the attention of Republican lawmakers.

It’s difficult to say what was happening behind the door where Michigan State Police were posted, but the events outside were Orwellian. The Ronald Reagan speech just kept repeating itself over and over again to an unreceptive audience. At one point several people tried to remove or disconnect the speaker. After a bit of activity, most of which was out of my line of sight, the Gipper resumed his tired old speech and the audience resorted to chanting and noise-making to drown it out.

When the crowd thinned out, I observed that the podium and speaker were guarded by fifteen Conservatives. One of them must have thought it would be safe to say a few words because I noticed that Reagan was turned off and then the crowd swelled and got even louder. I squeezed in and noticed that a man with a microphone and surrounded by a few supporters was trying desperately to be heard, but the crowd was just to loud for him and he had to give up.

From my perspective it appeared that all the money in the world couldn't bring more than a few dozen, boots-on-the-ground Conservatives to the Capitol and that the thousands of working class Progressives had the upper hand. But the battle wasn't being fought outside with a few thousand dollars and a dozen supporters; it was being fought and won inside with a few lobbyists and many thousands more dollars.