The Rachel Maddow Show | December 10, 2012
>> billboards went up this year in ohio and wisconsin ? voter fraud is a felony. up to three and a half years and a $10,000 fine. the big gavel banging down. so you see, you viscerally feel how scary this voting thing might be. be careful with voting. you might go to jail if you try to vote. in the weeks before the election this year, an anonymous someone paid for dozens of these billboards in largely poor, largely minority neighborhoods in ohio and in milwaukee, wisconsin . across the bottom of the billboard, and in kind of small print , the sign said, quote, paid for by a private family foundation . excuse me. and for a while, that was all that we knew about who was behind these be afraid to vote billboards in mostly black neighborhoods . the corporation clear channel , who sold the ad space on the billboards, they would not say who this private family foundation was. our sister site, the grio later uncovered the name of that private family foundation . it was a conservative foundation in wisconsin , headed up by a husband and wife who were maxed out donors to the mitt romney presidential campaign . but then with the billboards though, it didn't happen for the first time this year in 2012 . the same thing with the very similar billboard happened in the previous election in the midterms in 2010 . see, on the bottom there, that is the voting is scary billboard from this year. and above that, that's the voting is scary billboard that appeared in many of the same neighborhoods in milwaukee, wisconsin back in 2010 when republican scott walker was running for governor of wisconsin . the 2010 billboards also said in almost the exact same language that they were paid for by some anonymous private family foundation . but we learned in october that it was a private family foundation that is run by now governor scott walker 's campaign chair. so the voting is scary billboards in 2012 were paid for by a foundation belonging to a wisconsin mitt romney donor, and the same type of billboard was paid nor in 2010 by a foundation run by scott walker 's campaign chair. that same foundation from 2010 , the one with the intimidating billboards in the walker campaign chair, that same foundation it turns out is also now a major funder of the anti- union rights ambush attack that is going on in michigan right now. with support from conservative outfits like to mackinaw foundation and americans for prosperity, both of which are funded by the be afraid to vote billboards guy, michigan republicans have turned on a dime since they lost seats in this last election. they are moving now at lightning speed to strip union rights in the state of michigan , unilaterally, immediately, irreversebly, and without any meaningful chance for debate. it is the biggest political news in the country. on the anti- union side of the surprise attack , you will find the right wing institutes in the midwest and in the upper plains with funding from the voting is scary foundation . on the other side, fighting to defend union rights , you'll find, naturally, unions, which of course will be essentially gotten rid of with this legislation that the republicans and their conservative donors are pushing through. think about that. it's kind of a striking thing here. the raw political side of this. the nation magazine looked into who the supporters were on both sides of this issue, and they found that the only competition on the pro union rights side is the unions themselves. who of course this fight is designed to quash, to make go away. it's a handy way of getting your way, right? existentially erasing your opposition. it's the politics of process as much or more than it is the politics of substance. so, you know, you keep the other side's voters from voting somehow. you screw up the district map, so no matter how many more votes are cast for team a over team b . it's team b that always wins a majority of the seats anyway. you use state law to eliminate the existence of institutions that tend to support the other party come election time. it's not about persuading voters. it's about the process, right? it's about changing the rules of our democracy so you win, even if the voters like the other side more than they like you. you just keep enough power and enough legislative seats to restructure the political playing field the way you want, as fast as you want. so thursday at 11:00 a.m . out of the blue, governor rick snyder of michigan announced a press conference at which he reversed his long held and very publicly held stance against changing union rights in his state . that was at 11:00 a.m . on thursday. an hour and a half later, by 12:30 p.m ., the capitol police had shut down the capitol building so protesters and members of the public could not get in. by 3:15, bills to strip union rights in the state were taken up in both chambers of the state legislature . by 4:00, there was a court order to reopen the state capitol to let the people in again. but before 5:00, before an hour was up, the house had already voted it through. then before 8:00, the senate had voted it through as well, and it was done. it was done, all in one day that didn't even start until an hour before lunch time . all in one day between 11:00 a.m . and 8:00 p.m ., start to finish. and tomorrow, after a very minor amount of house keeping in the legislature, governor rick snyder says he is going to sign it. it's not like this is what the campaign was about. snyder was against this. this wasn't what the legislative race was about this year. those bills were never given any sort of hearing. they were never subject to any sort of committee. they were never put through the committee process. they were just passed in the elementary equivalent of a blink. and that is why lansing, michigan 's capital, looked like this that day. remember, this all happened without warning. and so all the people you can see at the state capitol , all the people who turned out that day, turned out on zero notice, with zero organizing. just ran to the capitol as soon as they heard what was going on. and as soon as they heard what was going on, it was basically done. so that was the scene on thursday. if you're wondering why it was chaotic, that's why. this weekend, supporters of union rights went to trains on how to protest peacefully and safely while still getting noticed. today there was a relatively small number of protesters at the state capitol , but they said that they had just done that to maintain some sort of presence there in anticipation of what is expected to be a very large scale protest tomorrow. and into the middle of all of this today stepped the president of the united states of america . president obama arrived today in michigan at daimler plant outside of detroit to give a speech on the well-being of the american middle class , and the american economy . and ultimately, what republicans are doing right now with no notice in michigan .
>> what we shouldn't be doing is trying to take away your rights to bargain for better wages and working conditions . [ cheering ] we shouldn't be doing that. you know, these so-called right-to-work laws, they don't have to do with economics. they have everything to do with politics.
>> michigan republican governor rick snyder was invited to attend the president's speech today in his state . the governor declined. he did not show up. but the governor and the president did speak on the tarmac at the airport when the president's plane landed in michigan , and the length of their conversation at least makes it appear that it was more than just a hey, how are you. on top of all that today, the entire congressional delegation, at least the democrats from the michigan congressional delegation all came back today to try to save union rights in their state , to try to stop this speeding train that no one knew was coming. these meetings today with governor snyder asking him to at least slow the process down, if not stop the process all together. while it was all democrats who met with governor snyder today, all democrats, from the president on the tarmac to carl levin the senator to all those members of congress, all meeting to try to talk the governor off this ledge, it was not always like this about union rights in michigan or anywhere, but specifically in michigan . it was not always a democrats versus republican thing. the specific union rights that rick snyder and the republicans in the legislature seem to be about to strip in that state were enshrined in michigan law in the first place by this guy, former michigan governor george romney , father of mitt romney , revered republican figure, and frankly, revered figure in michigan state politics. governor rick snyder 's office is in a building called the george w. romney building . they hold him in high regard there. congressman sander levin recounted the story today at the " washington post " of how union rights were enshrined by governor romney . congressman levin met with governor romney in the 1960s when mr. levin was a state senator. he says, quote, we sat there for an hour. the governor was in a rocking chair with his blue sweater. and he said, well, i think we have resolved all the issues. let's proceed. the two pieces of legislation that governor romney and democrats in the legislature passed in 1965 marked a major step forward , major step forward for labor relations , providing full collective bargaining rights to public employees and strengthening them for private sector employees. both passed on solid bipartisan basis. thank you, mitt romney 's dad. but support for union rights isn't just ancient republican history, or ancient conservative history in michigan . i mean governor snyder and these guys in the legislature may be unified right now in their efforts to take away right now union rights that their party once championed. but as eager as they seem to be to jam through these changes now with no warning, they have not even bothered to get their own side on their side in michigan . look at the detroit free press, which endorsed rick snider in 2010 . this is the front page of the detroit free press. they put a red-framed all but all caps editorial on their front page yesterday. it is titled "a failure of leadership." check this out. two years ago, a newly elected rick snyder told the free press editorial board he was determined to be a new kind of governor, a pragmatist focused like a laser on initiatives that promise to raise standards of living for all michiganers. until last week, we believe believed him. for two years we believed him. for two years we trusts snyder 's agreement. with conviction that they war electing someone more independent and more visionary than partisan apparatchiks like wisconsin 's scott walker and florida's rick scott . the real motive of michigan 's right to work champions is pure greed, the determination to emasculate once and all the democratic party 's most reliable organizational support. snyder 's right to work legalization is an attempt to institutionalize republicans' current political advantage. everything else is window dressing. michigan 's governor has abdicated his leadership responsibilities to republican legislators bent on vengeance. and that comes from a paper that endorsed rick snyder . they are supposed to be on his side. not on this. also, a modern republican governor of michigan watching the fights over stripping union rights in neighbors ohio and wisconsin inside out these past ol' years. one republican michigan governor of late said just this year that michigan would never make that mistake. he told a u.s. house committee i don't believe it's appropriate in michigan during 2012 . another quote, you look now that they've had those things happen, talk about neighboring states. do they have a productive environment to solve problems? not necessarily. they're still overcoming the guysiveness, the hard feelings from all of that. that last quote of course was from rick snyder . current governor of michigan , who is apparently now been convinced that nothing is too divisive for his state . what happened to governor rick snyder around so fast on this? and what is going to happen to michigan if they pushed this through, as they say they are going to at lightning speed as early as tomorrow morning with no debate? joining us now for some insight is andy potter. he is a state vice president in the michigan labor union . mr. potter himself is a republican, which makes me particularly grate to feel have a chance to talk to you tonight. so thank you for being here.
>> you are republican. your republican party is poised to strip union rights in a way that they didn't campaign on, and that nobody really saw coming. why do you support union rights and what do you think is going on with your party?
>> well, i support union rights because i've seen throughout the years the good that they have done in bringing to light some of the injustices that happened even in the workplace along with elected politicians. they create leverage and give regular citizens and middle class individuals the right to have a say so when it comes to politics and hold their elected politicians accountable. and as far as the republican party goes, it's a sad day in michigan . they're going to with the swipe of a pen, they're going to erase many generations, legacies. and it's an inheritance that had been passed down that created the middle class here in michigan . and that will all be gone in a day if they have their way.
>> there used to be a bipartisan consensus in michigan and in some cases around the country about basic union rights . whether or not people agreed with, you know, economic theories about the power of the working class and everything, the idea that basic union rights were an american value used to be something that both sides agreed on. why do you think that broke down? or what have you seen about how that broke down in michigan ?
>> well, it's -- i think it's obvious to a lot of people that money has come into the game here in such a way that you have extremely greedy corporations and others that are absolutely taking over the politics of today. and it's disheartening to a lot of republicans like myself to see the middle class going down the way it's going down, and to see the kind of packaging that they're putting around this. it's upsetting to me and others as well.
>> because governor snyder had been saying publicly for so long that he wasn't going to do something like this, and then we saw it move so fast. thursday morning he says actually i'm for doing this now, and by the time people got ready for din they're night, it's done, without any public debate , without it being an issue in the election. that speed on it, i guess it injects into this a whole another element of politics. i know that he had said that he welcomed a dialogue in this issue. i'm also told you were not able to talk with him as a republican and as a union leader. has that been a frustrating part of the process ?
>> it's been extremely frustrating. i just went with a simple message. and the simple message, it doesn't really matter, rachel, if you're a republican, democrat, rich, or poor. in michigan we should all look at this and be ashamed and be absolutely outraged at the way the republican party has handled their business. and to not even communicate that in a way that allows michigan citizens to have their say so in this is extremely frustrating. and i don't think -- i don't think they have heard the last of this. i believe that a lot of folks in michigan are fed up with it and are going to continue to hold them accountable for everything they're doing.
>> i know that state officials say they're expecting big protests at the capitol tomorrow. i know that competing permits have been issued for different groups. we saw big spontaneous protest there's on thursday. what do you think is going to be the impact of those protests, of those demonstrations? do you think that might have any impact on what happens now?
>> you can only hope that it does. we hope that the elected politicians and rick snyder are going to see that michigan is not going to just stand by and threat kind of thing go down in michigan . a lot of republican people that i know, friends, relatives and otherwise are going to show up, and they're going to voice their opinion on this. and you can only hope that there is an impact made through that.
>> andy potter of the state vice president of the michigan corrections organization, which is a labor union , republican leader of the sciu. thank you very much. stay in touch with us. thanks.
>>> still to come tonight, we have frank rich here for the interview. we have some good news, we have some bad news, and some very exciting news about something that somebody from msnbc did on television that was really awesome.