Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A Tommy In A Coal Mine

Tommy Thompson R.I.P. Lived by the sword and died by the sword.

The weapon to which I refer, of course, is the money that permeates and has taken over modern politics. And no one in this state has ever played the money game better than Tommy. Over a 34-year career in state politics, Tommy raised more campaign money than anyone in Wisconsin history, although Jim Doyle will almost certainly eclipse him eventually.

Yet despite his legendary fundraising prowess, Thompson – like ├╝ber-insider Scott Walker, who ended his 2006 bid for the Republican nomination for governor before a single vote was cast – is now just another victim of the wealth primary. He didn't have the money to get his message out. Voters never got the chance to decide whether Tommy had a message worth getting out. The money decided for them.

Like Walker, Tommy is the proverbial canary in a coal mine. The fact that the race for president was too rich for Tommy's blood – just as last year's race for governor was too rich for Walker's – warns how toxic all the money in politics has become. If Tommy Thompson and Scott Walker don't have the wherewithal to be financially viable candidates for higher office, now that's saying something.

Which brings me to the final cruel irony that sealed Tommy's fate. He was forsaken by the elite Wisconsin donors who made him a four-term governor here. And he seemed genuinely surprised by that. He shouldn't be. Money flows to power, and now that Tommy is no longer in a position to do big donors in this state any favors, they have no use for him. If ever there were living proof that the incessant claims of the political class that campaign donations are benign is a load of crap, Tommy Thompson is it. His aspirations just died at the hands of this raging malignancy.

What is presumably the final chapter in Tommy's political career is a story of infidelity. He had a solid marriage with Wisconsin voters. But in the end, the mistress he jumped in bed with dumped him for a sexier, more accommodating and more generous lover.

It could be worse for Tommy. Such dalliances led one-time rival Chuck Chvala – who Tommy vanquished with ease in 1994 – to jail. Tommy was just left in the private sector.


James Wigderson said...

How do you explain Mike Huckabee then? And why isn't McCain able to attract more money?

Anonymous said...

You like to blame everything on money in politics, but it doesn't apply in this case.

Tommy just didn't have what it takes -- and that's not money.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Whallah - Tommy had his shortcomings, but do you honestly believe they were anything $20 million couldn't have overcome? Tommy said some stupid things and made some lamebrain mistakes in his campaign, but by my count he finished behind all three of the GOP candidates who've said they don't believe in evolution. Nothing Tommy has said is any stupider than that.

Still, money trumps everything. If Tommy had as much as Romney, they'd be treating him like a frontrunner.