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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Friday, April 12, 2024

State of Wisc. politics; one year later

Twelve months after protests over collective bargaining erupted in the state Capitol, Wisconsin's political division has only gotten worse.

Wisconsin has lost something in the past year.

At this time in 2011, the state was thought of as a place where there was still room for reason in politics, where disagreement did not mean disrespect and where the ability to have rational, dignified discussions on high-stakes issues was a point of pride. Last February, as state Republicans pushed through a "budget repair bill" meant only to threaten the strength of our state's public workers, the citizens of Wisconsin were showing the nation what it means to have a reasoned debate. At least, they did for a while.

One year later, where are we?

Wisconsin is deeply polarized, a division that seems only to be widening as new campaigns and new legislation come forward to split voters even more. Our state has been flooded with outside money and outside influence, with politicians more likely to bend to the will of national Super PACs than their own constituents. And, least tangibly but most importantly, Wisconsin has lost its political dignity as brigades of beer-pouring, balloon-popping idiots have turned our state into an absurd sideshow of vitriol and mindless rhetoric.

We have succumbed to America's broader political trend. There was a time when Wisconsinites could chuckle at the ridiculous "discussion" on national cable news or in Congress, secure in the knowledge that we were different. In the past year, however, we have shown we are not.

There are any number of minor culprits in this loss, co-conspirators that helped the state slip into the undignified place we find it in today. Among them, playing not insignificant roles, are national conservative organizations such as Americans for Prosperity and donors like the Koch brothers, who played out their national fight against working Americans in Wisconsin's halls of power.

Other accessories to the crime include Wisconsin's Democratic senators, who, rather than stand with their constituents in protest, cheapened our political system by attempting to wait out an inevitable vote on the legislation that started all of this madness. Among them as well, are the protesters who compared our governor to Hosni Mubarak and Adolf Hitler, and the national talking heads like Ed Schultz and Sarah Palin, who parachuted into our state to make Wisconsin's debate an excuse for self-promotion.

But there's no doubt who the biggest contributors to the loss of Wisconsin's political decency were our state's Republican Party and Gov. Scott Walker.

Rather than negotiate to a consensus and listen to the people of Wisconsin, Walker stubbornly rammed through his collective bargaining legislation. Rather than let our democratic process play out in summer recall elections, Republicans ran phony candidates to delay the vote their constituents demanded. Rather than resist outside influence and follow Wisconsin's proud tradition of political dignity, Walker and his party have gladly led our state down this path to indecency and division.

As we think back to the debate that engulfed Wisconsin last February, and the way our politics has changed in the time since, one thing is clear; to repair our state, to heal Wisconsin's bitter division and to end the pettiness and indignity that have plagued it for the past year, we must remove Walker and his party from power.

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It is the only way to get back what we have lost.

So now what?

At the start of last year Walker set a precedent in Wisconsin, a precedent that continues to scream silence today. No conversation. No debate, and most prevalently, no negotiation. This is the root of the problem.

When the governor introduced the budget repair bill, he consequently zipped his mouth shut, threw away the key and motioned naysayers to talk to the hand-smacking down negotiations on a bill eliminating rights to negotiate.

In response, the opposition, too, put their foot down in an attempt to mirror Walker's mule mentality. They continue to yell, "No!" at him, while he still shouts back, "Yes!" And here we sit today. No conversation. No negotiation; just ardent disagreement on all issues down all party lines. And frankly, this editorial board is sick of it.

We are sick of under the table tactics used to manipulate what should be genuine, transparent lawmaking. We are sick of nepotistic scandals breaking headlines every other day and trivial fights on the Senate and Joint Finance Committee floor. We are sick of clandestine redistricting ploys and the creation of phony candidates used to throw off an election. We are sick of it, Wisconsin's citizens are sick of it and yet we continue to watch our Capitol and the state of Wisconsin fall to petty bickering between angst-y children dressed in suits pounding gavels and screaming into microphones just to get attention.

Things need to change. But working across the aisle can't be a taboo anomaly in the Wisconsin Capitol anymore. It has been over a year since the protests reached their peak and now it's time to regroup and move forward. Compromise between the two parties has the potential to do just that. Creating actual legislation with genuine thought and ideas from both ideologies has the power to produce real change for Wisconsin's economy.

The vehement class warfare we see on a national scale can't continue between our lawmakers if we expect to progress. This board wants Wisconsin politicians to take off their jerseys and have a real discussion that leads to effective bipartisan legislation. And while it may be idealistic to hope for such compromise, someone has to. Because if we don't take care of the real problem facing our state, then we will sit in a frustrating stalemate while nothing gets done.

Solution: Get rid of Scott Walker

It may take years to fix the damage incurred this past year, but the first step at reconciliation is already in process: removing Walker from the governorship.

To clarify, Walker should not be removed because he is a Republican. Wisconsin is no stranger to GOP administrations, and many have been quite good. Walker is uniquely awful because of his core philosophy on what it means to be the leader of this state. He has said repeatedly that the 2010 election gave him a mandate to do as he sees fit, meaning he is not responsible to the 48 percent of Wisconsin residents who did not vote for him.

Walker also has absolutely no desire to create policy in a bipartisan manner, and he is not shy about it. He pushes through what he wants, bullies moderates within his own party and ignores the other side entirely. He is the wrong fit for Wisconsin, a state once defined by dignified politics.

However, removing Walker is not enough. Wisconsin voters need to find a replacement that will be willing to reconcile Wisconsin's fractured political scene, and none of the announced candidates fit the bill. The current front-runner, former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, seems to be the bizarro-Walker. She is a Madison-based, staunch liberal who has received the endorsement from many of the state's most influential unions. While Wisconsin needs someone who will restore collective bargaining rights, a candidate hand-picked by the unions will create an equal and opposite reaction on the other side and just perpetuate the pattern of political incivility.

Perhaps Walker would do better in a die-hard red state where his ideology more accurately reflects that of the electorate, but Wisconsin, a truly purple state, requires somebody who is sincerely willing to reach across the aisle. So far, this dream candidate has yet to emerge, but as this past year has shown, this state is nothing if not surprising.

What do you think of Governor Scott Walker the current state of Wisconsin politics? Please send all letters and feedback to opinion@dailycardinal.com.

 

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