Recalling Wisconsin: election strains traditional ideals
Mercifully, the recall election will soon be over. That is probably the only thing Wisconsinites will agree on.
What happens here will be closely watched nationally. Obviously, budget deficits and high unemployment rates are problems the entire nation faces. This election, like the one coming in November, will be less about identifying the problems, than how we choose to solve them.
But this recall election is also uniquely ours. It will define who we are and how we will be perceived as a state. Yes, we are cheese and beer and Packers and Badgers. We are farmers, hunters and fishermen. Our towns and lakes and rivers are still named what Native Americans called them: Waukesha, Kenosha, Chippewa, Menominee. Waupaca. And we are better educated than most.
I was born in Wisconsin and expect to die here, though I’ve spent years abroad; led there, in a way, because I was raised here.
I remember reading about Wisconsin’s history while in grade school; about Fighting Bob La Follette -- his opposition to the growing influence of corporations over the government; how political party machines and special interests (today’s super PACs) wielded too much power and influence and were a threat to democracy. It was La Follette who reformed primary elections with a direct vote from citizens rather than allowing caucuses and conventions to decide on a candidate.
I was inspired by the Wisconsin men who felt strongly enough about another country’s freedom that they joined the Abraham Lincoln Brigade and went to Spain to fight fascism.
Years later I went to Nicaragua and worked for the revolutionary government there. During those years, I was proud of Wisconsinites who came down to help out, including farmers who donated tractors and knowledge to help campesinos improve crop production.
Because of their similar size and population, Wisconsin and Nicaragua became paired in the Partners of the Americas project, a nonprofit, nonpolitical organization that works to enhance the quality of life in Nicaragua and Wisconsin. There are many “sister cities” between the two as well.
That’s the Wisconsin I am proud of; the one that works to enhance the quality of life for its citizens. The one where people help each other despite cultural and ethnic differences.
We are in financial hard times. We can’t tax our way out of the hole we’re in nor can we continually slash spending and withhold investing in the future. It makes no sense to eliminate jobs and cut pay to those who most need it without raising taxes on the ones who can most afford it and have seen their wealth grow thanks to decades of tax cuts. Common sense and compromise would seem to suggest a reduction in spending and a raise in taxes if we are all expected to sacrifice.
A lot of people are angry that we are even having a recall election, but a lot of people are angry about being blind-sided by policies never mentioned during the gubernatorial campaign. No one argued against balancing the budget. How that budget gets balanced is the issue.
And right now, how it gets done seems to be directed from outside the state with a myopic solution that disregards broad and long-term effects on real people. I don’t want some outside corporate lobby group (A.L.E.C.) dictating how to run this state. And I don’t want a governor who is their voice and not ours.
“Divide and conquer” seems to be working. At least the “divide” part. Suddenly, the people we entrust to educate our children were seen as overcompensated. Unions were tagged as the culprit in spite of agreeing to make needed concessions to balance the budget. Far from envying the wealthy, as the wealthy like to believe, we began to point fingers at our neighbors who make more money than us or have work benefits that we don’t.
And we turned on those needing public assistance as if they are all cheats and slackers. I’ve been there, and I’m neither.
Outside money is pouring into this election. It remains for us to choose what is best for Wisconsin and not be influenced by misleading and patently false ads purchased by special interest groups.
No matter what happens on June 5, I’m proud that enough of Wisconsin has at least stood up and questioned their government’s motives and policies. Maybe it will inspire voters in November to make sure Washington is looking out for the interests of the many and not doing the bidding of the few.
Jim Black is a community blogger and is not a part of the Walworth County Gazette staff. His opinion is not necessarily that of Walworth County Today staff or management.