Sunday, June 3, 2012

Issue #65- June 3, 2012--- VOTE!!!

What This Is…
Issue #65- June 3, 2012
In this issue: VOTE!!, Recall Race Updates, Recall- This Time It's Personal

Voting Information…
This is it!!  After a 16 month struggle, we are facing what is probably the most important election of our lifetimes.  Every citizen needs to get out and vote and make sure everyone you know does so as well.  It's as simple as that.  We can't let a fraction of the population of Wisconsin decide the future for 100% of us.

Why did the GOP push for voter ID?  Are they trying to steal an election and establish a permanent Republican majority?

Recall Election Summaries…
If there's a person in Wisconsin who doesn't know who the candidates in these elections are, then they haven't been connected to any type of media for the past couple of months.  The unfortunate thing is that many voters are deciding who to cast their ballot for based on the ads they see and the information they receive from the mainstream media (or even worse, talk radio/Fox News).  This information is often contradictory and frequently inaccurate, which leads to voter confusion, frustration and even apathy.  Citizens need to understand that the recall elections are not simply "politics as usual" and are vital to the future of democracy in Wisconsin (and the rest of the U.S. as well).

While all the races essentially boil down to the competing conservative and progressive visions for our state, it never hurts to get a little more information to validate your choice before voting for a Democrat. 

Tom Barrett vs. Scott Walker

The headlining state-wide election pits two candidates who faced each other in 2010.  This is more than a "re-match" and definitely not just a "do-over".  While Walker's supporters can complain about the "unfair" recall and the "out of state union organizers" who conspire against him, the reality is that Walker earned this recall through his actions in the spring of 2011.  He's continued to unwittingly offer justifications for a recall throughout the first year of his term by adding on to his already controversial policies. 

Walker has failed to fulfill his promises to build Wisconsin's economy and to protect the middle and working classes of our state.  He has divided the citizens here and used Wisconsin as a stage for his rise to national prominence, all at the expense of the people he should be working for.      

Mayor Barrett has spoken about the need for compromise and his desire to re-unite Wisconsin.  He has also talked about his willingness to say no to supporters if doing so would benefit the state of Wisconsin.  He has expressed an intent to restore funding to schools and to look for new (and better) ways to improve Wisconsin's economy.  A victory for Barrett and at least one win in the senate races would be a huge step towards restoring balance to Wisconsin's government.   

Lt. Governor
Mahlon Mitchell vs. Rebecca Kleefisch

A lower profile, but still vitally important, state-wide race is the one for Lt. Governor.  Rebecca Kleefisch is a strong supporter of Walker's policies and would follow his footsteps if the reins of power were ever handed to her (say through an indictment of Walker). 

Mitchell has been an active participant in the recall movement and has demonstrated leadership qualities during these tumultuous times.  He is a charismatic speaker and a strong supporter of worker's rights.    

Senate Recall Races
Four districts in Wisconsin get an opportunity to try and give the Democrats a majority in the senate.  Since it appears that most Republican senators will vote as a bloc in support of Governor Walker instead of representing their constituents, having control of the senate would provide a roadblock to more extreme legislation.

Senate District 13
Lori Compas vs. Scott Fitzgerald

This race truly exemplifies the grass roots movement that drove the recall efforts. 
Sen. Fitzgerald has been one of the major leaders in the GOP's power grab in Wisconsin.  As the majority leader of the senate he has been the face of Walker's agenda for many Wisconsinites. 

Lori Compas was one of, if not the, primary driving forces in getting Fitzgerald recalled.  She lead the fight even when the leadership of the Democrats thought Fitzgerald was untouchable.  She has tirelessly canvassed her district and spoken up for the citizens of the 13th who want to see their senator represent their interests. 

Senate District 21
John Lehman vs. Van Wanggard

Senate District 23
Kristen Dexter vs. Terry Moulton

Senate District 29
Donna Seidel vs. Jerry Petrowski

Reasons To Recall…
By now it is likely that most voters in Wisconsin have made up their minds about where they stand on the candidates.  I hope that citizens will make informed decisions and not simply rely on a few sources of information.  I also hope that the voters of Wisconsin are not swayed by the arguments that the recalls are not merited and participate in the election by casting a ballot.

In the past several issues I've laid out my reasons for why the recall is a valid response to the actions of the GOP in Wisconsin. 

Political Extremism (Issue #61)
Wisconsin is divided along partisan lines and this serves to disable our political process.  If we continue along this path of divisiveness we will only see more conflicts and more negative effects on everyone's lives.  As Lincoln said, "A house divided can not stand".  However, he was referring to an evil, slavery, that could not be compromised on.  Most of the issues that we are debating in Wisconsin do have a middle ground and we need leaders who will occupy the center, not either extreme.

Attacking the "Other" (Issue #62)
We are supposed to be a society made up of citizens who enjoy equal opportunities and equal protections under the law, by marginalizing different groups conservatives demean all of us. 

Cuts to Safety Nets (Issue #62)
Our state has a long tradition of supporting individual citizens in times of difficulty.  Cuts to these supports only increase problems facing Wisconsin.  Government has an obligation to provide protections to all citizens, not just the wealthy and politically connected.

I've used this Dwight Eisenhower quote before, but it is worth repeating, "Should any political party attempt to abolish social security and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history."  There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes that you can do these things, but their number is negligible and they are stupid."

The Economy (Issue #62)
I find it interesting that we hear conservatives call for the public sector to make sacrifices, but refuse to see how the wealthy could/should do the same.  Why is it justified to ask the public sector to continue to cut from already reduced budgets while our wealthiest citizens enjoy unprecedented wealth and opportunities?

At the same time we are not seeing Wisconsin's economy growing (if it's growing at all) at the same rate the rest of the nation is.  Walker can blame the political upheaval, that he caused, for the sluggish economy, but the evidence points towards failed economic policies.

Public Education (Issue #63)
One of Wisconsin's strengths is being undermined and weakened.  A well educated population is the key to a successful democratic society.  Attacking educators and schools does nothing to improve our state.  Cutting state funding for schools won't help improve the quality of life here, and it certainly won't improve the opportunities for future citizens.

Walker's approach to public education mirrors conservative "reforms" across the nation.  Essentially, wealthy conservatives want to create a system where their children have access to educational opportunities while the rest of us are left with a damaged school system, a system that focuses on testing and "back to the basics" while private schools enjoy a more diverse curriculum.  If the system can be privatized so that a profit can be made at the same time, that's even better.

The Environment (Issue #64)
Wisconsin is a state with a long history of environmental advocacy and our current leadership refuses to see our natural resources as anything other than an exploitable source of economic wealth.  Our citizens deserve access to a safe environment and also are entitled to enjoy the benefits our state's natural beauty provides. 

Worker's Rights (Issue #64)
All labor should be respected and all workers have rights.  Under our conservative leadership power in the workplace is shifted entirely to management.  Collective bargaining rights provide a balance that is necessary to maintain safe working conditions, adequate compensation and keep workers productive and satisfied. 

Corruption and Acts That Undermine Democracy (Issue #64)
Leadership means being accountable for doing the right thing in the right way.  Our system of government is based on sound philosophies and traditions that protect the rights of as many people as possible.  Current conservative leadership in Wisconsin is actively trying to change our political system so that they can maintain power and eliminate dissenting voices.    

Another Reason To Recall, This Time It's Personal…
Through most of my discussions about the events in Wisconsin I've tried to present what I saw as facts, in a rational manner, from a more global perspective.  Now, as we near the culmination of over a year of political upheaval I'm taking a moment to reflect on what the GOP has done to/for me personally.  As I work to balance the usual end of the school year festivities, school work and family needs this weekend, I'm also faced with the need to devote large amounts of time to political action.  Like many Wisconsinites, the past 16 months have been difficult and challenging for my family and me.  It is difficult to stay positive and not feel bitterness and anger towards conservatives in Wisconsin who have done so much to harm much of what I believe in.  This fight has been more than just an exercise in politics or economics, it truly has become a personal struggle to defend my values and my family's ability to maintain our standard of living. 

The area where Walker's policies have had the most obvious effect is the financial one.  With two teachers in the family we have seen our take home pay decline significantly.  With more uncertainty looming it becomes difficult to make significant plans for the future.  

The struggle has taken its toll on my family emotionally and physically.  Over the past year we have faced multiple health issues that have arisen from the stress (emotional and physical) that we have encountered. 

We are very concerned about the future for us and for our community.  Both my wife and I are dedicated educators who value education.  We strongly support public education and are proud that our sons attend public schools.  The conservative attacks on public education do more than threaten our jobs, they undermine a system that represents our core values for society.  Between the cuts to wages/benefits and the "reforms" that are proposed I am faced with the prospect of being unable to continue in my chosen profession.

The divisiveness here has impacted the way I interact with others in the community.  There have been comments directed at my wife or myself when we are out wearing buttons or t-shirts with pro-education/anti-Walker messages on them.  It is difficult not to give in to the natural human feelings that come with being attacked personally and professionally.  I know that, no matter how much I try to reduce the effects, the political situation here has had an impact on my personal life and my interactions with others.

Time may be the most valuable commodity any of us have and the political struggle has taken a large amount of my time that could have been spent in different ways.  Our house has become a very politically aware home and my children have had to adapt to parents who are working full time and then become political activists part time.  I have missed opportunities to travel and be with family/friends because I felt the need to participate in political actions.     

I'm not asking anyone to feel sorry for me, or my family.  In fact I know that we are luckier than many families across Wisconsin who have seen even more difficulties recently.  I also know that many conservatives would read this last segment and feel that my family's struggles are justified, that the private sector has faced these challenges for years, that public employees are getting what they deserve… 

To me that's one of the major problems here in Wisconsin.  We are all being pulled into a vortex of despair, one where we are all defined by our suffering and not by our vision for a positive future.  People look at others around them not as co-citizens engaged in an effort to improve Wisconsin for all, but rather as potential enemies at worst or at the least, potential adversaries in political or economic terms.     

Yet through all of these challenges I find myself feeling hopeful and positive.  The past months have tested me in ways I could never have foreseen.  I've found myself doing things that I never would have dreamed I could do.  While I can't ignore the negative impacts and the uncertain future that I see ahead, I also can't discount the fact that I am emerging from this fight with a new view of the world.  A view that gives me an active role in shaping my future and the future of my community. 

I am not alone in this transformation from passivity to action.  There are a large number of us who have discovered the power of participating in the processes of political, social or economic change.  We have seen the power of collective action.  We are living by the mantras, "One day longer, one day stronger", "An injury to one is an injury to all", and of course, "Solidarity" (or "Solidairy").  This election is the next step in the ongoing battle between conservative and progressive values.  I hope that everyone will join me as we continue on the path to create a society that "works" for all citizens. 

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