Sunday, March 8, 2015

#203 March 8, 2015- A Wisconsin Vision

We are moving into our 4th year since the Wisconsin Uprising developed in response to the "bomb" being dropped on Wisconsin's public sector workers.  During this time we have seen Wisconsin divided into separate camps and the divides between political ideologies has widened into seemingly insurmountable gaps.  Over these past 4 years the attacks on ideals that are supposedly the cornerstones of Wisconsin's culture and history have come at a rapid pace.  Public education, labor rights, safety nets, environmentalism and social justice issues have all been trampled under the wave of Conservatism that has taken power in our state.    

With a vote of 62 to 35, the Wisconsin state Assembly approved right-to-work legislation after 24 hours of debate.|By LaToya Dennis

Gov. Walker’s proposed budget would change the way thousands of Wisconsin families get care for an elderly loved one, or a member with disabilities.|By Erin Toner

After his weekend appearance on Fox News, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is explaining his stance on immigration policy.

Walker throws out some education-related numbers to show his policies are working, but they're not as impressive as he makes them sound.

We have also become victims of a "leader" who has put his political aspirations ahead of the needs of many citizens in Wisconsin.  Instead of uniting a state to address the concerns that we face, he has taken advantage of the climate of fear and anger to advance his own personal agenda.  While claiming to be looking out for the "everyday taxpayer" Walker has done a remarkable job of building a political machine that has vaulted him into the national spotlight.   

As he entertains a bid for the Republican presidential nomination, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is enjoying popularity among conservatives as a fresh face with a compelling story about "leadership."|By Chicago Tribune

Opponents of this new vision for Wisconsin often refer to our state's history of clean government, our progressive ideals and a legacy of labor activism that is embedded in our past.  We find ourselves talking about the "Wisconsin Idea" and defending a history that fills us with pride.  Walker, Fitzgerald and others are portrayed as something foreign to Wisconsin.  Yet, for all of our proud traditions of worker's rights, public education and progressive values, Wisconsin is no stranger to a different brand of politics. 

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s recent statements on the campaign trail show that he is becoming as dangerous as former Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who destroyed...
In fact, as one talks to people in Wisconsin it becomes clear that this vision of a Progressive Wisconsin with a constant eye on social justice and political activism is one that isn't universally upheld.  The question we need to answer as a state is just where our true allegiances lie.  We have all heard the justifications for the wave of Conservative legislation from political leadership that talks about the fact that voters have elected people who support this agenda.  However, at the same time there seems to be a mismatch between what the voters choose and what they are given as representation.  Things like right to work don't often appear during campaigns, but turn up later in legislative hallways.  Dismantling public education isn't supported by citizens, but is done effectively through legislation and policy making. 

The poll results were unveiled in tandem with a new charter school accountability initiative being spearheaded by the Center for Popular Democracy and In the...

Supporters are stunned by proposed cuts by Gov. Scott Walker to the Discovery Farms program, which helps farmers run cleaner and more efficient operations.|By George Hesselberg | Wisconsin State Journal

While this is from Chicago, the machine that drives political success is equivalent.  Those currently in power here in Wisconsin have done a masterful job of placing blame on others, vilifying their opponents and bending facts to serve their own ends.   

Closing mental health clinics was the mayor's idea—but that doesn't stop his supporters from blaming an independent alderman.

Once elected, the voice of the "taxpayer" frequently changes and becomes a voice of self-interest and an advocate for the wealthy elite.  Political success and access to power become the priority over the needs of their constituents.  Voters, and some elected officials, realize too late that they have been "snookered" and have become pawns in a bigger economic and political "game."  A game that has disastrous impacts on a large number of citizens.      

That security cost $1.75 million from July 2013 to June 2014, but Walker’s transportation secretary did not figures that take into account the governor’s wave of recent national travel.|By Patrick Marley

The retired Republican lawmaker dumps on his party and explains how Walker snookered him on Act 10.

Another aspect of this struggle that makes "winning" difficult, and even in some ways undesirable is the reality that cooperation and compromise aren't a part of the plan for those currently in power.  The question becomes how do you stay true to an ideology that values dialogue and discourse when your opponent is seeking your destruction.  Act 10 and right to work are pieces of legislation designed to decimate, not regulate labor rights.  Walker and his allies have shown no willingness to compromise, or even discuss alternative ways to address concerns that exist in Wisconsin.  So, to defeat them, do we have to play by the same rules, or lack thereof?  In winning back our state do we end up weakening the fabric that has made Wisconsin a place worthy of our loyalty? 

We also have to consider the reality that the message we are delivering isn't reaching the people that we need to reach.  We can surround ourselves with those who think in similar ways and lament the loss of our state to "outside interests."  But, at the same time we need to recognize that there are a substantial number of citizens who find the rhetoric from our current administration to be something that they can identify with.  Whether they are in complete agreement, can't bring themselves to vote for a Democrat, or come to their position through any number of pathways, the result is the same.  Progressives are losing at the ballot box in recent elections and are sometimes failing to deliver our vision of Wisconsin in a positive way.  It is those voters who are identifying only with a portion of the Conservative message, or who are reacting to a perceived threat to the stability of our society who we need to connect with and convince to change their allegiance. 

This can only happen if we continue the effort to communicate our ideals.  We need to present our vision of Wisconsin, not in negative or reactive terms, but rather in a positive, proactive manner.  The union ideals of solidarity, compassion and support for all members need to permeate our message.  This isn't a struggle of one group for recognition, but rather an effort to improve society for everyone.  Truly an "Injury to one, is an injury to all," and we are only as strong as our most disadvantaged, at-risk citizen.  To ignore this is to create an unsustainable and inequitable society that eventually must pay the price for the gaps that are created whether income, opportunity, achievement or any other. 

No thinking citizen wants to live in such a place.  We have to share a vision that leads all to a more positive place in a truly socially just society.  The Conservative ideals of prosperity, independence and freedom are ones that are not exclusive to one ideology.  How we get to the goal of a productive, independent and prosperous society is important.  A truly just society isn't built on the backs of anyone, it doesn't discriminate or subjugate.  Instead, it is built cooperatively and with an eye to the future.  Progressives truly have a vision of a place where our grandchildren can thrive, now we need to retake our place at the table and change the course of our state and nation.    

As Scott Walker’s support for ‘right-to-work’ bill is seen as another blow to blue-collar workers, labor movement and activists ask ‘what happens now?’|By Zoe Sullivan

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