Congratulations to Nicole Ki and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism for the excellent story on the decline of democracy in Wisconsin. The essence of the decline can be traced to Scott Walker’s use of “divide and conquer” style of governance. Upon taking office Walker declared that teachers and public employees had not suffered as much as those in the private sector as a result of the Great Recession. Instead of policies to raise the levels of living for all Wisconsinites; he declared teachers to be the enemy and disparaged and demeaned them; pitting them against the rest of the workers in Wisconsin. He cast teachers as somehow complicit in the hard times that had befallen many families and began a drumbeat about failing schools in Wisconsin. Walker’s answer to the economic strife resulting from the recession was to reduce teacher’s pay and benefits. He apparently reasoned that if he made things worse for one group of workers other Wisconsin workers would be less worse off. Rather than legislating to improve the well being of all Wisconsinites Walker chose to carve out one group to lose pay and benefits.
This began the eight year long saga of one man/ one party rule in Wisconsin in which party and politics came before people. We have not been better for it. Our median wage adjusted for inflation remains at 2009 levels [Current Employment Statistics/CES]. Wisconsin ranks dead last in new business start-ups over the last three years. We continue to trail the nation in job growth. Wisconsin roads are crumbling, our environment is under attack and per pupil funding for public schools is below the level when Walker took office. Walker’s legislative agenda often placed the environment against business or manufacturing interests, workers wages versus employers profits, public education pitted against private education and voting rights and voting opportunities forced to stand against trumped up claims of voter fraud. Divide and conquer remains alive in Wisconsin.
Ms. Ki’s story is spot on with her revelation that Republican legislators over the past eight years have ignored constituent comments regarding legislation and have voted as directed by Walker, Vos and Fitzgerald. My own legislators Rep. Loudenbeck and Sen. Nass would acknowledge that constituent contacts opposed how they intended to vote. Wisconsin residents have no voice in their government when one party rule through gerrymander legislative districts allows little opportunity for a candidate who holds contrasting views to win an election. This point was driven home when more votes were cast for Democratic candidates in the last election; yet Republicans gained seats in the legislature.
We have always been led to believe that democracy consists of government…..”of, for and by the people”. That government no longer exists in Wisconsin and we now see it disappearing at the national level. The current President is expressing admiration for dictators in Russia, China, North Korea and the Phillippines and is using divide and conquer to stand with theses autocrats and despots against his own intelligence and national security agencies. He has used threats, intimidation and fear to silence Congress from exercising the checks and balances it holds over the presidency. We are dangerously close to “one man rule “ becoming the norm in Washington D. C. as evidenced by Trump’s repeated raging tweets attacking and threatening anyone who dares to disagree with his policy or performance.
This November offers the opportunity to return Wisconsin and this nation to the kind of democracy we deserve and the type of government we need. The only way we can obtain this is to vote for candidates who are willing to put party and politics aside and stand with the people whom they are claiming to represent. PLEASE VOTE!
Editor’s note: The author of this piece is a cousin of Center Managing Editor Dee J. Hall. Publication of letters to the editor, guest columns and other opinion material does not imply endorsement by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Authors are solely responsible for the facts and views expressed in opinion material published by the Center.