Jon Anne Willow
Bad Democrat

Tangled up in Blue

By - Nov 15th, 2011 04:00 am
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Bad Democrat - tangled up in Blue

Bad graphic by the Bad Democrat

On August 1, 2011, I took a job in the Wisconsin Legislature, working for a state representative. By the end of October I was done. Now I’m back and free to editorialize; my new column is called Bad Democrat.

I am a Democrat. I believe that a healthy and educated populace is the foundation of a great nation. I believe in a single-payer health system, and that within our existing infrastructure it can be created effectively if there’s true political will to make it happen.

I believe that every child in America who shows academic promise should receive the best education available, regardless of income, and I have my own ideas about how to do that in a way that works for everyone without additional taxpayer burden.

I believe that children, the disabled and the elderly should have a reliable safety net, and that the wealthy don’t need Social Security payments, but should pay into the larger system. Wealth tax? Maybe, or think of it as a safety net against reversal of fortune, which happens. A lot. Maybe your payments will fund your disabled neighbor’s access to food and medical care. Would that be so bad?

I also believe that rampant consumerism played an enormous role in the country’s current state, and that there’s plenty of blame to go around for this. The problem itself is not partisan; the solution, tragically, has become so.

Finally, I believe that Wisconsin, the United States and the entire world teeters at this moment on the head of a pin. What happens now will shape the future direction of the civilized world, and America’s place in it.

Which brings me to the effort to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. I’m torn.

Not torn on whether I believe he is a good governor; I don’t. And not torn on whether his policies, however misguided I think them to be, are set with the best interest of the general populace in mind; I believe he is tucked firmly inside the GOP lobby machine.

Rather, I am torn about whether this recall race is in the best interest of democracy, and about the precedent this recall could set.

I fear that crucial money and resources will go to this effort at the expense of the incredibly important Assembly and U.S. Senate races in the state. If Democrats re-take the Assembly, there will be a strong base of duly elected officials fighting for Democratic priorities, which will effectively take the Walker machine offline until the next election cycle. Tammy Baldwin is a strong Democrat, but she will need lots of money and soldiers to win; she is not a slam-dunk with statewide voters.

The recall will also draw out in force Republican voters who might not otherwise be motivated until November. In addition, Democratic party and interest money will have to spread across hundreds individual fronts nationwide in the coming year, not to mention the presidential election. Then there’s voter fatigue, and I assert that it is very real, especially since the state Senate recall elections.

Then there’s the question that no one seems to be asking: If we run record numbers of recall races against the currently elected legislature and governor, are we setting a precedent for permanent chaos? In state elections, Wisconsin is not truly Blue; the electorate is almost evenly split along party lines, with a particularly wild cadre of independents. No one side has a clear mandate from the people, at least not at the polls. Going forward, what’s to stop the Republicans from launching recall efforts of their own, countered by more counter-recalls? And if that happens, how long until the last vestiges of democratic process are swept away?

I believe that Walker’s vision for Wisconsin is self-interested and unsustainable, and that Republicans swept the 2010 elections on one Big Idea: that Wisconsin must reduce its spending to balance its budget. There’s no arguing with this, of course. Spending must be reduced dramatically, but not in one budget cycle, and not to the detriment of the many and simultaneous benefit of the few.

Left to run its course, is there not a very good chance that the newly disenfranchised, including some Republicans, will rise up and naturally elect a new governing body that will serve the needs of the majority of the people? And if we don’t believe this, then maybe it’s time to ditch the whole idea that democracy is real.

But me I’m still on the road
Heading for another joint
We always did feel the same
We just saw it from a different point of view
Tangled up in Blue

0 thoughts on “Bad Democrat: Tangled up in Blue”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I’m with you on the fence. Your comments about wasting resources to recall Walker make sense, on the otherhand….

  2. Anonymous says:

    First, congrats on the new column, Jon Anne! I like it already. These are interesting, difficult and scary times, thank you for sharing your perspective.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I had never heard of a recall election until I moved to Wisconsin. I’m from Iowa originally. There is a definite “You’ve made your bed, now lie in it” mentality in Iowa, and the very thought of a recall election made me more than a little uncomfortable.

    My thoughts were along the lines of, “How will any real legislating ever be accomplished if you’re always changing the players? Won’t we always be trapped in an election-cycle? No one politician can do that much damage in a single term – and we’ll get ’em next time.”

    And despite the fact that I’m a hard left-leaning liberal (and proud of it, obviously), the rounds of recalls this summer worried me. Yes, in the end, I was hopeful that Darling would be recalled – but the whole idea of turning over a seat just because someone has upset us still doesn’t sit quite right.

    However, I believe that the recall of Governor Walker is a must. He is an utterly divisive political figure. He sees nothing and no one beyond the richest and most powerful of his party. He is set on destroying the lives of the poor, the young and the elderly. And worse, I don’t even think he fully realizes how completely ruined our state will be if we continue on this path.

    With Act 21, published in June, he has the power to originate and author any Administrative or Emergency rules. He also has the final say on which are enacted, and which are not. He has removed all checks and balances on his administration. He is tearing apart the public university system, the public education system, the safety net for Wisconsin residents, our voting and voting registration system. And my former belief that no one politician can do “that much damage” in just one term is shattered. He has done everything to ensure that he can do whatever he wants.

    So despite the fact that I didn’t get involved in any of the other recalls, and that I generally think they’re a bad idea, I’m moving forward with my time and energy to help Recall Walker. Hey Hey Ho Ho, Scott Walker has Got To Go.

  4. Anonymous says:

    And I thought I was the only one who was wondering about the sense of this understandable but questionable reaction to Walker’s hyper-conservative agenda, but fortunately you wrote this eloquent and well thought out piece. Well said and thought provoking.

  5. Anonymous says:

    For me the issue is not about the polices per se (even though I disagree whole heartedly with them) it is the way the Republicans have gone about pushing these bills through. If these bills were actually debated, democrats brought into the process, and the public comments actually sought after and respected, then yes why recall? Why the recall means so much to me is the shameful way they have gone about their agenda. Lucky says “How will any real legislating ever be accomplished if you’re always changing the players?” I don’t think any real legislating is happening now. There is no process. The illegal votes, lack of debate, Koch brother phone calls, cronyism, stupid rhetoric (a majority of the protesters are from out of state) etc. is the reason I am for recall and why I think level headed Republicans should be also. It is clear that this current bunch cares more for their benefactors then for the citizens of Wisconsin or our democratic institutions. I truly believe this. We need legislators that govern in reality not in Ann Ryandian philosophical fantasy lands. I would say the same if Democrats were behaving this way too! Great article Jon Ann. As you say the state is evenly divided and no matter which side is up in the legislature, there is no mandate to extremism that tarnishes our democratic institutions. Bring on the recall.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I have been saying these same things to my friends and family. My concern is that we are being short sighted and reactionary. We need long term strategies, strong candidates who know how to lead and communicate. I do believe that this govenor has done some things that are highly questionable, possibly even bordering on illegal. He is not helping our state grow stronger, but if we recall Walker and put a weak leader in his place who loses the regular election in 2 more years we will have nothing but created a bigger division among the electorate.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Hey partner, beautifully written column. I share your concerns about precedent and resources, but I signed the recall petitions today because of one overriding issue: Walker and the Republicans are going all out to rig the 2014 elections through
    (1) voter suppression strategies, primarily the voter-ID laws;
    (2) absurdly partisan redistricting;
    (3)sham candidates and similar dirty tricks;
    and (4) shakedowns and secret, indirect contributions that will dump enormous amounts of corporate and other special-interest money into GOP campaigns.

    Point (4) especially concerns me. Walker has shifted an enormous amount of public money from education into his semi-privatized and much more secretive Commerce Department, which he has filled with right-wing political hacks. That department’s main job is to poach businesses from surround states by throwing tax money at them. The next step will be to shake these businesses down for contributions to both the campaigns directly and secretly to assorted GOP superpacs that will smear Democratic candidates by means of money from anonymous sources. Thus will your tax dollars and mine be passed through to the GOP campaign. It’s the Rick Perry template. Meanwhile, union money to counterbalance will be greatly reduced and 100% subject to public scrutiny.

    That’s why we must throw Walker out immediately via recall, before his vote-rigging machine is fully functional. We might not have enough democracy left to get rid of him in the usual way. — Strini

  8. Anonymous says:

    You must realise that a Scott W” sneaked in by lobyists and now that he is it is in the governmnt Walker was a”Trojan Horse” who released all the evil in the republican party!

  9. Anonymous says:

    My only argument with your piece is that I think you’re mistaken about the Republican “big idea.” As it exists today, the GOP’s only big idea is usurp the power of the citizenry in favor of a small minority of insatiably greedy, wanna-be aristocrats, and to permanently institutionalize this power grab in the machinery of government. This would overthrow the very basis of the American system of government, in which “the state” is defined as “the people”; we are probably fortunate that Scott Walker’s own foolishness and over-confidence ensured that this coup attempt was exposed before we became an authoritarian plutocracy under statutory one-party rule. The U.S. and Wisconsin constitutions do not provide for the “no confidence” vote enjoyed under other nations’ parliamentary systems, so the citizens have no recourse except to undertake the difficult and democratic process of recalling, by popular vote, untrustworthy officials who were elected through deceit and treachery.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Why does TCD have so many articles on politics that help the right wing? Who owns TCD? I am not sure what to do abut this. Can’t you show the other side?? Why not? Again- who owns TCD and who chooses your writers or is this all a big secret??
    Thanks if you answer.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Hi Steve. Interestingly enough, I co-founded and am a co-owner of TCD. I am genuinely interested in your perception that we do not “show the other side” and would value further dialog on the subject, as we strive for balance in our coverage. I think it’s most appropriate, though, to take it offline and out of this comment thread, so feel free to email me at jwillow at thirdcoastdigest dot com. Thanks again.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I’m with you, Urban Dweller. I think the United States is long overdue for a multi-party system with no-confidence voting power. It might slow things down at times when we need speed, but our two-party system doesn’t seem to work with any kind of efficiency anymore, so the point is probably moot. And I would like to clarify that I did not say the GOP has one big idea, but rather that they sold the majority of voters on a particular action item. It’s an important distinction, and I thank you for taking the time to comment.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Hats off to my old friend Jon Anne for verbalizing much of what has been stirring in my head for some time. I don’t live in Wisconsin, but I’ve been following the political wrangling there because I think it’s allegorical for the rest of the nation. I feel the same way about recall elections that I do about term limits-they should be unnecessary if our electorate were enlightened. However we know that the electorate cannot be truly enlightened when they are being brainwashed by so much money spend on political ads and messaging the cloud the issues.

    And also, Jon Anne, thank you for getting that song stuck in my head. I guess I’ll be listening to Dylan on Spotify at work today…

  14. Anonymous says:

    Good honest questions. Seems few people are thinking about the long term impact on the structure and culture of state and even national politics when they get taken to the farthest extremes short of secession and civil war. Another such question you did not mention is what if the big economic picture is simply so much more important and politics is just a reactionary sideshow from the federal level on down? The middle class and heydey of post New Deal Democrats were enabled by winning WW2 and sweeping in without rivals to build a global economy. But the leading US companies since the 60s have shown a steep decline in return on investments and fortune 500 corporations no longer stay in that exalted circle for long at all. Most are of the GM rather than Apple under Jobs variety, unable to innovate except in hustling customers. Executives raid pension funds, screw employees and customers, and throw their lot in with the kleptocrats in the financial sector who hijacked what was left of the domestic producer economy to run big pump and dump schemes. In the white house the new boss kept the old boss’s bailouts, secret CIA prisons and torture, adding to the mix more bailouts and illegal assassinations, even of US citizens. We are a laughingstock for our spoiled, apathetic, poorly educated populace that can’t turn out an adequate leader in either party who is not either a clown or a fool, nor a protest from the left or the right that is not lampooned by comedians–our sanest thinkers.

    How can you possibly look at this picture and think there is a way to carve the diminished and rapidly diminishing pie more equitably? There is an enormously naive tendency to assume that merely taxing large corporations more would solve a lot of problems, but the truth may be that bloated and badly run companies with no ideas are getting by every way other than innovation and pleasing customers, and this is the biggest problem. Suppose it’s not government’s fault and it’s not something politics can fix, but it — a diseased and declining economy — drags politics and government down into ruin.

  15. Anonymous says:

    […] writer Jon Anne Willow has mixed feelings about recalling Governor Scott Walker. Willow is especially concerned about the effect of tit-for-tat recall elections: Not torn on […]

  16. Anonymous says:

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