Op Ed

Enough of Divide-and-Conquer Politics

Once again Vos and Fitzgerald try to scapegoat Milwaukee.

By - Jul 22nd, 2019 11:31 am
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View of Downtown Milwaukee from parking structure near Pabst Milwaukee Brewery & Taproom. Photo by Jack Fennimore.

View of Downtown Milwaukee from parking structure near Pabst Milwaukee Brewery & Taproom. Photo by Jack Fennimore.

When politicians have no answers, they find a way to distract constituents. Politicians have a knack for finding a scapegoat to blame when a plan is failing. It’s been the game played by politicians for decades.

We’re seeing it played out as Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald turn on their favorite scapegoat: Milwaukee. Republicans have failed our state time and again, they want you to believe Milwaukee is responsible for your expectations not being met.

This plan has proven to work for them. They work to anger voters and convince them that somebody else is taking more than their share.

We can’t continue to let politicians divide our state for petty political points. Rather than pitting voters against voters or one city against another, we should be working together for a stronger Wisconsin.

This isn’t a new strategy for politicians. In 1979, Representative William Gagin (my own representative at the time) said money was going to that “black hole” in Milwaukee when asked why some critical programs were underfunded. Now, you might choose to believe he meant no harm with that statement, but you’d be wrong. It was a racist statement then and is a racist statement now. Fortunately, that statement doomed Gagin from serving another term, but sadly, the idea that Milwaukee is undeserving still exists today.

During former Governor Walker’s campaign in 2010, he blatantly said to one of his billionaire donors that his strategy was to “divide and conquer” our state. These statements by Representative Gagin and Governor Walker define what the political rhetoric is really about – tapping into the fears and biases of rural voters to hold power.

We’re still seeing this game played today. In April, Republican Joint Finance Committee members rejected Governor Evers’ proposal to provide an additional $40 million for replacing lead service lines because they feared Milwaukee would get too much of the funding. Milwaukee and the entire state will miss out on critical lead service line replacements just because Republican leaders claimed most of the additional funding was directed towards Milwaukee.

Just last week, Republican leaders threatened to take a veto override vote to prevent Milwaukee from using additional transportation dollars for their streetcar project. While Milwaukee officials publicly stated they do not plan to use the funds for that project, Republican leaders spread misinformation to villainize Milwaukee and score political points outstate.

Why do Republican bullies pick on Milwaukee? After all, Milwaukee is the largest city in Wisconsin with plenty of history to make us all proud. The City is known as a manufacturing hub, shipping center, and brewing capital. The City draws in billions of tourism dollars every year and has its spot on the map as a critical freshwater research center. And millions of fans throughout the state cheer on the Brewers and Bucks each year. So, why does the Republican propaganda machine think it’s alright to dis the largest and most culturally diverse city in our state?

We should treasure these important drivers of our state rather than resent them. We can’t let politicians drive wedges between the cities in our state that make Wisconsin so unique. Republican leaders shouldn’t continue playing divide and conquer political games to pit all of us against each other.

Prosperity throughout Wisconsin is not a zero-sum scenario. If Milwaukee suffers, our whole state suffers. If western Wisconsin prospers, our whole state prospers. Instead of thinking about “giving” or “taking,” we need to think about how we can all work together to make our entire state a great place to live, work and raise a family.

Just like the adage about breaking a bundle of sticks, if we remain together we will be strong. If Republicans continue choosing to divide our state, our future remains less certain. Enough with the political games! Let’s work together to move all of Wisconsin forward.

Wisconsin State Senator Jeff Smith represents Wisconsin’s 31st Senate District.

Categories: Op-Ed, Politics

2 thoughts on “Op Ed: Enough of Divide-and-Conquer Politics”

  1. frank a schneiger says:

    More than decades. In Arthur Koestler’s 1940 novel, “Darkness at Noon,” the warden in Stalin’s prison for purged Bolsheviks says, “Experience teaches that the masses must be given for all difficult and complicated processes a simple, easily grasped explanation. According to what I know of history, I see that mankind could never do without scapegoats.”

    It is impossible to explain modern-day reactionary Republicanism without scapegoats. In our times, immigrants fill the bill, but we can be quite certain that the eternal favorites, black people, Jews, LGBT people will be right back at center stage at some point. The big surprise in the age of Trump is to realize how little distance we have traveled in removing women from the scapegoat list.

  2. mkwagner says:

    Actually, the divide and conquer tactic dates back much further. It was the impetus for discriminatory laws as far back as 1681. Pitting poor whites against peoples of color has been the tactic of choice by the wealthy ruling class to keep the populace from challenging their power.
    What I find truly despicable about Vos and Fitzgerald is that fact that Milwaukee sends much more money to Madison than it gets back in state funding; the last figure I saw was .59 on the dollar.

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