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Overcoming the Biggest Obstacle PDF Print E-mail
Commentary - Commentary
Written by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation   
Tuesday, 23 February 2016 13:10

sand-mining-wiALTOONA, WI - Gandhi said: “Our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world as in being able to remake ourselves.”

For years I’ve been blessed to be asked to travel the state to speak to every imaginable kind of group. Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve had the chance to do way more listening than speaking. I was inspired to write a book and Blue Jean Nation was formed because of what I kept hearing.

Everywhere I’ve gone I hear something else too. Sometimes it sounds defeatist. Other times powerless. Every once in a while hopeless. Or even helpless.

I get where these feelings come from. So many barriers to true democracy and real representation have been erected. Voter suppression. Gerrymandering of political boudaries. Consolidation of control over news media in fewer and fewer hands. Ever-greater sums of money in politics. Secrecy and hostility to open government laws and traditions. Courts packed with partisans.

These obstacles are formidable. I’ll grant you, the odds are not in our favor.

But the odds have never favored common folk. The odds didn’t favor the abolitionists or suffragists or the civil rights movement either. Or the progressives and populists who were up against the robber barons in the Gilded Age, or exploited West Virginia coal miners, or children working in textile mills, or the original Republicans who gathered in the little white schoolhouse in Ripon Wisconsin, or the women’s rights movement or gay rights movement, or Gandhi in his time or Malala Yousafzai in ours.

Remember, the abolitionists ended slavery. The progressives beat the robber barons. The suffragists got women the vote. The coal miners got unions. The textile mills eventually were forced to respect child labor laws. The original Republicans drove a major party to extinction. Civil rights activists ended Jim Crow. Gandhi led the Indian people to independence. Malala is making it possible for girls to go to school all around the world.

Remember, the obstacles we face today are not new. They are as old as the hills. Voter suppression and gerrymandering were not invented in 2011. These practices are as old as the republic.

The effects of gerrymandering won’t be overcome in Wisconsin by enacting Iowa’s redistricting system here. Those in office won’t pass such a law. It’ll be overcome by political realignment, by changing enough hearts and minds of enough voters to thwart the willful rigging of elections.

We won’t beat money by amending the constitution, we’ll amend the constitution by beating money . . . by breaking its grip on our minds.

All the political professionals and consultants and others with the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” mentality call this unilateral disarmament.

I’m not saying you should unilaterally disarm. I’m saying we should fight with different and more powerful weapons.

We won’t beat money by doing what money does. We’ll beat it by doing what money can’t do.

As the song says, “money talks, but it don’t sing and dance, and it don’t walk.”

Money don’t love either. It don’t marry. It can’t nurse a sick child . . . or comfort a dying loved one.

We don’t need what all that money buys. We don’t need pollsters to tell us what to think. We can think for ourselves. We don’t need speechwriters and teleprompters to put words in our mouths. We can speak for ourselves. We don’t need ad agencies to sell us to our neighbors the way they sell laundry detergent and hair care products and beer and potato chips. We can build relationships.

This is why I say that if Blue Jean Nation could only do one thing, my choice would be to contribute in every way we can to loosening and eventually breaking the grip of the political consulting industry that lords over our democracy and our society.

When democracy in America is rescued, it won’t be political consultants and professional politicians who do the rescuing. It’ll be saved by people who don’t practice politics for a living, people with a life outside of politics, people with the odds stacked against them.

People Make a Difference Despite Haste at Capitol PDF Print E-mail
Commentary - Commentary
Written by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District   
Monday, 22 February 2016 16:58

capitol-takekidsGood people can make a difference to bills moving swiftly through the legislature, like AB 554 where overwhelming constituent contact in legislative offices stopped action on a GOP proposal to allow an out-of-state corporation to buy and operate public water utilities. Sen. Kathleen Vinehout writes about the speed with which bills are moving through the Legislature and how people’s action has made a difference.

Last Updated on Monday, 22 February 2016 17:33
Scalia and John Doe/Vos and Vouchers PDF Print E-mail
Commentary - Commentary
Written by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign   
Wednesday, 17 February 2016 16:59

antonin-scaliaMADISON - When I heard the news about Justice Scalia, one of my first thoughts was how was this going to affect the appeal of the John Doe decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. So I scratched my head on that one, and this is what I came up with:

Scalia’s death ups the odds of John Doe appeal

This week, with every variety of nasty bills being pushed through the legislature at warp speed, we focused on one that Speaker Vos is peddling, and that’s his voucher expansion amendment (Assembly Amendment 3 to Assembly Bill 751), which is up for a floor vote tomorrow. Our research director, Mike Buelow, dug up the info on the voucher school lobby:

Who is behind more $$ for voucher schools?

Ironically, as yesterday was Election Day, the Republican leadership in the legislature thought it was an appropriate time to bring to a vote two bills that interfere with our franchise: one to do away with Special Registration Deputies (you know, those great folks from the League of Women Voters who sign people up); the other to deny towns and counties the authority to issue local ID cards. We wrote about them here:

Assembly poised to pass measures to make it harder to vote

Unfortunately, both of those bills passed, as have some bad environmental bills.

But don’t despair. The Walker Wrecking Crew won’t be in power forever. No one ever is.

And as Howard Zinn reminds us, “To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.”

Please enjoy that bit of wisdom, along with the warming weather.

Wall Resignation Doesn't Erase Walker Cover Up PDF Print E-mail
Commentary - Commentary
Written by Jennifer Shilling, State Senator 32nd District   
Monday, 15 February 2016 11:40

jennifer-shillingMADISON – On Friday, Gov. Scott Walker’s Department of Corrections Secretary Ed Wall resigned as the investigation of potential abuse of youth at the Copper Lake and Lincoln Hills schools moves on to the FBI.

I am appalled by the latest revelations of child abuse and sexual assault that occurred in Gov. Walker’s Department of Corrections. Sec. Wall’s resignation doesn’t change the fact that Gov. Walker and his top aides ignored critical safety warnings for more than four years.

Rather than covering up Gov. Walker’s failure to act, the Legislature should immediately assert its oversight authority and hold hearings on the safety and treatment of children at Lincoln Hills. Democrats have introduced a series of Correction Reform measures that remain stalled in Republican legislative committees.

In addition to holding officials accountable, we need to address the serious safety and security concerns at Gov. Walker's correctional facilities and immediately pass these reform measures.

Republican Civil Service Law Puts Political Interests over Public PDF Print E-mail
Commentary - Commentary
Written by Assembly Democrats, Laura Smith   
Saturday, 13 February 2016 15:53

walker-manpowr-signingGovernor Walker Further Opens Door for Cronyism, Corruption in Wisconsin.

MADISON – Governor Scott Walker signed into law a GOP backed bill that guts Wisconsin’s civil service system.By dismantling our state’s civil service system, Walker and legislative Republicans are kicking down the door for cronyism and corruption in Wisconsin.

The civil service system was founded on the idea that state employees should serve the public interest, not partisan political interests. Republicans have made it clear they will stop at nothing to consolidate their own power while rewarding their cronies with taxpayer-funded jobs.

peter_barca"Early in his administration Governor Walker was caught in a couple prominent situations where he placed allies in key positions with thin to no qualifications," says Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha). "This law will make it easier to more broadly do this unencumbered by the rules."

Additionally, Walker used this approach at WEDC, where he eliminated civil service for hiring staff and we saw continuous problems with turnover and ethically questionable conduct with potential pay to play and taxpayer funds at risk, yet Republicans want to make that the model for our entire state.

This is truly a dark day for Wisconsin’s proud heritage of clean, open and transparent government.

Last Updated on Saturday, 13 February 2016 16:56
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