Here in Wisconsin, we are experiencing political upheaval which has affected the populace in very personal ways. Public employees have been vilified and feel they are being punished by the Walker regime. Long established public policies have been unceremoniously changed or abolished without opportunity for input or careful consideration. Questionable appointments to important State jobs have lead to appearance of blatant disregard for the quality or integrity of governance. A tradition of civility, good feeling, and pride of place has been replaced by acrimony and disrespect.
The disastrous economic crash of 2008 brought into stark relief the issues that state and local governments had been able to avoid during good economic times. Budgets were left in tatters, people were frightened and demoralized.... jobs, homes and nest-eggs were lost or on shaky ground. The ability to continue to conduct business as usual was impossible for states and communities required by law to balance budgets. Change was necessary. Wise and careful consideration would have pointed to the need for shared sacrifice.
Difficult choices are always difficult and even a wise government would have needed careful and shrewd negotiations with a clear focus on the bottom line. But highhanded arrogance, scapegoating and running roughshod over the people while rewarding political cronies has destroyed public confidence and mobilized the citizens. People feel that they are being threatened without consideration, and are being shown no respect. Those who disagree are offered little or no opportunity to participate in a democratic process. Many, even some Republicans, feel that this current regime in Madison misrepresented their intentions during the 2010 campaign. The ultra-radical nature of their agenda became evident only after they took over.
As a result of this situation the state is like a hornet's nest. To a certain extent, the rude and offensive aggression by the Republican administration has been met by an equal opposite reaction by those whom they have reviled and dispossessed. This is not a good formula for problem-solving! But it is certainly a way to rouse the sleeping citizenry. Now people know that their actions (or inaction) really do matter.
Walker and his allies have prepared for the upcoming recall election by inviting and collecting unprecedented sums of money from their highly ideological and very wealthy patrons mostly from outside the state. They are preparing a media onslaught of unheard-of proportions to super saturate the state during an unusually short pre-election period. If this contest can be bought with outside money, I will be shocked. I think that the people have seen for themselves what the Walker administration has done. They are awake and aware.
This is not just about collective bargaining. This is about who we want to be as a state. Whether changes were needed from public employees was not the question. Wisconsin is a state with a proud tradition of valuing education, protecting the environment, and working to find solutions to problems that are in the best interest of all the citizens. For the most part we are not fear-mongers. We do not want to hate our neighbors and we certainly do not need outsiders buying our campaigns. We get disgusted by excess and coercion and cronyism. Over the long history of the state, Wisconsin has had a mostly progressive tradition that was apparent under both party's administrations. I hope and expect that the negativity and upheaval that we have lived with since the beginning of the Walker administration will immunize the voters against the divisive misinformation and propaganda bought with all Walker's out-of-state money.