Friday, June 8, 2012

Finding a Way Forward

I see Walker's victory as reflective of the conservative trend this country has been on since Barry Goldwater first said, "Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice."  With a few zigs to the left along the way, we have been making a steady right turn thanks to grassroots activists who have elected their candidates to the school board, village board, town council, etc.  That is where the ground game really matters, and it has taken them 40 years to accomplish.  The Tea Party is only the latest and most affluent manifestation.

Since 2006, we have focused on supporting middle-of-the-road candidates for our McFarland Village Board.  Our criteria have been a genuine willingness to serve, a spirit of openness, and an absence of personal or political agenda.  I created a website to disseminate information about local candidates, remaining as objective as humanly possible, and building a network of subscribers that now numbers in the hundreds.  Not all of them are political progressives, but the Village Board is non-partisan, and there are many issues where common ground is not hard to find. 

We had been very, very successful until 2010 and 2011.  But, two of the three candidates who won seats in those elections were just censured by our Ethics Board for acting without regard to an apparent conflict of interest.  It's never happened here before, but it was a slap upside the head that was timely and well-deserved.  Whether they are capable of change remains to be seen.

My purpose in telling you this is to encourage you and your allies to focus on local issues, build coalitions across ideological lines wherever you can, and elect local officials who are open-minded and willing to listen.  Lay that groundwork carefully and respectfully, and you will begin the process that's essential if we are to reclaim our Wisconsin. 

In the interim, prepare yourself and your family for the inevitable onslaught of ALEC-inspired legislation and the race to the bottom that will follow for the middle class.  I believe that those who voted for Walker because they didn't like the recall will soon discover that their priorities were misplaced.  They will suffer like the rest of us, but it may be the only way they can learn what we already know. 

In all my 74 years, I have never given up hope.  I am a perpetual optimist.  I wish that my beloved Wisconsin didn't have to endure what's been and what's yet to be, but, as is the case with all kinds of addictions, it's often necessary to hit bottom before you grasp the enormity of your problem. 

We are addicted to sound bites, to gloss, to simple answers, and to the zero sum game.  Our attention spans have shrunk to 7 seconds, and many of us believe only the last, cleverest, snarkiest thing we've heard.  We believe it until the next one comes along.

Many have been hurt by the shift to the right, and many more will be.  But, in the end, I must believe that the pain will be instructive and that progressive ideals will emerge to heal our wounds as they did during the Great Depression and again during the 60's revolutions.  Political thought moves cyclically. Those of us who have lived long have seen these cycles come and go, and we know that our turn will come again.

I have always believed in improving my little corner of the world in whatever way I can.  Keep it tidy, keep it functional, keep it true.  My website is devoted to that idea.  Take a look at it; perhaps you'll be moved to open a "branch office".

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