Republican State Senator Mike Ellis Lifts My Sails. Will Republicans Agree?

Every now and then one of those moments in politics lifts my sails, and lets me know that in spite of everything that seems to be happening for the bad, that there are still some decent folks around doing good.

Such was the case in Madison recently when the Senate Democrats decided to leave the state in order to prevent a vote on the budget repair bill.  It was then that Republican State Senator Mike Ellis made a decision to be a good human being versus a partisan politician.  We should all applaud his actions.

History is littered with these kinds of stories that I print below from the Wisconsin State Journal, but as we all know they are too rare in contemporary times.  So it is with real pleasure I post something good and uplifting that reaffirms my views about the better angels around us.

I hope that the Republican Party and the elected members of the State Legislature can see the humanity in this story, and feel as good about it as I do.  If we still have some comity between state senators of differing parties as this story proves, than we may come through this present storm all right.

At 8 a.m. Thursday, the Senate’s Democrats agreed to flee to Illinois, leaving the Senate one member shy of the 20 senators required to vote on budget-related bills.

It was the third pivotal decision – MTI’s call for protest and the Democrats’ continuation of testimony were the others – that blocked rapid passage of the budget-repair bill and accelerated an already historic set of events.

But there was a problem: Sen. Tim Cullen of Janesville didn’t participate in the vote to leave Wisconsin. He was helping the family of former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Bill Bablitch notify the media of Bablitch’s death.

When he heard the plans, Cullen called Senate President Mike Ellis, R-Neenah, to ask if he could enter the Capitol without being detained.

“He said fine, come in. There’s no problem,” Cullen told the State Journal.

Ellis, who runs the Senate, cautioned Cullen to leave by 11 a.m., when the Senate was scheduled to consider the bill and he would be forced to institute a “call of the house” to try to compel the 14 senators back to the chamber.

Cullen said he later got a call from Ellis as he drove south toward Illinois: “Did you get out of here?”

When assured that Cullen was out of Madison, he said Ellis responded, “Good. I just wanted to double check.”

Ellis could not be reached for confirmation on Friday.

Madison’s WTDY Must Share Shame Over Glenn Beck Statements

What took so long for WTDY to drop Glenn Beck from the airwaves?  Why did WTDY ever place this nut-case on the Madison airwaves to begin with?  So before any one takes time to congratulate WTDY ask first why they decided to let Beck be on a Madison station to begin with.

After all, this is MADISON,  Wisconsin!!

The statement from WTDY about booting Beck is based in part on the fact that Beck has used Madison as a whipping boy due to the collective bargaining protests.  Might I ask why WTDY thought that was horrible but having Beck call President Obama a socialist and challenge his citizenship was somehow just fine.

Might the management of WTDY be a little touched in the head too?  As with anyone like Glenn Beck it takes two to make a deal.  WTDY has to share the blame for Glenn Beck.

The Madison, Wisconsin, radio station that dropped Glenn Beck’s program this week issued the following statement to Media Matters when asked why the decision was made:

WTDY can no longer carry the Glenn Beck program. Over the last 12 months, the show has devolved into plugs for Fox News (the radio version of which is aired by our direct competitor), his books, and other personal endorsements. The lack of actual content becomes more apparent daily. Monday’s program was the final straw; his unabashed deriding of Madison is unacceptable for broadcast in our community.

My Conversation With Senator Glenn Grothman At Saturday’s Statehouse Union Rally

To be honest State Senator Glenn Grothman was one of the last people I expected to find at the union rally Saturday at the Wisconsin Capitol.   Leaning against a marble column in a hallway away from the crowds, and not near doors that were being used to allow protestors into the building, he was looking around at the sights.  No doubt he was hearing an earful from the shouts and slogans too.  Grothman is one of the most conservative members of the State Legislature, but in light of all he was witnessing he seemed to be taking it in stride.

For all the bluster I put in print on this blog when it comes down to it I am a pretty low-key fellow who plays fair.  So when I called out “Glenn” and put my hand out for his in the hallway he shook it.  I introduced myself and told him who I had once worked with in the State Assembly.

I think at first he felt I was going to engage him in a partisan discussion.  I had no desire to do that.  Instead I wanted to ask him about a serious matter that transcends the collective bargaining bill, or any other issue.

I asked Grothman if the level of trust in the State Legislature was so fractured, the ill-will so deep, that nothing could be accomplished and resentments would run wild for the rest of this session.  (Readers may know that I was not pleased with either Republicans or Democrats in how the final moments of the longest session in state history concluded.)

Grothman said that he felt there was no divide too great to get other matters handled this session.  “I do not hate anyone”, he told me. “I call Democratic Senators and we talk.  I hate no one.”

I pressed the point as I am very concerned about the break in collegiality, and level of rancor within the legislature..  He did offer that some Republicans may have more intense feelings but reiterated that he did not.

I was struck that Senator Grothman looked me in the eyes as we talked.  That is something that I always notice about a politician.  Score one…even two points…for that.

We continued to chat for a minute about the legislator I had worked with, and we parted with another handshake.

Not a summit meeting for sure. 

But if there was a candid and reasoned conversation between a conservative State Senator, and a rather liberal blogger than perhaps there is hope that the divides are not as great as I fear about the future in the Statehouse.

Pictures Of Kids At Madison Statehouse Union Rally

There were more cute kids at the Madison Capitol on Saturday lending a hand with the union protest than I have space on this blog to showcase.  So as I have done over the past days I will limit the photos to a few that made me smile.

First, while most adults handled one sign to get a message out there were others like Jaden who promoted a message coming and going.  I think at the end of the day this youngster deserves ice-cream and a long nap.  I bet however in college he will look back on this weekend and it will have impacted him in some way that will allow him to be a better citizen.  His parents are to be applauded in making this political issue a learning moment.

While some youngsters were walking all over the place others were never going to get very far…..and this one was a classic!  I spotted this later in the day and there is no way not to smile.  “But Mom, I want to go over there…….”

There were some kids that probably never even knew there was anything going on.  Warm, snug, and comfy, round and round the Capitol they strolled.

Best Sign At Saturday’s Madison Capitol Rally

There were many creative and wonderful signs, but this one stood out.  It fit the mood, issue, city, and efforts of all those who showed up today to send a message to Governor Walker and Company.

Pictures: Inside Madison Capitol For Saturday’s Pro-Union Rally

There is no way to convey in words the energy, camaraderie, sense of purpose, feelings of democracy, hope, and acts of kindness that filled the Wisconsin State Capitol on Saturday. 

As we were walking to the building a small child, perhaps four years old, was clearly not with his guardian.  Given the crush of the crowd  it was even hard for adults not to be separated at times.  James and I started to move to take action to look for the person in charge of the child.  Soon there were a few more that saw the need, and one recommended getting a police officer.  The little guy was totally unfazed with the flurry of activity, and was determined to keep walking and see the sights.  After all, this show does not play at this venue every day…….well… sort of does…

In a minute the dad runs over and scoops the kid up.  All returned to normal and we entered the building….but that sense of everyone pulling together still makes me smile.  It took place outside of the building….and was every much in evidence inside!

In the State Capitol there are many projects underway to promote the rally.  One of them is a button-making process.

The music that filled the hallways of the Capitol was spirited and made for sing-a-longs.

Pictures: Famous Faces At Wisconsin Capitol Union Protest Rally

James and I were scoping out the crowd and mood of the protestors inside the Madison Capitol.  We had made our way to the second floor of the rotunda when just to our immediate right were some famous faces.

The first that caught our eye was CNN reporter Ted Rollins.  Loving CNN, and what they do for broadcast journalism I naturally moved closer to the action.  I swear to God the thing that went through my mind was the famous line “All right Mr. De Mille, I’m ready for my close-up.”  ( I bet my friend Brad is smiling…..)

Next we noticed a television star from one of my favorite series, “The West Wing.”  Bradley Whitford, who played Josh Lyman, was standing about four feet away.  The series is so loved in this home that we are watching it all over again.  Some of the best writing and tightly constructed acting that television has ever broadcast  took place on that series.   We are at Season Five, Volume 2…..and are serious fans. 

This was not the first time that we interacted with Whitford.  When Al Gore ran for the White House in 200o Bradley was also a strong voice for our Democratic values.  Madison thanks him for always returning home and helping out!  He was raised in Madison and graduated from East High School.

There was another star of television on the second floor of the Capitol today, one that James spoke with for a couple of minutes.  Robert Newman, who played Joshua Lewis on the “Guiding Light, spoke with James about some of the children of other stars of the soap who had attended a New Jersey school.  James had taught those kids years ago and never fails to tell funny stories when parent teacher conferences would take place and really familiar faces would show up!

Massive Saturday Rally At Wisconsin State Capitol In Support Of Union Rights

On Friday afternoon the sharp raspy voice of a cigarette-smoking conservative radio host in Madison predicted that the union protest rally at the State Capitol would never reach 100,000.  No, way, came the reply from her male side-kick behind the microphone.  Well…

While there are no figures released yet about the size of the crowd, one thing is for sure.  It is massive, and it appears to me that the size of the crowd is larger than that which assembled peacefully last weekend.  At that time 68,000 were reported to have marched in support of union rights.  While I am not one to gauge the numbers in a crowd I am sure it will astound all when we finally find out later today.

In the hours to come a variety of reports and pictures will get posted of the sights and feedback that I experienced while at the Capitol.  Some deal with the crowd, the signs, my conversation with a prominent conservative lawmaker, and the close-ups with some ‘stars’ who were at the event.  And of course some cute kids will be featured on CP too.

Today I did something new for this rally.  I wore long-underwear.  For nearly two weeks I have frozen myself as I helped to protect the union rights of my fellow citizens.  But when I got up this morning and saw the temperature at 9 degrees, and it had only risen to 16 by the time I stepped into a hot shower……I broke out the winter attire.  I did however stick to my tradition for today’s protest and wear something yellow.  Today it was a bright yellow shirt as a sign that things will get better.

Some might  have thought the snow falling might dull the crowd.  I can firmly attest that the snow is making the whole affair more festive, the kids are loving it, and the adults seem to be soaking in the imagery of this huge event set on the picturesque Capitol Square.  If you are going to have a political rally there is no place like Madison, Wisconsin!  It all seems more cozy, and somehow ‘warmer’ with the snow.  Sounds strange, I know.  But the crowd is clearly into the event this afternoon.