When I was a kid in school I vividly recall my history teachers telling me that Wisconsin was special because we had such a clean government. Our way of conducting politics was so much different from Illinois. That was always the example that was provided to show the clear line between the way things should be done, and how others did them.
I thought about the teachers who uttered those words and wondered what they might say in light of the news Thursday about how signatures were gathered for recall petitions of state senators in the Badger State.
While there has been a robust and heated dialogue for several months over the contentious issue of collective bargaining, I really thought we might have learned one thing regardless of the position we each held on the matter. After the number of editorials and letters to the editor, and chats with our neighbors and colleagues I was sure we all came to the same conclusion on one matter.
What I was sure we agreed on was the importance that needs to be placed on the process of how we conduct politics. At the end of the day, if we use the time-honored political procedures in an honest, and up-front way everyone can say the game was played fairly. Win or lose, no one can say the deck was stacked unfairly against them.
After all, it is that lack of following a prescribed way of running legislative business that has created the legal turmoil that is playing out all the way to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. We can all have different views about if the ending of collective bargaining is a wise and proper policy choice, or a wrong-headed and political one. But at the end of the controversy we should all recognize the need to play by one set of rules.
This all leads me to the news that perhaps many signatures were obtained in a dishonorable way when trying to find the required number to force recall elections of state senators.
It seems to me we are at a crossroads in Wisconsin, and I hope we have not crossed it, in how we conduct politics. While I am as partisan and convinced of my point of view as anyone, I am also well aware that the underpinnings which allow for this whole wonderful process to operate fairly for all must be honored.
This is time to take stock in what we want Wisconsin to be. Should it more resemble the one my teachers made every effort to inform me about, or should it be the one that was used as the example of what we should not become?
In a news conference Thursday, Democratic Sen. Mark Miller of Monona and an attorney representing the Democratic Party announced challenges in the recall petitions targeting Sens. Dave Hansen of Green Bay, Jim Holperin of Conover and Robert Wirch of Pleasant Prairie.
The Democratic Party of Wisconsin has filed a challenge with nearly 200 sworn statements saying out-of-state petition circulators misled voters, falsified signatures of even one Democratic lawmaker’s dead father, or even misrepresented their own addresses. Democrats said they believe that could invalidate thousands of signatures collected.
“Let me be clear, this is not a case of one or two bad actors or a small series of isolated events,” Miller said. “We have discovered a systemic pattern of misconduct, deceit and misinformation by these out-of-state circulators.”
Democrats claim that circulators told some people they were signing to support Democrats or schools.