When I was a kid in school, I vividly recall my history teachers telling me that Wisconsin was special because we had such clean government. I have been thinking about what those teachers might say in light of the reasons we are now closing in on a recall election of Governor Walker.
In 2011 we witnessed a partisan power play when Walker tried to push forward a highly controversial collective bargaining bill, a bill that he never talked about while campaigning for office. With no negotiations or attempts made at lessening division and rancor that was surely going to be created, Walker stormed ahead with his proposal.
As a result we witnessed the governing process turned on its head. In the Assembly the vote for passage took just a matter of seconds, so fast that 28 members didn’t even get to vote, most of them Democrats. The lack of proper notification for legislative business allowed for violations of the open meetings law. Overall a dreadful climate of distrust and anger was rampant in the legislature, and continues into this spring.
This is not how government is supposed to operate. For a decade, I worked in the Assembly, and have deep feelings about the process of government, knowing that elected officials—when they want to–can make a positive difference for the folks back home. I live not far from the Capitol, and watched last year’s events play out in dramatic fashion. It was upsetting to witness the civility of the governing process come unglued.
We need to stop and think about how far adrift we are in this state from the place we should be in order to have a functioning government. When I was working in the statehouse one of the major disagreements revolved around the creative use of the governor’s veto pen. The talk was tough and the legal community was brought into the mix. But it all pales in comparison to the intense political machinations and chicanery that passes for a daily work day under the Walker administration.
Let’s get something straight. The governing process should be front and center when it comes to this recall election. Walker over-reached on a bill that he never addressed in the election, and then used tactics that ran counter to the way the process normally operates in a bid to get it passed. Perhaps what I found most galling was an almost gleeful attitude in Madison of destroying the internal dynamics that are required to make any legislative body function.
Without a firm and established process, in government as in many areas of our daily lives, there is chaos. Walker tried for a fast end-run around the process, and it proved to be a colossal mistake.
If you admire raw power politics then Walker is your candidate. But if you still believe in a system of government that aims for fairness than you must cast a ballot against Walker.
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.
We are at a crossroads in Wisconsin regarding how we conduct government.
This is the time to take stock of what we want Wisconsin to be. Should it more resemble the one our teachers made every effort to inform us about, or should it be the one that has been on display during Scott Walker’s time in office?