The Remedy For Rebecca Bradley’s Hate Speech
Last weekend, before the hateful writings from Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Rebecca Bradley were reported, I had a phone conversation with an aunt who is in her early 70’s. We talked about more elk coming to Jackson County and how fast they can run, and how the Decorah eagles are once again sitting on their eggs. We opined on seed catalogs and traded tidbits about our family. As is always the case when we get on the phone there was never a time when silence registered on the line.
She follows news and politics but is not what anyone would term a politico. In other words she is very much an average voter. So it probably comes as no surprise that the conversation only turned to the presidential election as a result of a question I asked her about the tone of the race. With her usual soft-toned candor she spoke about how there was never a time when candidates acted in the fashion now seen and heard about every day. How could such rude and crude behavior be a winning formula this campaign season? What happened to self-respect?
I too have felt after watching the daily campaign news there was really no more that could make me wince or look twice in disbelief. Had we not seen just about everything when in a presidential debate Donald Trump talked about the size of his body parts. When I hear parents talking about their kids running around the house yelling for others to look at the size of their hands it is clear that all news is not fit for young people.
But when it came to wincing the worst was yet to come.
This week we learned that Rebecca Bradley wrote that human beings with AIDS were “degenerates”, gay people were “queers”, AIDS was a “politically-correct” disease, and Bill Clinton was a “queer-loving” president. I will leave out of this post whether she is able to prove anywhere near the level of objectivity that is required to fulfill the job as a member of the state’s high court. I will not even venture into the moral wasteland of her soul for my attempt at rebuking her remarks. As a former employee of AIDS Network in Madison I could easily clip her written words into bits and add them to history’s trash bin.
But instead I want to focus on who we are as an electorate, and what we have to say with the power of a ballot.
I think most voters want to be treated with respect. They want their candidates to be mature. Voters know that everyone has done something in their past that has no doubt been embarrassing. But there is a huge difference with youthful indiscretions such as under age drinking or streaking in a mall compared to the person who willfully puts hate-filled words down on paper that is intended to hurt another and then be published. Acting out in ways that are part of the growing up process like smoking dope at the local rock quarry is far different than penning hate-filled rants that I suggest speaks to a most troubled foundation.
Voters have a need to respond to the way we have been treated from those who seek our vote. It is not enough just to ascertain what a presidential candidates’ tax plan is or how ones judicial philosophy shapes their views when hearing a court case. Voters also have a right to ask how they were viewed by the candidates during the election.
Did the candidate consider that when they coarsen our political dialogue it lasts longer then just for the duration of the campaign? Do candidates understand when hateful or unwarranted and over-the-top rhetoric is spewed about it undermines the social fabric of our state and nation? A candidate needs to know how they conduct themselves impacts us all regardless of whether they win or lose. A candidate may not know it but the election is not all about him or her.
On Election Day voters can say how they feel about the tone of the election as much as they can over the issues. The best way to let Bradley know her hate and bitterness is not the stuff that makes for Wisconsin values is to simply not vote for her. Cast a ballot for someone else, or no one in the race. Let your voice be front and center for how we want our candidates to behave as they ask us for the responsibility to lead.
If they can not respect us during the campaign what hope do we have after they are elected?