Though this blog is called Caffeinated Politics, and it never is too difficult to determine which side of the political divide I align with, it also is never hard to determine that I stand on some long-held foundations. Foundations that are perhaps Mid-Western, and clearly ones instilled decades ago, when as a boy, my parents were determined to raise a kid they could be proud to claim as their own.
Tuesday when Vice-President Mike Pence visited Madison we had all the optics that accompany such an occasion. The massive jet landing at Truax and the clapping crowd to welcome him. The motorcade that zipped its way to the State Capitol, the protestors who opposed the education funding policy that was the topic of the day, and the school kids who were a backdrop to the podium. It was all part and parcel of what takes place when such notables make a stop in the statehouse.
And it needs to be noted for the sake of history buffs, that Pence was, by all those who keep such data, the first vice-president to have been inside our Capitol. So it was noteworthy to be sure. Regardless of politics.
And that is where I am headed.
What was missing from the occasion was Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers meeting and shaking the hand of Pence. It was the most awkward and unpleasant part of the day from my perspective.
I am very aware of the fundamental differences between the two parties, the chaos that drives our political differences deeper and wider. I am very aware of what has happened to the body politic since the election of 2016. But I am also mindful that President Lincoln made a cabinet of those who had less than warm regards for him. It was Jack Kennedy who brought Lyndon Johnson inside the tent.
When the polite niceties that cost us nothing–such as a handshake and a greeting–are tossed aside for what has to assume are due to the most base of reasons then perhaps it is time to really get dispirited about our politics.
Yes, Pence was in town to score points against Evers over private schools and public funding. Yes, there was a most important secondary reason for the trip that has to do with our state being a most pivotal one come November’s presidential election. For those who work in politics every day, this is to be expected.
But all that makes for even more reason to show that in the midst of the storm one has the ability to step forward and shake the hand of an opponent. By so doing it shows that there is no rancor when it comes to being a gentleman, a nice guy from Wisconsin, a fellow governor.
It was not a good look for Evers who missed not only being in a historic photo with Pence at the statehouse but for becoming smaller as a person.
And so it goes.