I should state at the outset I am a graduate of Tri-County High School in Plainfield, Wisconsin. For many rural schools in the state it is a thrill indeed to have a reason to travel to Madison, and even more so when the trip involves the Wisconsin State Capitol. So I can totally grasp the joy of the school choir being selected to sing at the Capitol tree-lightning ceremony on Tuesday. After all, this year’s statehouse tree was from Plainfield.
While holiday festiveness in the rotunda had every right to be front and center there was something more pressing taking place under the statehouse dome. Republican lawmakers were in preparation to vote on lame-duck session measures to weaken powers of the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general. One of the most preposterous and dangerous examples yet of a power grab in Wisconsin was taking place just a short distance from the Christmas tree.
The grand design of government presented in civics books–which these students in the choir have spent time learning–was being turned on its head just a short distance from where they stood to sing. A deliberate process designed to respect voters wishes was being turned upside down, and inside out. Republicans, in the mid-terms, had lost all five statewide elected offices, a U.S. Senate seat, and in legislative offices were swamped when Democratic votes totaled 190,000 more that the Republicans. The GOP, with the partisan maps they designed, still controlled the assembly with 63/99 seats. But what they had not been able to win in elections was what they had every intention of stealing in the session.
Needless to say there were many very concerned citizens at the capitol who were mindful that the future of our state is in play. So when Scott Walker took to the podium to address the tree-lighting crowd he was met with what should have been no surprise to anyone. He was faced with boos and very loud howls of protest. As a result the high school choir singing Christmas carols was largely drowned out. A large group of protesters were stationed outside the Senate chamber loudly singing their own music–anti-Walker tunes.
It might seem unfair to some that the students were sidelined by the actions of other citizens who were trying to stop anti-democratic actions in the legislature. But that is the frothy side of our political process in action. One does not often get to see such a thing among the corn rows of Waushara County. Needless to say the dynamics at play must have made for some interesting insights for these young people.
I sincerely believe that the lesson for taking a stand, and raising a voice for the future of the state will well serve these students. To think that the rural place they call home will not be undermined by the slick moves and partisan machinations of the GOP in this lame-duck session is folly. The school they now attend, and the future education many will seek are all tied to the bizarre and corrupt behavior of the ones being yelled at Tuesday.
The bus trip may not have developed as the students had thought, but they are wiser and more schooled today in democracy as a result of being at the Wisconsin Capitol.