Monday, April 30, 2012

A House Divided

The photo above is stolen from my friend of long-standing, Bill Kiefer, with whom I had the pleasure of working in the Fox Valley’s biggest radio newsroom three decades ago.  Bill is now a senior news executive at Channel 11 in Green Bay.  This photo, taken on Oak Street in Green Bay, which Bill posted on his Facebook page last week, pretty well sums up the state of the state.

Wisconsin is truly a house divided.

This past weekend, I made a quick trip up to Appleton, and returned home shaking my head about the state of poisoned politics in Wisconsin.  Here in Dane County, Governor Walker has far fewer friends than he does in the Fox Valley.  His budget measures have hit a lot of people who live in Dane County very hard and very personally.  Political yard-signs supporting Walker are few and far between around here.

As you travel north from Madison on Highway 151, you know you’re getting closer to Walker country when you begin to see more and more Walker yard signs.  When you turn off Highway 151 to take Highway 26, the “short-cut” to Highway 41, you begin to see a smattering of Walker yard signs.  In Rosendale, the state’s best-known speed trap, there’s a spectrum of political yard signs: some for Walker; some for Falk; even a few for Barrett.  A few miles north of Rosendale, there’s a big yard sign – about six feet long and four feet high – that says “Walker for Governor”.  But the person who put up the sign spray-painted a black X over the word “Governor” and added the word “President” under it.

Now you know you’re not in the state’s bluest county.

When you hit Highway 41 just south of Oshkosh and begin the trek up what I call “The Main Street of the Fox Valley”, Walker signs proliferate.  Every quarter-mile or so, there’s a Walker sign or billboard of some sort.  But just north of Oshkosh, I saw a humongous billboard – probably twice the size of a normal roadside billboard – and my jaw literally dropped when I read what it said:


The spoiled few.  Who are they?  Teachers?  The women who work in school kitchens, preparing the meals for our children?  The men who plow our roads in the winter?  The man or woman who checks our stores to make sure the cash registers are not cheating us on prices, and our gas pumps to make sure that when it says it’s delivered a gallon, it’s really delivered a gallon?  The people who work in nursing homes taking care of our elderly?  The ones who pick up our trash when we set it on the curb? Are these the spoiled few?  Was it 950,000 spoiled people who signed recall petitions?  It sure wasn’t “out of state union thugs” who signed those documents.

All the way through Neenah and Menasha, Walker billboards are predominant; and just before I exited Highway 41 at Wisconsin Avenue in Appleton, there was a big sign that said “I Stand With Governor Walker”.  As I made my way east on Wisconsin Ave and then turned north on Richmond Street, into a more residential neighborhood, there was an intriguing mix of signs, some supporting Walker, some encouraging his impeachment.  It looked not too dissimilar from the photo above.

When I got to my friend Greg’s house, on Grant Street, he had the American Flag flying proudly from his home, and a yard sign that said “I Stand With Governor Walker”.  Across the street, his neighbor’s yard sign said “Impeach Walker”. 

My friend and I didn’t talk politics; we talked music, our common bond as old-time tuba players a few years apart at Hortonville High.  We did our business – I bought one of Greg’s reconditioned bass horns – and then talked music for another half-hour, glad to have renewed our acquaintance and solidified our bond as “back row boys”.

As I headed back down to Madison, I spent a lot of time thinking about how our state has become so deeply divided.  It’s not just Scott Walker.  The Tommy Thompson of 2012 is not the Tommy Thompson I knew in the 80’s and 90’s.  It’s two parties that can’t talk to each other about anything, can’t put out a news release without sniping at the other party.  And I kept thinking regardless of the outcome of the recall election, it’s not likely the hyperpartisanship will change.

We will remain, I think, a house divided.


  1. You are right on, Tim. The only thing I can add is that families are also split. How anybody can "stand with" a leader who inspires such acrimony is beyond me.

  2. Mr. B., saying "How anybody can stand with a 'leader' who inspires such acrimony" is an excellent example of the "house divided" approach to political discourse. Those of us who support Governor Walker see leadership in what he's done. We don't count minimum acrimony in the top five attributes of a leader. He made a huge and largely successful effort to balance the budget without firing any teachers. That counts for a lot, I think.

    Steve Erbach

  3. Actually, Tim, I think the "division" is at the Dane County lines. Inside, it's all Falk/Barrett.

    Outside, there's no division.

    By the way, public employees ARE spoiled. The Bentley health plan is still there, as is the Maserati retirement plan.

    And the "salary gap" happens to be in FAVOR of public employees unless they're at the top or bottom echelons of their pay-scales.

    Yes, they work. So does everybody else.

    1. I don't know what you do for a living Dad29, or what you get paid or what you're benefits are but you're paid too much and your benefits are out of line. Absurd right? Yes, just as absurd as your blanket statements.

    2. Love how your finely-tuned argumentation includes refuting my "blanket statements", Anony.

      No matter WHAT you do, you're overpaid.

  4. Colonel,

    My sister, Kate, is a reliable progressive / liberal / Democrat...but even she is tired of the Left's protracted temper tantrum over Walker. She's not going to vote to have him ousted. Now, granted, she may not vote for him, but it's a start!

    She says that Walker was elected fair and square. The Democrats lost this time. Get over it. That's what elections are for.

    Fer cry yi! It isn't as if the Left's agenda is going to be delayed by very much. I've said it before: when the Democrats are in power they push the progressive ball downfield towards their ultimate goal of all-enveloping, all-caring, all-compassionate good government. Of course they over-reach and they're booted out of office...because people are naturally "conservative" and don't like to see a lot of change too fast. Then the Stupid Party takes over and after a while they botch things thoroughly and the Democrats come back into power...where they start over-reaching again. But not until they've moved the progressive ball toward the "goal" some more.

    Why the Left is in such a snit this time is really beyond me. Granted, Walker was a bit pushy; but at least he knows that somebody has to say "No!"

    Nobody on the Left seems to be watching what's happening in Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Ireland, etc., over there in that Leftie nirvana, Europe. Why anyone is surprised that Social Security is running out of money or that Medicare is going broke hasn't been watching very closely. And anybody who thinks that those programs can be "saved" is delusional. We don't have enough young people to keep pumping money into those programs for the growing numbers of the elderly and the infirm.

    The rich? They're going to take their money elsewhere if the Left thinks they're milch cows to be milked whenever all the rest of other peoples' money has been spent.

    We have forgotten how to take care of each other because the government has assiduously fostered the idea that everything will be better if government handles it. Thomas Sowell and Harry Browne had very pungent and incisive things to say about that.

    Sowell said, "People who believe in evolution in biology often believe in creationism in government. In other words, they believe that the universe and all the creatures in it could have evolved spontaneously, but that the economy is too complicated to operate without being directed by politicians."

    And the late, the great, Harry Browne had one of the all-time best quotes about government: "Government is good at one thing: It knows how to break your legs, hand you a crutch, and say, 'See, if it weren't for the government, you wouldn't be able to walk.' " Further this deponent sayeth not.

    The Town Crank

    1. Yes Crank we have "forgotten how to take care of each other" and with the "I got mine screw you" mentality of the Ayn Rand crowd, it's no surprise.

    2. Oh, yawn. What on earth does Ayn Rand have to do with it? Do you believe for a single second that our elected encumbrances ever consider anything Rand said?

      Oh, right! Greed! That's it! That's the reason for everything! Yeah, man! Greed, baby! Stuff all a' them greedy creeps down a hole, man!


      The Town Crank

    3. Yes, they do embrace Rand and her philosophy.

      Have a nice day!

  5. Michael PedersenMay 1, 2012 at 11:02 PM

    I back Walker but believe the 'spoiled few' signs are in poor taste, divisive and perhaps even childish.

  6. Very well said,you have a better perspective than most because you have lived in both the blue and the red parts of this state.

  7. I am watching what is going on in France, Greece, Spain, Italy, and the UK where austerity has been the order of the day for years now and guess what? Every one of those countries is worse off today than when the plans were put in place. The populace has had enough and every one of those nations that had elections over the weekend have seen the party in power loose to the "leftists".

    The recall is not a good idea because of the close divisions in the state. We are very nearly 50:50 so whoever gets elected will be recalled. Recall Barrett and Falk are already up and running. Anyone who thinks that there will be a change is dilusional. If the Gov had only picked a fight with the employees who work for him he would not be facing recall now. Gov. Thompson used this tactic to his advantage every election year. I don't like the Gov. because of the process that was used, taking votes when opposing members are not present, stating a meeting time to one caucus and giving a different time to the other,.... But Gov. Walker doesn't have a say in how the legislative branch reuns, that would be the Fitzgeralds and their palace guard (State Patrol).

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