It is very difficult to sit by and watch people you love and care about fall victim to the dishonest practices of men out of an altruistic idea that a worldly political leader can actual bring about change that is best for all.
We live in an age where politics on all fronts is horrendously riddled with partisanship, paybacks, kickbacks, and millions and millions of dollars that buy the power of others. To think otherwise, no matter what side of the fence you are on, may be a tad naive. I can count myself as one of the victims.
I have lived through many a political season. I was born during “Camelot”, saw the rise and fall of Richard Nixon. As a teenager, I felt the impact of the fall of a president and the stumbling of a vice president trying to heal a public that would never again be trusting of their leadership. I watched as an honest and true politician tried to make change for good, instead failing because compromise was not an option, only to then become the world’s most formidable moderator (yes, we are speaking of peanut farmer Jimmy Carter). He went on to establish one of America’s most altruistic and successful nonprofits and an international policy institute that today, is called on to help solve the most tense of political climates. I was a young adult, newly married and having children when The Great Communicator was elected and served his two terms as president. He was generally a good leader and ended the cold war, but with 20/20 hindsight, we have been able to see that economically we stumbled. Bush 1 brought us 1000 points of light and called on us to serve our communities but started a war that was fueled more by greed and control than the altruistic ideology of saving a country from invasion. I was a military wife during this time and had a front-row seat to the repercussions of a political decision involving money, not freedom. From there, we moved into the area of a suave and morally unscrupulous man but who was a great administrator. Pres. Clinton’s two terms saw us through a boom period and he left office, handing over to his predecessor, for the first time in 4 administrations, a surplus. He had shown that despite his personal failings, he could coordinate a government that could operate within a budget and take care of its citizens. Unfortunately Bush II did not possess the same agenda. His presidency was marred with conflict, egregious spending, arrogance, and a lack of accountability to those who elected him.
Throughout my life I have watched as more and more politicians entered the arena of public service, not out of a desire to help and serve their fellow man, but out of a quest for power, attention and the spotlight. As a public, previously, we looked not only at what a person said, but how they behaved in their life before politics to help us determine whether they could be trusted as a leader and in their role to serve us, the citizens, who pay for their positions. Were they honest, successful businessmen, leaders in the community or church? Did they answer questions directly, honestly? Could there answers be put to the test; in other words, were their past actions demonstrative of the solutions and answers they provided to the public? Did they say what they mean and mean what they say? Were they interested in John Brown who lived at 111 Main St, as much as they were interested in Jack Jones, owner of the worlds largest widget company who was thinking about opening a plant in Anywhere, USA?
I think my parents may recall knowing a few local politicians that were like that. As a high school student, I had an opportunity to meet then Governor, Lee Dreyfus. He was a moderate, who often referred to himself as a Republicrat. (He ran and won as a candidate for the Republican party). He was a kind, honest, truthful man, who ran his campaign out of an old red-painted school bus. He was not beholding to anyone. He set a precedent for me as to what to look for in a man/woman running for office. Now, some do not consider him a “successful” governor. Like Jimmy Carter (coincidentally President of the US at the same time), he was operating under difficult conditions, not much different that those we are seeing today. For me, it was not about whether he was able to accomplish everything he set out, or make us oober-prosperous, it was about his character. How did he treat his fellow citizen of Wisconsin? Who or what was he beholding too? Was he in anyone’s “pocket”? Nope. He never really desired to be a politician and to make a career of it; nor did he seek to be a “national leader”. He wanted to use his great skills to help the state he truly loved. Some analysts may assess his governorship as being mediocre, but in 20/20 hindsight, one decision he made (to the chagrin of many naysayers) was the establishment of the UW School of Veterinary Medicine. When chastised that Wisconsin didn’t need any more veterinarians, Gov. Dreyfus replied, “This is not about veterinarians, this is about Research.” That foresight eventually resulted in a little known researcher named James Thomson, whose work in stem cells has been universally monumental.
Since then, I have not seen a politician in either party, at the state and national level, who was honestly interested serving his people, until Barack Obama. What do Barak Obama, Jimmy Carter and Lee Dreyfus have in common? I know some are scratching their heads. They were men who truly wanted to serve, wanted to help, wanted to change things, but ultimately were not allowed to succeed because the forces and powers (primarily money-based) against them, used their resources to focus on preventing their success, rather than coming together to find a workable solution.
We now live in a political climate where resources, money, and people are used to thwart the success of others instead of finding conciliatory, shared solutions that create strong cities, states and countries. Its like the old childhood adage, If I cant have it, then I wont let you have it either!” We look at one person’s possible success as a marker for our own failure and we do it at all cost. I have never seen so many blatant lies, untruth’s, misinformation and obvious corruption as I have seen in the past year, let alone 3 weeks. We have a man, elected by the minority of Wisconsin voters, but slight majority of voters who turned out that day, who in his brief 13 weeks in office has disregarded the adjudications of the court, is attempting to enact a bill that is in direct opposition to the Constitution of the State of Wisconsin, has been “outed” as being financially beholding to out-of-state corporate interests that do not seek to better Wisconsin, but only use its people and resources for its financial gain, and has acted in direct opposition to his campaign promises of his own personal frugality and fiscal responsibility.
Those in the state that elected him must accept their share of responsibility in this. His record of service as Milwaukee County Executive is marred with dishonesty, corruption and bias to special interests that funded his campaign. His own personal record prior to that public office raises some eyebrows as well. We can go back to his college days and find a pattern of behavior that reflects forward to present day issues. Instead of being objective, we were persuaded and enticed by the savvy media propaganda used by expert political campaign marketing specialists.
Gone are the days of the old schools buses, painted red and white and carrying candidates whose desire is to serve the people. In its place are slick ads, making promises that wont be honored, sponsored by political action committees established by corporate entities with a vested financial interest in one candidate winning who will further their agendas and corporate (or on the flip side, national union) goals. To believe that the people have a voice and a choice is quickly slipping away.
This “fight for Wisconsin” is not really about our state constitutional right to collective bargaining or public workers having to sacrifice their share in this economy; it is not about balancing our budget and making “Wisconsin open for business”. It is not really about the loss of health services to the poor, the elderly or the non-insured or about keeping our rivers and waterways clean or even saving feral dogs from being used as research. It is about standing up and telling those in the political arena that we will no longer stand for dishonest men in political office; that we will not tolerate deception and trickery. We no longer accept that the voice with the most money is the voice that is most valuable. We must work towards coming back together, working together, compromising and creatively sacrificing what is necessary when times are hard.
I believe that when we are honest with ourselves, that the majority of Americans, of Wisconsinites are not on opposite ends of the political spectrum, but share many of the same and desires. In order to come together, we must be honest and seek honesty in those who lead. It is our responsibility to hold those elected accountable and to stand up and say no, when we recognize the harm that will befall from decisions that are mandated instead of debated.
I still believe that there can be change. I still have hope that the few that seek office to really serve the people can be successful. I believe in each citizens intelligence and their ability to see through the conservative and liberal propaganda; to recognize what it the most compassionate and fiscally sensible way in which to care for our communities, our neighbors, our brothers, our sisters. I still believe that within all humans is the ability and desire to do good to each other.