|Photo: Jenna Pope|
25 Jan 2012
Dear Scott Walker,
I wasn’t expecting much from your State of the State address tonight, and you didn’t disappoint.
I expected the same old lies, and you delivered: Our schools are broken (never mind that we were at the top of the pack in more categories than we can count before you took office). Our teachers are inept, undeserving moochers who need to be penalized instead of protected - but hey, I couldn’t respect them more! - as evidenced by the same story you always tell (and told again tonight) about the one alleged award-winning young teacher who got laid off because she didn’t have seniority. And every problem that exists in our schools can be solved by your bizarre pet project about fourth grade reading. We’ve heard it all before and we heard it again tonight.
I expected you to ignore the recall, and you did. I expected you to conveniently fail to mention your promise to create 250,000 jobs, and you did. I expected you to employ your usual shameful strategy of passing off your cuts to health care and education as “reforms” and dare to imply that these devastating cuts actually help local economies and Wisconsin families. You did. I expected you to use a few lame examples of people who saved a few bucks on property taxes as evidence for why all the union busting was “worth it” and you did (and really? One anecdote about one woman who saved a hundred bucks was the best you can do? Ours went way up, as I mentioned before. Guess you didn’t get my message).
I expected you to pretend that the people support you, that you created jobs, that you balanced the budget. You did, you did, you did. Never mind that a million of us just stood outside in the freezing cold to sign a petition to recall you. Never mind that Wisconsin has lost jobs steadily under your administration, and never mind that Wisconsin has lost jobs every single month for the last six months since your budget went into effect. Never mind that you just last week – in an attempt to cut even more Wisconsin families off from much-needed healthcare benefits – told the federal government that we’re operating on a major deficit, and not a balanced budget, so that you could turn down federal health care funds. Those “facts” weren’t convenient tonight, and didn’t make the cut, as facts tend not to do in your speeches. I’m getting used to this. Since you seem to be banking (literally) on the “tell a lie often enough people will start believing it” strategy of governance and perpetual campaigning/fundraising, I expected nothing less.
But I got a little more. There were a few things I did not expect tonight, too.
I was expecting you to try to sugarcoat the pay-to-play mining legislation that’s being raced through the Assembly as a pro-jobs, environmentally friendly proposal. It’s the hot-button issue of the moment, and I knew you’d have to mention it. But I didn’t expect you to sink as low as you did in trying to defend it. Anyone who’s been paying even the tiniest bit of attention to the facts in this case knows exactly what this legislation is: a political game in which the exchange of money buys political favor from wealthy benefactors and the people of Wisconsin suffer. At the public hearings for this bill, at which Republican legislators shamefully ignored and openly disrespected constituents (as seems to be the new norm in Wisconsin politics during your administration), the tribal leaders and members of the Anashinaabe nation waited 9 hours to be allowed to speak, one after another, in opposition to this legislation, which violates not just our pristine environment, but local traditions and their sovereign rights. They were ignored. To add insult to this injury, you had the nerve, in the lowest point in your speech tonight, to appeal to the “history of our badger state” as a reason to support this legislation. What history are you referring to here? The history of exploiting native Wisconsinites? A history of broken promises? That is not history the good people of Wisconsin care to repeat. We have an opportunity, in this moment, to protect our environment and respect the people who live where these mines will negatively impact their lives. Your condescending appeal to “respect” at the close of your speech betrays a hypocrisy that brings shame not just on you, but on this entire state. I am ashamed to call you governor, and that is why I cannot bring myself to do so when I address you in my letters. You have brought shame to this great state, and you seem hell-bent on continuing to do so until you are deposed. That day cannot come soon enough.
I expected protest; you get that everywhere you go. We knew that was coming. Drums of protest were audible as you began, and resounding “boos” from the gallery, despite your best efforts to preclude the public from your talk (the NPR broadcasters said only 12 seats were open to the general public); I counted at least a half dozen audible disruptions of your speech (most notably the shout of “LIAR!” when you claimed, right after disparaging teachers by saying they do not “merit” the pay they currently receive, that you “respect” the people of this state). I expected some dissent. But I didn’t expect four people to get ejected during your speech for shouting out objections to your claims.
And I didn’t expect you to receive ovations for being booed. I did not expect the force with which the Republican side of the aisle applauded these ejections. The fact that your divisiveness is one of the things that your supporters seem to love most about your “style” of governance is absolutely baffling to me. A great leader unites. You only divide. How can you take pride in that? How can anyone applaud it? I find it shameful. How does this move us forward? Do you really think that by dividing us you can move us ahead? How can anyone possibly find this admirable? This, to me, is the most puzzling problem of your administration: how you seem to thrive on, take real pride in, “dropping bombs” and bringing out the worst in people.
You asked us tonight “to imagine how much better we can make our government work if we share good ideas and suggestions.” Well, I’ve been sharing my good ideas and suggestions with you for an entire year and not once did I feel as if we were having, as you claimed tonight, a “conversation.” We are engaged in a deadlock of monologues, and you clearly have no real desire to communicate in any way with constituents who challenge your politics or policies. Even now that you have (a year into your administration) launched the taxpayer-funded campaign ads that you call “e-updates,” you will not engage with those who have tried hardest to reach out to you over the past year. I don’t expect you to start. I don’t expect Wisconsin politics to return to an equilibrium of respect and decorum until you are out of office.
I wasn’t expecting to agree with you at all tonight. I was expecting, in fact, to disagree with everything you said. But when it comes right down to it, I have to admit that I couldn’t agree more with the central point of your address: Wisconsin is heading in the right direction. Having spoken loudly and definitively in producing, over the course of only 60 days, over 1,000,000 signatures to see you removed from office, the people of Wisconsin have launched an effort that will not be stopped. And I think you said it best yourself: “Now is the time for action. Now is the time to get our state working again. Now is the time to move Wisconsin forward.” I could not agree more. And there is only one way to move Wisconsin forward: by seeing you recalled.
Heather DuBois Bourenane