Can you recall being so divided?

Editorial Board

Within weeks of becoming governor, Scott Walker pushed forward an agenda that brought thousands upon thousands of protestors to the Capitol. Within a year, he became the subject of a momentous recall effort against him that collected more than one million signatures.

While much attention has been focused on the governor and the recall efforts, it’s hard to ignore how divided the state has become.
There’s a toxic political climate in the state, with intimidation and mudslinging coming from both sides of the political spectrum in Wisconsin.

In the midst of all this is a substantive and very real disagreement on how to cut back spending in Wisconsin.

Since taking office, Walker has cut funding on education, taken benefits away from teachers and pretty much obliterated public unions in the state. These moves have been dubbed a war on education and a war on the middle class by Gov. Walker’s opponents, but hailed by Walker proponents as necessary to control spending.

Walker turned away federal funds to construct a high-speed rail through Wisconsin that would connect the Twin Cities with the Chicagoland area. Walker called it a money-saving effort, protecting the state from future cash outlays to support the rail system. Some in the state saw this as a fiscally responsible move, while others saw it as a missed opportunity to improve the state’s transportation infrastructure and create jobs.

The governor and his supporters say many of the moves he has made since being elected have been designed to create a business- friendly environment in the state. But his opponents point out that Wisconsin had the highest job loss rate in the country in October and November.

Ultimately, we are seeing a political climate that is dividing Wisconsin more than ever before. With that division, anger is mounting. People are becoming more and more passionate about the issues, and at times that has overridden sensibility on both sides of the political spectrum.

It is expected that Wisconsin will have a recall election in either May or June. If Walker is ultimately pushed out office, that means that things will then be all right in Wisconsin, right? Actually, that seems unlikely.

Quite frankly, the divisions that exist today are unlikely to go away.

After the recall elections, we will enter another national and state election cycle that will leave little time for any change or reconciliation to occur.

Disagreements are a part of life and many times those disagreements may indeed be heated. Everyone experiences them in life. Everyone has probably has had a tiff or a falling out with a parent, sibling or other family member. Those conflicts tend to be resolved with a mere simple discussion.

What does this have to do with what we are facing in Wisconsin right now?

Wisconsin has a population of just over 5.5 million people. In essence, those 5.5 million people are like a family living together in the giant home commonly referred to as Wisconsin.

If the problem is the division of the state, if a solution is to be reached, common ground must be met through meaningful discussion and even give-and-take by both sides. If needed, a third party could be brought in, much like a parent.

Is common ground likely to be achieved in the near future?

It is highly unlikely with the level of toxicity in the environment. But truthfully, if we want to have functioning state again, we will have to find common ground again, much like a couple of brothers who just finished an argument.

Regardless of the outcome of the recall elec- tions, the state needs to return to a time of political civility – where people have respectful disagreements and truly consider the perspective of those they disagree with.