Wisconsin is a state of extremes. Not just freezing winters and blistering summers, but also a political pendulum that can take wide swings. Evidenced by the fiasco of our pandemic spring election which made headlines around the world.
Never in my life as a US citizen, daughter and niece of four WWII veterans, one of whom gave his life at Iwo Jima, did I expect to see such blatant greed and gross negligence of duty. Human lives used as pawns in political game-playing. Right here in my own back yard.
A few days after the election I received a newsletter from my Wisconsin State Senator. A well-respected local business man and staunch Republican, Mr. Duey Stroebel, opens his letter, oddly, with an expression of victimhood. “I am forced to write this letter in late March,” he says, complaining about a state statute. “I am precluded from any official communication to over 50 constituents after April 15.”
The long-standing statute ensures fairness in elections by preventing the abuse of power of incumbency. Is this the next legal protection the GOP is aiming to gun down, here and around the country? Just as Mr. Trump has now decided to block funding for the US postal service — this would certainly stop any voting by mail — removing this mailing requirement would be another strategic strike against fair elections.
Wisconsin’s current crop of GOP incumbents have been ruthless in changing the rules on power to the executive branch whenever it suits their needs, and back again.
Mr. Stroebel next addresses another state law, but this one he likes. He eagerly tells how he and his GOP colleagues are literally counting the days until they can get their power back, “a maximum of sixty days” from the date of the Governor’s declaration of emergency. “It is important for all to know that…. starting on May 10, the Legislature,” he says, as if speaking for the entire body and electorate, “will again have a voice in how our state deals with the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Political parties are a danger, warned Washington
I think it is time for all Americans to heedPresident George Washington’s warning against political parties, that we the people must retain the power in OUR OWN hands — not give it up to political parties.
“The party,” President Washington warned, “serves always to distract public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles animosity of one part against another, foments occasional riot and insurrection.”
President Washington believed we could and should function without political parties. And for most of our history, we did. Especially here in Wisconsin.
Party affiliation v. party loyalty
Parties did not used to have the kind of powerful divisive influence they have now. Growing up, the adults around me expressed party affiliation, but not party loyalty. There is a huge difference.
Individuals were assessed on character. Votes were cast not with nasty animosity, blind loyalty, loathing of the “other” group, and fear of reprisal from their own group. Wisconsinites, husbands and wives, parents and adult children engaged over the kitchen table a la All In The Family. While we disagreed heatedly about problems and solutions, issues and ideas — we never forgot who we were to each other. Sides were not demonized.
Americans had thicker skins and stronger beliefs. We grew up singing on the playground “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.” And we meant it. Today people are ridiculously sensitive.
Citizens cast votes based on character. For example, the honorable Wisconsin Senator William Proxmire and his Golden Fleece Award was a Democrat but that didn’t matter. He was the pendulum swing that replaced the disgraced far-right Senator Joe McCarthy in 1957. Proxmire was soundly re-elected in 1958, 1964, 1970, 1976 and 1982 by wide margins, with 71% of the vote in 1970, 73% in 1976, and 65% in 1982 until his retirement in 1988.
Proxmire was fiscally conservative, socially liberal, and people of all kinds respected him. He refused to accept reimbursement for travel expenses. His record for consecutive roll call votes in the US Senate remains unbroken. Proxmire was known for voting his conscience even in opposition to his party’s president. Like others of his generation, he listened to all ALL of the people in Wisconsin — not just those voted for him. Proxmire was a great leader with great character supported by great citizens — Republicans, Democrats alike.
Citizen leadership is the antidote to party dominance
We, as citizen leaders, need to return to choosing leaders by character and qualifications — not party endorsement. Extract ourselves from the mesmerizing influence of propagandists who engender anger and fear of the “other” and make us cling blindly to party slogans.
We, as citizen leaders, need to focus on our own definition of what it means to be a person of good character. As citizen leaders we must return to vetting candidates and parties carefully — rejecting those who don’t measure up. Give as much attention to our vote as to whom we entrust the care for our children and our finances. The people who serve as our leaders should have proven executive skills. People skills. Negotiation skills. Vision. Wisdom. Compassion. And, in my opinion, humility. Good leaders set their sights on a future in which we all benefit. They hire other qualified leaders who look out for us all and out children, seeking the best and safest path, keeping an eye on followers o make sure no one falls off the road into the gutter.
We, as citizen leaders, have at our fingertips resources that allow us to focus on vetting and find good people who are good leaders. If we do our due diligence, help those leaders lead — party won’t matter.
We, as citizen leaders, need first to be leaders of ourselves who value and recognize the benefits of unity over division. It is up to each one of us to refuse to be anyone else’s pawn in a political game. To refuse to give up our protections and rights to help them amass more power while dividing us.
The cause of our division and how to reunite
I perceive at least three main reasons for our division. 1) The current reality-show-TV misleadership and cronyism at the highest level has certainly driven wide a crack that existed prior to his election. However, I see this ascendency as symptom of a broken system. We, the people, are the only ones responsible for fixing it by refusing to succumb to cynicism and holding them accountable, at the ballot box. 2) Decades of emphasis on party loyalty over principle and values. 3) A deeply dysfunctional system that allows propaganda, sensationalism, slander, libel, and demonization of legitimate news, steering people away from fact- and science-based legitimate news.
I was a student of journalism when Fox News was born. It was the first and remains centerpiece of post-Fairness Doctrine news channels to intermingle fact and opinion. Now it rarely reports on facts, with 68% of content opinion, frequently misleading viewers with lies, video manipulation and photo manipulation about important life-threatening issues to contradict science. Fox is the definition of propaganda: a manufacturer of controversy. Anger. Fear. Division.
We, as citizen leaders, need a mass remedial lesson in the difference between fact and opinion. Deluged with so much propaganda for so many years that only 28% Americans can distinguish correctly. We need to recognize that our media is educator, and we need to turn off educators who manipulate.
Fox is the epitome of the boy who cried wolf. Now the wolf is at our door. aka Covid19. And the propagandists / reality-TV-show misleaders are telling everybody, “let him in, let him in! The carnage will make great news! Really boost our ratings!”
Reality is not a reality show: just the facts
The US is now at the epicenter of the pandemic with far more cases than any other country.(1) Dr. Anthony Fauci, our government’s leading infectious disease expert, says millions of Americans could get sick and “nearly a quarter-million people in the United States could lose their lives” — and that is IF we now do everything we can to stop the spread of the virus. (2)
This is not a hoax like Obama’s birth certificate. Or the wearing of a flag lapel pin. Or how a president salutes. This is a real live deadly wolf here. About to gobble up the house.
The Federal Reserve is estimating job losses due to the crisis could total 47 million with a 32% unemployment rate, higher than the Great Depression. (3) That is what it could be IF we continue on the lock-down course set now. It will be much worse if we listen to misleaders who will sound the “all clear” on May 10. Who will recklessly grab power for their own political ends, and tell us it’s safe to get back to work.
Dearly beloved friends and neighbors, it is time to take responsibility upon ourselves
Citizen leaders vet candidates and elect responsible leaders. Responsible citizens seek out facts and make wise choices based on facts in an election year, before they go to the polls. Here are 10 factual realty-TV-show misleadership blunders — with the references to solid factual data — that Fox Entertainment has most definitely NOT reported on. Here are the fact that have allowed the wolf in the door:
- FACT: Refusing to take responsibility for his administration’s response to the pandemic. Trump takes no responsibility for how he and his administration are dealing with the crisis. When asked by reporters about it, he said, “I don’t take any responsibility at all.”6
- FACT :Shutting down the White House pandemic office. Trump closed the White House’s National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense in 2018 — despite official briefings starting even before his inauguration about the threat posed by pandemics.7,8
- FACT:Ignoring intelligence warnings. Trump ignored dire warnings in January and February from U.S. intelligence agencies about the coronavirus pandemic, downplaying the threat and blocking necessary preparations.9 He also stonewalled inquiries from Congress starting in early February.10
- FACT: Failing to test. Trump failed to mobilize the government and private sector to establish testing early on to contain the spread of the virus.11 Dr. Fauci calls the lack of early testing “a failing” of the U.S. response.12 Now, we’re left with lockdowns and intense social and economic disruptions to try to mitigate the harm. Was this good leadership? How is this all affecting you? Think there’s a better way to lead?
- FACT :Failing to procure medical supplies. Trump failed to marshal the powers of the federal government to procure the medical supplies and hospital beds needed to meet the scale of this public health crisis. For instance, if the Trump administration had reacted in February to the ventilator shortage, the shortage would have been resolved by mid-to-late April. Because the administration failed to react, we might have enough ventilators only in early June, at best.13. Is this the way a president should use his power?
- FACT :Spreading lies and misinformation. Early in the crisis, Trump said the coronavirus would simply disappear. “It’s going to disappear. One day it’s like a miracle — it will disappear.”14 Then, he started prescribing medication, promoted a risky antimalarial drug as a treatment, with no evidence.15 He accused governors of not needing the personal protective equipment and ventilators they asked for, and he accused health care workers of hoarding, stealing, and selling masks and equipment.16,17 And he still continues to spread lies and advance his own political agenda, boasting about his poll numbers and television ratings.
- FACT: Appointing Mike Pence to run the White House Coronavirus Task Force. Pence has a history of skepticism and denialism of science and a record of poor response to public health crises as governor of Indiana.18
- Blocking access to health care, which puts all of us at risk. Trump and his Republican supporters in Congress refuse to pay for coronavirus and COVID-19 medical care — except for testing.19 But even the testing provision is full of loopholes, with reports that people are showing up at hospitals to get tested and then getting billed thousands of dollars because, while the tests are free, the emergency room visits are not. How do you feel about this?
- Favoring governors who are political allies when distributing lifesaving medical supplies and pitting states against one another instead of distributing supplies based on most urgent need and fostering cooperation in this national emergency.20. How would President Washington feel about this?
- Failing to hire competent experts to manage this crisis. Trump and his administration are incompetent, and, as a result, people are needlessly dying. There is tremendous turnover in key administration positions, many positions are left unfilled, and people are often unqualified for their jobs. This results in horrifying incompetence in the best of times, and catastrophic inadequacy now.
And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Trump’s political strategy is to falsely repeat over and over that the coronavirus is unprecedented, that no one saw it coming, and that his response has been “great.”21
Clearly, great doesn’t mean what most of us thinks it means.
We have now a pandemic, a climate crisis, and an economic disaster on our hands. Now more than ever it is important to be citizen leaders, vet candidates with an open mind, widen the ranks of those who embrace independence from parties, and elect real leaders who are worthy of our vote, at all levels. Particularly citizens in swing states like Wisconsin.
1. “Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case Count,” The New York Times, accessed April 2, 2020
2. “Coronavirus May Kill 100,000 to 240,000 in U.S. Despite Actions, Officials Say,” The New York Times, March 31, 2020
3. “Coronavirus job losses could total 47 million, unemployment rate may hit 32 percent, Fed estimates,” NBC News, March 30, 2020
4. “President Trump’s Job Approval Rating Up to 49%,” Gallup, March 24, 2020
6. “Trump: ‘I Don’t Take Responsibility at All,’” New York, March 13, 2020
7. “I ran the White House pandemic office. Trump closed it.” The Washington Post, March 13, 2020
8. “Before Trump’s inauguration, a warning: ‘The worst influenza pandemic since 1918,’” Politico, March 16, 2020
9. “U.S. intelligence reports from January and February warned about a likely pandemic,” The Washington Post, March 20, 2020
10. “Congress Wanted Answers From Trump on Coronavirus. He Blew Them Off.” The Daily Beast, March 20, 2020
11. “The Lost Month: How a Failure to Test Blinded the U.S. to Covid-19,” The New York Times, March 28, 2020
12. “Top health official Fauci: People in US not easily getting coronavirus testing ‘is a failing,’” The Hill, March 12, 2020
13. “Slow Response to the Coronavirus Measured in Lost Opportunity,” The New York Times, March 24, 2020
14. “All the President’s Lies About the Coronavirus,” The Atlantic, March 24, 2020
17. “Trump could help solve the mask problem. Instead he’s making baseless attacks on New York nurses.” Vox, March 30, 2020
18. “Mike Pence is exactly the wrong guy for this job,” CNN, February 27, 2020
19. “He Got Tested for Coronavirus. Then Came the Flood of Medical Bills.” The New York Times, March 30, 2020
20. “Governors plead for medical equipment from federal stockpile plagued by shortages and confusion,” The Washington Post, March 31, 2020
21. “Trump said his coronavirus response has been a perfect ‘10.’ Public-health experts say that it’s ‘abysmal’ and that he needs to ‘stop talking.’” Business Insider, March 17, 2020