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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014

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In Milwaukee Buzz Commentary

"The party machinery will rise up and support a candidate in the primary who is redder than you in a red district or bluer than you in a blue district."

Farewell to the last of the moderates

Take a good, hard look at outgoing State Senators Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center), Tim Cullen (D-Janesville) and Bob Jauch (D-Poplar).

They are members of an endangered species. They are moderate public servants capable of bucking party lines and reaching across the political aisle to do what is best for their constituents, even if that means offending their caucus leaders.

And they are so disgusted by the devolution of democracy in Wisconsin that they have decided not to seek re-election.

One can hardly blame them. When the state legislative districts were last redrawn, the Republican majority in power made the red districts redder and the blue districts bluer. Many districts were carved out like jigsaw pieces. Wisconsin now has only a handful of contestable legislative districts.

This destroyed any remaining political incentives for any independence, moderation, statesmanship or compromise. In fact, it created a punitive political environment in Madison in which such appeasements are signs of impurity and weakness.

As he announced he will not seek re-election after a Tea Party candidate was recruited by the caucus to run against him, Schultz said, "It's a trap of wanting to do good but being coerced and convinced that the only way to accomplish that is to conform with outside pressures and agendas.

"As a result of the Citizens United (U.S.) Supreme Court decision allowing unlimited special interest monies to be injected into campaigns, compromise has given way to partisan conformity, and that's not something in which I'm willing to participate."

Over the past two years, parts of several Wisconsin bills were literally written by lobbyists representing special interest groups and rubber-stamped by lawmakers. Identical bills were written in cookie cutter forms in other states.

Bottom line: If you can pay, you can play in Wisconsin. And if lawmakers don't play by the special interests' rules, they will be "primaried," a pathetic new verb in the Capitol, meaning that the party machinery will rise up and support a candidate in the primary who is redder than you in a red district or bluer than you in a blue district. Many of these special interests keep political "scorecards" of the legislators.

I know of one reasonable public servant who was warned by his party's leadership not to bother pursuing a higher office because he had the gall to have his photograph taken with the national leader of the other party. I know of other moderate legislators who recently left office because they had been removed from key committee assignments as punishment after they had shown a willingness to compromise with the other side.

Polls have shown an overwhelming majority of residents in Wisconsin believe the state should follow Iowa's lead and cede the job of drawing the state's legislative districts to a nonpartisan commission, such as the Legislative Reference Bureau.

George Washington warned against the creation of political parties. He feared they would become infested by and beholden to special interests.

In his farewell address to the nation on Sept. 19, 1796, as he declined a third term in office, Washington advised that the nation guard against the "continual mischiefs of the spirit of party," making it the "interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it."

Ol' George must be spinning in his grave at Mount Vernon.


Mikey P | March 17, 2014 at 1:55 p.m. (report)

Here! Here! The way this state was gerrymandered by the Republicans behind closed doors with attorneys and vows of silence...This state is so screwed up. The only good news is this college dropout of a governor will only make it through one term.

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TheyThink | Feb. 19, 2014 at 9:59 p.m. (report)

Polls show overwhelming support? Which polls? When? Funny how liberals like Jagler suddenly have an issue with redistributing when their party is not in the majority. Jauch and Cullen as moderates? Show me the last time they bucked their party on a piece of major republican legislation whereby nearly all of their democrat colleagues voted the other way.

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