Let's say I'm a gay politician, a granddaughter of immigrants, who uses her position to rail against the injustices done by our government to gay people and immigrant families. Let's say that I develop a loyal following of constituents and others who admire my willingness to speak truth to power on behalf of these vulnerable groups.
Then let's say that in my spare time I mug grandmas on their way home from the grocery store.
Am I a hero?
If that's a tough question, you must be living in Milwaukee. Whether Ald. Mike McGee has committed any crimes will ultimately be determined in the courts, but whether he's a hero or not will be decided in the court of public opinion.
For the record, I don't think he's a hero. I admire anyone willing to challenge the status quo on behalf of people whose needs are being ignored. I admire anyone who is willing to call Milwaukeeans out on our legendary personal and institutional racism. But I don't admire Mike McGee, Jr., even if he does talk that justice talk. If none of the new criminal charges against him stick, what he's already done on the record makes him a hypocrite at best and a liar at worst. His public, well-documented anti-gay comments belie his supposed stance against oppression. His public, well-documented misrepresentations of his identity, his relationship and paternity status, and his financial responsibilities belie his assertion that he is an honest man serving the public good.
What's more, if all the new allegations against the alderman turn out to be true, the hypothetical politician I sketched at the beginning of this post has a real-life model in McGee. The alleged McGee leadership plan goes something like this:
- He creates a corrupt and hostile business environment by shaking down business license-seekers for bribes and "voluntary" contributions to his pet causes.
- He buys votes to fight off an election challenge.
- Then he gets mixed up in a scheme to kill or beat up a teenager who stole cash and a gun from somebody else, because ... McGee's now the enforcer of all that's right and just?
Leadership is not about the talk. It's about the walk. I hope McGee supporters will come to their senses soon and see that this guy isn't leading us anywhere but off the plank.
Jennifer Morales is an elected member of the Milwaukee Board of School Directors, the first person of Latino descent to hold that position. She was first elected in 2001 and was unopposed for re-election in 2005. In 2004, she ran for a seat in the Wisconsin state senate, earning 43% of the vote against a 12-year incumbent.
Previously, she served as the editorial assistant at the educational journal Rethinking Schools; as assistant director of two education policy research centers at UW-Milwaukee; and as the development director for 9to5, National Association of Working Women.
She became the first person in her immediate family to graduate from college, earning a B.A. in Modern Languages and Literatures from Beloit College in 1991.
In addition to her work on the school board, she is a freelance editorial consultant and a mother.