Dear Friends And Family Who Lean Politically To The Right,
From time to time, I get impassioned and write you one of these open letters. At the moment, I’m not impassioned. I’m exhausted.
There’s a statewide election coming up on June 5, however.
If I wait until I’m impassioned to say what’s on my mind, the moment may have passed.
If you’re not from Wisconsin, you may skip to the bit at the end that says “Love, Doug”.
If you are from Wisconsin, please read this letter with an open mind. We’re all tired from the last 18 months of political strife, so I will keep it brief and free from name-calling.
I don’t like name-calling. I’m tired of the bickering and the divisiveness. Neighbors don’t speak to neighbors. Family reunions get tense. I’ve damaged some long-term friendships with people who don’t even live in this state. Those of you who live with me in Wisconsin know how ugly it’s gotten at times.
I’m sick at heart about this. There is a whole class of pundits who get paid handsomely to go on the air and lob hysterical accusations at the other side. Day after day, no matter what’s in the news. Accusation after accusation. For them, it sells ad time.
For we the people, it’s been a disaster. That style of “discussion” has bled into our elected officials. In turn, it’s bled into our personal conversations with the people in our lives. We can’t discuss the news of the day without turning into screaming, finger-pointing monsters.
You’re a better person than that. (I say that with confidence, even though this is an open letter.) We can have this discussion. We’re friends. We’re family. We’re neighbors. We’re co-workers.
Sorry, I promised to keep it brief. I’ll come to the point.
You, as a conservative, should not give your vote to Scott Walker.
I’ll keep it to three reasons.
Reason One: Scott Walker has been irresponsible with your tax dollars.
Scott Walker’s first act, even before his inauguration, was to kill the high-speed rail project that would have connected Madison and Milwaukee to Minneapolis and Chicago. He returned an $810 million grant to the federal government.
There’s an existing Amtrak line between Milwaukee and Chicago. It’s heavily used, financially viable, and badly in need of repair.
It turns out that this line needs $150 million in repairs and upgrades. That work would have been covered in the original federal grant. If Walker had taken the time to study the issue, he’d have known that.
Not only did we turn down the money to pay for needed repairs, we’re now financially on the hook for it.
In the name of saving $7 million per year in maintenance costs, Scott Walker cost us $150 million dollars.
That may not be a lot of money in big states like New York and California. It goes a long way out here. Earlier this year, Walker’s budget had a $143 million dollar hole in it. He had to raid a federal grant designed to help homeowners in mortgage trouble stay in their houses.
This isn’t the only time his ideological zeal has cost the state a large sum of money. That $150 million mistake could have balanced the budget.
Scott Walker claims to be a fiscal conservative. He isn’t.
Reason Two: Scott Walker’s office is at the center of a criminal investigation.
Public resources cannot be used for political campaigns. Period.
It’s a felony.
We’re serious about this in Wisconsin, and it doesn’t matter which party does it. Chuck Chvala, Democrat, used to be the State Senate majority leader. Now he’s a sad little felon without a law license. Why? Running a campaign operation from a state office.
Scott Walker was the Executive for Milwaukee County for eight years. Six of his closest associates have been charged with a total of fifteen felonies and three misdemeanors. These were not accidental violations of the law. The FBI is currently investigating a secret e-mail network that was set up specifically to subvert the laws against campaigning on the public’s time.
The closet where the router was hidden was only a few feet from Scott Walker’s office.
The more the John Doe probe widens, the more sickening twists it uncovers.
Tim Russell, Walker’s deputy chief of staff, has been indicted for theft of $11,000 from an event at the Milwaukee County Zoo to benefit military families. Walker himself didn’t steal the money, but he’s the one who transferred control of the funds away from an American Legion post to a longtime crony.
Scott Walker is the first Governor in Wisconsin’s history to set up a legal defense fund while in office. According to Wisconsin law, he can only do this if he (or agents acting at his direction) have violated Wisconsin election law.
Walker has consistently refused to reveal who’s funding his legal defense. He has refused to reveal which violations he’s being investigated for. He claims that he set up the fund to pay the costs of cooperating with the investigation. There’s no provision in the law for a “cooperation fund”.
As Walker’s fellow conservative, your natural first instinct is to want to believe in his innocence. I get that. I believed that President Clinton “did not have sex with that woman” long after my common sense should have told me otherwise.
Scott Walker has not been formally charged with any crime yet. However, it strains the imagination to think that he was in the middle of all this criminal activity, which was conducted on behalf of his campaign, and that he was an Eagle Scout the whole time.
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Right now, there’s enough smoke to make me drop to the floor and look for a window exit.
Reason Three: Scott Walker is not a friend to Wisconsin’s outdoor sportsmen.
I’ll confess that I’m not much of an outdoorsman. I’d rather sip a latte and watch a movie with subtitles. (Some of your stereotypes about liberals are true.)
Scott Walker appointed a “deer czar” to manage Wisconsin’s deer herd. Rather than choose a naturalist from Wisconsin, Walker appointed (for $125,000 per year) an ideologue from Texas who believes that herd management is best left in the hands of private landowners.
Dr. Kroll has called public land management “the last bastion of communism”. I suspect Teddy Roosevelt would have a big-stick response to that statement.
There are things that the private sector can do more efficiently than the public sector. Managing public resources isn’t one of them. Google “Chicago parking meters” or “Wackenhut prisons” if you want to see what happens when a for-profit entity takes over a for-public service. Under Kroll’s model, the landowners set the prices for hunting with an eye toward generating maximum profit.
Currently, a buck on a private game farm can cost you up to $1000. It is difficult to imagine that the state-issued $24 deer tag would survive in such an economic climate.
There’s also the issue of what the proposed Gogebic Taconite mine would do to the Bad River watershed, but I’ve gone on quite long with this letter already.
Thank you for sticking through it. Thank you for considering my arguments. I have tried to keep everything factual. If you find an error, let me know, and I’ll correct it.
I’m asking you to do something difficult. It’s hard to vote against your party. I know. I’ve done it on a couple of occasions. If it’s any consolation, the state Assembly will be Republican for the foreseeable future. You would not be handing the keys over to the opposition.
Finally, Tom Barrett is a good man. When he was leaving the State Fair in 2009, he intervened in a domestic dispute to defend a grandmother from a pipe-wielding thug. The Mayor got put in the hospital for his efforts. I wish he’d use that story more in his ads, but he doesn’t. I can’t even find it on his campaign website.
I think that speaks volumes about his character. He did the right thing in the moment, because it was the right thing. Now, he doesn’t blow his own horn about it.
That is a man who I’d be proud to call my Governor, regardless of party.
I hope the conservative argument can sway some of you into withholding your vote for Scott Walker. I have a thousand liberal reasons to vote against the man. I will explain them to you for the cost of a beer anytime between now and June 5.
After June 5, I hope we can go back to being neighbors. I hope we can go back to being friends and fellow citizens. I hope we can go back to being Packer fans and proud citizens of my adopted home state. Any leader who tears that fabric and causes us to demonize each other is not worthy of the office.