Sunday, November 06, 2016

Dear Wisconsin- It's time to take Our Grand Old Party Back.

Many of my friends are shocked  when they learn that I,  used to be a Republican.  How could I,  a good progressive Gay man ever have been a member of the GOP?    The answer is found in a conversation I had  one afternoon when I was thirteen years old.

 I was attending an event hosted at Vilas Hall, on the University of Wisconsin Madison Campus.    The event was to promote a media literacy and education  organization I was heavily involved with at the time    Like many such events I attended, I spoke fairly early in the program and was the youngest speaker. I would then have to sit there while speaker after speaker began to blur together and my 13 year old mind began to wander. Realizing. I was in danger of nodding off, I quietly excused myself, and  ducked out into the adjacent "green room" to get a drink of water.

As I walked into the lounge area I heard the sound of a Television, and saw someone sitting on the couch watching the University of Wisconsin Football game. With his curly white hair and trademark red vest, I instantly recognized former Wisconsin Governor Lee Sherman Dreyfus. I had met Governor Dreyfus a few times previously and was friends with his daughter Susan. With whom I worked  with on media literacy and education projects.

 He saw me, motioned me over (remembered my name), and cheerfully announced that the Badgers were up by 7. I sat down next to him, and we watched the game for a few minutes in companionable silence. He then turned to me and asked me how I was doing. I. talked briefly about the Media education project I was there to help promote.

Then I got up my courage and asked if I could ask him a personal question. Governor Dreyfus smiled and said; "So is this an interview Dave?"  I assured him we were off the record, he laughed and gestured for me continue.   "Why did you want to be Governor?", I asked. Dreyfus had recently finished a very successful term, then not run for re-election. A move that had surprised most, and frustrated many inside the Wisconsin Republican Party, as the conventional wisdom was, had he run again, he would have won re-election. Quite easily.

Looking back at the television to check the score, he reached over and turned the sound down  and then asked me if I had ever noticed  the murals in the rotunda of the. State Capitol building, just a few a blocks away.      I proudly replied that I had,  and eager to demonstrate my knowledge, rattled off the names of the four murals that form the base of the rotunda.   Government,  Justice, Legislation, and Liberty. 

The former Governor of my home state then went on to give me the best civics lesson I have ever had. He explained that he had benefited from the education system and professional and economic opportunities that living in Wisconsin had provided.  Consequently he felt an obligation to "do his part" to ensure that those opportunities and advantages he had enjoyed,  were protected and expanded.

He went on to say that our system  was set up to make that possible.   The executive branch (Government)  worked with the Legislature and the State Senate  to craft and pass the laws (Legislation) that were then interpreted by the courts (Justice).  Combined, this system of checks, balances and cooperation between all three entities,  ensured freedom and opportunity for everyone (Liberty).

It was at this point his daughter poked her head into the room and chided us both for. "hiding out" and said we should re-join the event next door.   I shook Governor Dreyfus' hand and thanked him for taking the time to talk with  me.   "My pleasure Dave", he said, and we went back into the next room.

With WI Governor Tommy Thompson
It would be a conversation that would stay with me for years, and it was that day that at the ripe old age of 13,  I. decided that I , like  Lee Dreyfus,  was a Republican.   I would join the Young  Republicans campaigning for Ronald Reagan in 1984,  and two years later,  I would cast my first vote.  While  studying in West Germany in 1986, I proudly walked into the. American Consulate in Munich,  filled out my absentee ballot and cast my first ever vote,  for Republican Tommy Thompson for Wisconsin Governor.

I would go in to become an active member and officer of the College Republicans,  even chairing the CR election efforts on campus for  Bush-Quayle '88 and '92.  My reasons were clear.   It was a Republican who had showed me the power of our system of government to make the lives of Americans better,  and by extension,  the world a better and safer place. In June of the following year,  I stood at the Berlin Wall in the crowd as President Ronald Reagan challenged Mikhail Gorbachev  to "tear down this wall!"  Feeling proud to be both an American AND a Republican.

So what happened?   Why did I leave the GOP?    The most concise way to answer that question to simply say the GOP left me.   Or more accurately the GOP left me, Lee Dreyfus, Tommy Thompson, George HW Bush, Bob Dole and yes,  even left Ronald Reagan.

Ripon, Wisconsin was the birthplace of the Republican Party.   I used live there,  and would regularly go past the landmark where the GOP had its creation.  The Republican Party on the ballot next Tuesday in Wisconsin and every other state, bears no resemblance to the that party.  Let alone party of Lee Dreyfus.

The Party of Donald Trump  sees our great system of cooperative branches of government, with its checks and balance, as an obstacle not an asset.  Donald Trump is an emotionally and mentally unstable narcissistic sociopath who Russia considers to be a " useful fool".  He is  a con man and grifter.  He couldn't care less about the people of the great state of Wisconsin,  to him you are at best a nuisance to be tolerated,  and after the election quickly forgotten.

The Republican Party is addicted crazy.  It has embraced the darker politics of division and fear in place of  faith in our system and public service to our citizens.    Like many addicts the GOP doesn't want to get better.  The only way for the GOP to stop digging the deep  dank dark hole  it as been wallowing in since 1992,  is to finally hit rock bottom.   To lose, and lose completely.

This isn't just an election.  It's an intervention.    For  the GOP,  it's time for tough love.  A vote for Donald Trump  and the GOP is a vote  to return to the days of 50 million Americans with out access to health insurance.  It is a vote  to turn the stunning natural beauty of the state of  Wisconsin into a strip mined, fracked up toxic wasteland,  where water catches fire when it comes out of the Tap.

A vote for Donald Trump  and the GOP is to hand the public purse over to people who game the system, make millions and even billions of  dollars,   on which they then  pay NO taxes.  All the while demanding  public services be gutted to  pay  their for their excesses.  It is to sacrifice Wisconsin's place as American's Dairy Land in favor of becoming the Mississippi of the North.  An under-educated, under-employed, over polluted gilded swamp of the very very rich,  the very very poor and nothing in between.

Trump Supporters like to scream about how they "want their country back", which is nothing more than code for not wanting to to admit they never were able to accept that a Black man sat in the Oval Office.   Well I want  my Party back.  I want  a Republican Party that  believes in the synergy of Government, Justice , Legislation  and Liberty.

I am not a big fan of  Aaron Sorkin's "The Newsroom".  His preachy follow up to his brilliant "The West Wing", but in this scene, he perfectly explains everything that as gone wrong with the Republican Party.

It;s time  to give the GOP a time out.   It's for the people of Wisconsin to step up and save the Republican Party.   How?  By voting  for Hillary Clinton, Russ Feingold   and voting for the Democratic Party.  

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