'If democracy can die in Wisconsin, it can die anywhere'

I was born and raised in Wisconsin and lived there most of my life. Now on the West Coast, I see what’s happening in my home state and am heartbroken about it.

First, voter suppression and gerrymandering were used as blunt tools to distort the will of the state’s residents; now state Republicans are outright shivving democracy.

What a lot of people don’t know — but every Wisconsin kid who paid attention in class does — is that Wisconsin was once a proud progressive state, and an incubator for some of our nation’s most pro-democracy and pro-worker initiatives.

For instance, Wisconsin Gov. Robert La Follette, a towering figure in the state’s political history, was instrumental in popularizing the primary system the entire nation uses today.

So to see democracy die in Wisconsin is, well, a little like watching the Packers go 4-7-1 on their way to missing the playoffs for the second straight year.

Or, rather, it’s like watching Scott Walker ride a Harley down the streets of Rhinelander without getting hit by at least one deer.

In other words, it’s stomach-churning.

Of course, those of us who are Wisconsin born and bred aren’t the only ones noticing how far we’ve fallen.

Seth Masket, a political science professor at the University of Denver and an expert in state and local politics, tweeted this yesterday:


It’s a cliche to say we’ve taken our democracy for granted, but I fear we’ve allowed our standards to fall so far and so fast that we need nothing less than a rescue mission to set things right again.

Wisconsin voters made their choices in November, and the Wisconsin Legislature has now, to a frightening degree, reversed those choices. 

Our only hope is to swarm the polls in every election and put things right again.

If we don’t, great progressive champions like Bob La Follette will become mere footnotes in our history.


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