Commentary: Walker Has Turned Wisconsinites Against Each Other

By Bill Wineke Special to Channel 3000

The really diabolical thing about Gov. Scott Walker’s brief tenure as governor of our state is the way he has caused us all to become angry with each other.

He has fanned flames of resentment by non-government workers against government workers, turned good-natured arguments by liberal and conservative residents into angry confrontations, pit brother against brother — though not the Fitzgerald brothers who lead the state Assembly and Senate Republicans.

It came to a head for me when I saw clips of the Assembly passing the governor’s budget repair bill early Friday morning. The bill had been debated for something like 60 hours. Everyone knew it would pass. Still, Assembly Republicans managed to call for a vote, take the vote and walk out within a matter of seconds, not even minutes. As they walked out, Democratic legislators waved their fists and shouted “Shame! Shame!”

How, in God’s name, do we think that body will ever work together amicably in the future?

In response to previous columns, I have received numerous messages that go something like this:

I work at two jobs to make ends meet, pay almost half my take home pay for medical insurance and don’t even have a pension. Why should I have to then pay for my tax dollars for pampered government employees to receive cushy benefits?

I have great sympathy for these correspondents. As a parish pastor, I’ve encountered many people in just those circumstances, men and women who have worked hard, saved money, and, then, seen their retirement savings disappear because an injury or unexpected illness left them unable to work and forced them to pay thousands of dollars a month for the health insurance needed to keep them alive.

Rather then helping these people, what the governor has done is to goad them to anger against people who do have decent health and pension benefits. And one of the first things he did in office was to lend his support to efforts to repeal President Barack Obama’s health insurance laws, which would have made insurance available and affordable to those not lucky enough to have high-benefit jobs.

So, they’re left with frustration, but not help.

In the meantime, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald keeps sending the Wisconsin State Patrol out to knock on the doors of missing Senate Democrats. I haven’t figured out what these poor troopers are supposed to do if a senator answers the doorbell, since they have no authority to arrest said senator.

What are we doing? Why are we doing this?

We have serious problems to solve today and we’re going to have new serious problems to solve tomorrow, but the governor is undermining the fabric of public discourse we’ll need to solve them.

During my years as an opinion writer, I’ve often noted my admiration for former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson.

It’s not that I agreed with his policies. I usually thought they ranged between wrong and terrible. What I admired about him is that, even when I thought he was wrong, he made me feel good about being from Wisconsin. He made me feel I was part of a debate aimed at building a greater state.

I know Thompson is out giving interviews endorsing Walker and his proposals.

But I really wonder whether this is the kind of state Tommy was trying to build.