Handshake signals Wisconsin’s political divide starts healing?

Republican lawyer forgives man he had restraining order against
Wisconsin State Capitol building

After a recall drive in which the partisan divide in Wisconsin became so severe for some that it caused neighbors to stop talking and family gatherings to get awkward, a symbol of mending fences occurred on Wednesday when a prominent Republican attorney shook the hand of a state Capitol protester who he had a restraining order against.

“This gentlemen came up and shook my hand and apologized for having to have a restraining order,” said Fred Mohs, a Madison attorney.

Mike Dickman, a protester with a loud voice and a vuvuzela, apologized to Mohs for blasting the horn inside his law office months ago.

“So, we put this behind us,” said Mohs. “So, we’re both going to move forward and include people and not be angry.”

“I spent the better part of today offering that up to the Republicans that I’ve followed, taunted, questioned, insulted (and) offended,” Dickman said.

It was a mea culpa in the interest of healing. Other said that they felt bringing people together is necessary now that Tuesday’s vote is in the past.

“We need to be seeking understanding among our peers,” said Karen Gustafson, associate minister of the First Unitarian Society in Madison. “We tend to counter positions we don’t understand very clearly.”

Inside the meeting house of Madison’s First Unitarian Society, Gustafson said she encourages the questions: Why do we feel the way we do? And, why does the person I disagree with feel the way they do?

“The point of intervention here is not probably at an election,” Gustafson said. “The point of intervention is backing away and beginning to look at our whole political system.”


One way to start is to expect more of all politicians, Gustafson said, and stop getting so angry when they actually listen to people and change their minds.

“But, at this point, for any of our politicians to back down in any way is a great peril for them politically, and we need to make it possible for them to do that,” she said.

The discourse over politics will not be solved overnight, or even soon.

But, the handshake between Mohs and Dickman on the Capitol Square might provide hope for an end to the division.

“Move forward, become progressive again, whether it’s the same terminology they want (or not),” Dickman said. “How about just becoming neighbors again? Let’s start with that.”