Tommy and Ron: the Fall of the GOP in Wisconsin

A few days ago, Tommy Thompson, former governor and now president of the University of Wisconsin, announced plans to rejuvenate higher education in the state by finding new ways for universities and technical colleges to work together.

A couple of days ago, Senator Ron Johnson, explained that he doesn’t see that what happened on January 6 was an “armed insurrection,” and hinted that, if it was, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi might be behind it.

Those are of the hardly apples and apples comparison, but they do remind me of the difference between what Wisconsin Republicans used to be and what they are now.

Tommy Thompson was a dynamo of innovation, not only as governor but, later, as Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Personally, I didn’t agree with many of those innovations.  But I always recognized that his goal was to make this a better state

That’s the way Wisconsin used to work.  Democrats and Republicans (and Progressives and Socialists in earlier years) had competing visions and developed competing plans for solving the state’s problems.  The quality they had in common, however, is that each actually cared about the quality of life here.

Pat Lucey and Tommy Thompson stood out particularly as autocratic, demanding leaders who  earned the respect of their opponents.

Wisconsin politics have never been utopian.  Wisconsin politicians were, well, politicians, not statesmen.  But, like them or not, they were leaders who amassed power with a plan to improve the state.

Can you really say that about Republican politicians today?  What, specifically, does Ron Johnson stand for?  What does Robin Vos stand for?

They have achieved great power and I have no idea what they want to do with it besides making sure nothing positive ever gets done.

You could disagree with Tommy Thompson’s programs, but you were, at least, disagreeing with real programs, backed by real ideas.

I have no idea whether Thompson’s ideas for the UW will work.  But I do like the idea he isn’t resting as a figurehead and I do pretty much guess that something positive will come out of them.

That’s all we can really ask of a politician.  It seems too much to ask of some of them.