Wednesday, March 30, 2011

RPDC press release unfairly characterizes Dane Co. liberals as intolerant

The Republican Party of Dane County (RPDC) produced a satirical press release regarding Judge Maryann Sumi's recent (second) decision to halt the implementation of the anti-union "budget" law. As a bill, the legislation passed without proper notification to the people of Wisconsin; therefore it was in violation of open meetings law.

The press release by RPDC made it clear that they didn't fault Judge Sumi's actions: she had to carry through her "leftist" judgment because, after all, she's a lefty judge living in a lefty county:
The Republican Party of Dane County recognizes that Judge Sumi is a leftist living in Dane County. Her friends are leftists living in Dane County. Her son is a left wing activist in Dane County. She goes to cocktail parties held by leftists in Dane County. She shops at organic gourmet food shops run by leftists living in Dane County. If she were to enforce the law of Wisconsin and do what was in the best interest of the people of Wisconsin, she’d be exiled from her lifestyle. She’d lose her friends!
There's a lot wrong with that statement from the RPDC. First, Judge Sumi was appointed by former Republican Governor Tommy Thompson. Deriding her as a lefty activist judge is tantamount to saying Thompson is a lefty. Anyone who knows anything about Wisconsin politics knows otherwise.

Not only is she an appointee of Thompson's, she also gave him over $400 in political donations within a four-year period. Though she also gave to liberal candidates over the years, Sumi's total dollar amount of campaign donations went 2-to-1 in favor of the Republican Party.

But the RPDC press release got me thinking: Is Madison an intolerant city? In certain ways, this question seems silly. We pride ourselves on acceptance of cultures and lifestyles outside the mainstream. Though still predominantly white, we have a higher racial makeup than most areas of the state. We are a pretty tolerant group of people in this city.

However, the question of whether we tolerate Republicans or not is a mixed bag. I'm not going to be naive here, not going to sugarcoat it for anyone: we don't like the ideas of the Republican Party. They don't appeal to most Dane County residents, aren't the ideals we'd like to see implemented in our area, state, or country.

Does that mean we're intolerant? Some people, it's true, act in an intolerant way. The people who are destructive, who vandalize Republican operatives' property, are clearly intolerant of their political opposition. But this group of people remains an incredibly small minority. The people at the Capitol during the protests, for instance, were recognized by law enforcement as behaving in a very respectful manner.

It's unfair to characterize the left in this county as "intolerant." While most Dane County residents don't like Republican ideas, the left in this county are pretty OK with allowing them to have their voices heard, to make their opinions known.

If we're to characterize an entire ideology or party as being intolerant based on the actions of a few within it, perhaps the Republican Party should look at the conservatives in this county. Many of them have threatened the life of Tammy Baldwin on many occasions, since she first became a member of Congress in 1998. Does that mean that the entire RPDC is intolerant? Of course not. But under the logic of the RPDC, it does.

We ought to reassess the entire situation, stop trying to call others intolerant and focus on the issues before us. Here's what's before us now: Judge Maryann Sumi is a very qualified and respected judge. She issued a temporary restraining order on a law that, quite frankly, passed the legislature under very curious circumstances, to say the least. She allowed for Senate Republicans to pass the bill again, if they wanted to do so, so her bias against the law in question (if it exists) hasn't forced her to outright say the law itself is unconstitutional, just the way it was passed unlawful.

The uproar that Scott Walker's budget bill brought about isn't indicative of "intolerance" in Dane County. A political demonstration of that size doesn't mean people are disrespectful of Republicans in the area -- after all, Tea Party protests that occur aren't signs of intolerance within the conservative movement (save for the individuals who hold intolerant signs, again a select few among a number of true believers).

Furthermore, anyone who believes that the liberals in this county are overwhelmingly intolerant ought to consider intolerant acts that occur in conservative portions of this country. In both cases, said intolerance is not indicative of the ideologies overall.

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