Tuesday, January 31, 2017

There should be limits on how long a Supreme Court justice can serve

Justices should be removed from the Court after a period of 14 years

President Donald Trump has nominated 10th Circuit Court Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the seat vacated by the late Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court. Although former President Barack Obama had named a different nominee, Merrick Garland, to fill the seat, Senate Republicans stalled and obstructed any vote for Garland.

And even when it looked as though Hillary Clinton would be the next president, some GOP Senators suggested continuing their obstruction, indefinitely keeping the Supreme Court at eight justices.

Now, however, Republicans are singing a different tune, and suggesting that they could implement the so-called “nuclear option” if Democrats dare to filibuster Gorsuch’s appointment. How things have changed.

But I don’t want to talk about Gorsuch in this posting. Rather, I want to talk about the necessary change we need to make to our Supreme Court – eliminating the lifetime appointments that each justice receives when he or she is seated on the High Court’s bench.

The Constitution guarantees that justices “shall hold their offices during good behaviour.” They can only be removed through impeachment. And while there is no clause explicitly granting them a lifetime appointment, there’s also no clause limiting their time in the nation’s highest judicial chambers.

That should be changed. At the time of its adoption, the life expectancy of Americans was much shorter than it is today. And though justices of the Court were typically wealthier and more likely to have a higher life expectancy, their tenures were usually shorter than they are today. Indeed, the first ten chief justices of the United States served an average of 14 years on the bench. The last three chief justices, meanwhile (not counting current Chief Justice John Roberts), all served beyond 15 years in their role.

That length of tenure – 14 years – seems to me like a good standard for how long a justice should serve on the Court. And while some may object to limiting how long justices should serve, the idea isn’t inconsistent with what others are suggesting when it comes to term limits for members of Congress. Indeed, before the middle of the 20th century, term limits for the president didn’t exist either, but a Constitutional amendment passed that changed the rule.

Even some conservatives, like former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, want to limit the time justices should serve. “Nobody should be in an unelected position for life,” he said in 2015. He added:
If the president who appoints them can only serve eight years, the person they appoint should never serve 40. That has never made sense to me; it defies that sense of public service
Today, there are four justices on the Supreme Court who have served more than 20 years on the bench. That four of the eight current justices have served that long is absurd. There should be a limit on how long someone can be a member of the Supreme Court, and 14 years seems like a reasonable amount of time one can serve.

A limit of 14 years is beneficial for many reasons. First, it allows a steady flow of new minds to enter the High Court. While older justices adhere to their own generational biases, newer justices will undoubtedly apply the law with modern insights to go with them.

Second, a guarantee of new justices every few years (if 14-year term limits are staggered) makes presidential elections less dire events. Every four years, it seems we are burdened with “the most important election of our lifetime” simply because the next president will be slated to appoint X number of justices to the Court. While the importance of the president’s possible choices for the Supreme Court will still matter, term limits on justices ensures that turnover will occur, and that the consequences of their election won’t be so drastic.

Supreme Court justices are unelected, unaccountable members of the federal triumvirate of governance. Once they get into their positions of power, they are allowed to remain there for as long as they like. A Constitutional amendment, one that limits how long a justice can sit on the Court, should be considered by Congress and the American people.

We’ve changed the Constitution to limit how long other branches of the federal government can serve – it shouldn’t be that far-fetched to limit how long members of the judicial branch should remain in place either.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Memo to Trump administration: When the media reports your lies, it isn’t bias

The duty of the press is to inform the public when the president or his administration lies, even about the silliest of matters

It seems that whenever conservatives say stupid things that get reported on, their first inclination is to blame the messenger.

Crowd sizes, Obama's 1st inauguration vs Trump's
That’s exactly what they’re doing following the first full weekend of Donald Trump’s presidency. Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, was adamant about promulgating many falsehoods in his first meeting with the press, including saying that the size of Trump’s inauguration crowds were the largest ever, prompting many in the media to point out that, no, they were not.

It is important for the press to report on the facts, even on something as silly as the size of one’s inauguration crowds. If our leaders are willing to misinform and lie on a matter as simple as that, the people ought to be made aware of it.

But some took the reporting of false information as media bias. Kellyanne Conway, for instance, went on Meet the Press on Sunday and announced that Spencer wasn’t spreading falsehoods, but was merely utilizing “alternative facts.”

Host Chuck Todd rightly called her out for using such Orwellian language, correcting her and stating that, “Alternative facts aren't facts, they are falsehoods.”

Conway was quick to respond with a jab at the media. “[I]f we’re going to keep referring to our Press Secretary in those types of terms I think that we’re going to have to rethink our relationship here,” she said, implying that she might not be friendly to Todd or anyone else who questions the administration’s narratives.

She’s not the only one who thinks the media is being unfair to Trump. This morning, Rudy Giuliani, who was a huge supporter of the president during his campaign, said, “I’d feel a lot better if Chuck [Todd] and the others would just admit they don't like Trump, they’re against Trump and they're going to view facts in the light most unfavorable to him.”

But that’s not what happened. Chuck Todd’s personal opinions aside, he asked Conway to defend the administration’s views that the crowd sizes were the largest in history. The facts were against those claims, and it’s not “media bias” to suggest the administration has a disconnect with reality.

If the Trump administration can’t handle the fact that the media is going to question them from time-to-time, then this is going to be a very frustrating four years for Trump and his underlings. In the meantime, the media needs to be careful about how they depict their interactions with this administration – Conway, Spicer, and other Trump supporters are going to do their very best to paint the false “media bias” narrative as much as possible.

The media needs to continue reporting false statements, but at the same time be sure to let the public know that the childish reactions made by administration officials are just that: childish. And they need to reiterate, every time they do so, that reporting on false information supplanted by Trump and his surrogates isn’t bias – it’s simply delivering the truth to the people at a time when Trump refuses to do so.

Friday, January 20, 2017

A quick message on Day One of the Trump presidency

Reasoned dissent is beautiful – resist the urge to become complacent in the age of Trump

I woke up this morning feeling lousy. And yes, it has everything to do with the inauguration of Donald Trump.

The past eight years of Barack Obama haven’t been perfect. Obstruction from Republicans made it nearly impossible for some of his proposals to even get consideration. But the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare, cleared the path for many to get access to insurance (and to receive health care that they actually paid for). Gains in the LGBT community were also achieved, including the right for gay and lesbian couples to marry the person they love. Obama saved the auto industry, and his stimulus package ensured that America, teetering on the edge of economic collapse when he was inaugurated, would instead recover.

And recover we did. We have had 75 straight months of jobs growth under Obama’s watch, amounting to more than 15.6 million private sector jobs being created during his tenure. The economy still has a way to go to recover in many respects, but Obama’s leadership has helped the nation get back on its footing, and then some.

His departure is sad – and his replacement, even sadder. Donald Trump, in my mind, represents the worst in America. He’s bigoted toward the African-American community. He spreads racist falsehoods about Latino immigrants, and has suggested plans for placing identifiers on followers of Islam. He’s misogynistic, and has bragged about sexually assaulting women. And his policies are a Republican’s dream, on steroids, come true.

I could become complacent. I could say, “This is it – I’m done.” But nothing good ever came from someone giving up on fighting for a just cause. So I’m dedicated to, over the next four years, fight back against the reactionary Trump presidency.

This blog began eight years ago, just after Barack Obama was sworn in as president. As we now enter the Trump presidency, this blog will continue to exist, to point out inaccurate statements and policy positions that the new administration will undoubtedly take, and to promote liberalism as the righteous path, which the nation will hopefully take in 2018 during the midterm elections, and in 2020 after that.

I am happy to be a part of the growing movement to resist Donald Trump. His presidency, his behavior cannot become normalized. And when he’s gone, it’s going to be up to us, “We the People,” to find his replacement, someone who will be able to restore the dignity and stature of the presidency.

Reasoned dissent is a beautiful thing. Don’t ever believe otherwise.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

An Open Letter To Sheriff David Clarke: Grow Up!

Sheriff Clarke’s actions are bullyish, and it’s time he recognize who’s really throwing a tantrum over his latest controversy

To: Sheriff David Clarke

The badge you wear, the position you currently hold, is one of honor. Members of the law enforcement community deserve our utmost respect, for they put their lives on the line every day to ensure that our communities are safe places to reside in. Those who serve in leadership roles within law enforcement, who give officers the direction and inspiration to serve day-in and day-out, similarly deserve to be recognized for their valor.

Sadly, you dishonor your position with your petty actions and narcissistic attitudes, utilizing aspects of your office to further your own selfish needs. I can think of a plethora of examples – one particular incident comes to mind when you blatantly suggested that Republicans should use terrorist events in Paris to further their political aims – but your latest action exemplifies exactly why you are unfit to serve as sheriff any longer, much less hold any position within the law enforcement for fear of further abusing your position of power.

If media reports are to be believed, you used intimidation tactics against a citizen of Milwaukee County following a recent plane ride the two of you shared. Sheriff deputies, acting under your orders, allegedly detained and questioned this individual and escorted him out of the airport following an “altercation” the two of you had on the plane.

That “altercation,” according to reports, was simply the man shaking his head when he discovered he was on the plane on you.

Did that warrant harassment? Most would argue it did not.

But let’s presume that these events were imaginary. Let’s presume this man made up the story – a generous presumption indeed, since you haven’t yet denied it having occurred. Even if we allow that presumption to be granted, it’s not just these actions that warrant concern. Your actions IN THE AFTERMATH of this alleged incident are equally reprehensible.

Following news reports of what this man has claimed, your office released the following statement: “Next time he or anyone else pulls this stunt on a plane they may get knocked out,” adding, “The sheriff said he does not have to wait for some goof to assault him. He reserves the reasonable right to pre-empt a possible assault.”

This apparently wasn’t enough for you, however, because the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page later put out a meme deriding the man as a “snowflake” and saying he was throwing a tantrum.

But there is clearly a misunderstanding here – it is you who is throwing a tantrum. It is you who is insisting that this man be continually harassed.

It is frightening to what extent you are willing to go to in order to make yourself seem relevant in this situation, to make yourself seem “the victor” when it comes to how you come out of this. More disturbing, your vindictive pursuit of intimidation is putting on full display the true nature of your character, which is indisputably that of a bully.

In closing, Sheriff Clarke, I have a simple message for you. You, sir, are the snowflake. You are the one demanding special attention to yourself. You are the one behaving like a fool, and you are the one who is in the wrong.

The solution to all of this is to own your mistake, to accept responsibility for your actions. Apologize at once, and show that you’re capable of displaying a pinch of humility, and with that some semblance of humanity.

As a former resident of Milwaukee, I am still proud of the city and the surrounding communities that make up the county as a whole. Your actions, however, are embarrassing. Do yourself a favor, and do Milwaukee County a tremendous amount of service, and GROW UP already. Better yet, RESIGN.

Your behavior would not be tolerable in a third grade classroom. And it’s far past time that you recognize just how childish you’ve been.


Chris Walker

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Political parties, like NFL teams, shouldn’t be writing the rules (a case for redistricting reform)

Redistricting reform, similar to the Iowa model, is needed in Wisconsin

When the Denver Broncos won Super Bowl 50 last year, they were awarded no major privileges in deciding how games in the NFL would be played the following season. They didn’t get to make any scheduling or rule changes simply because they were the victors.

And nor should they have been given these privileges. Giving a successful franchise like the Super Bowl Champion-Denver Broncos the opportunity to change the scheduling or the rules would allow them the chance to bend them in a way that could favor their team in the next year. Though that’d make for compelling television, it wouldn’t be fair to 31 other NFL teams (OK, maybe it’d be karmic-payback to the Patriots, but I digress).

Rightfully, the NFL requires all rule changes to go through a Competition Committee who analyzes suggestions from all teams, decides upon the best ideas and submits them for all 32 clubs to decide whether they merit incorporating or not.

This method, in relation to politics, reminds me of the Iowa method of redistricting reform – which Wisconsin and other states should incorporate immediately.

Here’s how it works: the Legislative Services Agency in Iowa (a nonpartisan body similar to Wisconsin’s Legislative Reference Bureau), working alongside a five-member commission selected by the majority and minority leaders of both of Iowa’s legislative houses, draws up the maps every ten years without consideration of “previous election results, voter registration, or even the addresses of incumbent members of Congress,” according to the Boston Globe. Politicians can’t be part of the process – they’re not allowed to make suggestions of any kind to this commission, and members of the commission can’t even be related to political leaders in elected offices or political parties.

After the maps are drawn, they’re submitted to the state legislature, who make an up-or-down vote on the maps. If they approve, and the governor signs the bill into law, the maps go into play; if they’re not approved, the commission goes back to square one (though the legislature has never voted against a map since this process started in 1980).

This idea makes a lot of sense, and it takes the process away from the “winning team.” Partisans who are fresh off of a statewide electoral victory cannot strengthen their districts under this plan. Neither Republicans nor Democrats will be in charge of the redrawing of maps – and that’s the way it should be.

The Editorial Board of the Green Bay Press Gazette recently endorsed the idea of nonpartisan map drawing. Their closing paragraph laid out the perfect reasoning behind why we should all demand it be in place by 2020:
Creating districts that result in noncompetitive races diminishes the importance of a citizen’s vote, limiting the opportunity of a vibrant democracy. Our elected officials in the Legislature should not be choosing their voters; the voters ought to be choosing their representatives.
Sports leagues recognize the unfair advantage of allowing teams to set their own rules following a winning season. It’s why they have committees come up with rule changes instead. Similarly it isn’t fair (or democratic) to let the “winning team” dictate the rules of the next election. Political parties shouldn’t make those decisions – the people of Wisconsin should.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Tolls are the wrong way to fund transportation budget

The gas tax needs to be considered

Nobody likes paying taxes. When you get your pay stub, and the amount of taxes withheld is looked at, there is a small part of you that understands the necessity of being taxed at the rate that you are. And when you pay your property taxes, you do so understanding that the money you pay goes to funding your community’s services and projects.

But paying taxes hurts nonetheless, and it’s understandable that people do so begrudgingly.

There are probably fewer things that people hate about government than paying taxes (including seeing tax dollars misspent). Yet paying for toll roads would probably be one of them, a proposal that some Republicans in Wisconsin are leaning toward in order to raise revenues for a dwindling transportation fund.

If you’re like me, you probably abhor this idea. Paying to drive on a publicly funded roadway is annoying. The roads should belong to everyone, and there shouldn’t be a “user fee” just to access them.

The benefits of roadways are many, and they even extend to people who don’t use them. A person living in Sauk County, who may never travel to Milwaukee, still benefits from a Milwaukee-to-Madison roadway that allows consumer goods to make the trip from Chicago to their community. An extensive network of toll roads across the state could feasibly drive up prices of these goods, a negative impact that several communities across Wisconsin could see themselves facing.

Another impact that toll roads could have is that trucks hauling consumer goods could instead try and use “free” roads that are ordinarily less-traveled in order to avoid tolls. What happens as a result? The back roads are used more, and thus require more maintenance, and we’re back to square one as far as funding goes. Furthermore, one study concludes that diversion could result in more accidents on those back roads as well, as many of those roads are two-lane highways that aren’t equipped for such types of traffic.

What’s the alternative to funding road maintenance? Instead of using tolls, we can raise the gas tax. About a decade ago, the Wisconsin legislature decided to stop indexing the gas tax to cost of living. George Mitchell at Right Wisconsin – a conservative website, mind you – explains why this has been a problem:
The result has been a flat tax that, in real terms, is down about 17% since 2006. Considering that road repair and construction costs have grown faster than general inflation, the real decline actually is even greater than 17%.
In other words, the gas tax hasn’t kept up with rising costs of maintaining our roadways. While maintenance costs rise, the revenue for funding some of those costs hasn’t risen.

Many conservative lawmakers are open to the idea of raising the gas tax – but Gov. Scott Walker, perhaps still hoping for a future in national politics, is refusing to budge on the issue unless the legislature can find a way to cut taxes elsewhere in the already tight state budget.

It is irresponsible for the governor to make such a demand. Even former Gov. Jim Doyle saw that it was a mistake to make a similar pledge not to raise the gas tax during his second term in office. Walker should be open to whatever remedies are out there to fix this crisis, and his failure to be even remotely flexible on this issue shows he’s an ideologue when it comes to managing the state’s revenues.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

How Democrats can come back – in three simple steps

Embrace leftist economics. Endorse election reforms. And create a message of unity.

We’re are less than ten days away from President-elect Donald Trump becoming the 45th President of the United States. His tenure, if it’s anything remotely like how he ran his campaign, will be riddled with controversies and disastrous policy initiatives.

Democrats will be on the defense against Trump and the GOP. But their defense cannot become a campaign of “no, no, no” like the Republicans did during President Barack Obama’s time in office. That method worked in some places, to be sure, but it won’t energize everyday Americans to support our causes. If we really want to take the wind out of Trump’s sails, and derail what little political capital he does have, we need to take a more proactive approach.

Here’s how Democrats can come back and win – against Trump’s policies, and electorally in the years ahead.

Embrace leftist economic policies. Bernie Sanders did remarkably well with constituencies across the 50 states against his Democratic primary opponent Hillary Clinton. Though she did win in the end, Sanders’s support was due in large part to his leftist agenda, including creating a single-payer form of health care as well as a proposal to guarantee secondary education options for every student willing to put in the hard work to get accepted into colleges and universities.

Leftist economic policies are embraced by a vast majority of Americans. Most support a government-sponsored healthcare plan, most back raising taxes on the richest of Americans, most support raising the minimum wage and most want Social Security to remain in place. Even Donald Trump’s supporters responded positively to the candidate when he said we need to reform our trade deals, an issue that makes him sound more like Bernie Sanders than Ronald Reagan.

Americans back the economic proposals that Democrats are proposing. And the party shouldn’t back away because of the results of this election – if anything, they should double down.

Present agreeable electoral reforms to the people. We desperately need election reform in this country. Whether it’s gerrymandered districts or the fact that Americans have to strategically vote for someone they don’t even like, our elections are messed up and in dire need of repair.

One of the ways that Democrats can legitimize themselves in the eyes of voters who are doubtful of their policies is to embrace election reforms. This is especially true if the reforms in question won’t necessarily benefit the Democratic Party – an idea like redistricting reform, for example, takes the process of drawing electoral maps out of the hands of political leaders and into the hands of nonpartisan officials. Democrats would do well to endorse this idea, even if doing so means some of their “safe” districts become competitive, because independent voters and the Democratic base will see that Democrats are truthful when they say they are working for the people’s, not the party’s, interests.

Most Americans also agree that money in politics is a serious problem. Democrats need to talk to constituents about finance reform in our elections, but they also need to “walk-the-walk.” They need to reject Super PACs and “endorsements” from corporations. This is perhaps a hard step to take – but it is one that can be very effective, if utilized correctly. Russ Feingold employed such a strategy successfully early in his career, and the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders was also a grassroots effort that was highly successful without the aid of money from corporate interests.

Finally, Democrats need to back a plan to do away with the Electoral College. This is, again, an issue that most Americans support. Republicans will counter that Democrats only want to get rid of the Electoral College because they lost the last election – but Democrats have consistently supported the idea to end the archaic system of choosing our president in a non-democratic way, and so have most Americans. In actuality, it is Republicans who have switched their views of the Electoral College, only after winning the presidency in 2016 without the popular vote. In 2012, 54 percent of GOP-leaning voters supported ending the Electoral College. After Trump’s win, that number dropped to 19 percent.

On the Electoral College, Democrats (and most Americans) have been consistent in their thinking that the president ought to be selected by the people themselves. Only the Republicans have switched their opinions on the matter. Pushing for a change would be something Democrats would be smart to do.

Create a message of a United States, not Divisive States. Democrats naturally embrace the diversity of our nation. And they shouldn’t stop now.

Efforts to reach out to white voters shouldn’t be derailed, but support for communities that still face real societal hardships needs to be continued. African Americans, Latinos, disabled Americans, the LGBTQA+ community and more need to know: we hear your voices, and we’re going to help.

The message that Democrats need to broadcast is that we’re a party for ALL Americans. To demonstrate this, Democrats need to have conversations with both people who don’t support them as well as people who need the most support of all.

We shouldn’t be fearful of talking with our opponents, or of having conversations with voters in traditionally conservative areas. Doing so is productive in two ways. First, it ensures that real discussions will take place. Your opponent is less likely to engage in hateful commentary if they’re speaking to you face-to-face. And if they’re less likely to do that, then they’re more likely to listen. It won’t eradicate partisanship and there won’t be a kumbaya moment between Democrats and Republicans – but it will make debate more approachable and successful in the long run.

Secondly, having discussions with your opponents paints you in a positive light to the people. When Barack Obama spoke to Republicans at their leadership conference in 2010, he went straight into the lion’s den. But his doing so was seen as an attempt to bridge the divide. Voters didn’t forget two years later when they elected him to a second term in office.

Bernie Sanders also entered unfamiliar territory when he spoke to Liberty University during his campaign for president. He didn’t have to go into this traditionally conservative area, but doing so made him more appealing to Americans who wanted a presidential candidate that would attempt to work with both sides rather than just his or her own.

Conversations with our opponents will help Democrats look engaging with all Americans. Having public conversations with disadvantaged groups will help those individuals see that we’re the party of unity as well. Whether we’re talking about expanding rights for the LGBTQA+ community or ensuring that law enforcement remove elements of racial bias, Democrats need to make sure that the disenfranchised groups in American society are being heard. Much more than that, Democrats need to promise to be their voices in the statehouses across the country, as well as in Washington D.C.

Finally, Democrats need to point out the Republican Party’s stubbornness to be listeners and promoters of an equal society. This will be simple if the Democrats follow the steps above – all they will need to do is ask Republican leaders why they won’t speak to gay and lesbian organizations, or why they won’t work for equal pay for women, or why they won’t recognize biases in America when they exist. America will wake up to their conservative social motivations when they’re exposed, and for the most part they will reject them.

The future doesn’t have to be bleak. Democrats have mourned the past couple of months since the election, and doing so is healthy for the mind. But now is not the time to mourn – now, Democrats must act, taking on Trump and the GOP directly while also promoting themselves to the people across the nation.

As time goes on, Democrats need to point out the hypocrisies and ill-advised decisions that Republicans will make over Trump’s first term in office. But they also need to be active, not passive, lawmakers themselves.

Democrats need to promote an American society that will appeal to most Americans. There will always be those that will oppose their efforts – this period of partisanship won’t end overnight. But promotion of a just, equal and fair society is a concept that Americans can stand behind. They won’t get that from Trump and Republicans. Democrats need to be seen as not just a “better option,” but an option that is enthusiastically supported.

Monday, January 9, 2017

"Nass-ism" is the new McCarthyism in Wisconsin

Frequent criticisms of UW courses exposes Sen. Nass's crusade against free thought

State Sen. Steve Nass's continual threats of budget cuts to the University of Wisconsin for just about any educational course that doesn't abide by his personal opinions has possibly set up a new form of McCarthyism in the state – or should we call it "Nass-ism" now?

My political cartoon, crudely drawn of course (click to enlarge). Enjoy.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Is Sen. Nass fearful of UW's exploration of masculinity?

Threatening university with cuts results in suppression of free exchange of ideas 

It has been my personal observation that most men who are critical of studies on masculinity are themselves fearful of the change it might imply, of what conclusions may be drawn that could upset their status as the supposedly dominant gender in society.

State Sen. Steve Nass seems to fit with that description. His recent criticism over the University of Wisconsin class that examines masculinity is riddled with downright rage over the topic. Nass is clearly fearful and resentful of what the class could come represent to a new generation of men on campus, evidenced in an email he recently wrote to colleagues:
Our liberal friends in the Ivory Towers cite research into men with masculinity and the link this has in males being responsible for “harm, oppression and dominance.” The goal of the UW-Madison six-week program is to fix male participants “self-destructive behaviors that impair their ability to complete their education.”

In short, the highly paid leaders at UW-Madison now believe that Wisconsin mothers and fathers have done a poor job of raising their boys by trying to instill in them the values and characteristics necessary in becoming a Man.
Nass is fixated on defunding the UW based off of programs he deems to be too liberal. He previously attacked diversity training at the university, and he also went after a gay studies course.

In truth, however, there is nothing to fear about this course being offered to students at UW. Here’s a short description of why the course is being offered:
Media, hook up culture, alcohol, violence, pop culture; expectations around masculinity impact all of us. Understanding the connections between our experiences and experiences of masculinity and issues in our society can help build stronger communities. These conversations can help us better understand ourselves and empower men to work as allies to promote gender equity and social justice.
To some, gender equality and social justice are scary subjects. But to rational-minded people, they’re societal goals to strive for. Understanding masculinity, and the expectations of being masculine, then, helps to foster a conversation on how men can help change society for the better.

"An unexamined life is not worth living..."
Certainly the onus for improving society isn’t on men alone. But changing perceptions on what it means to be masculine – specifically, highlighting the positive and negative aspects of what society expects a masculine male to be – is a meaningful discussion that men would do well to take part in.

I’m not sure why Sen. Nass is fearful of allowing students to voluntarily enter this class to study their own perceptions on masculinity. Perhaps Nass is fearful to pose the question to himself. Whatever the case may be, Nass should be ashamed of trying to shape classroom discussions by threatening budget cuts to the university system.

That sort of talk results in a suppressive atmosphere that is not conducive to higher learning. Students should feel free to examine their lives and society itself while they immerse themselves in other academic subjects.

Instead, Nass’s rhetoric encourages closed-mindedness and bigotry. Perhaps that’s his goal – perhaps Nass doesn’t want students to examine ways to create a society that can work for everyone, not just white males. It’d be shameful if that were the case – and it’s my hope that Nass changes his tune, examines his hatred against education, and starts to behave like a civilized adult on the matter, willing to ask questions and look at his own views before berating and threatening one of the state’s most valued educational resources.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

How to make Wisconsin Democrats appealing in the race for governor

A progressive candidate who is willing to engage conservative minds would be seen as brave – and would be respected throughout the state

Progressives in Wisconsin need a candidate that is both a proponent of leftist policies as well as someone who isn’t so “in your face” about it.

Hear me out on this, because this strategy has worked – for conservatives. Scott Walker, himself a far-right gubernatorial leader, was seen as a “nice guy” before he ran for the state’s highest office. His conservative views weren’t hidden, easily accessible for those willing to look for them. I can even remember that centrists and even some left-of-center Democrats tended to think, “well, this guy isn’t that bad” while he was running.

Truth be told, Gov. Walker has possibly been the worst governor our state has ever had. Unfortunately for modern politics, much of what gets you elected isn’t policy arguments or five point plans. Those are important, of course, and shouldn’t be dismissed completely. But image is still a staple of our politics, and any candidate running on a liberal platform needs to convey both a leftist message as well as an “everyman” or “everywoman” ideal that can become relatable to the average voter.

That is why Walker keeps winning – not because people support his policies, necessarily, but because they support his message and his frames, which are more broadly communicated than what he wants to do about, say, road funding.

Dave Cieslewicz says the same sort of things about why Hillary Clinton lost in her presidential run against Donald Trump in his latest Isthmus column:
The Democrats probably could not have picked a better person to actually be president or a worse candidate to run in that moment. She was no crossover candidate. She was just one thing: competent. What they needed was someone both competent and charismatic. Both rational and radical.
Let’s take that assessment and apply it to state elections for governor. Tom Barrett wasn’t very charismatic. Nor was Mary Burke. Both of them had my support as candidates, of course, because they both represented left-of-center points of views about what Wisconsin could be. But they didn’t do it in a way that was relatable to most Wisconsin citizens.

Now, Democrats shouldn’t necessarily run someone who is the equivalent of Donald Trump on the statewide level. The answer isn’t dumbing our party down to the lowest common denominator. But at the same time, Democrats need to pump some energy into their candidates. Calm and cool worked for President Barack Obama, but calm and boring failed for Wisconsin’s other candidates, and it quite possibly failed to produce a win for Clinton in the state also.

I like Hillary Clinton. I like Tom Barrett. And I like Mary Burke. But the next candidate for governor, whether they run against Scott Walker or not, needs to be someone who injects a bit more energy into their campaign. They also have to be someone who will do so in a way that will be relatable to voters, without being abrasive, or worst yet, detestable while engaging them. We need someone who doesn’t appear to be an ideologue but who still takes strong positions from a progressive perspective, and who isn’t afraid to broadcast that message across the state, not just in Madison or Milwaukee.

Think of Bernie Sanders during his visit to Liberty College, as Cieslewicz suggested in his column. Or President Obama when he spoke to conservative lawmakers in 2010. Those type of engagements need to happen on a local level, too. Democrats in Wisconsin need to have town halls in Kewaskum, Ripon, Seymour, Waukesha County, Polk County, and other red areas. An act of bravery of that sort, while still showing poise and the ability to listen, would go a long way for many voters in this state who feel ignored by the Democratic Party.