Dear Scott Walker,
I wasn't expecting much from your State of the State address, and you didn't disappoint.
I expected the same old lies, and you delivered. Our schools are broken, never mind that we were at the top of the pack in more categories than we can count before you took office. Our teachers are inept, undeserving moochers who need to be penalized instead of protected -- but hey, you couldn't respect them more! And every problem that exists in our schools can be solved by your bizarre pet project about fourth grade reading. We've heard it all before and we heard it again last night.
I expected you to ignore the recall, and you did. I expected you to conveniently fail to mention your promise to create 250,000 jobs, and you did. I expected you to employ your usual shameful strategy of passing off your cuts to health care and education as "reforms," and dare to imply that these devastating cuts actually help local economies and Wisconsin families. You did.
I expected you to use a few lame examples of people who saved a few bucks on property taxes as evidence for why all the union-busting was "worth it," and you did. And really? One anecdote about one woman who saved a hundred bucks was the best you can do? Ours went way up, as I mentioned before. Guess you didn't get my message.
I expected you to pretend that the people support you, that you created jobs, that you balanced the budget. You did, you did, you did. Never mind that a million of us just stood outside in the freezing cold to sign a petition to recall you. Never mind that Wisconsin has lost jobs steadily under your administration, and that we've lost jobs every single month for the last six months since your budget went into effect.
Never mind that just last week -- in an attempt to cut even more Wisconsin families off from much-needed health care benefits -- you told the federal government that we're operating on a major deficit, and not a balanced budget, so you could turn down federal health care funds. Those "facts" weren't convenient tonight, and didn't make the cut, as facts tend not to do in your speeches. I'm getting used to this. Since you seem to be banking (literally) on the "tell a lie often enough and people will start believing it" strategy of governance, I expected nothing less.
But I got a little more. There were a few things I did not expect, too.
I was expecting you to try to sugarcoat the pay-to-play mining legislation that's being raced through the Assembly as a pro-jobs, environmentally friendly proposal. It's the hot-button issue of the moment, and I knew you'd have to mention it. But I didn't expect you to sink as low as you did in trying to defend it. Anyone who's been paying even the tiniest bit of attention to the facts in this case knows exactly what this legislation is: a political game in which the exchange of money buys political favor and the people of Wisconsin suffer.
I expected protest; you get that everywhere you go. We knew that was coming. Drums of protest were audible as you began, and resounding "boos" from the gallery, despite your best efforts to preclude the public from your talk (the NPR broadcasters said only 12 seats were open to the general public). I counted at least a half-dozen audible disruptions of your speech (most notably the shout of "Liar!" when you claimed, right after disparaging teachers by saying they do not "merit" the pay they currently receive, that you "respect" the people of this state). I expected some dissent. But I didn't expect four people to get ejected during your speech for shouting out objections to your claims.
And I didn't expect you to receive ovations for being booed. I did not expect the force with which the Republican side of the aisle applauded these ejections. The fact that your divisiveness is one of the things your supporters seem to love most about your "style" of governance is absolutely baffling to me. A great leader unites. You only divide. How can you take pride in that? How can anyone applaud it? I find it shameful. How does this move us forward? Do you really think that by dividing us you can move us ahead? This, to me, is the most puzzling problem of your administration: how you seem to thrive on "dropping bombs" and bringing out the worst in people.
You asked us tonight "to imagine how much better we can make our government work if we share good ideas and suggestions." Well, I've been sharing my good ideas and suggestions with you for an entire year, and not once did I feel as if we were having, as you claimed, a "conversation." We are engaged in a deadlock of monologues, and you clearly have no real desire to communicate in any way with constituents who challenge your politics or policies. Even now that you have (a year into your administration) launched the taxpayer-funded campaign ads that you call "e-updates," you will not engage with those who have tried hardest to reach out to you over the past year. I don't expect you to start. I don't expect Wisconsin politics to return to an equilibrium of respect and decorum until you are out of office.
I wasn't expecting to agree with you at all tonight. I was expecting, in fact, to disagree with everything you said. But when it comes right down to it, I have to admit that I couldn't agree more with the central point of your address: Wisconsin is heading in the right direction. Having spoken loudly and definitively in producing, over the course of only 60 days, over a million signatures to see you removed from office, the people of Wisconsin have launched an effort that will not be stopped.
I think you said it best yourself: "Now is the time for action. Now is the time to get our state working again. Now is the time to move Wisconsin forward." I could not agree more. And there is only one way to move Wisconsin forward: by seeing you recalled.
Heather DuBois Bourenane
Heather DuBois Bourenane is a Sun Prairie resident. She publishes Monologues of Dissent. "Citizen" is an opinion series that presents the views of the author. If you would like to reply, please comment or consider submitting an op-ed in response.