Tired of non-stop partisanship? Then give it a rest.

The other day, there was a gang of crows in the back yard – (did you know that a flock of crowds is actually known as a “murder?”) – cawing away as they mobbed a lone hawk that they were trying to drive out of the neighborhood. Crows are fairly reliable troublemakers and they kind of remind me of the electronic lynch mobs that regularly turn up in the comment section after each story in our local newspaper with their cyber torches blazing.

There’s a great example in today’s edition. A story appears about Congressman Sean Duffy and his family moving to Weston from Ashland, a small city of around 8,700 on Lake Superior, in the far reaches of his district. It makes all the sense in the world because it cuts down on the stress of travel for him to be able to fly back and forth to Washington DC from nearby Central Wisconsin Airport and he considers the Wausau area to be the hub of the 7th Congressional District.

Without trying to sound like too much of a homer, I have to agree with him. The Duffys have six children, which is a lot to manage – so anything that minimizes the travel time is worth something to that family. It’s also a good thing for the Wausau area to have their representative in Congress be as familiar as possible with local concerns and conditions.

So it’s all good, right? Well, no.

There immediately ensued a heated exchange between Duffy detractors and supporters, who seem to use any excuse to engage on their various grievances and ideological differences, punctuated by the usual cheap shots. It was no different when Dave Obey was in office – and it’s a damn shame. Heaven only knows how many capable, visionary people of good character have been dissuaded from serving in any office from school board on up by the toxic personal attacks that people are forced to endure just to serve in government.

I’m all for spirited policy debates and holding people accountable. There are plenty of things that I disagree with Congressman Duffy about and State Senator Pam Galloway, too. But I think it’s important to respect the people who hold elective offices to the greatest possible extent. I’ve had a number of conversations with both Duffy and Galloway. These are interesting people with convictions, principles and intellect. There is more to them than simply politics, but even that is a general area of interest that we share.

Moreover, a lot of things that elected representatives and their staff members can facilitate are not all that partisan. Even though we may have fundamental disagreements about some very important issues, there will always be opportunities to agree on other things that have real value. When I served on the county highway committee, I had a number of discussions with Rep. Jerry Petrowski, who is a long-time member and chair of the Assembly Transportation Committee. But why should people like that put up with you between elections if you aren’t willing to put up with them long enough to have a civil conversation? Those who refuse to maintain anything but a confrontational relationship sacrifice important potential opportunities to have a positive impact or temper some outcomes.

People often complain that campaign season never seems to end, but it isn’t just the fault of politicians. If we want to have a political environment that goes beyond posturing for elections, there has to be something more to things than simply trying to tar people at every turn in an effort to set up the next one.



13 Responses to “Tired of non-stop partisanship? Then give it a rest.”

  1. Jim, you sound just a little bit naive. Whether D or R, a politicians is to do what his funders want while making constituents believe he has an ideological reason for it. If you are not a heavy contributor, hang it up.

  2. Money is a huge factor, but it is not the only factor. As for hanging it up if you’re not a heavy contributor, isn’t that exactly what the plutocrats would like to see us do?

  3. But by not contributing at the Fat Cat’s level, we are effectively hanging it up, Jim. WE don’t count unless we bring lots of cash to the table. As much as I’d like to see fixed, none of it is going to occur with campaign bribes taking center stage.

  4. I sometimes wonder if it is because I am a flaming independent that I tend to get along pretty well with both sides of the aisle.

    When I am in Madison visiting legislators… both Seidel (D) and Petrowski (R) make time to sit and chat… not only discuss the issue(s) that I went down there for…. but just chat.

    I was watching the CBS news this morning where there was a report that Romney was catching some flak from Limbaugh because although he is a great guy and a gentleman, he was not a “true” conservative.

    I personally blame the parties themselves. The parties have no real concern about improving america, they are obsessed with improving their own standing. The party (either one) doesn’t want a candidate flying their flag that might actually be a moderate… moderates might get something productive done while working with the opposition. We can’t have the opposition taking (even partial) credit for something getting done.

    The whole thing upsets me… upsets me a lot. It is clear to me anyway that things are coming to a head.

  5. drrent, I’ve given up on communicating with politicians. Yes, one of their jobs is constituent services… even just talking with them… but when it comes to acting they tend toward the wishes of their heavy contributors. If they didn’t they wouldn’t have any. At 74 if I want to leave my kids with positive change, getting the (legal) bribes out of the political system is where I must start.

  6. MoneyedPoliticians could not be more right. It is amazing that the new buzzword is “Crony Capitalism” but that is the only game that current politicians know how to play. Why do you think the income gap has widened so much? And mentioning the income gap is not “class warfare” or a partisan statement it’s just fact.

    As for respecting the office. I will respect them when they show a little respect for me. You ask why anyone would want to serve and that’s a legitimate question. But look at those same blog posts and ask why anyone would want to work for those that serve. As a public employee, I’ve been derided, criticized and scape goated for every problem under the sun.

    Does anyone believe professional State employees are underpaid compared to the private sector? They are and I’ve been told that by the State’s own employment relations people. Does anyone believe that the retirement system is so well run in this State that it is one of the only fully funded plans in the nation? It is. Does anyone believe that Wisconsin government does NOT have a bloated bureaucracy but is rather one of the most efficient in the nation measured by employees per capita or cost per capita? It is. But most people either won’t believe this or can’t believe it, because they’ve been told the exact opposite – constantly – by one side of the aisle. So please don’t ask me to show them any respect, as respect is not given it is earned.

  7. Roger Zimmermann Says:

    I get the distinct impression that several of the respondents missed Jim’s point entirely. We have to be able to separate out the times when an issue or policy is on the table and rightly needs to be debated and those times when even a politician should be afforded the same respect you would give to any other human being. If by your actions you make everything a partisan or political issue there is no room for human interaction or understanding. Moving to Wausau is not a hot political issue unless you act as one of those crows and attack even things that are truly not grist for the political mill. Even politicians take their shoes off, put their feet up and relax with a cup of coffee and a good book. I suppose that could be attacked as well but why? If you want people to be human, you have to afford them the ability to be human and not microscopically dissect every little move someone makes.

    Oh and don’t overlook the fact that politicians can make mistakes in their professional and private lives. Decide on what is worth arguing over and let the rest pass. (Unless of course you are one of those perfect people that never make a mistake ).

    I am a Marathon County supervisor and find that almost to a person in county government, the people are good, trying their level best, and that the last time I looked they are humans with feelings and emotions. Stop generically pigeon holing people and painting everything someone does with the same brush and labeling all people in government as inherently evil. Not true!

  8. Ed Hammer Says:


    Generically pigeon holing people is so much easier than looking at them as individual, multi faceted people. That whole idea of civil discourse appears to have flown away,, Maybe it will come back in Spring.

  9. Paul Henning Says:

    Nice piece, Jim. This is a good first step in not always pushing the pendelum as far left as it will possibly go. There is hope for you, yet! Keep up the good work. 😉

  10. Oh, I think I’m pretty moderate, Paul — (for someone who just came back from spending months on Mifflin Street last December and all…)

    • Jim, Paul’s reply made me remember that for a long time –like years– I sort of assumed you leaned right because someone told me you once were an active Republican. But I figured more of a libertarian Republican. It didn’t matter of course, but it just goes to show that if one LOOKS for ‘evidence’ to support assumptions, one will always find it.

      • Well, I tend toward social libertarianism at times. I’m also pro-business (in many ways) and a military veteran (which some people think means right wing.) But I’ve never been a Republican. Like a lot of other things in life, we choose from imperfect alternatives.

  11. Roger, I doubt at the state or federal level that most of our politicians “should be afforded the same respect you would give to any other human being.” But I’ve turned pretty cynical about them lately. Forgive me. I am NOT happy with their performance.

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