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Annus horribilis


Publication:Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date:Dec 29, 2011; Section:Opinion; Page Number:6A    

Annus horribilis

Year of promise bogged down in acrimony

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

    I’m reminded of the Queen Elizabeth’s address to her country in 1992 on the 40th anniversary of her accession. It was a year of scandal in the royal house, and only days before she spoke Windsor Castle had a terrible fire.

    The queen said that she would not look back on the year fondly; it was an “Annus horribilis.”

    We have certainly endured an Annus horribilis of our own in Wisconsin. What began with such great promise, the beginning of the Walker era, quickly devolved into terrible acrimony, threats of violence, massive protests, and finally wasteful recalls that mock the very idea of a democratic republic.

    The 2010 elections were a backlash by the voters against the failures of liberalism, the excessive spending, the growth of the state and a social agenda at odds with the basic sensibilities of most Wisconsinites.

    The tantrums that followed can best be described as not only a reaction against the policy changes that were necessary to bring spending under control, but as a reaction to the voters themselves.

    Certainly nowhere was that more evident in the recall elections. Without any just cause, Democrats launched recall efforts against Republican state senators with one purpose, regaining power. Unfortunately they caught one state senator with his pants down and another whose baseball team finances made him vulnerable in a Democratic district.

    That did not prevent Democratic spokesman Graeme Zielinski from furthering poisoning the body politic by falsely accusing County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus of purposefully holding back election results in another recall election that did not go the Democrats’ way. Zielinski still has not adequately apologized, nor has any Waukesha Democrat stepped up to criticize Zielinski. This despite an assurance from the Democratic Party’s Fifth District Chairman Jeff Christensen that he would personally look into the matter.

    It was also a year when power politics took precedence over judicial philosophy and qualifications in the state Supreme Court election. Justice David Prosser narrowly edged out a victory over lesser-known JoAnne Kloppenburg not because she was more qualified or that her judicial philosophy was more closely attuned to the voters’ philosophy. She almost won as part of the proxy war against Governor Scott Walker.

    Even in defeat Kloppenburg continued the scorched-earth policy of the Democratic Party, a preference of win at all costs over respect for the democratic process.

    Nickolaus picked the worst possible moment to demonstrate why the Waukesha County clerk’s competence has been in question. Somehow she failed to properly record the city of Brookfield’s vote tally on the spreadsheet she would later use to inform the press of the election results.

    When the error was discovered two days later, it was clear that Prosser had won the election. Unfortunately the affair fed the worst conspiracy-theory mongers of the Democratic Party, and Kloppenburg used the discrepancy to demand a statewide recount. The margin of victory for Prosser was clearly too great to be overcome and there was nothing for the public to gain from the recount, but the Democrats were determined to further damage the democratic process.

    The cause of all this acrimony was supposedly the passage of Act 10 that limited collective bargaining privileges for most public employees. However, Democrats were talking about recalling the governor even before the passage of Act 10, and as it turns out it is unlikely the Democrats would undo Act 10 even if they gained power because of the state’s financial need.

    For all of the wailing and gnashing of teeth, Act 10 allowed Wisconsin to cut the state budget, including education, while not causing dramatic harm to local budgets.

    Even Walker’s opponent in the 2010 election, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, has used the provisions of Act 10 to balance his city’s budget. Barrett’s top complaint is that the change in the law did not also include police and firefighters.

    Democrats are about as likely to overturn Act 10 as they are to repeal the new concealed carry law and the new voter identification requirement, even if they were to miraculously sweep the Legislature and the governor’s mansion in 2012.

    That is what makes their behavior in 2011 so horrific.

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