Monday, March 7, 2011

My Open Letter to the Wisconsin 14

An open letter to the “Wisconsin 14”

Dear Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller
Senators; Tim Carpenter, Spencer Coggs, Timothy Cullen, Jon Erpenbach, Dave Hansen, Jim Holperin, Robert Jauch, Chris Larson, Julie Lassa, Fred Risser, Lena Taylor, Kathleen Vinehout & Robert Wirch

I write to you today not as a constituent but as a concerned citizen and former Wisconsin resident with deep ties to the Great State of Wisconsin. My parents, both retired teachers, and many of my friends live in Wisconsin.

First and foremost, I want to thank you profusely for your courage in standing up to Gov. Walker and for the People of Wisconsin. I know that it must be very difficult to be away from your families and homes, bearing unplanned expenses and overcoming the difficulties of doing your jobs via phone lines. You are all showing your respect and caring for both the citizens of Wisconsin and the laws and protocols of the State. I appreciate that you have made a very difficult decision to leave the State because you know that this extraordinarily bad bill requires an equally extraordinary effort to defeat it. I fully support your decision because I believe your course of action is the right thing to do. To paraphrase Robert Reich: “The Republicans have been playing hardball while the Democrats are playing softball, is it any wonder that the political center is continually drifting to the right?” Well, thank you for showing Democrats how to play hardball!

With each day that you stand firm we see how Gov. Walker reacts to those who try to question his plans. I hope the Nation can see his continual reckless disregard and disdain for following the rules of the State. The fact that he would threaten you with arrest, would threaten to lay off thousands of state workers, even go so far as to threaten to withhold State Medicaid payments for nursing homes shows how stubborn and ruthless he is. Apparently his much vaunted “emergency powers” only work to get no-bid contracts for Wackenhut or strip unions of their rights, they cannot protect seniors. I’m sure that the vitriol you are reading from the right must be painful. The usurping of your staff and their privileges, the pettiness of Gov. Walker suspending your parking privileges, all of this is childish.

I ask you today to please stand firm in your commitment to keep the State Senate from reaching a quorum until there can be some real negotiation and conversation about the specifics of Gov. Walker’s Budget Repair Bill. I think it is most important that you return to Wisconsin on your terms, not Gov. Walker’s or the Fitzgeralds’. I believe that I heard a proposal that the questionable points of this Budget Repair Bill be moved into the State Budget Bill itself so that proper and open debate and consideration can happen in a fully public and transparent manner, befitting the history and traditions of the State of Wisconsin. Why this would be a hard sell to Gov. Walker and the State Senate Republicans is baffling but indicative of less than honorable motives.

I do not know what the legislative end game will be - I do not have high hopes for fully dismantling this particular bill, but I do implore you to stand firm for a very important reason. The future. Our Nation’s future.

Why would a former resident, born in Wisconsin but living out of state care about this bill? I believe this is a small part of a much larger effort, a campaign that runs counter to the values that our Nation was founded upon. This fight is not just about Wisconsin, or public sector unions, or even unions in general. I have seen 30 years of chipping away at the rights and protections for working people, witnessed the creation of countless tax laws and loopholes, and other legislation and court decisions that favor corporations and the rich over us ordinary citizens. Gov. Walker’s attempt to ramrod this “emergency” bill through is just the latest salvo in a multi-decade attack on the middle class, the very core of what makes America the greatest country on earth. We must put a stop to the fleecing of the middle class. It will take a grassroots movement to reverse this ongoing process. You 14 Senators have found yourselves to be at the forefront of this movement, right here, right now.

All great social movements have started small and grown over time. The Abolitionist Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, the Anti-Draft Movement - all started with ordinary citizens standing up against the injustices of large, vested interests. Wisconsin is standing out as a bell weather for states like Ohio and Indiana. Their eyes are on you.

Our country was founded in protest against an out-of-touch, autocratic ruler and the favoritism shown to a multi-national corporation. Our nation was born of working men and women, standing up for themselves against overwhelming, moneyed interests. After 200 years, we find ourselves facing a similar struggle. You are helping people all across the nation find their voice for what was previously considered a hopeless fight. With every day you hold out, we see that a few good people - men and women of patriotism, honor and steadfast courage - can make a difference.

You have the potential of being the rallying point of a new generation of citizens standing up against entrenched power. Like the union organizers of the early 20th century, the Freedom Riders and marchers of the 1950s & 60s, it takes honest men and women to stand up first, to show others that all is not lost. You are the legislative experts who can best understand the effects that this bill will have on all the citizens of Wisconsin, not just the big donors to the Republican’s war chests. The eyes of the nation are upon you, especially the eyes of Republicans, to see if you will give in.

At some point you will have to return to Wisconsin, the Senate will be reconvened, the bill voted on. Hopefully by then State Senators Ellis and Shultz, or perhaps another Republican moderate or two will have been convinced to slow these drastic policy changes down, at least long enough for a fully transparent and honest discussion. I’m sure that some version of Gov Walker’s bill will eventually pass and then the battle will move into the Judiciary. Let us hope, however, that it will not pass as currently written.

I must tell you that I have always been proud to be from Wisconsin. I grew up in Madison in the 1960s & 70s, graduating from James Madison Memorial High School, class of 1980 and UW Madison in 1986. But never in my life have I been so proud to be a Cheesehead as I have for the last 2 weeks. Every time I watch a video, read an article, see coverage on TV, I swell with pride. When I marched at New York City Hall in solidarity with my Wisconsin brothers and sisters, there were tears of pride in my eyes. When I watched the Youtube videos of people singing “Do You Hear The People Sing?” there were tears of joy on my cheeks. When I read the emails and Facebook postings from my friends and relatives in WI, going to the Capital Building every day, marching with feet, tired and sore, taking time off work that they can barely afford, or the retired folks who should be spending their years in comfort, not in the cold of a Wisconsin February, there are tears of anger splashing on my chest.

I implore you to stand strong. My sincere hope is that this is the beginning of a larger movement, empowering the citizens of our country to take back their rightful place as the arbiters and beneficiaries of our government which was always meant to be “Of the People, By the People and For the People.” Today I ask you, I implore you, to think of the larger struggle we have before us. You have already done a great service to your State, and the rest of the Nation. Please, do not let that slide into the obscurity of an historical footnote.

Please stand strong for your constituents.
Please stand strong for your neighbors.
For your children’s futures.
For your grandchildren’s futures.
Please stand strong for the future of America.

With greatest respect and thanks,
Andrew R Sather
Member, IATSE Local #251, Madison WI
Former resident,
Permanent Cheesehead.

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In addition to the difficulties of being away from home, and to a Cheesehead the indignity of having to stay in Illinois, (full disclosure, even though I grew up in WI, I am a Cubs fan) I'm sure there must be some bickering and infighting going on. I can only hope that letters of encouragement and support would help strengthen their resolve to stay the course a while longer.

Tactically, I would hope they would stay out until at least some, if not all, of the State Senate Republican recall petitions are filed. My fear is that when (not if) they return, that a to of the momentum will leave the anti-Walker movement.

Right now, momentum is going full steam, people are getting petitions signed, things are moving Forward at a remarkable pace.

I think all the more remarkable because there does not appear to be any central clearinghouse or coordinated planning going on. Hopefully, the recall drives are all talking to each other to avoid wasting time with duplication of efforts, but as far as I can tell from out here (NJ), the demonstrations are still largely spontaneous. There is no Soros funded secret control center directing the zombie minions to their daily tasks.

This is all happening because people are tired and fed up of being pushed around and blamed for conditions they had nothing to do with. We're sick of it and not going to take it anymore!

So - back to the purpose of the letter.

My fear is that if the Wisconsin 14 come back sooner than later, a lot of that momentum will blow away. People will see that move as a defeat, not a tactic. If the state senators give up, then why should they keep on fighting? I know there will be some serious people with enough heart and "gumption" (grandpa's favorite word) to keep the fight going, and maybe that would be enough. But I believe that the best thing the Wisconsin 14 can do for their country right now is stay strong, stand firm, and stay out of Dodge Co. (and anywhere else in WI).

Peace -
ARS

3 comments:

  1. Wonderful, wonderful letter - so thoughtful and heartfelt. I'm proud to know you.

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  2. A beautifully written heartfelt letter that expresses not only your admiration and gratitude for the Wisconsin 14's actions but also eloquently speaks to the hopes of so many of us watching from out-of-state and to our appreciation for the resolve of these courageous senators. Thank-you for writing this, Andy. I too am proud to know you.

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  3. You'll always be a Wisconsinite! We're proud to call you brother.

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