hearts and minds

August 5, 2006

Uncontested Elections Do Us Disservice (first published in July, 2002)

We have been taught since childhood to disrespect governments that hold meaningless elections, marked by intimidation, in which officials are unopposed for “re-election”, there is only one viable political party, and the citizens, especially the youth, are fed monochromatic propaganda and are never exposed to a vigorous debate on the important issues of the day. When this situation obtains in other lands, we call it a sham of democracy and a hallmark of despots. What about when it occurs here in Ozaukee County?

I recall a cartoon in this newspaper during a recent national election campaign that implied that a member of “the other party” (the party that reputedly doesn’t exist here) might not be safe, and would certainly not be welcome if he sought to enter Ozaukee County. That person was at that time the President of the United States. If there is no public outrage when a President who happens to be a Democrat is told by our news media that he is not safe or welcome here, what does that say about the nature of our “patriotism”, and what does it say to Joe and Judy Citizen who live here, and who might also have a political perspective that differs from the prevailing viewpoint?

Our political process has been corrupted by a bogus legal theory that claims equivalence between millions of dollars of corporate so-called “campaign contributions” and “donations” to political parties on one hand, with verbal or written petitions and opinions from citizens on the other hand. It is patently absurd to claim in grotesque distortion of our Bill of Rights and of common sense that (1) money is speech, and (2) a corporation is a person, under the Constitution; and therefore, that when corporations provide millions of dollars to elected public officials and political parties and election campaigns it’s not bribery … it’s a constitutionally protected right to “free speech”. A Republican President from a much earlier era honored the lives sacrificed to preserve our “…government of the people, by the people, and for the people…”. Honest Abe figured that a person is a living, breathing human being who uses his or her vocal chords and pens to exercise the right of free speech, and uses money to buy things – but that access to government is not one of those things that is for sale.

A local citizen recently traveled across the state to Madison to keep an appointment she had made with our state assemblyman. This was the first time she had ever contacted an elected official who represented her. An aide to the legislator postponed the meeting when she arrived, then hours later informed her that her legislator would be unable to meet her at all that day. In response to the aide’s question, she quietly and briefly explained the reason for her visit, while standing in the public outer office. A man in a business suit brusquely strode into and through the outer office, with nothing but a cursory wave to the aide as he passed. This man then opened the door to the legislator’s private office (without even knocking), entered and began talking, closing the door behind him. The constituent’s legislator was present in the office, after all!

The local citizen had hoped to discuss groundwater protection issues in a bill that was then bottled up in committee. The gentleman who had just strode right past her to enter the legislator’s private office unannounced was a lawyer/lobbyist for the trans-national mining conglomerate that intended to keep that very bill bottled up and eventually to kill it. This is symbolic of what has happened to our government. A constituent with an appointment is brushed aside and not even politely greeted (after she had traveled across the state to keep an appointment made with the legislator), while a lobbyist for a corporation headquartered in Australia has virtually unrestricted “access” to the lawmaker and his private office.

Much has been said in recent years about honesty and integrity, or the lack of it, in our elected officials. Yet here in Ozaukee County, State Senator Mary Panzer, who has an important leadership position, has for years falsely represented her credentials, and then when recently confronted with the falsehood, attempted to cover up and deny the lie with another that frankly insults the intelligence of all her constituents. Barring a severe form of dementia, everyone knows whether or not he or she has graduated from college. We have to face the fact that we are represented by a State Senator that lied about her qualifications for the job, and tried to mislead us when the truth came out. What kind of example does this set? What does it say about us that this Senator has not had to face a recall campaign, and is now unopposed in both the primary and the general elections in our community?

July, 2002

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2 Comments »

  1. […] This isn’t the only time, or the only issue, or the only way, that these unchallenged incumbents are letting us down and shaming us […]

    Pingback by Wisconsin Legislature Votes — December 18, 2007 @ 12:36 pm | Reply

  2. note (added years later): The assemblyman who stiffed his constituent in this scrupulously true story is no longer a state legislator.
    After “serving” two terms, he declined to run again, and dropped from the public eye.
    Instead, he became another among the highly-compensated professional corporate lobbyists who enjoy the substantial rewards bestowed on those with the same kind of access and influence that he had provided to their ilk as a “public servant”.

    This is how the game is played, people.
    This is not what democracy looks like.
    This is what corruption and legalized bribery looks like.

    Comment by clydewinter — February 6, 2012 @ 1:14 pm | Reply


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