Republican Senate Race in Wisconsin-Politics as Usual?
Republican Establishment Politics as Usual
Politics as usual. How many times have we heard this in recent years? Fair to say quite a few. How many times have we heard this throughout our lifetimes? I wouldn’t know. I have only recently opened my ears and eyes to politics. I am a stay at home mom and prior to having my first child, worked as a pediatric nurse. Unfortunately, what was going on in the Capitols of Wisconsin and Washington D.C. was boring to me and a bit overwhelming. I didn’t pay attention to what was going on. Naively, I thought our elected officials were doing the right thing and voting in favor of their constituents’ needs. I trusted that they would put the needs of those they represented ahead of their own. Sadly, I woke up about 2 years ago and found this was not the case. It took my 3rd grader coming home from school one day, telling me she wanted to be a congressman, for me to start to become politically aware. Two years later, I am more than aware. I am frustrated, very concerned and feeling betrayed with politics as usual.
Last summer, through an email, my husband and I heard of an unknown candidate, Dave Westlake, running for U.S. Senate in Wisconsin. I googled his name and found his website. I read through it. I was impressed and moved. His West Point background and stances on the issues stood out. I investigated his site further and found that he received an MBA from the University of Chicago Business School (a bastion of entrepreneurial American capitalism), was a small business owner, and a family man. I went out of my comfort zone and immediately emailed him. I let him know that I agreed with his positions on the issues and that I would support him. We met a few weeks later and I felt a connection with him right away. He was intelligent, personable and genuinely concerned with my questions and interests. Around that time, my husband who is an Emergency Physician was aghast with the abruptness of HR3200, and was also, for the first time, becoming politically aware. Together, we opened our eyes and began to get actively involved in the political process.
Behind the Curtain
Watching the Wisconsin Senate race unfold has been interesting to say the least. In June of 2009, Dave Westlake was the first to enter the race when Feingold was still seen by most as unbeatable. The second candidate (Terrence Wall) entered in January. When word came out Tommy Thompson would not enter the race, two self-fundable opponents entered- Dick Leinenkugel on April 8th, and Ron Johnson on May 15th (after it became apparent that Leinenkugel’s ties to the Democratic Doyle Administration as his Commerce Secretary were too toxic for him to be acceptable this year) . Curiously during his convention speech, Dick Leinenkugel dropped out. Then Terrence Wall, who was thrown under the bus by the republican party and talk radio’s backing of Johnson, dropped out as well. The 2 left standing are Dave Westlake and Ron Johnson, who announced his candidacy just 6 days prior to the getting the endorsement of the Republican Party. They are both hoping to take over Senator Russ Feingold’s seat. It doesn’t take an astute politician to know that this will not be an easy feat. Although many people in Wisconsin and across the nation would love to see Senator Feingold go, there are many who are eager to see him serve another 6 years. And, even with evidence to the contrary, Senator Feingold has been able to portray himself as a “maverick”. Though he has many millions in his war chest now, he has never self-financed his campaigns as his opponents have. He ran his first campaign with a grass roots effort as the every day man, relating to the people of Wisconsin, much like Dave Westlake has been doing. Self-funding millionaires have been unable to defeat Senator Feingold in past elections; yet the Republican Party, as well as many laypeople, are playing politics as usual – counting on the fact that Ron Johnson (who owns a plastics company), has millions to his name and was asked to speak at two TEA Parties, is therefore the ideal candidate.
Of course there is more to Johnson than that, right? There has to be. I hope there is more than what I saw at the Wisconsin Republican Convention, because what I saw there appeared to be a process engineered by the Republican Party- politics as usual–the anointment of the chosen one. The endorsement was supposed to take place after the speeches on Saturday night. There was a hold up in the Lieutenant Governor endorsement, which I understand was delay enough for the Senate speeches to get postponed until the next day. The convention was in Milwaukee. Many delegates were from hours away and did not plan on staying until Sunday. They went back home without a say in the Senate endorsement. Sunday morning came and the environment was different. There were significantly less people but more giddiness. Something seemed different but I couldn’t exactly put my finger on it. Dick Leinengkugel, candidate #3 gave his speech and then announced he was leaving the senate race and endorsing Ron Johnson. Although, Leinenkugel’s presence throughout the campaign was practically void, it was still seen as quite a surprise. At least it was reported this way. I wonder how many people were truly astonished. Another unexpected turn of events was the actual number of delegates that were able to stay for Sunday’s speeches. The convention arena was moved to a smaller room. The capacity was a little over 900. To my eye, the room was half full at best.
In a political climate in where so many people are looking to uproot Washington and re-plant it with fresh life, I do hope that Ron Johnson has more to his name than money. Like I did Dave Westlake’s website, I visited Ron Johnson’s. Have you seen his website? Not only does he not state his positions on the issues, he does not even mention the issues he has a stance on. His website does make it very clear, however, how to donate to his campaign. At some point, I would presume, he will get a more informative website up and running, but it has been 3 weeks since his endorsement and has yet to do so. Frankly, I was surprised to see his website without substance prior to the Republican Convention. As time went on, I was more surprised. Now, I am completely frustrated. Where is Ron Johnson and where is he on the issues? I heard on the radio the other day that he did not show up for a scheduled debate with Dave Westlake last week. Clearly, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that his positions on the issues are being formed for him. Maybe I am naive, or, paradoxically, more aware; but it seems to me that the establishment is molding this candidate. I can’t say for sure. What I CAN say for sure, is that with or without money, Westlake has been criss-crossing the state of Wisconsin for the past year meeting people at Tea Parties, Lincoln Day events, parades, living rooms, restaurants, coffee shops and a countless number of other places to find out what their concerns are, what problems they are facing and what solutions they are hoping for.
How About Real Change?
I know what I am hoping for. I am hoping for a change in Washington. A change back to what our Founding Fathers stood for – and many have died for. A change to where men and women earn their seats in congress through trust, and heart and soul, and taking the harder right over the easier wrong. I mean, really, all the money in the world will not send someone to Washington to consistently do the right thing. To quote Rob LeBow (named in 2005 among the top 100 thought leaders worldwide), “When people feel trusted, they’ll do almost anything under the sun not to disappoint the person who gave them the gift of trust.” Could we not say the same for money? Do we want our representatives to live and breathe the trust of the people, or to live and breathe money? I want my Senator to stand in the breech and have immovable principles forged out of character, not focus groups or in vogue talking points. Who will I trust to make the hard choice and perhaps go against the will of the party in favor of the will of the people? Isn’t it time that the candidates are chosen by the people and not the elite–of either party. I am saddened that the Republican Party of Wisconsin endorsed any candidate. This should be up to the people, by the people, for the people. There are too many men and women out there, like I was 2 years ago, that are naive to the political world around them. Too many that will follow the establishment’s stamp of approval. Too many who will later wake up to a country they are no longer familiar with. I refuse to be one of them. We need to let the people choose their candidates, not the establishment elites. It is time to return to our founding principles. I agree with E Pluribus Unum and believe Dave Westlake is the one to do this in Wisconsin.
-“God grant that men of principle be our principal men” ~Thomas Jefferson