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An Open Letter To My Conservative Friends and Family

In our fight against Scott Walker’s legislative agenda, it is incredibly easy to demonize “conservatives”, Republicans, and Tea Partiers as heartless and even evil. (I myself have attempted to make that very case with respect to Scott Walker himself in a few of my recent posts on this blog.) But it is important to remember that while most of our fellow citizens, friends, and family are right there with us, we also have friends and family that might be proudly “conservative”, or Republican, or even Tea Partiers.

These people deserve our respect. And they deserve to know why, exactly why, in calm, reasoned, and compassionate tones, why they should consider joining us in our fight. Many of them already have, if some of the signs I have seen at recent protests are any indication (e.g., “Republicans against Scott Walker”, “I voted for Scott Walker. I WAS WRONG.”)

But many more might also turn against Scott Walker if only they could hear and understand exactly what it is that drives us to resist. In order to reach them, in order to pull their attention away from the FOX News echo chamber, we have to extend to them our hand in friendship.

What follows is a letter that a friend of mine, Doug Reed, posted to his Facebook account. It is admirable in its eloquence and appeal to our better sides. Please pass it along.

Dear Friends and Family Who Lean Politically To The Right,

First and foremost, I love you. The bonds of family and friendship are stronger than the wedge that any politician can drive between us. In these divisive times, I think it’s important that we keep telling each other that.

The Declaration Of Independence begins with these words: “When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another… a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

You may have noticed that my Facebook page has gone all-Wisconsin-politics-all-the-time. If you haven’t already hidden me from your news feed, I feel that a decent respect for the opinions of my friends and family requires that I should declare the causes why I am throwing myself into the fight against this bill.

My politics are proudly liberal, but I strive to keep them from being knee-jerk Democratic party talking points. I have thrown my impassioned opposition toward the Wisconsin budget repair bill for some well-considered reasons, and I ask that you consider my position with an open mind.

This bill has several aspects which have not been reported in the national media. I will give you three of them.

1, This bill gives a politically appointed agency head the power to unilaterally make all Medicaid spending decisions behind closed doors with NO public input. I know a lot of my conservative friends and family hate Obamacare. This provision in Wisconsin’s law should run chills down your spine.

I have friends on Medicaid. I have friends with an autistic daughter who can go to kindergarten because of her medical assistance. I have a friend with MS whose meds would cost her $52,000 a year if she had to buy them on the open market.

The standard comment to the “sob stories” of those on Medicaid is “why should I have to pay for their expensive health care?”

Because there but for the Grace of God go you and I.

If you have any form of insurance at all, you’re paying for someone else’s expensive health care/house fire/auto accident. You pay your premium with the hopes that you will never have to claim the benefits.

A lot of hardworking people have lost jobs and insurance during this recession. Medicaid is, for many of them, the last hope of medical care they have.

The thought that an anti-Medicaid activist (Dennis Smith, DHS Secretary) has sole powers over the state’s assistance for her poorest and most vulnerable citizens chills me and should chill you, too.

(This is an aside about the “Obamacare” law. I support it. Under the current system, accountants from insurance companies make life-and-death decisions about our health care. If that power is moved to a government agency, there is at least some transparency and accountability to the public. If you disagree, please start another thread. This letter isn’t about the national health care law, although every discussion I’ve had with a conservative about Wisconsin’s budget has ended in an Obamacare debate. Why? I have no idea.)

2. This bill is not about elections having consequences. The protesters are the ones with Democracy on their side.

Wisconsinites knew on election night that there would be draconian cuts in state spending. We did not know that collective bargaining would be ended by executive decree.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinal did a study of every word that Scott Walker and his campaign uttered in public during the campaign. He never once mentioned ending collective bargaining rights for public employees. Not once.

You cannot claim a public mandate for a policy you concocted in secret.

Further, Mr. Walker introduced the bill on a Friday with the intention of jamming it through on the following Thursday with no public comment at all. He has, at every step of this process, subverted the normal process of legislation.

You may say “the Democrats who fled the state are subverting the normal process of legislation”.

This is true.

In the Democrats’ defense, and my state Senator is among them, denying a quorum was their only recourse to slow the hasty process and shine a light on the unsavory aspects of this bill. It’s an extreme, but time-honored, legislative technique. Abraham Lincoln once jumped from a statehouse window in an attempt to deny the opposition a quorum.

I believe that unions should have collective bargaining rights under the law. You probably disagree. We should each vote for a candidate who makes the best case for the argument we agree with and settle this at the ballot box.

Aside from Scott Walker, who is now a nationwide tea party hero, no one in Wisconsin has benefitted from this, and no one voted for it.

3. There is a provision in the bill that allows the Governor (via his appointed department head) to sell state-owned heating, cooling, and power plants WITHOUT TAKING BIDS and with NO PUBLIC INPUT. The people of Wisconsin would then be at the mercy of whatever rates the new owners of the plants set.

If you’re a conservative, and this provision had come from a Democrat (whose biggest campaign donors were power tycoons), how loud would you be howling?

This provision of the law is either gobsmackingly corrupt or screen-door-on-a-submarine stupid. Probably both. This provision is indefensible on any level.

These are three of the reasons I am passionately opposed to this bill. There are many, many others, but I realize that your attention span for Wisconsin state politics is limited, especially if you live out of state.

To sum up, I consider this bill morally wrong. Not only that, it does very little to balance the budget. That which it does, it does in the most politically vindictive way possible.

I thank you for taking the time to consider my arguments, and I would welcome a reasoned, fact-based debate on these, or any other points of political disagreement.

It’s been my privilege to demonstrate peaceably beside students, teachers, steelworkers, plasterers, artists, programmers, police, and firefighters in both the public and private sectors throughout the last two weeks. If anything, it’s made me appreciate how interconnected all of our labors are. Thank you for doing the work you do. Thank you for being the person you are.

With much love despite our differences, I remain,

Your cousin, son, brother-in-law, former student, fellow alma mater graduate, fellow bass-singing choir member, and fellow citizen.


Original Author: 
Damon Butler

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