Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Reaction vs. reaction

Madison attorney Carl Sinderbrand is not happy with the attacks on his wife, Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi, as his letter shows:

During the past several months, my family has been subjected to the worst kind of partisan demagoguery, false accusations, vulgar correspondence, and even threats — solely because my wife, Judge Maryann Sumi, has done her job as an impartial, nonpartisan judge. ...

The Wisconsin I adopted more than 35 years ago, in which I was educated, raised a family, and built a career, was known for tolerance and respect for fellow citizens. Political disputes generally have been addressed on their merits. Rhetoric has often been sharp and the “spin” usually inaccurate, but typically within the bounds of reason and personal integrity.

Political discourse in 2011 has lost its integrity, morality, and sense of honor. The language of our elected officials and their operatives has devolved to abusive and dishonorable depths.
An administration official referred to the protests as creating a “holocaust.” A legislator compared the governor’s anti-union goals to “Hitler.” Others have referred to union supporters as “thugs.” 

A judge’s efforts to enforce the public’s statutory right of access to their government is demeaned in the foulest terms. The vitriol has reached unseemly extremes, and it is undermining the important role of government in serving the public interest.

Wisconsin, we must find our way. We must return to political discourse that is reasoned, measured, and honest. We must remind our elected officials in the Capitol that we are not all red or blue, and that partisan affiliation is way down the list of how we define ourselves. We must restore personal integrity to that beautiful building, and respect for those who choose to serve the people.

Enough is enough.

First, Sinderbrand is defending his family, as he should. It's nice that he is even-handed enough to note that the term "holocaust" to describe something other than the actual Holocaust is as improper as comparing Gov. Scott Walker to the evil most responsible for said Holocaust. (We're going to have to agree to disagree about "thugs" given that that is precisely how union activists have been acting in Madison and elsewhere.)

Another point, however, comes from two comments:

I'm glad you like your wife. Just realize that most or us want our elected representatives to make the laws, not a judge who is answerable to no one or at least thinks she should be answerable to no one.

Mr are right on one thing - enough is enough. But don't lecture me and try to speak down to me with your moral discourse on what's happening to the state of Wisconsin. I, too, have lived most of my life in this great state, but I have seen it taken down by all-too powerful unions, causing many companies to leave the state. I am appalled at the level of taxes I pay here - far more than in other states that enjoy a much higher standard of living and that are actually attracting businesses that create jobs.

Both comments get to the crux of what has been happening in Madison for much of 2010 and all of 2011 so far. Sinderbrand seems to miss the blowback that has been the logical result of an electorate that believes it was ignored by the previous occupant of the Executive Residence and his Democratic, union, environmentalist and, yes, trial lawyer buddies, which completely controlled state government in the late 2000s. There is no other explanation for the Nov. 2 election results, which were the biggest election-to-election voter reversal I've ever seen in my lifetime of living in this state.

(As it happens, Sinderbrand does not seem to be a trial lawyer based on his biography, but the difference between "lawyer" and "trial lawyer" is a distinction without a difference among most non-lawyers. And Sumi is not "answerable to no one," since judges in this state, from Sumi's circuit court level to the Supreme Court, are elected by voters.)

Many people voted as they did Nov. 2 out of a belief that the regulators, attorneys and judges have been running things in this state to the detriment of us taxpayers for a long time. Sinderbrand mentions having lived in this state for 35 years; that would be the same approximate time that Wisconsin's annual per capita income growth has trailed the national average. Some people have done well; many have not, and the state has underperformed in such measures of business vitality as start-ups and incorporations and venture capital for so long that several think tanks and both nominated candidates for governor noted the state's poor business climate.

Sinderbrand is right that "Political discourse in 2011 has lost its integrity, morality, and sense of honor." That is because politics is about one thing, only one thing, and nothing but one thing: Winning. The losers do not make laws; the winners do. The previous winners raised taxes by more than $2 billion while still succeeding in creating more red ink than Wisconsin has spring flood waters. That made all of us Wisconsinites losers.

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