I appreciate the feedback I’ve gotten on my last note (“On Wisconsin”). To move that discussion forward, let me echo something University of Wisconsin-Madison history professor William Cronon said recently in a blog explaining his own dissatisfaction with some of the developments in Wisconsin. Like Cronon, I become profoundly concerned not when I or “my side” doesn’t get its way, but when some side–any side–is systematically excluded from the democratic process. (Cronon’s specific concerns, expressed in a 3/24/11 blog, were with “threats to core American notions of due process and transparent governance” (accessible at http://scholarcitizen.williamcronon.net/2011/03/24/open-records-attack-on-academic-freedom/). It worries me, then, when those in power–and it happens to be Republicans at the moment in Wisconsin–actively and even proudly shut their ears to those who would disagree with them.
There is another important point I should address. In my prior posting, I carefully confined my remarks to the very public efforts of the Republican governor to exclude public unions from bargaining (challenged by hundreds of thousands of protestors) and the Republican legislative leadership’s efforts to exclude Democrats from speaking against this proposal (now challenged in the courts). I made no effort to either condemn all Republicans (or praise Democrats).
Why point fingers at all then? Why name party names at all? The answer to both of these questions is the same: publicly explaining and defending the principles on which IF’s mission to “promote and expand public discussion” both require it. Explaining IF’s mission requires at least occasionally applying those principles to the real world they are meant to shape–so that people better understand those principles and where they lead. And defending it requires standing with those who work for those principles when they seem to be threatened–by Democrats, Republicans, or anyone else. My previous post was meant as just such an explanation and defense. Was it “partisan”? –Only in supporting the democratic process, which rightfully includes discussion and, hence, listening.