Unity with what?
In Microtones, our newsletter-first column. (Photo by Barry Dale Gilfry on Flickr.)
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MICROTONES by Scott Gordon, editor-in-chief and publisher
I'm going into Tuesday's election, one of the most consequential in our lifetime, wondering just what people around Wisconsin, and especially in Wisconsin media circles, imagine that it's really about. Voters of conscience have their best chance yet to unseat Scott Walker, pretty solid odds that Leah Vukmir's ghoulish challenge to Sen. Tammy Baldwin will fail, and an opportunity to at least weaken the Republican majority in the State Legislature. I don't think anyone cynical or gullible enough to have voted for Walker three times will draw the line at four, but I've got to at least hope that 2018 is the year when the rest of the voters start pushing back a lot harder against the out-of-control far right.
One of the most baffling things in the final weeks of this election cycle is the Wisconsin State Journal's endorsement of Democrat Tony Evers for Governor. Not because the editorial board chose Evers—he seems like a decent sort and could make a very competent governor, and Walker has reduced the governorship to a never-ending desperate grift. What nags at me is the piece's reasoning: It recommends Evers "for unity, balance," and the piece describes Evers' problem-solving approach as being in the "sensible center of politics." There are substantial points here about why Evers would be the better governor, and the piece does call out Republicans for egregious gerrymandering and the reckless Foxconn deal, but the ongoing fetishization of "unity" and healing through centrism represents a dangerous blind spot.
Not that I'd expect the State Journal editorial board to take an actively leftist stance on anything, but it could at least acknowledge that the United States is tipping over into corrupt authoritarianism. Empowering the American right puts vulnerable people in danger and is already getting people killed. In this context, it makes no sense to lament that Americans are so politically divided. There is no good reason to seek unity with malicious, power-hungry bullies. And the notion that Republican legislators would chill out and work constructively with an Evers administration gives them way too much credit. This election, at both the state and federal level, is about whether Americans have the spine to reject fascism. To treat it as any less urgent than that is an intellectual and moral failure.
Republicans in Wisconsin have had eight years (and largely unchecked power) to show us who they are: strong-arming creeps who've set out to systematically make our state a less democratic place, and who still regard union-busting and racist voter suppression as heroic acts. If you're any different from these people, they want to flatten you. Sure, they might make compromises, if we put them under the intense pressure they deserve. But responding to their kind of politics with bland pleas for unity is like dumping a cup of nonfat yogurt onto a raging volcano. I hope Wisconsinites who vote on Tuesday will fight back unapologetically, and if Evers wins I hope he will too.
New this week:
Chali Pittman explores a new MMoCA exhibit that gives a Frida Kahlo painting the interactive treatment.
Our Park Binge column heads to the small but mighty Eken Park.
On the podcast, mastering engineer Justin Perkins talks with us about his contributions to Wisconsin music.
Elsewhere on the Madison internet: Halloween fun with marmosets. Avant-garde percussionist Jon Mueller announces a November 15 show at Arts + Literature Laboratory. Tone Madison contributor Emily Mills gave a Nerd Nite talk about women in the Civil War.