Unsolicited Advice: What Would You Tell the Governor?

You may love, disdain or puzzle over Scott Walker’s performance as governor. But imagine that you’re at a party with him and could pull him off into a corner for two minutes and confidentially offer him advice. What would you say?

That’s the question we put to a cross-section of Madisonians.

Ben Sidran, jazzman: “Excuse me, governor, could you please pass the shrimp dip when you’re done? These people are hungry, and there’s a line starting to form on the left.”

Joe Parisi, Dane County Executive: “It’s wrong to blame public employees for the state’s woes: They are our family members, friends and neighbors. They care for the sick, keep our communities safe, and help our children succeed. Please give them a seat at the table again.”

Terrence Wall, developer: ”You are doing a terrific job, just keep the focus on jobs, jobs, jobs—because new jobs means new tax revenue, which will help solve the state’s budget issues.”

Gary Mitchell, AFSCME International vice president–Wisconsin: “Don’t change. Keep doing what you’re doing. It was so successful for Herbert Hoover and the Republican Party in the 1930s. Being the minority party for the next fifty years allowed Republicans to focus on their golf game.”

Leslie A. Watkins, marketing and social media specialist for Dane Buy Local: “Governor, to quote Anita Brookner: ‘At some point you’re going to have to come to terms with who you are, however unpleasant, if you’re going to be anything at all.’” 

Angela Russell, UW public health researcher: “Many great leaders are humble and open to learning to do their jobs more effectively. What lessons have you learned as governor? What has gone well and what would you like to do over?”

Sunny Schubert, writer: “There are a lot of non-religious people in Wisconsin, and we’re tired of lawmakers shoving their religion down our throats. It’s hard to defend the GOP’s attacks on sex education and Planned Parenthood. If you truly believe in small government and individual freedom, how about sticking to government’s core functions and quit trying to legislate morality?”

John Roach, producer and writer: “Often it’s not what you do. It’s how you do it. You had the votes, but you should have explained more. And at least act like you were listening. And the Fitzies’ dad as Head Cop? Not good.”

Margaret Benbow, poet: “You said you consulted God before busting unions and robbing little children of their teachers. You said, ‘God loved it.’ But other people also talked to God: ‘How long do we have to put up with this crap, O, Lord?’ And God said, ‘Not long. See those recall petitions? SIGN.’”

Paul Soglin, mayor of Madison: “Public investment in infrastructure such as roads encourages private investment, which in turn creates jobs. Why not encourage other infrastructure investments, such as rail, public transit, fiber optic, and wastewater treatment that are just as productive?”

Langston Evans, East High TOPS senior coordinator: “Governor, we need to move beyond policy disagreements to a place of shared responsibility and shared sacrifice. No more slogans, scapegoats and easy fixes.”

Mark Fraire, father: “Do your sons a favor and show them that you can be a compassionate, caring man who relishes the success of others who serve all mankind. Show them a father who puts his arms around their shoulders and can just say cara a cara without reason: ‘I love you both so much, I will always love you so much.’ Show them this, governor, and watch the transformation.”

Donald Downs, professor of political science, law and journalism at UW–Madison: “Okay, I get it. You and your minions are starving the UW System, in part because the UW is so overwhelmingly left-liberal. But please consider the other fact in this matter: We are a great public university system, and the Madison campus is a world leader in research. Do you really want to see this jewel forever lose its luster? “

Henry Wilde, co-founder, Acelero Learning: “Intentionally or not, you give the impression of seeking out evidence to corroborate your underlying distrust of government’s ability to do anything well—which feels akin to having a CEO short-selling his own stock. “

Steve Braunginn, civil rights leader: “Someday you will require help and caring. Who do you want caring for you? Today’s children whom you ignored in every way?”

Brenda Konkel, blogger and activist: “Thank you for waking up the people of Wisconsin and making them care about their government again, but did you have to be so mean about it?”

Ann Althouse, blogger and UW–Madison law professor: “It must be hard for you going to parties where everybody’s always cornering you telling you what you need to understand.”


These comments are more one-sided than we wanted, but it was hard getting local Republicans and businesspeople to step up. One business leader’s explanation for his silence was troubling: Based on his experiences, he feared harassment and vandalism if he dared to publicly support the governor. Former Dane County Supervisor Ruth Ann Schoer made the same point, saying, “A lot of conservatives in Dane County are afraid of retaliation if they speak up. I know quite a few teachers who support the governor’s measures but wouldn't dare speak out. They would be so blackballed.”

Apparently Madison’s commitment to diversity goes only so far.

– M.E.


Listen Up! By John Wiley

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