Storm Warning

When Democratic and Republican fronts collide, where does that leave us?

The bad times continue in our state, rushing soon to recall conclusion.

Everyone knows the special election won’t do much for healing.

That process will take much longer. 

Even now, many of us are still staggering around like tornado victims crawling out from our basements after the winds have passed.

We numbly ask, “What the hell happened? How did we get here?”

The quickest take is to blame Mr. Walker. Like a political cyclone, he blew into Madison and the landscape changed. But that is too easy.

Many factors go into a tornado. The event requires terrifying calculus.

In the case of Wisconsin, the Gulf Stream of economics created global instability in the atmosphere, with guilt enough for both
national political parties and a revenue shock to our state.

Our Ground Zero Torcon conditions also required hot, moist air provided by the Dems, colliding with cold, dry air provided by the
Republicans.

Further, our storm preparedness was poor. The previous governor, a fellow named Jim Doyle, seemed to favor the Louis XV strategy: après moi le deluge. Translation: after me the flood. No politician has ever been so silent as Mr. Doyle of late. When the storm hit, the sirens were silent. There were no public shelters to provide haven.

So the wall cloud appeared on the horizon. The funnel was sighted. And then … it hit.

Some fled to cellars, others to Rockford. But Madison became a political Barneveld, destroyed by a partisan F5. The national media quickly descended to gawk at us in our wreckage.

And now they return to ogle again.

Many of us in the confused middle wonder what we will do when we get behind the polling curtains. We know teachers and state workers. They are our friends and family. But we also know how difficult this economy has been for many private sector citizens, and wonder if our pain is understood.

Either way, we all long for healing, because we think that what is happening in Wisconsin is not who we are. 

This hits very close to home for me. My dad worked for, and eventually owned, a small business named Badger Sporting Goods that did work with every high school in the state, from New Holstein to Cumberland to Wittenburg-Birnamwood to Bonduel.

For forty years John Roach Sr. met with teachers, coaches and administrators daily to determine how many track hurdles, basketballs and football helmets they could afford in their annual budget. He and his Badger Sports cohorts would host annual steak fries for the teachers and coaches who descended on Madison for the state basketball tournament. It was always a celebration in our household. We rooted for every high school in the tournament.

After all, Dad sold them their jerseys.

Some of the coaches and teachers were, and still are, my Dad’s closest friends. Legendary guys with nicknames like Boob, Knobby and Weenie.
But, no surprise, there were others he worked with who were jerks. 

It is a luxury for a man my age to still have his Dad around for advice. So I called him about the recall election. 

“Well, I’m an independent, Johnny. But I’ll tell you this,” Dad said. “They should pay the good teachers more. And they should be able to fire the bad teachers. Simple as that. They’re doing that in Oconomowoc. Every good teacher in the state is going to want to work there.” Dad remembers the Hortonville teachers strike and the repercussions it had around the state. It was a tough time. Dad doesn’t pretend to be pro-union. 

But he likes teachers.

“You can’t pay a good teacher enough,” Dad said.

Maybe that is as good a motivation as one can find when entering the recall booth this month. Despite the rancor and toxicity, maybe a person can try to cast a vote to pay good teachers more. Whatever that vote be.

And then, after exiting the polling booth, look to the western sky.

Because only a fool would think that there aren’t more storms on the way.

Madison-based television producer John Roach writes this column monthly. Reach him at johneroach@mac.com

Find more of John Roach's columns here.

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