Thursday, January 14, 2016

Rep. Bowen calls out WisGOPs for not giving a crap about MKE

State Rep. David Bowen (D-Milwaukee) has been building an impressive resume of statements and political positions in recent years, maybe none more than last year when he rightfully expanded the debate on the racist South Carolina shooter to the wider issue of racist speech by right-wing politicians and media members. He’s part of a good group of young Milwaukee legislators that move past the machine politics of the past and are in the process of returning the state’s largest city to its more progressive roots.

And it was Rep. Bowen made that another great statement in light of dimwitted Rep. Bob Gannon (R-262 area code) flipping off Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca. The incident happened after Gannon was rightfully called out on the Assembly floor for his racist and arrogant comments about violence and unemployment in Milwaukee, and Rep. Bowen contrasted bipartisan bills that were passed dealing with issues afflicting many poor people across Wisconsin, and compared it to the anti-Milwaukee attitudes that Gannon and the Wisconsin GOP have.
Today, legislators from both parties, from all corners of the state, came together to pass legislation that addresses heroin abuse, an issue that greatly affects rural areas. This included legislators that don’t represent these areas, because it is good for our whole state when we pick each other up instead of tearing each other down.

Yet, Rep. Gannon, and those on the other side of the aisle who agree with him but who may not be quite as animated, say Milwaukee’s problems are Milwaukee’s alone. In doing so, they choose to separate themselves from ‘We’re in this together’ and instead embrace an ‘It’s your problem, you fix it’ mentality. They have effectively taken themselves out of the equation when it comes to addressing the root causes of poverty, and they have taken themselves out of the equation when it comes improving our state by improving our largest city.
That final paragraph knocks it out of the park, because it’s what infuriates me about the WisGOP mentality in the 262 area code. They and their spokespeople on AM radio claim to be concerned about the economic issues surrounding the poor in Milwaukee, but don’t lift a finger to do anything that might help to solve those problems.

Well, I guess do lift ONE finger when it comes to the City of Milwaukee. In this video clip you'll hear Gannon ramble about some more dog-whistling garbage, and seems to imply that the City of Milwaukee should get more money from the Feds to fight the problem (the state can't put together these funds to target the issue because...?). Then Dem leader Barca comes on the respond, and the incident happens around 1:20 in this video after Gannon and Barca responds (you'll see Barca complain about what Gannon calls the "guess-ture", but you won't see the finger itself).

In fact, the Bob Gannon, Speaker Robbin' Vos and the rest of the GOPpers from the 262 have often made those inequities much worse, whether it’s through cutting inflation-adjusted shared revenues to the city by $55 million since 2000, defunding Milwaukee Public Schools through the failed voucher program and the recently-passed privatization of certain schools, or by using the city as a punching bag for partisan advantage (that means you, Governor Walker), which drives down its attractiveness to outsiders that may want to visit or relocate there.

In addition, the lagging job growth in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan and lack of new start-ups that have resulted from WisGOP/WMC economic strategy keeps a lack of good jobs from being located in and around Milwaukee, which continues the cycle of poverty and economic stagnation. Given that the GOP is in power in pretty much all facets of state government these days, perhaps these guys might want to do something different that helps to attract jobs and talent, and improves the quality of life for the state’s largest city

But that goes to Rep. Bowen’s larger point- WisGOPs don’t want Milwaukee to succeed, and they don’t want violence and unemployment to go down there, because they need that cycle of poverty to continue. If lower-class and other mediocre white suburbanites to feel superior to another group of people, they don’t ask too many deep questions as to why their lives haven’t improved in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan, and why their schools and roads are falling apart, but instead can just blame the poor minorities in Milwaukee for not pulling their share, and back policies that stick it to “those people.”

It’s a pattern that the New Republic’s Alec MacGillis captured very well in June 2014, describing the “Toxic Racial Politics of Scott Walker,” and the Wisconsin GOP that he heads up. MacGillis notes the difference between the heavily GOP “WOW Counties” around Milwaukee (Rep. Gannon is from Washington County, the reddest of the 3), and the city that many of them owe their existence to.
It is as if the Milwaukee area were in a kind of time warp. Like the suburbanites of the ’70s and ’80s elsewhere in the United States, the residents of the WOW counties are full of anxiety and contempt for the place they abandoned. “We’re still in the disco era here,” says Democratic political consultant Paul Maslin. This has affected the politics of the state in myriad ways. The nationwide trend of exploring alternatives to prison hasn’t reached Wisconsin—it has the highest rate of black male incarceration of any state in the country. [AM talk show host/GOP spokesman Charlie] Sykes told me he could track the desertion of the city through the discussions of Milwaukee public schools on his show. “Through the 1990s we were very interested in education reform, and then it was like a button was switched, and those were someone else’s kids,” he said. “That’s when I realized we weren’t a Milwaukee station anymore.”

Predictably, by 2010, the WOW counties were aflame with anti-Obama fervor, and Walker set his sights on the governor’s mansion. This climate should have favored his primary opponent, Mark Neumann, a highly conservative ex- congressman from southern Wisconsin. But so formidable was Walker’s talk-radio base that it altered the course of the race. Day after day, Sykes and [fellow AM radio a-hole Mark] Belling lauded Walker and savaged Neumann. Belling called Neumann a “liar” for criticizing Walker’s county budgets and declared, “No one I know thinks [Neumann] has a chance of winning.” The attacks were unfair but damaging, Neumann told me. Walker beat him by 18 points. In some precincts of the WOW counties, he won close to 75 percent of the vote, but lost to Neumann across much of the rest of the state. To Sykes, it was no coincidence that Walker’s support aligned so closely with the listening range of their stations. “If you look at that map, you see talk-radio land,” Sykes says.

Walker won the general election against Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett with 52 percent of the vote. Some prognosticators expected that Walker might fare better than previous Republicans in Milwaukee County, given that he had spent eight years governing it. In fact, he did no better than the Republican norm, with 37 percent. But in the WOW counties, he exceeded even the GOP’s usual sky-high numbers. In his inaugural address, he took the audience on a long rhetorical tour of the state—“Superior to Kenosha; Sturgeon Bay over to Platteville ...” He did not mention Milwaukee.
Because Walker and the Wisconsin GOP doesn’t care about Milwaukee, and never will, no matter how much that mentality hurts the rest of the state. And that’s why I find the suburban Milwaukee Republicans like Bob Gannon so obnoxious- not just because their complaints are filled with foolishness and dog-whistle racism, but because they’re more concerned with kicking down at the less fortunate than trying to take any steps to improve the desperate situation many poor people in Milwaukee are in.

And it’s a big reason why Republicans from suburban Milwaukee are unfit for office, at any level. I just wish the suburban 262 would secede from the rest of the state, call themselves the “Republic of Fitzwalkerstan”, wish them luck in raising their own tax revenues, and allow the rest of us who do give a crap about this state’s future the opportunity to get to work repairing the damage this horrible mentality of mediocre suburbanites has inflicted on a once-great state.


  1. I live in that area code. Please don't wish that for about 7 years, when I can retire and leave an admittedly beautiful area with an unfortunately homogenized population, the only 'homo' many will accept.
    Although I will say it's gotten quieter out here, and I never saw a single Scott Walker for President sign beyond a bumper sticker on 45 one day. It seems there might be a tiny pinprick of light at the end of the tunnel. Far away, but still...

  2. You fight a great battle, Sue. I couldn't handle being around that mentality on a daily basis, so you're much stronger than me.

  3. Is it just me, or is Gannon slurring some words a little there? Maybe he just naturally lacks inhibitions (among other things), but I think this is Exhibit #4,972 for administering breathalyzers before legislators take the floor.

    1. I think that's just "old, dumb right trash" guy more than drunkenness. But it is quite hard to tell the difference, so I could understand where you'd think that.