Civility is Possible During Passionate Debate

Is it so hard to believe that a person can be pro-education without being pro-union?

WI Governor Scott Walker’s budget repair bill has generated national interest and attention. Passions run high when it comes to this bill because it focuses on how to handle mounting deficits with budget cuts. Rather than oversimplifying this issue to be one of right and wrong, we must acknowledge that there are many valid viewpoints. To vilify one side or the other reflects an absence of critical thought.

Just last month, President Obama called for a more civil public discourse after the tragic shootings in AZ. Republicans and Democrats sat together during the most recent State of the Union Address and many Americans took this as a sign that times were indeed changing, but it didn’t last long at all.

Why have Americans forgotten the need for civility so soon? It seems that civil discourse is only practiced when passions are in check, but the biggest need for civil discourse is in the heat of passionate debate.

Walker has been called “Hitler” and even a “Rapist” for his new budget bill. Protestors of the bill have posted signs reading, “Walker: Wanted Dead or Alive.” Where is the civility?

People on both sides of this issue have resorted to attacking those who oppose their views as the budget battle continues. This is far easier than exercising the restraint necessary to maintain a civil discourse.

This budget bill raises questions beyond collective bargaining and addresses the power of unions in the public sector. When it comes to education, union power has often prohibited much needed school reform. This is one of my main reasons for supporting this bill.

I see nothing wrong with requiring union workers to pay a larger portion of their health insurance and pension benefits. I think it’s a good thing that the bill would limit collective bargaining. The best part of the bill, in my opinion, is that it would free workers from paying union dues and require annual votes to determine whether unions should remain in existence.

Please don’t mistake my view on the budget bill and my dislike for union power as a lack of commitment to education. I am a teacher. I am passionate about quality education and believe teachers should be treated as professionals who are held accountable and rewarded for excellence. Unions don’t often foster that.

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Fearing Defeat by GOP Candidate Sean Duffy, David Obey Announces Retirement

On May 5, 2010 David Obey (D-WI) announced he will not run for reelection.  Obey has served 20 terms and is the third longest serving member of the House.  For the first time since 1994, Obey faced a major challenge with Sean Duffy. 

This news is significant for all Americans, not just those in WI because Obey was the chairman of the House Appropriations committee and authored the Stimulus Bill.  The committee decides how to spend the $1 trillion in annual government funds are spent.

Obey made his decision to retire after Democratic polling showed he was vulnerable.  His retirement is overdue.  He’s been serving since 1969 which is before Duffy was even born.  Obey is the classic career politician.

Recently the campaign got ugly and desperate when The Democratic Party of Wisconsin sent out a press release on April 14, 2010 attacking Sean Duffy for being a white supremacist and used racial overtones to do it.

The press release stated, “Duffy was scheduled to appear at a Wausau Tea Party event Thursday alongside white supremacist  Alabama militia Col. John Eidsmoe (Eidsmoe since canceled).”  It continues, “But even before not answering questions about the Tea Party scandal, Duffy was not answering questions about his unexplained role at a Wisconsin Dells resort where he reportedly fled the scene after his wife got into a shoving match with GOP rival Dan Mielke. Shortly thereafter, his campaign manager either quit or was fired.” 

Perhaps the worst of the short press release comes at the end from Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate where he is quoted, “For someone who has spent the better part of his adulthood trying to prance around on television, Sean Duffy has been pretty scarce when it comes time to come clean about just who is funding his campaign and just what orders his Tea Party masters have given him,” Tate said. “Maybe he’s trying for a gig on “Dancing With the Stars,” where he can pretend he knows how to rumba instead of pretending to be a timber worker.” 

Duffy for Congress campaign manager, Matt Seaholm fired back with a press release.  It stated, “In response to the baseless claims of racism thrown at Ashland County District Attorney Sean Duffy, Duffy for Congress campaign manager, Matt Seaholm, said the Democrat Party of Wisconsin (DPW) owes the Republican congressional candidate and his family an apology. Today, the DPW and its Chairman Mike Tate accused Duffy, who is married to Rachel Campos-Duffy, a Mexican-American, of being a white supremacist.”

Seaholm said, “Sean Duffy is proudly married to a Mexican-American and together they have six wonderful children.   The DPW crossed the line by blatantly playing the race card and insulting the Latino community.  The Democrats owe the Duffy family an apology and Mr. Tate should resign immediately.”

What then about DPW’s claims of Duffy’s association with Eidsmore.  Duffy’s press release says, “Sean believes the views of John Eidsmoe are abhorrent.  Sean is not scheduled to speak at a Wausau Tea Party event and he had no more knowledge of the speakers than Mr. Tate did.”

Seaholm further addresses the allegations that Dufffy is racist by saying, “But today the DPW continued to play the disgusting race card with thinly veiled insults using Latin terms to smear the Duffys such as ‘majordomo’ and suggesting the 4-time elected prosecutor pretends to ‘rumba’.” 

The Duffy campaign believed that DPW used that language intentionally in an attempt to attack Rachel Campos-Duffy’s ethnicity.  Seaholm said, “It’s no mistake the DPW is using these Latino terms to smear Sean and his spouse’s Latino heritage.  Dave Obey should publicly call on the Democrat Party of Wisconsin to retract their accusations.  What the DPW is doing is truly disgusting and shameful.”

Who is the man who posed such a challenge to Obey?  Duffy is the Ashland County District Attorney with more than a 90% trial success rate.  You might recognize his name because he was on the Boston cast of MTV’s The Real World in the 1990s.  Duffy has also received national attention in the New York Times, Time magazine and many other media outlets.  His wife is also famous in her own right.  Rachel Campos-Duffy is a conservative Republican commentator, guest co-host for The View and author of Stay Home, Stay Happy: 10 Secrets to Loving At-Home Motherhood. 

Career politicians are no good for the country. Term limits are a great idea. If Members didn’t have to worry about constant re-election cycles, they could spend more time on the people’s business rather than on securing their own jobs.

Critical thinkers must ask, is the only way to improve congressional gridlock to clean House?