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I was boating on the Minocqua chain of lakes yesterday, and was reminded how kind Wisconsinites are. Every time we passed a boat going from Lake Minocqua to Lake Tomahawk, people waved at each other. Some of the kids would shoot other boats with water guns and everyone would laugh. This is the reason I moved back to Wisconsin from New York City--to get out of the rat race and be among kind people in a slower-paced environment. I think that’s why a lot of people “come back” to their roots in Wisconsin.
Now contrast that bucolic scene with our current political environment. I’ve posted in defense of a motor home that stopped to grab food at my brewpub who were called terrorists because they had a Black Lives Matter sign. I’ve been called horrible names for posting in defense of a gubernatorial mask mandate that our local county Sheriff’s office refuses to enforce when there’s no question that we all need to wear masks in public to protect each other.
What people are willing to say to each other these days in defense of their political “side” really has no bounds, and that is a shame. I admit I’ve even fallen prey to name-calling during emotional posts, and am not proud of it.
The political hatred between sides today is beyond the pale, and unfortunately it’s not happening by mistake. The politics of division work. Negative ads work. A frustrated and fearful population in the midst of a pandemic and economic collapse is looking for a scapegoat. Trump is a master at deflecting the focus away from his terrible leadership by blaming others. He blames people protesting systemic racism for terrorism and looting. Blames Obama for pandemic unpreparedness. Blames governors whose states are hot spots when he refuses to create a federal plan to help them.
And Trump isn’t the only one. The politics of division has been strong in Wisconsin for the last decade. Teachers are lazy, so we need to defund public education and siphon that money to more efficient charter schools. Professors and universities indoctrinate students to liberalism, thus we need to defund them. Unionized state workers are less productive, corrupt, and suck up all our tax dollars, thus we need to break their backs with ACT 10.
None of these statements are remotely true, but we’ve heard them time and time again by past Republican governor Scott Walker and state legislators like Rob Swearing in the Republican majority. And if you hear something repeated ad nauseum, even if you don’t initially believe it’s true, you start questioning your beliefs, wondering if you’re the only one out there whose gut says “this is wrong.”
Read this again, these politicians use the politics of division because it works, and they’ve gained power by making us create scapegoats out of our neighbors, and this is killing our state.
Now before I came back to Wisconsin, I was trying to make it as an actor and singer in New York City. I wasn’t paying attention to the politics of divisiveness happening in Wisconsin, and lived in a place where it was common knowledge that public school teachers were valuable, universities were valuable, unions were valuable, and diversity was valuable.
In this video posted here https://youtu.be/DIbop_3xXUE, I’m performing a song called “What You’d Call A Dream.” It’s about a guy remembering a sweet innocent moment playing baseball in his youth. I sang this song thinking about playing Little League in Stevens Point and living in a town that had a great public school and university, where we never locked our doors. That’s the Wisconsin I came home to after my wife was diagnosed with cancer, but not the Wisconsin that actually existed anymore. Sure we’re still nice to the core, but we’ve lost our way on valuing the one thing that made us special—governing with a focus on lifting communities through wise public investment instead of governing based on destroying government itself.
We’ve gotten here because of divisiveness, and I’m running for office to help bring Wisconsin back to the great state I remembered while singing that song. Funny how “Making Wisconsin Great Again” will only occur by taking off the MAGA hats and putting on our cheese-heads to be “Wisconsin nice” to each other, and caring about our neighbors even if they belong to a different party.
As your state representative, I promise to reject the politics of divisiveness and embrace honest government.
If you agree with me, please share this post with your neighbors of all political stripes and follow my campaign by going to bangstadforwisconsin.com. If you really agree with me, consider donating to my campaign to help me spread this message. https://secure.actblue.com/…/bangstad-for-wisconsin-assembl…
Written by Kirk Bangstad on 08/02/20