The Walker Cabinet Officers’ Open Letter

Four cabinet secretaries of the Walker Administration have come forward to criticize the governor, and three of them have co-written an open letter against Walker’s relentless emphasis on political gain over sound policies. One of the signatories of the letter is Paul Jadin, who was Walker’s first Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation leader. It says all…

Jennifer Rubin on ‘Three big ideas to bolster democracy’

Jennifer Rubin writes of three ideas to bolster democracy (enhanced voting rights, independent and non-partisan justice, and robust speech rights): First, Republicans, in an effort to hang on to their declining electoral advantage based on white voters, have tried every trick in the book to limit voting by those they suspect will favor Democrats. Hence,…

Hyper-Local Politics is Finished (It’s Just That Not Everyone Sees it Yet)

Hyper-localism in politics has affected – and harmed – Whitewater and countless other small towns. The idea that there were better local standards on economics, open government, and politics than the best American standards was always a truly risible conceit. The best standards on these matters were always broad and wide. (See How Many Rights for…

The Principle of Diversity Rests on Individual Rights

Some of Whitewater’s residents may have heard – because it’s been falsely told to them – that diversity – the inclusion of people from different backgrounds and characteristics – is a group value resting on subcultures of varying size. Hearing this, they’ve heard something else, too: that to abandon a particular leader in Hyer Hall…

Act Utilitarianism Isn’t Merely a National Scourge

Trump justifies his treatment of Christine Blasey Ford by the outcome of the Kavanaugh hearings: “It doesn’t matter. We won.”

One wouldn’t have to go to Washington, or wait for Trump to speak, to find this sort of act utilitarianism. Long before Trump’s 2016 campaign, officials and self-described community leaders in small towns across America shared a similar calculus. For the sake of some imagined overall gain, individual injuries and injustices have been swept aside.

And so, and so — officials justify financial and personal injuries to individuals on behalf of the supposed greater good of being ‘community-minded,’ of defending the ‘university family,’ or some such collective claim.

Trump’s act utilitarianism did not begin with Trump: it grew in cities and towns in which factions decided they’d take what they want, and conveniently sweep aside others by use of nebulous ‘community’ principles. (In the video above, Trump betrays his amorality early on, as he shrugs his shoulders when part of Christine Blasey Ford’s injury is recounted to him.)

In most of these cases of supposed collective gain, of course, it turns out to be a particular politician, particular businessman, or particular university official who reaps the most at the expense of ordinary individuals, but these community leaders would prefer one didn’t look too closely into that selfish benefit, thank you kindly.

Whether a highly-placed person’s selfish gain, or community’s supposed overall gain, the disregard for individual rights reveals a dark, calculating amorality.

Resolution & Defiance

Historian Blair L.M. Kelley describes What Civil Rights History Can Teach Kavanaugh’s Critics:

People watched Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony on monitors in an overflow room in the Dirksen Senate Building during Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings last month. Credit Damon Winter/New York Times

But in the end, these turn-of-the-20th-century African-American activists [in Richmond and dozens of other southern cities in 1904] could not stop Jim Crow’s advance. Their suits, sit-ins, letter-writing campaigns, boycotts, marches and impassioned pleas to lawmakers failed to make a difference when legislators were determined to segregate no matter the costs. Segregation or exclusion became the law of the land in the American South, and remained so for many years, separating black and white Southerners not only on trains and streetcars but also in schools, neighborhoods, libraries, parks and pools.

Progressives, liberals and sexual assault survivors and all those who desire a more just and decent America and who feel they lost when Kavanaugh was confirmed despite their protest should remember Mitchell, Plessy, Walker and Wells, along with Elizabeth Jennings, James Pennington, Lola Houck, Louis A. Martinet, Rodolphe Desdunes, P.B.S. Pinchback, W.E.B. DuBois, Mary Church Terrell, J. Max Barber and many others, including those whose names we do not know. All of these men and women were on the side of justice and lost. None of these people, who fought for full and equal public access as free citizens on trains and streetcars, stopped fighting. None abandoned what they knew was right. They all tried again. Most would not live to see things made right, but they continued.

Those who see Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation as a lost battle in the larger war for gender equality and dignity for women — and sexual assault survivors, specifically — should emulate the activists of generations past. They should keep organizing, connect with like-minded people, volunteer for organizations that advocate for survivors, consider running for office, and work on the campaigns of those they believe in. A week after his confirmation, a reminder is in order: Movements are about more than moments; they are about thoughtful networks of dissent built over time.

My scholarship has taught me that activism requires a certain resilience, and the willingness to be long-suffering in pursuit of the cause. I hope people remember this. I hope they keep going.




The ‘Republican’ Candidate’s Meet and Greet

One reads that the self-described Republican candidate for the 43rd Assembly District will hold a meet and greet next week at a private establishment in town. Good for him – free speech is a core political right. (He’s also scheduled to appear at a local candidate’s forum this week. See The First & Last Questions.) He’s a…

The First & Last Questions

There’s a local debate candidate forum scheduled for this weekend between the Democrat and Republican running for the 43rd Assembly district (a portion of which includes Whitewater). The Whitewater Area League of Women Voters is hosting this event, and writes to reassure prospective attendees that they may “ask questions of the candidates by writing them…

The Motivation of the Horde

Most people, in all times and places, are clever and intelligent. It’s simply false to contend that only a few people are sharp; society does – and only can – function through the capable participation of many. At times in our own history, however, large numbers of our people have slipped into malevolence, in opposition…

The Two Questions that Haunt Old Whitewater

Two questions haunt Old Whitewater (where Old Whitewater is a state of mind rather than an age or a particular person): What does it mean to be a college town? and What is meaningful community development? (There are other serious questions, but one can be sure – at the least – that these two have Whitewater…

Review: Everything Trump Touches Dies

Not everyone who opposes Trump does so from the same position or perspective; a picture that depicts his opponents only as Democrats and liberals is a pinched – and false – illustration. There are yet Republicans (and independents of no major party) who have and always will oppose Trump. Republicans (and this libertarian) who implacably…