Vol. 11    No. 7
MARCH 31, 2016
Reflections/Jonathan Gramling
                                                 Elections & UW Incidents
I want to urge everyone to exercise their constitutional right and constitutional duty to vote on April 5, no matter which barriers have been
placed in people’s way during the past year by conservatives who are determined to rule Wisconsin as a minority and will let no method be
untried toward those ends. This right to vote in order to determine who makes laws and sets the conditions that impact your daily lives was
fought for with the blood of the civil rights and other movements. This mean-spirited, wholesale disenfranchisement of groups of people is being
done out of fear and not belief.

By almost it’s very definition, conservatism fears change and clings to the status quo. It is afraid of the changing demographics of our society
and desperately clings to a political past in which they do not have to interact with or take into account individuals and communities from
different ethnic backgrounds. They have been working to preserve that political past ever since President Obama was elected in 2008, in part,
because he won Wisconsin and the primarily white conservatives of Wisconsin realized they didn’t have the political power to prevent it.

Instead of appealing to the interests of communities of color in Wisconsin, al least enough to build a majority coalition, they chose to
disenfranchise enough people of color, students and the elderly to maintain their grip on power — with the help of the gerrymandering of
assembly and senate districts and the lavish spending by conservative groups like Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce — by passing
voter ID laws and severely limiting early voting.

But its driving force is a fear of change, a harkening back to a past in which they felt secure and when racism was a blatant part of the political
and social fabric of Wisconsin, a time when it was “okay” to use the “n-word” and other derogatory terms to show one’s white superiority. I
know this because I am related to some Tea Party members. There is a fear of people different than themselves, who don’t look like them and it
is a recognition of their own fear within themselves — no matter how misguided and ignorant — that makes them angry. They are mad and feel
vulnerable and they hate that in themselves and they turn that hate outwards.

And it is those raw feelings of fear and hate that are fueling the Donald Trump campaign, drawing people who feel that Donald Trump “tells it like
it is” even though he flops around on political stances and views like a fish floundering from the lack of water on a boat dock. But Trump is
perceived as someone who is going to make things safe for them again, who is going to make America great again — when did it stop being
great unless this is code for making white people great again — who is going to give them their superiority back so that they can boldly be “non-
politically correct” in their personal and political actions. The harnessing of these raw emotions was at first welcomed by the Republican
establishment and now feared by that same establishment because they do not control where that raw emotion is going, a raw emotion that
could very well tear their political party apart.

And I feel that some of this is spilling over onto the UW-Madison campus. There have been incidents where Jewish, African American, American
Indian and Asian American Indian students have been targeted by at best the ignorance and misguided reactions of other students  doing pranks
and at worse vicious, mean-spirited attacks in the spirit of the Tea Party movement. It is the political environment of mean-spiritedness and
viciousness that is giving “permission” to some to act these things out in their personal lives.

Now I feel that it is UW students — majority students and students of color — who must stand up to this and say that this doesn’t represent who
they are and what UW-Madison is about. They must say this because ultimately, this negative wave of emotion will negatively impact them all
and their futures — no matter what their ethnic background. No matter what the conservative wave of emotion is trying to do, the Wisconsin of
the 1950s no longer exists in Wisconsin, at least not as a way of life for the vast majority of Wisconsin citizens. Our complex society is
irreversibly multicultural, one that needs the skills and talents regardless of their ethnic and cultural heritage. UW students — and this is true for
all students — must learn to exist in, work in and succeed in the global, multicultural economy.

Incidents like the ones that the UW-Madison campus has experienced lately cheapen the UW brand. Corporations, governmental agencies, non-
profit organizations and other groups engaged in the global economy need employees who have been well-prepared to work in that
environment. If these isolated negative racial and cultural incidents are left to define what the UW experience is all about, it will eventually send
a signal that UW students are not prepared to meet that global challenge and will look elsewhere with their limited recruitment resources.

While these recent incidents, in my view, are morally wrong and driven by ignorance and lack of knowledge of people different than oneself and
need to be counteracted, all UW students must act against them in a non-violent manner if for no other reason than these incidents cheapen the
degree that they have paid dearly to earn or are earning.

And these incidents show that UW-Madison needs to do a better job — a most difficult and complex job — of creating situations and courses
where people from different walks of life learn from each other. I owe my multicultural life today to the courses I took in Afro-American history
and American Indian history as well as the out-of-classroom experiences I had going to reservations, rural Mississippi and even picketing for
the United Farm Workers. All of these laid the foundation for my ability to negotiate a multicultural society today. Those were different times back
then, but it is imperative that UW-Madison — administration, professors and staff and students — provide the opportunity for those interactions
and learning experiences in a modern-day context. These are not overnight solutions, but hopefully will lead to generations of students being
fully prepared to succeed in the multicultural society and economy that lies before them.

***

While I rarely do this, I urge people to get out and vote for Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg for Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice on April 5. I do this
primarily because of the lack of qualification of her opponent Justice Rebecca Bradley — not to be confused with Justice Ann Walsh Bradley.
During the past four years or more, Rebecca Bradley has been on the political fast-track to get to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, having been
appointed by Governor Scott Walker three times over more qualified and seasoned Republican judges. I have often wondered what makes her
so special to be moved up to the head of the class without paying her dues like the rest of us. Why her and not someone else?

And now recently, it has been revealed that Justice Rebecca Bradley had written some vicious and ignorant anti-gay pieces for the Marquette
University student newspaper when she was a student there. Bradley id quoted as saying, “How sad that the lives of degenerate drug addicts
and queers are valued more than the innocent victims of more prevalent ailments.”

While Walker has defended her by saying that her views had changed, I haven’t seen them trot out any later columns or videos that show she
has changed her views. I haven’t seen any confessionals that were done before she called out for it. Is this a change of heart driven by political
expediency or by a realization that she was wrong? All we have is her word that her views have changed. That is not enough. She shouldn’t be
a Wisconsin Supreme Court until she gets more experience and has demonstrated that her change of attitude is real and permanent. Otherwise
there will be people in Wisconsin who will wonder if they can ever get equal justice under the law. Vote Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg.