“Hubris” -the likely downfall of Gov. Walker?

Marc Seals. a former public school teacher and current WI college professor, wrote this next piece.  So much of what he wrote expresses the true realities of what is going on…a great read!

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Here is an op-ed piece that I wrote that the paper would not run (because of length)….  Share or repost at will, but I ask that my name remains as author. – Marc Seals

After nearly two decades of being a Republican, I must face the reality that my party has abandoned me.

In the early 1990s, I became a registered Republican.  I was a public school English teacher in Georgia who felt betrayed by the leftward shift of the Democratic Party; it seemed that there was no longer room for moderate or conservative Democrats.  I took call for the Republican Party to be a “big tent” at face value and jumped ship.

I was strongly opposed to the idea of teachers being unionized.  Unions were for blue-collar workers, I thought.  Unions create an antagonistic relationship between employees and management, I thought.  In fact, I was the campus representative for two non-union teachers associations– the Professional Association of Georgia Educators and the Professional Educators’ Network (in Florida).  These organization existed to provide an alternative to the teachers’ unions; even so, I never heard anyone within those organizations say that the unions did not have a fundamental right to exist.

Even when I returned to graduate school, I stuck by my conservative principles.  This was rather lonely at times, I will confess, but I believe that education should not be a partisan issue.  I have never voted straight party line, because I agree with the Clinton-era Republican mantra that “character counts.”  Nevertheless, I have voted for far more Republicans than Democrats over the last two decades. 

I finally earned my PhD in 2004 (after ten years of college), and I moved to Wisconsin to take a position on the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Baraboo/Sauk County.  The pay here was quite a bit lower than in other Midwestern states, but the benefits package helped make up for that.  We were paid less because the benefits were more generous.  I fell in love with Wisconsin and the Baraboo community.  I have become a die-hard Packers fan.  I root for the Badgers (unless they are playing my alma mater).  I have endured the coldest weather in decades (2006) and the snowiest winter on record (2007) with my smile intact.  In short, I have made this my home.

Every year that I have lived here, we have not received even a cost of living increase; we accepted this because we were told that it was the only way that we could keep our benefits package.  When the economy sunk into recession, we had a legislatively approved raise taken away and replaced by furloughs that amounted to a 3% cut in pay.   We have endured this pay cut for each of the last two years.  When people ask what I make as a professor, I ask them what they think I make– they usually guess a sum that is at least twice my salary.  In addition, we accepted larger class sizes (and thus a larger grading burden) to help the state balance the budget.

Now the governor says that it is time that state employees pay their share.  After years of flat salaries and even pay cuts, to hear that we have not sacrificed is insulting and disingenuous.  I teach 100 students a semester in classes in American literature, film, and composition.  I am the faculty sponsor of the Navigators Christian Fellowship, the faculty sponsor of the UW-BSC Disc Golf Club, and the Director of the Honors Program.  I work about sixty hours a week (because that is how long it takes to do my job well).  In short, I work hard and (I think) do a good job (as may be evidenced by the fact that three times in four years, the students have selected me as “faculty member of the year”). 

The so-called Budget Repair Bill will represent a reduction in my take-home pay of somewhere between 8 and 13 percent, depending upon whose figures you believe.  A cut like this will be devastating to my family.  I fear that we will need to sell our home.  We may even need to seek employment elsewhere.  This prospect would break my heart, because I really do love it here.  Governor Walker has said that we are the “haves.”  A comment to a recent Baraboo News Republic letter to the editor suggested that all the professors drove Jaguars and Mercedes.  No one on our campus drives anything like that.  (I, for the record, drive a 2003 Honda with a check-engine light that has been on for six years, a broken door lock, and a malfunctioning interior light.) 

Even so, I find it most distressing that the bill takes away the right of workers to have collective bargaining.  Wisconsin was the pioneer of workers’ rights 75 years ago; it is disheartening to watch this reversed.  The United Nations’ “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” (to which the United States is a signatory)  asserts “that recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”; this declaration lists as one of its articles “Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his [or her] interests.”  The faculty at UW-BSC are not unionized.  In fact, very few of the 26 institutions within the University of Wisconsin system have voted to unionize.  This may very well be because we wanted to avoid an antagonistic stance toward administration and the legislature.  That antagonism is, sadly, now a foregone conclusion. 

I will not revisit in any detail the arguments that show the absurdity of Governor Walker’s arguments.  It has been well-documented that Governor Walker is misrepresenting the fiscal crisis for political gain; regardless, he has clearly overplayed his hand.  A poll released this week shows that the majority of Wisconsinites agree.  Governor Walker does not seem concerned, insisting that he is backed by a “quiet majority.”  If he valued education enough to listen, I could teach him about the Greek concept of hubris—excessive pride or self-confidence to the point of dismissive arrogance.  Hubris was the downfall of many Greek heroes, and it will likely prove to be Governor Walker’s downfall as well. 

The recording of the prank phone call released Wednesday demonstrates that the governor is willing to engage in dirty political tricks, duping Democratic senators into returning to Madison.  Even more damaging was the confession that he considered planting troublemakers in amongst the peaceful demonstrators.  Finally, he agreed to accept an illegal trip to California.  If this administration is what the Republican Party has become, then I must wonder where that leaves me.  I know where it leaves Walker– poised to hand the state back to the Democrats in the next election cycle and become a footnote in state history.

Personally, I pray that Governor Walker listens to the voters and sits down with the opposition to negotiate.  Regardless, I want him to know one thing—I want my party back.

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12 Responses to ““Hubris” -the likely downfall of Gov. Walker?”

  1. love this! tweeting it to all my friends.

    Miriam

  2. Marc,

    Wonderful article Marc. Thank you for writing this piece. I have been praying for all the folks I care about in Madison. I live in ABQ now, but I grew up in Pointski and call Madison home.

    Sincerely,

    Barbara Korbal

  3. Where are my rights to not join the union or to pay dues to the union who inturn donates my money to the democrat party? Answer that one! I’m a city worker and I was required to join the union! If you say that I didn’t have to take the job my reply is this is still America not china!

  4. I am a recently laid-off teacher in NY state, and am anxiously watching the events in Madison. I believe all parties must work together to solve the financial problems that are too big for any one or two entities to solve by themselves. There must be shared sacrifice, including by big business and the rich. Painting teachers and professors as “the haves” and as lazy and overpaid is not only insulting, but divides us further from each other. the rich get richer, the poor, poorer, the middle class, shrinking more and more. Everyone has a fundamental right to health care, to adequate food, housing, education, and liberty to work and form relationships (trade unions, clubs, even marriages!) with whom they wish, free from discrimination.

  5. and a sad foot note he will be. Im fairly certain the republican party will be swept out of both houses next time around.

  6. Mr Sears, I’m behind you guys, my family supports you guys, and I know thousands across this great land are behind all of you. Brilliant letter, the demonizing of our educators has to stop.
    James Hale, Little Rock, Arkansas.

  7. Thank you Mr. Sears. A well written, easily understood letter that addresses the current problems in Madison. I am a retired teacher from Michigan and the situation is very similar here.
    Public employees-teachers, nurses ,fire fighters, police, and government workers are the foundation of a democratic society. We give up the ability to make a lot of money for job sercuity. We ask for the basic human right of having our voice heard and listened to by management, ie Collective bargaining.
    Does Governor Walker care about reelection? No, he will have delivered the unions and public utilities to big business in four years and they will then take care of him. Am I right? Stay tuned . The future has is a scary place with people like him in office.

  8. Sorry for my lack of compassion: You shoveled your own grave. And not only that, you helped shovel the graves of many people all over the world (literally of those in Afghanistan and Iraq, figuratively of many others in the US and other countries) affected by greedy and brutal Republican politics.

    I can’t help being reminded of what Niemöller wrote after the war:

    First they came for the socialists,
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a socialist
    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a trade unionist.
    Then they came for the Jews,
    and I did not speak out
    because I was not a Jew.
    Then they came for me,
    and there was no one left
    to speak for me.

    (Martin Niemöller, pastor, survivor of Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps)

    Don’t want your party back. Become reasonable. Contracts with the devil are rarely to your advantage.

  9. Mr Seals is to be commended for an accurate summary of the facts facing most American public employees. However, if all he gets out of it is that he wants the Republican Party back, his suffering will be completely in vain.

    While I’m sure his ideas on politics are well-reasoned, they are also based on complacent Middle Class assumptions based on an illusory media-driven post-Reagan corporate dream world. The two parties became Republican and Republican Lite. Everything was fine, now go shopping.

    As so many conservative middle class working stiffs are suddenly seeing now, everything was and is not fine, What’s needed now is to make sure they figure out that things will never be fine if a party that was hijacked by the plutocrats 40 years ago simply goes back to acting nice while they rob the nation of its true wealth to make the super-rich even richer.

  10. Bottom line..can’t keep ignoring the stae of WI is broke. Need to make cuts or raise taxes.
    Detroit, MI is considering closing 30% of the public schools.

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