Needed: Conscience and courage

Jamakaya, Columnist

As the fall chill takes hold, we can mope about the prospect of another long, dreary winter or make plans to shake up our lives and make good use of our time.

What’s true for our personal lives is equally true for our political climate.

Many liberals are discouraged by the endless stream of inanities from right-wing media, Congressional committees and Republican presidential candidates. Corporate shills vigorously deny global warming despite growing evidence of rising temperatures, deforestation, ocean acidification and species extinction.

Closer to home, Gov. Scott Walker and his GOP majorities in our Legislature continue to destroy multi-party, transparent government. Their methods are legion: gerrymandering legislative districts; prohibiting prosecutors from conducting John Doe investigations into corrupt practices; increasing the amount of allowable political campaign contributions while enabling donor anonymity; eliminating civil service rules that prevent cronyism; trying to trash our open records law; dismantling the nonpartisan board that oversees ethics and accountability; depressing voter participation through restrictive, confusing voter ID laws; restricting local ballot initiatives.

With Wisconsin in the grip of incipient fascism, it’s not the time for us to hibernate. There are many opportunities to get involved and help to turn our state back to a progressive path.

Contact the League of Women Voters (608-256-0827) or the Democratic Party in your region of the state to participate in voter education and registration drives. The GOP is counting on chaos and low voter turnout in next year’s elections. You can take an active role in seeing their plans crushed. At a minimum, make sure that you and everyone you know has the proper ID and knows when and where to vote.

I am far to the left of the Democratic Party, but I’m also a pragmatist. Democrats are the most viable alternative to the GOP right now. The GOP has a 63–36 majority in the state Assembly and a 19–14 majority in the Senate. It will be difficult to turn that around, but it’s not impossible. It wasn’t long ago that we had a Democratic governor and Democratic majority in the Senate.

I urge you to contact the Democratic Party and get active in campaigns, canvassing, issues research, social media and other forms of organizing. Participation of this kind has many benefits, including new skills, friendships and adventures. You can change your life while you change our state.

The Wisconsin Legislature is in session through Dec. 31. GOP leaders are promoting more legislation that will restrict public oversight and women’s reproductive freedom. 

Your voice matters. When issues concern you, call, write or email your representatives. Sign up for Twitter and email alerts from your favorite advocacy organizations. Planned Parenthood Advocates kept me informed daily during its federal funding crisis and allows me to send messages to my elected officials with just one keystroke. 

Spread the word and activate your family, friends and workmates. It is only through individual initiative that we will rescue democratic governance in our state.

“In a democracy,” wrote Marilynne Robinson, “abdications of conscience are never trivial. A successful autocracy rests on the universal failure of individual courage.”

In Wisconsin, it’s time we put conscience and courage into high gear.