Vol. 6    No. 7
APRIL 7, 2011

The Capital City Hues
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Jonathan Gramling
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These sure are restive days. I’m glad that I live in a country like the United States because of the
way that we settle our political differences. But just because one lives in a democracy doesn’t
mean that there are democratic results.

Take Côte d’Ivoire in West Africa, for instance. The elections held there back in 2010 had
Alassane Ouattara beating the incumbent Laurent Gbagbo. Well Gbadbo disputed the election
results, which had been certified by the UN and stayed in power over the next five months. There
has been bloodshed spilled by both sides in the country since then and as I write Ouattara’s
supporters have militarily surrounded Gbagbo’s compound with Gbagbo holed up in an
underground bunker with 150 of his supporters.

Now let us take it back to Wisconsin and the election of the Wisconsin Supreme Court justice. The
initial results had shown challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg defeating the incumbent Justice David
Prosser by 204 votes. Something like that in the Côte d’Ivoire would have had both sides tensed
up.

But then news came that a longtime Republican operative who worked for Prosser over 20 years
ago, had been elected Waukesha County Clerk and had been criticized in the past for how she
handled election data, suddenly turned up 14,000 votes for the city of Brookfield, which swung the
election to Prosser by over 7,000 votes. Something like this certainly would have had the sides
up in arms in Côte d’Ivoire.

But here in Wisconsin we have fundamental faith in our democratic institutions because more
often than not, they get it right. So the Waukesha County Clerk is apologizing for her oversight and
the supporters of Kloppenburg are talking about a recount. Since the Republican majority is
always so concerned about voter fraud as evidenced by their Voter ID bill, I would hope that they
would join in asking for a recount to make sure that the election was fair and above board. After
all, principle is principle no matter which way the cards fall isn’t it?

But I am so glad that the threat of violence does not linger in the air and that we do have solid
democratic institutions in spite of the fact that Big Money seems determined to buy these
institutions as well and may someday be viewed as not being democratic at all if it appears that
Big Money is the only vote that counts.

And I look back to the 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama and the We Are One concert
at the Lincoln Memorial replete with Lincoln descendent actor Tom Hanks reading from Lincoln’s
work. The imagery of that concert was very powerful with the comparisons of a divided nation in
1860 and 2008. I came away from that concert feeling that Obama felt he was at a similar point in
history as Lincoln with intransigent sides to his left and his right and with the country facing the
brink of Civil War.

The Civil War that Obama faces is not a violent battle, but an electoral civil war that is poised to
tear the country asunder with the pending shutdown of the federal government, which could
impede or neutralize our present economic recovery and stop the provision of many needed —
but not deemed essential, since when is food, shelter and clothing not essential — services.

Ever since he took office, Obama has been acting as the conciliatory one as he also took on
drastic measures to save the nation’s economic system. I guess the good news here is that the
federal stimulus that Obama got passed in 2009 is taking hold and the ranks of the unemployed
are being slowly reduced. I know the Republicans will find some way to try and take that away
from him and claim the recovery for themselves although they haven’t enacted any meaningful
legislation since the November 2010 elections.

Any casual observance of the present federal budget deliberations reveals that Congress is
severely divided and that people are already acting as if the 2012 election season is already upon
us — and maybe it is. I think the intransigence is also spurred on by the presence of the Tea Party
in the Republican ranks and Republicans who might have been in a mood of compromised are
spurred on to intransigence lest the Tea Party activate their ranks to challenge them in the 2012
elections and beyond.

We are in an electoral civil war state. I am glad that we are not at a place to follow Côte d’Ivoire’s
example.
Reflections/Jonathan Gramling   
                     Electoral Civil War