February 21, 2012
Common Ground Tour
Promotes Civility, Bipartisanship
When I served in the State Senate during the 1970s and 1980s, ideological differences between Democrats and Republicans were certainly present. As Majority Leader, I understood that while there were fundamental differences in the collective beliefs of both parties, Democrats could still work with Republicans in the name of serving Wisconsin. I found a conciliatory approach to be a responsible and effective way to lead the Senate.
This past year, the State Capitol has been home to the most divisive political war that I have seen in my adult lifetime. The result has been a greater wedge driven between Democrats and Republicans, with both sides digging in their heels, often refusing to extend an olive branch to members of the other party.
I believe that the majority of Wisconsinites want to see this political war come to an abrupt end. However, repairing the political rift will be anything but abrupt. This division has been growing for years, finally culminating in a year of political aggression never before seen under the Capitol dome.
When I decided to run for Senate in 2010, one of my top priorities was to work to restore civility to the legislature – a goal of mine well before Governor Walker announced he would work to end collective bargaining rights for public employees, an announcement that further divided an already polarized legislature. While the task is daunting, I believe that the legislature can – and should – work to return to an era of civility and mutual respect.
That is why Senator Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) and I launched our “Common Ground Tour” last summer. Together, Senator Schultz and I are touring Wisconsin and promoting our shared goal of restoring civility to Wisconsin politics. I was honored to welcome Senator Schultz to the 15th Senate District as we visited with local businesses and met some of the hard-working families in south central Wisconsin. I was grateful for the opportunity to meet with laborers and manufacturers in Sen. Schultz’s district as well.
Most recently, Senator Schultz and I were invited by the Rotary Club of Milwaukee to discuss political discourse in Wisconsin. We stressed that while we may not agree on every issue, there is still room for negotiation and compromise. While legislators may be more hesitant to end this political war, Wisconsin residents feel that they deserve a more considerate, deliberative, collaborative government that focuses less on party politics and more on policy that will help Wisconsin advance toward economic recovery.
I am confident that the Common Ground Tour can serve as a message to politicians that the general welfare of the state must be placed above the interests of any political party. It is my hope that Madison will begin to see more cooperation and less political posturing.
We owe it to our constituents and to the institution we are privileged to serve to perform our duties civilly and respectfully. We should be able to advance our beliefs on the chamber floor and then shake hands as we leave.