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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Issue of the Week: Wisconsin After the Recall

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The Shepherd Express goes to press before the polls close on Election Day, so at this moment we don't know whether Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four Republican senators will survive their recall elections, or whether Democrats Tom Barrett, Mahlon Mitchell and four challengers will be sent to Madison.

What we do know is that Wisconsin cannot repeat the division and polarization we have experienced in the past 18 months.

Politics is the art of the possible. When one party controls both houses of the Legislature and the governor's office, it is possible to pass radical legislation with a majority of one vote.

But is it wise to govern in the interest of one party? Absolutely not. Because politics, ultimately, is about people. If you push through legislation on major issues by one vote, you're going to generate a strong reaction because you're disenfranchising about half of the population. If, instead, you reach a broader consensus and use incremental changes to build upon the past, you'll pass legislation by wider margins and avoid the divisiveness that has marked our recent political landscape.

An inclusive decision-making process tends to result in incremental change. Nobody gets everything that they want, but most people get at least something from the bargain and they can live with the result because they were part of the decision-making process. The decision can be altered in the future, but those alterations will be based on more discussion, more experience, more voices calling for change.

That's precisely what we need the day after this recall election and all days after that. Wisconsin needs an inclusive, transparent and civil government that benefits the vast majority of the state, not just the political party in charge, no matter which party is in charge.

As former President Bill Clinton said in Pere Marquette Park last week, "Everywhere I go in America and everywhere I go in the world, the only thing that's working is when you get everybody who's got a stake in the game in there and you treat them with respect and move forward together."

Let's hope that whoever wins on Tuesday listens to Clinton's message and takes it to heart.

Hero of the Week
: Erica John of NewThreads of Hope

In 1987, Erica John helped a major retailer donate excess merchandise to local charities. Inspired by the experience, John founded NewThreads of Hope, which links manufacturers and retailers and their surplus products, samples and returns with community-based social service agencies, schools and faith-based organizations.

By year's end, NewThreads will have distributed more than $100 million worth of new clothing, shoes and bed, bath and household items to nonprofit agencies serving the needs of the less fortunate, children and seniors. On Monday, NewThreads celebrated the achievement by honoring John for her leadership, vision, dedication and financial support.

NewThreads relies heavily on volunteers to fulfill its mission. Readers interested in helping to sort, process or distribute donated items are encouraged to visit www.newthreads.org.
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