Politics: Can't we all get along? - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Politics: Can't we all get along?

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WAUSAU (WAOW) -- The Wisconsin political scene has attracted national attention this year.

As many as 100,000 protestors gathered in Madison, and nine recall elections took place across the state this summer. Now, a recall election for governor looks promising.

But many people say the large political divide in the state is taking a toll. So how did we get here?

Many are quick to blame Gov. Scott Walker. In February, thousands of protestors descended on Madison. They were angry at Walker's proposal taking away most collective bargaining rights from most public workers. Fourteen Democratic senators even left the state, which further split communication.

But the bill passed and survived court challenges. But now, nine months later, the political tension has not cooled.

Some protestors still gather outside the Capitol and at Walker's public appearances throughout the state. And just this week, Capitol Police reported an online death threat targeting the governor.

Have we reached a new low? Well, not according to history.

Way back in 1804, former Vice President Aaron Burr got upset over some things Alexander Hamilton had said. He challenged Hamilton to a duel. Hamilton was shot and later died, casting political infighting in a whole new light.

But history aside, the debate in Wisconsin has become divisive. So what happened?

"I unfortunately think that much of that attack that has added to the rhetoric has come from a handful of folks who really want this state to be divided," said Gov. Walker in an interview with Newsline 9. Walker says he tried to challenge the status quo and save the state money, which he says caused the backlash.

"The changes we made are not unrealistic with what everybody else outside of government is doing," said Walker.

But he admits he did make some mistakes and, that if he could go back, he would do some things differently.

"It is a lesson for the future about bringing people in, explaining a little bit more, understanding why we need to do this," said Walker.

Eric Giordano, UWMC political science professor, says Walker's proposals definitely contributed to the current climate.

"We've had a lot of attempts to change things in a very dramatic and sort of far-reaching way," said Giordano. "We're not used to seeing large changes of that magnitude."

But Giordano says it goes beyond collective bargaining, that the media is partly to blame.

"On the right we have FOX News, on the left we have MSNBC, and really an availability of media that conforms to people's pre-existing views," said Giordano.

And, he says, it's taken a toll.

"I think it would be great if we could get back to some sense of compromise in our state," said Giordano.

But that isn't happening just yet. The divisive political climate in Wisconsin led to several recall elections earlier this year. And now, efforts are underway to recall the governor.

Supporters of a recall have to gather more than half a million signatures. Union representative John Spiegelhoff is part of that effort.

"We've always been a progressive state," said Spiegelhoff. "Many of the progressive values that have been in place for decades have been stripped away."

He acknowledges the political scene in Wisconsin has gotten ugly, and admits the recent recall elections were painful. But he still says recalling the governor is necessary.

"It's going to send a message that corporations and the influence that they have on our politics is going to be outright rejected," said Spiegelhoff.

The governor says if a recall happens, he'll be ready.

"I look forward to the opportunity to actually tell our story, to tell how the reforms are working," said Walker.

Giordano says he thinks the recall will happen, and that it might even help the state heal—regardless of the outcome.

"I think things will be settled to some extent after the recall," said Giordano.

Perhaps this will help Wisconsin have a calmer and more civil year in 2012.

Online Reporter: Daniel Woodruff

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