ON THE BOOKSHELF – RINGSIDE SEAT
Today we are looking at a wonderful book about Wisconsin politics from the 1970’s to Scott Walker.
RINGSIDE SEAT by Senator Tim Cullen takes us through the governorship of Scott Walker and all of the bombs he dropped on Wisconsin, moving our state to the extreme right and insuring partisan politics. Wisconsin has never been as politically divided as it is now.
Senator Tim Cullen was born and raised in Janesville, Wisconsin. He is a graduate of UW-Whitewater. He served in the State Senate (1975 – 1987 and 2011 – 2015).
In 1987 he became Secretary of the Department of health and Social Services under Governor Tommy Thompson. In 1988 he took a job with Blue Cross which he held for 20 years.
Indeed, he has had a ringside seat during the Walker reign as well as the previous 12 governors. He gives a helpful perspective of the leadership of the previous 12 governors. They governed mostly from a centrist position. In 2010 voters never guessed that Walker would change all of that.
He wrote the book in long-hand and did not use a ghostwriter. He explains his purpose in writing the book: “This book is an effort to tell the true Wisconsin story, which is more important than any one person or any one governor.”
“This book is part memoir, part an attempt to be a political-instruction manual, part a history of the last 60 years of Wisconsin politics, part a critique of modern-day politics, and part a critique of Walker.”
Cullen continues: “I have not written this book to make friends. Nor have I written it to make enemies. I have tried as best I can to call it as I saw it.”
I had not realized before reading the book the power of the Wisconsin governor. The Office of Governor has more levels of power than any other state’s governor. One of them is the partial veto power. In 1930 a constitutional amendment gave the Wisconsin governor veto power over individual words, letters, digits and “appropriations by striking digits as long as what remains is a complete workable law. The governor may strike a number in an appropriation bill and write in a smaller one.
Since 1970, Wisconsin governors of both parties have “increased, expanded, and stretched their veto authority.”
To override a governor’s veto requires two-thirds vote in both houses. This usually does not happen which gives the governor enormous power. Cullen says that each succeeding governor regardless of party used the veto power more boldly and more frequently.
In addition, Wisconsin governors have included policy items in the budget. It is the easiest way to get these items passed.
Senator Cullen says that Act 10 was completely unnecessary. It was done by Governor Walker to advance his presidential aspirations, nothing more.
“It is clear to me now that Gov. Walker was running for the presidency from day one of his governorship. He clearly would know that the Republican nomination would be won in primaries where the voters are to the right of general Election Day Republicans and clearly to the right of a significant majority of voters in Wisconsin.”
“The Walker way is not the Wisconsin way and it will be reversed—the sooner, the better.”
Cullen points to the unity of Wisconsin beyond politics. Our state is special because of The Friday Night Fish Fry, the Green Bay Packers, Up North, Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin Badgers, Door County and Summerfest. We the people have much in common and will be united again.
In addition we can be hopeful because of the young people (30’s and younger) of the “Most Tolerant generation.” They believe in fair treatment of people in the workplace. They show concern for others.
Another reason for optimism is the Internet. We can communicate and organize for our causes more quickly and inexpensively. The “Internet is the little person’s counter to billionaire money in politics. Times will get better,” according to Senator Cullen.
After reading this book, I know more and feel better about Wisconsin politics. I invite you to do the same.