In national news, Amy Klobuchar asks Joe Biden
to name a black, female running mate
Tommy Thompson is an argument for the Great Man theory of history. Examinations of mass movements and socio-economic factors are instructive (if a little Marxist) but the occasional supernova individual bends history to his making.
Want to argue this?
Tommy Thompson was the most consequential governor since the first La Follette (1901-1906) and the under-appreciated Francis McGovern, who presided over the historic 1911 legislature that created worker’s comp and a host of other programs.
⇒ In the intervening 70 years, Gaylord Nelson (state parks), Warren Knowles (Interstate highway system — my father chaired the Assembly Highway Committee), and Patrick Lucey (merged the two state university systems) were near-great governors. Maybe Phil La Follette during the 1930s.
What’s more, Tommy Thompson made his magic against (and sometimes in concert with) Democrats controlling one or both houses of the legislature for most of his record 14 years (3½ terms) in office. Plus, the former U.S. Secretary of Health’s background (2001-05) and sincere interest in health will serve the state well in the novel coronavirus pandemic (over-hyped though it is).
The head groundskeeper at the Werkes was privileged to work for the man — never worked so hard in my life but he worked harder. Tommy knows how to bend the bureaucracy to his will while winning over (or, at the least, neutralizing) the various constituencies. Believe him when he vows to be the university system’s “biggest advocate and toughest evaluator.”
A big-tent reformer
Tommy Thompson was (and we hope still is) a reformer! He reformed welfare with work-to-independence programs and liberals hated him for it because the progressive enterprise requires victims as its raison d’etre. He reformed education with school choice to help minority students succeed. His reward: teachers unions and their political party (and fellow travelers in the news media) despised him. Tommy Thompson in 1986 said the Badgers would go to the Rose Bowl and the Green Bay Packers would win the Super Bowl and the cognoscenti sneered that he was a cheerleader.
Wisconsin needed a cheerleader then
and it needs one now.
⇒ Thompson also set aside more acreage for conservation than any governor before or since and started BadgerCare.
Don’t know how much gas in the tank Tommy has at age 78 — people who have seen him more recently than I say he looks great; he’s taken up bicycling — but our guess is that he’s still running on high octane.
He is justly revered by the Republicans in the sometimes antagonist legislature now feuding with a weak governor addicted to educational faddism. What the University of Wisconsin most emphatically did NOT need was another Jennifer Cheatham or a faceless educational bureaucrat, an Ade Sponberg type (if anyone still remembers that athletic director, way over his head, in the Don Morton era). Who WAS that guy from Alaska, anyway? Sarah Palin’s ex?
Won’t be a placeholder
Thompson should immediately move to protect open intellectual inquiry and free speech on campus, including that of conservatives. The entire grievance studies scaffolding should be put on the curb. One or two campuses — and several two-year campuses — need to be consolidated. Tommy will help recruit superstar researchers. Better should be his mantra, not bigger.
Was surprised to learn today that the president of the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents has the power to unilaterally, appoint interim presidents of the System. If so, Regent Drew Peterson (who?) appointed well. Bonus points for appointing an old white male in the teeth of the identity politics storm.
Blaska’s Bottom Lines: Tommy gets at least one year at the helm. The Regents should give him two more right off the bat. Universities are in crisis whether they know it or not.
If the Madison school board had any sense (there is no evidence for it) it would appoint a Tommy Thompson (maybe a few years younger) as its superintendent. It would name Kaleem Caire.