Wanted: political courage
Former mayor Dave Cieslewicz has a brand new blog (wasn’t that a James Brown song?): Yellow Stripes & Dead Armadillos. (Those being the only things found in the middle of the road, it is said.) His blog’s subhead says it all: “a safe place for moderates in a polarized world.”
Says something about Madison WI that moderates need a Safe Place. But this is the Midwest hdq of the Cancel Culture, where debate is conducted with baseball bats, bullhorns, and F-bombs. (Yeah, the Proud Boys were late to the game.)
Cieslewicz (pronounced exactly as spelled) observes that a political entity known as Progressive Dane operates city government. Indeed, nine of its 20 alders are dues-paying members, as is Mayor Satya, and several more vote with PD.
The former mayor (2003 to 2011) bemoans that local Democrats have yielded the playing field to PD’s aggrieved cadres but knowledges that Madison Dems are, by and large, just as warped. “I’m eager to see some left-center organization take its place in local politics,” Dave writes.
In lieu of such a political party, an entity called “Save Madison” is raging against the dying of the light. Billboards around town make an elemental point: crime is up even as Progressives defund the police, derail the jail, and expel cops from schools. Kids — especially those of color — are the victims.
“Political malpractice!” the mild-mannered former mayor thunders (sort of). Of next April’s municipal elections: “Lots of voters would support more creative approaches to crime, but few would support slashing police budgets.” Cieslewicz asks whether Save Madison is anything more than a one man band, that being second-generation Madison property developer Eric Hovde. He bases that hypothesis on the excellent journalism of Dylan Brogan in Isthmus.
Brogan wrote that its organizers ”are … something of a mystery to even those steeped in city politics” — but induced Hovde to step forward.
“In the last few years, public safety has really declined. Particularly in this last year, rather meaningfully so,” Hovde tells Isthmus. “The council has done nothing but attack the police. I mean, how many oversight boards do we need? And at the same time this is happening, we’ve had an 80% increase in shootings.”
Hovde says the current political climate in Madison makes it difficult for individuals who support law enforcement to speak out publicly — let alone run for local office.
“Just look at what happened to Gloria Reyes,” says Hovde, referring to the former police officer who currently serves on the Madison school board. In June Black Lives Matter activists protested outside her home when the school board was debating the presence of police in the schools. “[Protesters] showed up at her house and made threats and all the rest. I mean, that’s intimidating for a lot of people.”
“A large part of the Madison electorate agrees,” Cieslewicz writes. “A lot of us would like to have the option of voting for candidates who are not as ideological as those offered by PD.
Blaska’s Bottom Line: Madison’s grievance culture will pillory “Save Madison” as a Republican production based on the fact that Hovde ran for the U.S. Senate as a Republican in 2012. (Tommy Thompson beat him in the primary, then lost to Tammy Baldwin.) That would be unfair because, from what the Werkes has been able to discern, blue collar trades unionists, card-carrying Democrats, and others are also involved.
You’ll know they have succeeded when Madison moderates once again feel safe to speak out. Until then, they have plate glass to protect.