Last week, The Badger Herald Editorial Board met with Reps. Mark Pocan and Brett Hulsey, both Democratic legislators from Madison. While both had similar ideologies, one thing was abundantly clear: we need more legislators like Pocan and fewer like Hulsey.
During our meeting with Pocan, he spoke with melancholy of the ever-growing tension between the Wisconsin Democrats and Republicans, and the need to repair this broken relationship.
He said this animosity stems from the mass protests last year. Republicans are upset because the Democrats walked out on them and demonized them in front of the public, and the Democrats are upset that Gov. Scott Walker never met with the party leaders. Furthermore, Republicans are continually fast-tracking controversial legislation. With both sides still licking their wounds and holding grudges, no one is willing to cooperate long enough to repair the rift.
Before then, Democrats and Republicans were able to put aside ideology in order to compromise and even form friendships with each other. Pocan spoke fondly of his close friendship with Rep. Robin Vos, R-Burlington, with whom he co-chaired the Joint Finance Committee. He also emphasized a need to return to a friendly, more bipartisan environment.
According to Pocan, this recent shift has been especially detrimental to the freshman representatives, who have only seen the volatile and hostile side of Wisconsin politics and think that is the way discourse is supposed to work.
This was evident in our meeting with freshman representative Hulsey, who was extremely hostile toward Republicans the minute he sat down. He spoke of thwarting legislation instead of working toward a solution and was not shy about attacking Republican legislators.
At one point during the meeting, when asked what his goals were for the rest of the legislative session, Hulsey went so far as to say all Republicans are evil and his job is to keep as much evil out of Wisconsin as possible.
Attitudes like this are keeping Wisconsin from moving forward past all the hate and controversy which occurred last year. By being so completely polarized, legislators like Hulsey are unwilling to work together and are turning every piece of legislation into all-out partisan warfare. This uncompromising animosity is standing in the way of legislators like Pocan, who are trying to repair this relationship for the better of the state and its citizens.
This state needs more legislators like Pocan and fewer like Hulsey on both sides of the aisle. Only when both parties are able to sit down together and rationally discuss legislation can we move toward a better Wisconsin.
Alex Brousseau (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a second year law student.