Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Selling my soul at the polls

It’s been over 24 hours, and I still feel dirty.

I wasn’t sure until the last second. There I stood, perched in position to do the unthinkable. I twitched, flinched.

“Get yourself together, Cullen,” I snapped to myself.

“He-who-hesitates-is-lost-He-who-hesitates-is-lost-He-who-hesitates-is-lost . . . Geez, why do I have to be the one who’s found?”

My hand was shaking.

“I’m gonna do this . . . this isn’t right, even if it’s legal . . . You weren’t raised to lie. You weren’t raised to be a ninny.

“You’ve never been this close. Just go through with it, it’s for the greater good.”

So I bit my tongue and pissed on everything I was ever taught, ever loved or ever believed in.

I voted for Kathleen Falk.

Sure enough, I dang done did it Tuesday — shedding not only my ideology, but also my idyllic regard for the American electoral process. And all for naught; all she could muster was a meager 29 percent of the vote, which, in retrospect, isn’t all that bad. As of a few months ago, even that figure seemed a long shot.

But my carefully plotted strategy failed, and our affable, if fallible, governor will have to face Jim Doyle in Wisconsin politics’ very own battle royale.

I don’t much care for Doyle, and I don’t say that as a conservative.

I’ve genuinely enjoyed the interactions I have had with Tom Barrett. Kathleen Falk I carry a tolerant respect for, despite the target on her back. Doyle, on the other hand reminds me of a salamander. He slithers.

Part of me says this won’t even be close. No one has ever seen McCallum on his or her ballot before, and not a soul is going to mistake him for Tommy Thompson. The economy could certainly be healthier, and state government’s general reputation could certainly improve.

Doyle is a big name, and he has the ability to bring in big money. He’s tied to teachers and unions in a state where we like to learn stuff and build stuff. All this said, the cherry on top of Doyle’s candidacy is fat, red, juicy and painfully obvious:

It’s the second week of September, and he’s polling consistently ahead of an incumbent, well outside the margin of error.

All this bodes nay for the McCallum folk, who are most decidedly trailing at halftime in their home stadium. And this, as they say, is the Michigan game.

Granted, the governor is primed for the fight. Money isn’t an issue, and his image has improved over the last few months. In essence, he has his helmet and shoulder pads on. His spikes are laced, his jersey clean, and his mouth guard is in place. But his jock is on the outside of his pants.

So forgive more Madden-esque euphemisms, but here, as I see them, are McCallum’s “keys to victory” — what needs to be done to trim that polling deficit, patch up that record and clean up that image.

1) Get down and dirty. We all know nobody is going to pull any punches in this one. Yeah, yeah, the primary was pretty clean, but that was a dress rehearsal.
Doyle was the only one with anything to lose. The other two weren’t banking their political futures on this race, and Doyle never trailed. Come out of the gate pulling hair and chop-blocking.

2) Be nice to your sideline. Calling the municipal leaders of your state “big spenders” in a time of national economic crisis isn’t going to win you any friends. Yes, cutting shared revenue was the only economically sound solution to the problem at hand.

But be gentle. You’re a politician, after all. And most mayors of the little hamlets we pass through on the bus are Republicans, or they were eight months ago.

3) Win over the rural population. They own guns. They might be unionized, but they probably work pretty hard.

They don’t want the EPA telling them not to plow over an endangered slug. They’re patriotic. They go to church on Sundays. They’re frugal. Whether they know it or not, they’re Republicans. Convince them of it.

4) Forget Dane County, for all of the reasons I listed above.

5) Cut taxes, cut spending. Your opponent has some vague prescription for appeasing every special-interest group under the sun with some neo-Keynesian gobbledygook. Keep it simple and keep your base from slipping any toward Mayor Ed from Tomah.

6) Win the ground war. Yard signs don’t vote, but they demoralize the opposition, and people notice them. The above-mentioned Ed Thompson couldn’t find a decent sentence if he had the works of Shakespeare in front of him, but people have noticed his sharp black and gold placards.

7) Get a haircut. I’m serious on this one. The parted-on-the- right gig might have been cool back when you were up for State Assembly. This is the show, and you don’t have anything going on a little gel and Just for Men wouldn’t fix.

All told, my call is for a 52-48 win for the gov — but remember, you’re reading a guy who thought Kathleen Falk was a legitimate choice for victory Tuesday.

All political ranting aside, I just couldn’t let this column pass without some mention of yesterday’s events.

I watched a little network coverage in the morning. I found the reading of the names in New York absolutely touching and the ceremony at the Pentagon visually awesome.

But I turned it all off. I could have done without all of the talking heads. Just let us listen to the names, and hear the music . . . but, of course, they couldn’t.

I actually found the most poignant reminder of that horrific day when I walked out in the street some time later.

Did anyone else notice the weather today?

When I, God willing, sit down to tell my grandkids about Sept. 11, 2001, I’ll start by telling them it was the most perfect day you could ever imagine.

As I am sure you remember, the air had a sharp, crisp, rare quality — a truly beckoning purity. The breeze was just comfortable enough to be noticed, and not a cloud was in sight. It felt like the last peaceful day of a beautiful summer before the grip of autumn took hold. And it was, all day.

And, so Sept. 11, 2002.

The air was just the same. The breeze hardly noticeable, and the clouds had taken leave. The first beautiful day after a long-awaited break in the heat.

Somehow, yesterday felt a lot more like spring.


— Eric Cullen ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in political science and history.

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