For the past few years, America’s political climate could best be described as tumultuous. Wisconsin, of course, is no exception.
As the gubernatorial race looms ever closer, the actions of each candidate become increasingly more important — even actions as seemingly insignificant as a tweet. Sadly, the fact that the political landscape can shift after the tapping of a few buttons is not unfamiliar, but the premise is still equally as terrifying. It’s not hard to see how influential President Donald Trump’s Twitter is and Wisconsin’s leaders have launched their own sprees.
Moments after Madison Mayor Paul Soglin declared his candidacy for the 2018 gubernatorial race, Gov. Scott Walker unleashed a Twitter tirade against the newest democratic candidate, tweeting “The last thing we need is more Madison in our lives. [Soglin] is the latest extreme liberal who wants to take our state backward—just like he did in Madison, where businesses have left and murders have gone up. We want to go forward.”
Though a tweet may seem childish and innocuous, the action itself raises some flags.
It’s not as if Walker needs to make Soglin’s race for governor even more difficult. Just getting through the primary will be a challenge as Soglin is one of the 19 Democrats vying for the nomination.
Of those 19, Soglin is the ninth candidate with previous political experience and significant wealth to enter the primary. He is also entering a field in which he is not the only liberal. In fact, he’s not even the only liberal from Madison. The overcrowding in the Democratic race for governor renders many of his would-be advantages worthless. Furthermore, running for governor as a mayor is extremely challenging.
Take it from Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who lost to Walker in the 2010 election and 2012 recall. Only six former mayors have been elected governor of Wisconsin and only one of those six was from Madison.
The path to the governor’s office is not going to be easy for our mayor, but the incorrect claims within Walker’s tweet may remove some obstacles. The governor claims business have left Madison, yet within Soglin’s last term as mayor, private sector employment in Dane County has risen 15 percent, compared to 9 percent statewide. Unemployment in Madison is only 2.1 percent, which is again lower than the state’s 3.2. If anything, Madison is an economic powerhouse for the state of Wisconsin, one Walker should be proud to work in.
Murders in Madison have increased slightly but eight murders in 2016 to 11 in 2017 is hardly a trend. Murder is a crime with a low base rate, so one or two more incidents from year to year may be the difference between a plateau and a 33 percent increase. One year is not enough time to deduce an increase in the murder rate.
Even if one were to believe it, the increase is still smaller than the rest of the state’s. FBI data shows the murder rate for Wisconsin grew 48 percent between 2010 and 2016 — a statistic Walker has yet to comment on.
Aside from being statistically incorrect, Walker’s Twitter approach is also notable. Normally, Walker resents Madison for having it too good compared to other cities, which directly contradicts the aforementioned tweet. It is impossible to reconcile Wisconsin as prosperous under Walker’s leadership while simultaneously demonizing its most economically robust region. And yet, that is exactly what Walker does to shore up his support base.
This is not to say that Madison is without its fair share of problems. Contrary to all the economic success in Madison, large groups of the population have been left out. Homelessness is a problem, as are racial disparities in education and employment. Rather, Walker’s Twitter tirade against Soglin is more a sign of Walker’s fear of losing power than anything else and its effects should be treated as a warning to voters.
As election season draws nearer, remember to not judge a candidate based on where they live. A candidate should be judged on the meaning of their words and the value of their actions. A simple tweet holds no authority over the character of a person, let alone an entire city.
Never stop analyzing the actions of our leaders and the basis of their facts. As Albert Einstein says, “the important thing is to not stop questioning.”
Abby Steinberg ([email protected]) is a freshman majoring in political science and intending to major in journalism.