WHAT DOES $50 MILLION-plus buy in Wisconsin? Apparently, the most negative United States Senate race ever. Democrats, Republicans and those so-called “independent” spenders have all but taken over the airwaves in the contest to succeed retiring Sen. Herb Kohl. And what have we learned?
Looks like Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin is an evil radical extremist who would wipe out America as we know it.
And former Gov. Tommy Thompson is a tool of lobbyists and the wealthy, bought and paid for, a man who no longer cares about Wisconsin.
Well. If that’s true, shouldn’t we just start over?
IT ISN’T TRUE, of course. The only truth evident from all this spending is a persuasive argument that too much money and too little substance actually (and ironically) cheapens the process.
Here in southern Wisconsin we know both these candidates well. Tommy Thompson spent a lifetime as a popular and effective public official in the legislature, the governor’s chair and President Bush’s Cabinet. After he left the Bush administration he made some money. Good for him.
Tammy Baldwin has spent a lifetime in public service. She served Dane County in a local role, held a seat in the Assembly and has been a member of Congress for several years representing, among other places, the Beloit area.
Both have been effective spokespersons for their particular political views. Both have served honorably and honestly, at least until their campaigns decided to roll in the gutter this year.
SO HOW SHOULD voters make up their minds? First, forget the trash talk. Look at their records.
At times, Thompson has seemed uncomfortable as a sinner in church while he tried to find a way to snuggle up to today’s Republican Party. It’s not surprising he had to fight off a Tea Party challenge for the nomination. Thompson has never been a hard-right ideologue.
He’s been better. As governor Thompson held fast to conservative objectives — reforming welfare, promoting work, being tough on crime, building a better business environment, growing a robust economy — while developing a reputation for pragmatism. Often, Thompson had to accomplish his goals by working with Democrat legislative majorities, and he proved he could still move the ball down the field. He could reach across the aisle persuasively to reason with the opposition, finding a path forward without selling out principle or trying to trivialize the other guy’s concerns. The result was effective government without bitter rancor and divisiveness. Wisconsin liked that, giving Thompson four terms as governor.
Baldwin is likable and enthusiastic, a strong and responsible advocate for her beliefs. Those beliefs are fully in keeping with what has been her career-long base — Madison. But elsewhere, in moderate Wisconsin, Baldwin’s hard-left record is out of step. Wisconsin, despite election results the past couple of years, is not a deep red state. Nor is it dark blue. Wisconsin is, if anything, a shade of purple, a state where voters care more about individual candidates and getting things done and less about ideological purity.
HERE’S OUR TAKE. Baldwin’s record ranks her as one of America’s most liberal politicians. Thompson’s record is moderate and pragmatic, despite his awkward attempts this year to pacify the cranky right.
We think what both Wisconsin and Washington need is what Thompson offers — a senator who knows how to be independent, even if that means working with the other side, in the interest of getting things done and solving problems.
Thompson has a proven track record as a deal-maker and problem-solver. Considering the magnitude of the issues facing the nation, and the get-nothing-done partisanship which has hogtied Congress, we believe Washington could use someone who knows how to get to the handshake.
Tommy Thompson gets our endorsement.