Back in January, I wrote an essay entitled "Contempt, thy name is Fitzgerald." That piece was, in large part, born from the reservoir of moral outrage and disbelief that pooled in my psyche after watching the events that transpired on March 9, 2011 in the halls of the Wisconsin State Capitol. The horror of bearing witness to Wisconsin democracy dismantled in the dark of night was a major influence in my decision to start writing this blog. I also had a front row seat to many of the incredible stories of the Wisconsin protests, and I did not want these stories lost to the passage of time and fading of memory.
In my original essay about Scott Fitzgerald, I chronicled the events of that sad night. I discussed the contempt that Fitzgerald exuded as he steamrolled over the rule of law. Contempt for Peter Barca, contempt for those of us watching this unfold in the committee room, and contempt for the hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites who had come to the Capitol to have their voices heard. I felt that I had been well-positioned to comment on this event, as I was standing within ten feet of Scott Fitzgerald when all of this transpired.
That essay was one of the more well-circulated pieces I have written. It was a tribute to Lori Compas and her team fighting tirelessly to recall Scott Fitzgerald. It was also a cathartic piece that helped put into words events that felt almost indescribable. I thought I had done a comprehensive job, for a very amateur blogger, of shining the light on Scott Fitzgerald, his ties to ALEC, and how his personal priorities colored his legislative actions.
Apparently, I was wrong.
Last night, after coming home from the general election kickoff rally at the Madison Labor Temple, I came across an article posted on the Wisconsin State Journal online titled "Senate recall challenge by Compas is giving "Fitz" fits." I read through the article, which provided a safe, some would even say fairly balanced, view of the fight for Fitzgerald's seat. Both candidates were interviewed, but nothing earth shattering emerged.
Until the very end of the article, that is, when I came across the line that made me gasp:
"For the record, Fitzgerald said he doesn't buy Compas' Pollyanna image. He knows some people are painting the race as a David-vs.-Goliath contest. But Fitzgerald said he thinks her husband is one of the main forces behind her campaign, as well as unions and protest groups."Now let that sink in for just a moment.
Scott Fitzgerald, in that passage, made one of the most ignorant and misogynistic comments I have ever heard uttered by a Wisconsin politician. Glenn Grothman follows as a close second. Scott Fitzgerald thinks so little of women that he believes that Lori Compas couldn't possibly have led the recall effort on her own. That it had to be her HUSBAND, a MAN, who was really in charge. It is 2012, and a sitting politician actually said this out loud.
Aside from being a decent person who views women as my equals, there are other reasons I found this statement so offensive. The first is that I have met Lori Compas personally, and spoke to her on several occasions as she and her team gathered recall signatures. Early in her effort, as a relative unknown, she addressed a crowd of cops and firefighters at our public safety workers recall event at the Labor Temple. From that appearance and others, it was obvious to me that Lori was exceptionally driven. She exuded not only competence, but a warrior's spirit and singularity of purpose. She organized a truly grass roots team that accomplished what the Democratic establishment in this state thought impossible.
I also watched, through social media, Lori call out Scott Fitzgerald at a public listening session when Fitzgerald alleged fraud in her signature gathering campaign. Lori absolutely destroyed Fitzgerald in that exchange, and it was painfully obvious that he was outmatched in both intellect and ethics.
The other reason I found Fitzgerald's comments so offensive is that he was also, by proxy, insulting my wife. My wife is a dynamic small business owner, a wonderful mother of three children, and an extremely passionate, intelligent, and dedicated political activist. She has worked tirelessly to help reclaim our state from the destructive force of the Walker administration, and she certainly didn't need the guidance of a man to do so.
I want everyone reading this to be clear about one thing: Fitzgerald's comment that Lori could not have been the driving force in the recall campaign was clearly not some random gaffe taken out of context. It was not, by any stretch of the imagination, an anomaly when it comes to Republican politicians in Wisconsin or nationally. This comment merely reflects the core values of the current Republican party. I do not believe that history will be kind to this dark period of the GOP.
Fitzgerald spearheaded the attack on teachers in this state, a profession which is disproportionately comprised of women. Fitzgerald represents the ideals of the party that just repealed, yes repealed, the Equal Pay Act in Wisconsin, and voted for that repeal. This was the law that was designed to deter gender and other discrimination in the workplace, and provided penalties for employers who paid women less than men for the same work. Senator Glenn Grothman, the sponsor of the bill to repeal the equal pay law, actually said, out loud, that: "You could argue that money is more important for men. I think a guy in their first job, maybe because they expect to be a breadwinner someday, may be a little more money-conscious."
I highly doubt such an apology will be forthcoming. Fitzgerald is a man driven by hubris and corrupt with power. However, even if he determined an apology would be politically expedient, comments such as these cannot be undone. These comments are completely consistent with the values that Scott Fitzgerald represents. I urge the people of his district to demonstrate on June 5th that Fitzgerald does not represent THEIR values, and show him the door. It's time for Wisconsinites to say "enough is enough."