Dear Tell All: I couldn't believe the spectacle Wisconsin made of itself on recall election day. The Democratic crowd booed when Tom Barrett graciously congratulated Scott Walker during his concession speech. The Republican crowd booed when Walker graciously reached out to Barrett's supporters in his victory speech. Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch gloated during her own victory speech, rubbing roughly half the state's noses in it.
After a year and a half of neighbor attacking neighbor, I wonder: Where are Wisconsin's manners?
Dear Baffled: I'm no expert in politics, but I am an expert in manners. And I have to say, Wisconsin's have indeed been lacking, across the political spectrum. I understand that the stakes are high and that people are passionate about what they perceive as right and wrong. If we were living under a dictatorship, I'd urge the resistance to forget about manners altogether and start throwing Molotov cocktails in the cause of freedom.
But this isn't a dictatorship. It's a democracy, in which we elect or reject leaders based on ideas. That requires civility all around, even toward our foes. In modern-day Wisconsin, the left despises the right's ideas and vice versa. But in a democracy, each side would ideally take the high road and refrain from bad behavior. Yes, even if the other side is acting badly. Jesus was on the right track there.
I'm encouraged by the recent instances where we did take the high road. The protests at the Capitol were generally civil; so were the counterprotests. Tom Barrett made a point of shaking hands even with those who disagreed with him on the campaign trail, saying, "Americans can shake hands with each other, can't they?" And, as you mentioned, Gov. Walker made a point of reaching out to Democrats in his election-night victory speech.
I realize these politicians' gestures might be cynical, but I'll take gestures of civility wherever I can find them. They sure beat gestures of incivility.