Scott Walker. Photo by Callen Harty.

And so it comes down to this.

The Wisconsin Legislature, in an all-night lame duck special session, voted early this morning to weaken the power of the incoming governor and attorney general. While a bill to change an election date in order to favor the more conservative Supreme Court candidate failed to pass, the ones that were really the crux of protests and concern over the last week were passed by both houses. In the Senate one Republican, Senator Cowles, voted against. One more Republican would have been needed to vote against in order to prevent passage of the bills.

Now they go to the desk of Governor Scott Walker to sign or veto. Though he hasn’t specifically stated his intentions, he has indicated in the last several days that he would likely sign whatever the Republican-controlled legislature might send him. Never mind that over 1,400 people showed up at the Capitol to register against the bills and a handful registered in support, or that at the committee hearing hundreds testified against the bills and only one lone person spoke in favor. Never mind that virtually every media outlet in Wisconsin editorialized against the lame duck session and any bills that would take power away from the incoming governor. Tony Evers was elected in part on certain promises that these bills make it impossible to fulfill. The will of the people will be thwarted if Walker signs them into law, and it is more than likely that he will.

Let’s face it. Neither Scott Walker nor the Republicans in the statehouse have given any indication over the last eight years that they ever listen to Wisconsin citizens or care what anyone else wants or thinks. Their only concern has been pushing through their ultra-conservative agenda and staying in power or increasing their hold on it.

Let’s also face the fact that Scott Fitzgerald and Robin Vos are not fooling anyone when they say they are just trying to make sure that the three branches of government are co-equal. And they forgot the fourth branch–the moneyed interests that prop them up and support them, and give marching orders. If they were truly concerned about co-equal branches of government, they would not have allowed the governor to have the power he had over the last eight years. They would not have waited until he lost his re-election bid to suddenly realize the importance of making everything co-equal. This is dairy country, but it’s not only the farmers who can smell bullshit a mile away.

I called and wrote a letter to Scott Walker imploring him to veto these bills, because I have to take whatever action I can. As a citizen who cares about my state I cannot just concede. I have to do something, anything, in an attempt to stop this power grab. I have to do what I can to return Wisconsin to the open, honest government I grew up with in my beloved Badger state. But I am also no fool. I expect Scott Walker to veto these bills about as much as I expect Robin Vos to send me a gift of popcorn for Christmas. I expect Walker to send a caring response to my e-mail as much as I would expect Santa Claus to return a letter and tell me I’m getting a new car this holiday season.

Still, I try, because I fervently believe that justice will ultimately prevail. Though not likely, I can dream that Scott Walker will surprise all of us and remember his roots as a minister’s son and do the right thing. Perhaps Tony Evers and Josh Kaul will sue and win, or get an injunction that will stay in place long enough that Walker can’t sign the bills and Evers will have a chance to veto them in January. Or maybe, and this is far more likely, it’s about the long haul. Maybe people will remember the last eight years and this most recent disregard for Wisconsin voters in the next election. Maybe Republicans will lose enough seats that the laws can be reversed by a more sensible legislature at some point in the future. In the meantime, I will protest, write letters to those who are supposed to represent me, vote, write blog posts, talk with others, and do whatever I can to move our state in the direction of its motto-Forward. Together we will, at some point, march forward again.

About Callen Harty

Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of four books and numerous published essays, poems, and articles. His most recent book is The Stronger Pull, a memoir about coming out in a small town in Wisconsin. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, is a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His play, Invisible Boy, is a narrative with poetic elements and is also an autobiographical look as surviving child sex abuse. All are available on (and three of them on Kindle) or can be ordered through local bookstores, He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he started as an actor, writer, and director in 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History. He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive. Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events. In 2016, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault named him their annual Courage Award winner for his activism, writing, and speaking on sexual assault.
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