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Wisconsin Politics: No Middle Ground Anymore?

A grassroots organizer says the problem with Wisconsin politics is that there's no longer any middle ground for politicians. (aquir/iStockphoto)
A grassroots organizer says the problem with Wisconsin politics is that there's no longer any middle ground for politicians. (aquir/iStockphoto)
July 18, 2016

MADISON, Wis. – As the Republican National Convention gets underway today, the divide between many citizens and the political parties remains huge.

Mike McCabe, founder of the grassroots group Blue Jean Nation, maintains people are fed up with not being heard – in Washington, and in Madison.

He says abortion is one issue that illustrates how divided the parties have become in the Badger State.

McCabe says there were Democrats and Republicans on both sides of the issue in the 1980s – but now, Republicans who favor legal abortion aren't welcome in their party’s ranks, and Democrats who have qualms about abortion aren’t tolerated by their party. And that's just one example.

"Politics at the Capitol has become way more polarized, way more bitter and divisive, and ultimately, I think that's made state government more dysfunctional,” he states. “The two sides just refuse to work with each other. And they can't even understand each other, much less work together."

McCabe says the Democratic Party used to appeal to rural voters, but has become more of an urban party. And he calls the Republican Party a donut with no middle and no room for centrists, like the Republicans that dominated the state legislature in the 80s.

According to McCabe, voters ignore this polarization at their own peril. He contends both parties must make legitimate attempts to include more people and recruit more candidates that don't hold polarizing views.

"But it's also up to citizens to demand that of the parties, and to say, 'Look, what's going on isn't meeting our needs,’” he states. “’It's not leading to what's best for our society.'

“And so, the citizenry has to demand that the parties change their ways."

Some have said the nation is repeating the violence and protests of the 1960s because state and national leaders are so far behind public opinion on so many issues.

Extra police presence is part of this week's Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.

McCabe stresses the disconnect between people and the political parties is one reason people are so disgusted with politics.

"There's tremendous alienation between the people and the ruling class in this country,” he says. “That's central to why our politics has become so dysfunctional – there's no question about that.

“I think the politicians are way out of step with what the public is thinking, on a large number of issues."

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI