The Compas/Fitzgerald debate: An unfortunate illustration of Wisconsin politics

By all accounts, Lori Compas exceeded expectations at Wednesday night’s debate with Senator Scott Fitzgerald. She had the support of roughly 3/4 of the crowd packed into the Jefferson High School auditorium, and she more than held her own. “I think it went amazingly well,” said Compas’ husband aka The Mastermind. But despite Lori Compas’ success, I left the auditorium troubled and more worried about the state of our state than ever before.

“I’ve never seen anything like this.” That was the most common sentiment echoed at the debate. The energy in the packed auditorium was palpable and many people were unable to control their emotions, despite the moderator’s numerous pleas to “respect the candidates.” All traces of “Wisconsin nice” disintegrated once the debate began.

I joked with friends that the free cookies provided beforehand probably should have been laced with some kind of sedative, but it really wasn’t a laughing matter. The fact that supporters of both candidates were unable to even listen to the candidates speak without yelling, hissing or clapping is troublesome.

It’s proof that the “divide and conquer” strategy has worked.

When Compas talked about the devastation created by job loss, a Fitzgerald supporter yelled out, “You want a handkerchief?!” The insensitivity of that remark caused Compas’ supporters to gasp and hiss and the situation devolved further.

At one point in the evening, a man was escorted out of the auditorium by a police officer because he was so upset.

A Fitzgerald supporter even yelled “Liar!” when Compas was explaining that there were divisions created by the Walker and Fitzgerald administration that needed to be bridged (which kind of proved Compas’ point).

But it was almost painful to witness the behavior from both Fitzgerald and Compas supporters.

Really, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Yes, lives have been forever altered because of political decisions made by the Walker and Fitzgerald administration. Yes, people have a right to be angry.

But we can take action to rectify the situation by voting Scott Fitzgerald out and Lori Compas in. That won’t solve the problem, it’s going to take much more than that, but it’s a start.

We are not doomed to forever be divided. We are not victims. We cannot control others, but we do have a choice over how we treat each other.

So, please, let’s follow Lori Compas’ lead and start treating one another with respect, regardless of political viewpoints, before “Wisconsin nice” is gone forever.

Video of the debate here.

This is what "Wisconsin nice" looks like

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45 thoughts on “The Compas/Fitzgerald debate: An unfortunate illustration of Wisconsin politics

  1. Very well said, Lisa. I have very mixed feelings – on one hand, I was glad that a couple of Fitz’s most audacious whoppers were responded to loudly by the crowd, because hearing the crowd reaction might help put his dishonesty into context for people who might have been inclined to believe him without the crowd reaction. On the other hand, once you open the door to crowd reaction there is really no putting the cat back into the bag, and that’s what we saw from both sides last night. It doesn’t have to be this way.

  2. Thank you for your first hand account. What is troubling to me is that Scott Fitzgerald cannot see what Walker’s wrongs have wrought by his and others enabling. Surely,Fitzgerald cannot deny that this period will go down in the history of Wisconsin as the worst governance and most troubling ever. God help us if this GOP maladministration continues beyond June 5th.

  3. Watch your Credit Cards! A woman in upstate New York is surprised to find a contribution to the Wisconsin governor’s campaign on her credit card…

    Donations to Scott Walker Flagged as Potential Fraud – ProPublica

  4. In a war, civility goes the way of white flags. I didn’t ask for a fight—the fight was brought to me. I see it in the poverty in Kentucky, where I currently live. I see it in the idiots I encountered while working who thought it was hilarious to say disgusting, racist remarks in my presence about the president (They didn’t find my response hilarious). I see it in the smug dickheads on the Right who have billions of dollars and have managed to manipulate poor, working-class folks into believing that they are the good guys. I see it the lies and subterfuge and destruction of huge corporations who, despite the Citizens United ruling, are not people and don’t give a good goddamn about people—particularly those without money.

    I don’t blame Lori’s people for getting emotional. I’ve personally endured enough abusive crap from right-wingers since Reagan was king, and I’m done being nice about it. Just my opinion. Take it or leave it.

    1. Jan,

      I totally get what you’re saying. I’m “one of Lori’s people” and I’ve gotten emotional, too, at times.

      The moderator asked us not to make noises so that we could get as many questions in as possible with the hour we had.

      The outbursts last night were not only disrespectful to Fitzgerald, they were disrespectful to Compas.

      We’re all entitled to our own opinions (and I want it to stay that way!). 🙂

    2. Wow,
      How said it is that you are this bitter. I will pray for you my friend.

  5. Your experience isn’t that unusual. If you go back to folkbum’s coverage of the first Milwaukee 14th Aldermanic district debate, the audience reacted in much the same way. The league of women voters moderator warned everyone about being civil during the second one and it was a far nicer experience.

    folkbum’s blog:

  6. The worst part of this civility issue is that it will keep good peole from running for office. The more people are exposed to this kind of hatred the less they are going to want to become part of it. The pool of willing candidates is small and getting smaller.

    1. I couldn’t agree more. As someone who wants good people to run for office & couldn’t care less what the letter behind their name is, it sure seems to be that the “talent pool” of candidates across the board…well…sucks.

  7. When Rush Limbaugh, Charlie Sykes and Mark Belling inform your view of political discourse, there is no ‘nice.’

  8. Total crap – I read your blog and have seen some posts that show questionable judgement.

    This is another – entitled to your opinion, but I don’t have to respect it.

    Too bad everyone is not an actor on stage ready to bend and conform to your every direction.

    Sit on your hands and pound your keyboard if you want – some are actually doing productive things whether you agree or not.

    1. First of all, Badgerbadger, you know nothing about me. If you did, you’d know that I give up a lot of my time to bring about positive change in my community despite the challenges I face.

      Secondly, it would be physically impossible to both sit on my hands AND bang my keyboard at the same time.

      You know, nobody’s forcing you to read my blog posts. If you don’t like me, just ignore me.

    2. badgerbadger, I believe you need to work on that reading comprehension thang for the topic of this post:


      Try it.

      Or go away. See, I asked nicely. No need to resort to your limited vocabulary.

    3. Nice link to Mensa, hon. It’s nice to have aspirations. I’m sure you wish you were on “American Idol”, now don’t you? Well, you run along now and read some more Harry Potter and daydream about moving out of your parents’ basement.

  9. “– some are actually doing productive things whether you agree or not.”

    Yes, Lori Compas has done some marvelously productive things and will certainly be an asset to her Senate district and the State of Wisconsin once elected!

  10. June 5 can’t come soon enough. My nerves are shot, I can’t even do any volunteer work for fear of falling apart.

    I can’t be the only one who feels frayed.

  11. Sadly the damage the unions have cause in this state will be long lasting. They have divided families and friends, they have shown anger and hate and they have shown they have little respect for anyone but themselves. The state of Wisconsin is going to take a long time to heal, all we can hope is someday the unions will apologize for what they did to our state. But I really don’t see that happening as the unions are incapable of understanding what they have done. Its really a shame.

    1. You forgot to mention the role Scott Walker has played in dividing our state. After all, he admitted he wanted to “divide and conquer” public sector union members and private sector union members.

      If you’re going to blame unions, be sure to blame Scott Walker as well, and all we can hope is someday he’ll apologize for what he did to our state.

    2. Dante, ladies and gentlemen, Wisconsin’s very own version of Rudy (“A noun, a verb and 9/11”) Giuliani:

      Dante, a noun, a verb and “union [thugs, etc, etc]”.

      “[Your Blind Stupidity], Dante, it jussssst BURRRRRRRRNS!” [the modern-day version of “Dante’s Inferno”].

      Did you see a union guy whoop your ass sometime in your past, and you’ve never really been able to come to terms with it, or what?

      Seriously, dude, what’s your problem? You clearly don’t know enough about unions to venture an informed opinion about them, much less anything else.

  12. Scott Walker owes no apology for doing what the people of this state asked of him. The unions and their idea they are entitled to something is what has caused this problem in the state. We are lucky to have a governor who is willing to stand up to the bully tactics of unions and understands he works for all the people not just a few thousand union members who expect to be catered to. WEAC and their members especially have cause so much damage to their profession respect of them will be very difficult for them to ever regain.

    1. Nice talking points! Now go to and look at their own “conservative” expert who states that nothing about collective bargaining is the cause of this. In fact, no tax dollars go into public pensions (because it’s a personal choice to belong to the deferred compensation program of the WI State Investment Board). See what this comes down to is that Scooter isn’t happy that the SIB is only making $0.30 per $100 on every investment when his buddies in the private sector want to make $1.00 per $100 of that money. Ask any investor and they will tell you the same thing – the Public Union Investment portfolio is one of the top 3 investment portfolios in the country. And it’s all through deferred compensation. Too many big words for you? Probably – hence your talking points from Walker’s web site. Here’s a challenge for you – go to your local bar tonight and find out how they are doing – not well! Oh, why’s that – it’s because public employees were the anchors in the community – but jealously has gotten the best of you. Don’t blame my wife that she has her masters in science and gets paid well for her state job – she made the effort, jumped through the hoops and because of her and her colleagues, you can drink water, eat food, and be reassured when there is ever any public health issue that they are your 1st line of defense. She had her salary frozen in 2007, in 2008 & 2009 they established furrlow days – so she is not only making the same salary she was in 2005, but it is 6% lower because of the furrlow days. Now add in Scooters little trick and she actually making almost 15% lower than she was 5 years ago. But you don’t care about that do you – all you care is that there is a (R) after the name. Here’s some advice – get a book (remember those from grade school) and do some reading. Turn off Fox and walk out your front door and talk to your neighbors – I think you might be surprised and how their lives have been affected. Oh and by the way, at the end of the day, Walker doesn’t give a shit about you either – he’s just using you to do his bidding until the day he wants what little you have in this world – then he’s gonna march on in, not hold any open meetings, send out the marshals and take it for his billionaire buddies.

      1. Hi Patrick nice to know that state union employees like to spend so much money in bars, but I have not seen any bar go out of business because of Act 10, just another scare tactic or as I call it in the real world, LIE from a union supporter. Long before your wife came along I was drinking water, eating food and did not need government reassurance to what I was doing. I do talk to my neighbors and they are all doing just fine, some will be voting for Barrett some for Walker but they are not falling into the union poor poor pitiful me attitude. PS if your wife is unhappy what we taxpayers are paying her tell her to use her education and go get a real world job. Me personally I don’t need to be led around by my nose by a union rep telling me how to think and speak.

      2. You are wrong on several counts. Firstly, the WRS is almost exclusively funded by the taxpayer, not sure how you misunderstood the Forbes article? Secondly, the furlough proposed by the dem gov Doyle & approved by the dem legislature expired last year, it has nothing to do with her current salary, absolutely nothing. The only state sanctioned voluntary retirement program is the 403B- this was not effected by ACT 10 since contributions come only from the employee. Having earned a PhD., I chuckle when someone with a masters says they are highly educated. I give your wife credit. at least its not a masters in education. If you want a real intellectual pursuit- try writing a finance dissertation.

        1. “Having earned a PhD., I chuckle when someone with a masters says they are highly educated.”

          And here I thought liberals were supposed to be elitists when it came to education. For someone with a PhD, you sure don’t have a mastery of basic grammar and punctuation, so color me unimpressed.

          1. Grammar will always be my achilles heal, along with spelling & differential calc. My wife wife proofread my entire Dis before my reader & committee would get it. I still am no less a PhD, 1999 Wayne State University- Detroit. The HIGHEST degree that can be earned. I did notice you were unable to refute my claims. Color me unimpressed.

  13. Hi Lisa,

    Nice article – I too agree we need more civility in our discourse. Often our president is accused of being to wishy/washy on things – but he’s out there being a statesman and playing chess while the rest of us our playing checkers. That said – I have worked on campaigns since 1986. I have knocked on doors, made thousands of phone calls and done logistics for candidates. Those who know me understand that my politics are my own and I have never pushed them on anyone. However, that changed last year and I now proudly wear my progressive political views on my sleeve. And quite frankly, after watching trickle down economics turn into a golden shower (sorry that’s a gross analogy) and seeing Walker rape the middle class – I have quite frankly reached the point where I’m in a take it or leave it mentality. We are right and they are wrong. People matter more than corporations (and I own one). There is no more Golden Rule – Walker killed that value the day he destroyed the lives of 350k public employees and their families. We don’t have a governor or a king – we have a psychotic in charge – and he’s just getting started.

  14. This movement by the entitled masses dies on the vine shortly. Civility is coming thru victory by Walker.

  15. It’s a little bit of an irony that this blog about civility ended up provoking a lot of incivility.

    About the only thing I can say is, Wisconsin sure is divided.

  16. It took me aback to see that cookie table when I walked in (15 minutes late) to the debate. Small town hospitality. “Cookies?” I thought, “No, I came here for blood.” You are exactly right that emotions have gotten the best of us. However, this is what happens when you provoke mass amounts of people and ram through legislation with no care for those it will affect the most. And this has happened again and again. Not just with Act 10. It’s happened with other legislation as well. Also, the people who have been wronged are now being threatened for exercising their rights and signing recall petitions. The GOP is trying to put a chilling effect on all dissent. Through Voter ID, they hope to silence our voices. I’m not happy about the anger but the “leaders” who brought these changes should be forced to face the angry voices. I drove from the top of SD13 down to Jefferson on Wednesday night not only to support Lori but also to see Fitzgerald in person and express my anger. As you would guess, it didn’t make me feel better. His demeanor caused even MORE anger. I applaud Lori for keeping it together. She is EXACTLY the type of calm, collected leader we need. Someone who is NOT like me.

    On another note, If you read Dante’s comments above “Sadly the damage…” and replace “union” with GOP, you will see how I feel. I think this is another major source of frustration and confusion. How can two people watching the same train wreck have such different viewpoints? How? It frustrates me to no end. (for the record, I’m not in a union and never have been. I’m very confused as to how they’ve damaged my life)

    Finally, win or lose on June 5, Walker *will* be arrested for his role in the John Doe. It won’t solve everything but it’s a start.

    1. And instead of doing the honorable thing, Walker will stand his ground and fall on his sword in a classic case of self-martyrdom that will further enhance his reputation amongst his sycophants. You read it here first. And not because I’m some kind of genius, just that we’ve seen it all before.

      1. Of course we have Rich. We saw it with the person whose career Scotty is trying to copy- Sarah Pay-lin.

        In fact, I think Walker wouldn’t mind losing at all, as he’d have a major career on the wingnut welfare circuit. At least until he’s arrested.

        And this is the bigger problem- too many politicians like Walker and Fitzgerald who are about enriching themselves and demonizing the others instead of passing good public policy. And too many citizens who blindly pick the “D” or “R” because they think it’s some kind of sporting event and they have to root for their “team.”

  17. I’m thinking ahead to after June 5th.
    The last year and a half has been incredibly stressful. Can we really live this way long-term? I guess I’m looking for a solution. Civility seemed like a logical option…
    Personally, I’m not giving up on it.
    This post wasn’t meant to be demanding, it was meant to be suggestive.

    Like Suzy, I didn’t expect a blog post about civility to make people so angry…

  18. Lisa, thanks for the post. My neighbors are still my neighbors and we are still friends though some of us have been political opposites since becoming neighbors. I still check on a couple of conservatives who are elderly. I feed a neighbor’s pets when asked to help. The media (instead of investigating or reporting facts) wants to paint division to a far greater extent than I believe it actually exists.

    Hate mongering tea-party minorities are controlling the dialogue from their end and making a lot of noise. We can answer back with votes for Barrett.

    Don’t let em wear you down. Peace and Resolve.

  19. Patrick, are all of you pro-public union lefties liars? Is it in your DNA?
    The Forbes article you cite was not written by a conservative, but by a self proclaimed progressive liberal who supports the recall effort. The author’s name is Rick Unger.
    I can hear the sharp intake of breath from here. Oh, the shock! has a few liberal contributers!
    The only shocking thing is that Forbes allowed such a flawed and poorly written article to be published on their website. Even some other Forbes contributers were critical of it, and called Unger out on the thread.
    The article is incorrect, and only an illiterate, progressive socialist, or public union employee proponent would believe it’s premise, or pretend to believe it, because it fits their agenda.
    Here’s the real story: Walker was the first person to raise the alarm about the John Doe scandal.
    Wisconsin has gained over 30,000 jobs since Walker took office.
    Walker’s unemployment numbers are the real numbers, that, BY LAW, are released to the state, without any prompting or coercion by Walker.
    The 3.6 BILLION dollar deficit has been eliminated because of the reforms Walker initiated.
    The WEAC/WASDA School Survey show that classroom size is smaller, there is more money for individual classrooms, there were fewer layoffs, and more extra curricular activities. This is the most recent survey. WEAC pulled all past surveys from their website. Wonder why?
    Government Walker cannot provide Barrett with all the emails from the John Doe investigation, he is bound by law to remain silent by the investigative bodies in this case.
    Walker raised a lot of money, much more than Barrett, but Barrett just got into the race, and prior to the primary, the DNC, national labor unions, and the Obama White House contributed, or helped to raise huge amounts of money to help fund the recall movement. Stop whining about who funded Walker, unless you want to be equally outraged by the billionaires who contributed to your side.
    This whole recall business is costing Wisconsin 13 MILLION dollars in the end, and our Governor has spent the first 18 months of his term having to run our state, balance the budget, and defend himself against erroneous accusations, activist judges who block legislation, and union thugs terrorizing his family and neighbors.
    And you all want to know why Walker has a legal defense fund?? THAT’S your burning question? Haven’t you heard, the lead investigator in the John Doe probe signed the recall petition, and has a huge “RECALL WALKER” sign in his front yard? Are you that dense, or that obsessed with getting your own way, that you can’t see how messed up that is?
    We are sick of you, and sick of the intimidation and lies the public unions have been vomiting since Walker was elected.
    Walker didn’t divide the state.
    The public unions, dishonest judges, run away Democrats, “doctor’s excuses” teachers, drum beating, rude, disrespectful, and dishonest recall Walker people did.
    And after Walker is re-elected, the Democrats will wish they had never taken part in any of this recall debacle. Public unions will be looked at with even more disdain, and with good cause, and you poor slobs will still think it’s Walker’s fault.
    Was it worth it?

    1. Scott Walker didn’t divide the state?

      What about his comment that he wanted to “divide and conquer” unions in Wisconsin? That was caught on video.

      What about his campaign rhetoric of the “haves” and the “have nots?” Isn’t that just a tad divisive?

      Also, you lost whatever shred of credibility you might have had when you referred to public employees as poor slobs. You’re a sad, sad excuse for a human being….so full of hostility and bile.

    2. Rhonda, despite your assertion the investigator in the ongoing John Doe investigation did NOT sign a recall petition:

      “David Budde did not sign the recall petition and has conducted himself professionally and independently in this investigation, as he has done in numerous criminal investigations throughout his 26-year career as a law enforcement officer,” Chisholm said in a statement.

  20. Scott David, as if you pray, much less for a Walker supporter.

    Truth hurts, doesn’t it?

    1. Rhonda, do you deal in stereotypes and sweeping generalities often?

      I ask because you seem to be asserting that anyone who’s a liberal/progressive doesn’t pray, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

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