Thursday, September 21, 2006

Wisconsin Governor: Trying Not To Look Inside Those Eggs, Not Necessarily Succeeding

by Tom Bozzo

Mark Green, the Republican candiate for governor of my fair state, is in Trouble. With a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for Poor. As in his campaign is.

First, General Kos brought me this happy news yesterday:
WISCONSIN (Governor)

Strategic Vision (R). 9/15-17. Likely voters. MoE 3% (8/11-13 results)

Doyle (D) 46 (45)
Green (R) 42 (44)
Note the (R) after Strategic Vision. It's a Republican-affiliated polling outfit — so you'd want to watch out for the possibility of opinion formation rather than opinion measurement activities if they were indicating Green narrowly ahead — and they're saying Green is behind Gov. Doyle.

Second, Green has been steadfastly trying to throw away any advantage he might have gained from attempting to run a cleaner-than-thou campaign. (*) The Green campaign is headed to court to try to hold on to a few hundred thousand dollars in out-of-state PAC contributions transferred from Green's congressional campaign funds.

Green's central problem is that he needs the money — regardless of the fate of the disputed funds, he's so far been outraised and outspent by Doyle, who enters the peak season with a modest advantage in cash-on-hand. This says "loser" in a couple ways: Wisconsin has been considered a prime pickup opportunity for the Republicans, since Doyle's defensive efforts to keep the Wisconsin Taliban from turning the state into North Dakota haven't thrilled extreme elements on either end of the spectrum (though they've been vital to our quality of life), and you might have thought Republican cash would flow towards it. Green might as well tattoo "I can't win on the merits, so I need to buy lots of those beloved negative ads if I hope to win" on his forehead.

Third, about those ads? Maybe it's not so bad if he gets the money. During the 9 o'clock news, we caught a pathetic new Green ad on the state's higher education problems.

The scene is of ordinary Joe and Jane Wisconsins, in the stands at a high school football game, discussing how hard it is for in-state kids with OK grades to get into UW-Madison — indeed, those darn out-of-state kids with worse grades can get in with their dirty out-of-state tuition money. (The kids evidently aren't in the elite college market, where I understand well-connected kids with at best middling academic backgrounds can be admitted on non-meritocratic criteria. Maybe not so much as once upon a time, though.) A couple seats over, Mark Green, wearing a green sweater (get it?!), chimes in to take a couple more licks at Doyle over the trajectories of in-state and out-of-state tuition. At first, I was confused because I'm used to seeing red this and red that on Badger football and basketball attendees, and Green's green was not Green Bay Packers green, or green-and-gold, either (could Mark Green, whose congressional district includes Green Bay, be a fair weather Packer backer? I insinuate, you decide). Green promises to admit more in-state kids to UW-Madison, which he apparently will fund with higher edu-ponies. Joe Wisconsin accepts Green's application for Governor! Endut! Hoch hech!

Of course, it's totally dishonest to suggest that the Doyle dream budget would stick it to the University of Wisconsin system or its undergraduate students. Green's own Republican buddies control both houses of the state legislature, so you might as well ask John Gard why in-state tuition has been going up. Moreover, the basic state funding priorities (i.e., massive expansion of the prison-industrial complex) that lead to the increasing privatization of the UW are owed to the years of Thompsonism preceding Doyle.

Admitting more in-state students at Madison means coughing up money that Green was steadfastly asserting that he wouldn't raise and (despite the obvious legacy of the Republican Congress of which he's been a part) would be loath to spend anyway.

The fineness of the ad's targeting is also curious. While obsessing about positional goods may be a national mania, specifically obsessing about getting into elite colleges and flagship campuses of state university systems is more of an upper-middle class disease. Do Green's strategerists think they need to goose the turnout (if not support) of Waukesha County "mortgage moms?" It's big trouble for his campaign if so, unless fear of Teh Gay really heats up in the late campaign season. 'Cause otherwise it's odd to imply that if you've landed at UW-Eau Claire, -La Crosse, -Stevens Point, etc., you've been missing out on the real action in Madison — even though Madison is a Bad Place run by raving socialists aiming their liberal indoctrination rays at unsuspecting youth arriving from the Provinces for what ought to be learning. Or something.

In any event, if you really want to put the "public" back in public higher education, a good place to start would be to stop the de facto privatization of state university systems. And their priorities being what they are, Republicans won't be agents of that change.


(*) An ad funded by the Republican Governors Association attempts to connect Doyle to the conviction of a state employee on corruption charges related to a travel contract award. However, the employee in question had been hired under the previous Republican administration. While the motive may have been to curry favor with higher-ups, the case fell well short of Doyle political appointees — and not for want of trying on the other side of the aisle, I'm sure. While I sometimes think Doyle could make a better show of being a scrupulous and tireless campaigner for clean government, it's fundamentally Thompsonism that's to blame for eroding Wisconsin's traditional progressive ideals on that front.
Actually OOS students are not less smart than in-state students. Their academic stats may be lower, but it can be attributed to tougher standards and more competitive environment. Hence, application stats can be misleading. I TA at UW and usually the smartest are OOS kids. Instead of whining, WI should really improve their elementary, middle school and high school education. UW is not hard to get into in the first place. When one is not smart enough to get into a school, it is only him/herself that is to blame for not working hard enough, not the school. It is easy to put the blame on external factors, only that one can never improve when he never looks inside When UW blindly aims to admit more in-state kids, the state itself may well turn into other states where the best simply flock out for better educational opportunities. Thank about it.
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