By Matthew Rothschild on April 30, 2012

Recently, Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug La Follette came by the office of The Progressive to discuss his decision to run for governor against Scott Walker.

La Follette faces off against three Democratic rivals—Tom Barrett, Kathleen Falk, and Kathleen Vinehout—in the primary on May 8.

“I love our state, the woods, and the rivers, and the lakes, and most of all the people and the progressive tradition we have,” said the distant relative of Fighting Bob La Follette. “Wisconsin is broken and Gov. Walker broke it. Walker has not only been a disaster; he’s an embarrassment.”

La Follette cited Walker’s policies restricting health care, damaging wetlands, rejecting high-speed rail, undermining public education and technical schools, granting loopholes for giant corporations, and attacking collective bargaining.

“Seeing all that and getting pressure from people, I decided that I probably had the best chance to win this election because of support I’ve gotten from Republicans and Independents when I’ve run in the past,” he said, noting that he’s been in public office almost 30 years. “I still was able to win when Walker won and when Tommy [Thompson] won four straight times.”

La Follette is 71.

“My experience and maturity will allow me to be a productive governor,” he says. “I can work with progressive Republicans.”

La Follette stresses his commitment to campaign finance reform.

“I’ve been supporting campaign finance reform as long as I can remember,” he ways. “Unless we change the way we elect people, we won’t be able to address our problems.”

He says he’s taking money only from individuals. “I’m not taking special interest money even from groups I agree with,” he says, adding that the Democrats “can’t compete” with Walker in the money chase.

“I decided this was the unique time to try a better way,” he says.

He is not happy with how the Democratic primary is shaking out.

“This election is boiling down to a choice between the big-money out-of-state candidate and the good-old-boy endorsement candidate,” he says.

He recognizes he’s behind in the polls.

“If you believe the polls, I’m not doing well, but I don’t know how well polls measure opinion in this new world of Facebook and cell phones,” he says. He adds that his quirky campaign commercial is popular on YouTube and “I got 8 new Facebook friends this morning.”

La Follette taught chemistry and environmental science at the University of Wisconsin Parkside before getting into electoral politics.

“The environment has been a big thing my entire life,” he said. “I’ve always loved hiking and the outdoors. As a scientist, I understood some of the environmental issues. I was involved in the first Earth Day in Wisconsin, and I was the impetus behind the group we called the Wisconsin Environmental Decade,” which is now known as Clean Wisconsin.

La Follette believes his campaign has been a success, no matter the outcome.

“There’s nothing I can lose in this process,” he says. “I might lose the election, but it’s a worthwhile and important effort for someone to run a campaign this way, and I’ve gotten a tremendous positive response.”

He is prepared, however, to support whoever wins in the primary.

“The other three candidates are all good people,” he says. “I may not agree with their campaign style, but I certainly agree with them on all the issues. You won’t find me reluctant.”

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story “Stop Obama’s Drone War in Pakistan."

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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