Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.
I’ve gotten a lot of questions lately about how I came up with the term “Fitzwalkerstan,” a term I coined on the floor of the State Assembly March 10, 2011.
Several years ago, Common Cause brought in a group of people from Turkmenistan and I learned a great deal about that country. The ruler, Saparmurat Niyazov, gave himself the title President for Life. He served as the country’s ruler from 1985 until his death in 2006.
During that time, Turkmenistan was a “democracy” but was ruled by only one party. Mr. Niyazov was elected by the people, but he handpicked his opponents in the elections. While he was ruler, Niyazov renamed the month of March after his mother and put his own face on the currency.
After watching Governor Scott Walker, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald ,and Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald trample on worker’s rights, it became apparent to me that Wisconsin was no longer the proud progressive state once led by Fighting Bob LaFollette; rather, we’d become more like a Third World junta.
The will of the people was no longer the law of the land. One of Walker’s first acts as Governor was to appoint the Fitzgerald brothers’ father to lead the State Patrol, and then later called on the State Patrol to guard the Capitol when protests arose. Then, they violated open meetings laws and stopped public debate.
When I coined the term, I was actually speaking in favor of a motion to remove Jeff Fitzgerald as Speaker of the State Assembly, a rarely made motion on the floor of the Assembly. The motion was the culmination of all the power grabs that had occurred to that point.
With the Fitzgerald brothers and Scott Walker ruling Wisconsin like their own junta, I said I felt like I live in Fitzwalkerstan. Immediately after I said it, Fitzwalkerstan became a trending topic on Twitter, mock Fitzwalkerstan flags were made and it was being mentioned in national media.
Even after the recall elections, Fitzwalkerstan is still the status quo. Just like the former Turkmenistan leader trying to pretend a democracy exists by calling elections yet rigging those elections, Republicans are pretending to be bipartisan but have yet to act that way.
But remember, an occupation is only temporary. One day soon we definitely will be living in the state we love, Wisconsin. Until then, we are only temporarily occupied by Fitzwalkerstan.
Wisconsin State Representative Mark Pocan (D-Madison), who coined the term FitzWalkerstan on the floor of the State Assembly, served three terms on the state’s budget committee, including one as its co-chair. He also served as the vice-chair of the non-partisan National Council on State Legislature’s Budget and Policy committee. Pocan’s Assembly district includes both the State Capitol and the Governor’s Mansion, making Governor Scott Walker his most infamous constituent.