By Ruth Conniff on April 14, 2014

It's not good news for Scott Walker that Wisconsin Republicans plan to debate a proposal on secession at their state party convention in early May.

The Wisconsin Governor, who is widely seen as a 2016 Republican Presidential hopeful, told reporters on Friday that, for the record, he does not favor Wisconsin seceding from the United States.

"I don't think that one aligns with where most Republican officials are in the state of Wisconsin — certainly not with me," Walker said.

It's not the kind of statement the Governor wants to make as he kicks off his reelection bid on Tuesday. But Republican politics in Wisconsin are a weird petri dish of rightwing ideology and out-of-state corporate interests. Occasionally, some strange smelling byproducts emerge.

Consider the recent concurrent attacks on several long-serving, center-right politicians who were formerly pillars of the state Republican Party.

Another resolution adopted by the same committee that wants to debate whether Wisconsin should secede castigates veteran Republican committee chairman Luther Olsen for failing to drink the tea party's anti-Common Core concoction.

Longtime Congressman Tom Petri just announced his retirement after 35 years, following a tea party primary challenge against him.

On the same day, Mike Ellis, the state senate president stepped down after he was caught on video insulting Scott Walker and apparently planning to create a super-PAC to illegally coordinate negative ads against his opponent (the same type of activity that is reportedly the impetus for a secret probe of Walker's own campaign).

The undercover filmmakers who cornered Ellis and secretly taped him at his favorite bar have used similar tactics against ACORN and Planned Parenthood.

All of this cannibalistic activity on the right in Wisconsin shows how far the state has drifted from the affable days of Republican governor Tommy Thompson's long rule.

Politicians like Thompson, who supported a statewide Medicaid expansion to help cover the working poor and their kids, or Luther Olsen and Mike Ellis, who openly criticized the voucherization of the state's public schools, are not tolerated any more.

The Republican Party of today must toe the line for a coalition of out-of-state corporate lobbyists and increasingly powerful rightwing ideological interests, supported by the Koch Brothers' Americans for Prosperity, which, for the first time this year, threw its weight around far, far down the ballot, in a school board race in Kenosha and a tiny county board election in far northern Iron County.

In the Wisconsin Republican Party of today, there is no room for moderation, or independent thought.

That should give voters pause, not just in Wisconsin, but in other states that are targets for the same coordinated rightwing attack.

All that's left of the Republicans in Wisconsin are the wing-nuts and John Birch Society members who see health care and public education as a socialist conspiracy, and the corporate interests that are determined to push their own agenda in the state.

Walker helped open the door to this far right takeover. But it could also hurt his own long-term political ambitions.

In that embarrassing video footage, Mike Ellis observes, "Walker is working for Walker."

That is likely true. But the people he hooked up with to further his own career may end up burning him along with the rest of the state.

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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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