Sen. Dale Schultz: Partisanship should be a lens, not a straight jacket

Sen. Dale Schultz: Partisanship should be a lens, not a straight jacket

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I ran for public office because I felt a calling. I ran as a Republican because it most closely represented my views.

The views of better governance through limited government, which respected and emphasized local control and accountability. A philosophy which held up individual freedoms and liberty. A party which, at its foundation, stood for greater opportunity and equality for every human being, and increased participation and voting.

It was a party which encouraged and strengthened capitalism while leading the world in protecting and conserving our natural resources and environment.

This was the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower and at the time I first ran, Reagan. It was the Wisconsin party of Gov. and Sen. Fighting Bob La Follette, Govs. Vernon Thomson, Warren Knowles, Walter Kohler, Lee Sherman Dreyfus and later Tommy Thompson.

It was a party I was so proud of that I emblazoned each of my farm signs with “Republican,” followed by “Schultz — State Assembly.”

I have no illusions about my own talents. The mirror and my wife keep me grounded. Without the trust and support of those I represent, I’d still be selling real estate and raising chickens on the farm.

My positions on bills and issues have been much less about me than they’ve been about what folks in my part of the world tell me they wanted.

After nearly 32 years under the marble big top, I’ve come to believe this: We have to quit asking, “Which team are you on?” Because here’s my answer: I’m on the people’s team — all the people. I wasn’t elected to just represent the Republicans in my district; I was elected to represent everyone. For me, partisanship is a lens, not a strait jacket.

We have to quit thinking of the other side as the enemy. Here’s how I see the enemy. The enemy is poverty in a country and a state that has no business having kids and families go to sleep hungry at night or in their cars.

The enemy is unemployment and underemployment, because nobody asked an employer advertising a good job if they were R or Ds, they were just thankful to get a job that gave them worth and put food on the table.

The enemy are those who encourage an undereducated citizenry. Education is the key to helping give people a hand up and a better future.

The most dangerous enemy of all, though, the one we don’t even what to discuss, is the closest to us. It lives with us and within us. The real enemy is fear. We fear what we do not understand. We fear those who are different. We fear losing what we have.

When we take away our masks, and face each other for who and what we are, without judgment, fear of loss or recrimination, then we can begin to listen, we can begin to talk, and then we can begin to build a better future.

That’s why we all come here — Democrat and Republican alike — to build a better future for Wisconsin. I’ve learned it can be even brighter if we allow compromise to trump conformity and capitulation. And it’s also a lot more fun.

Schultz, R-Richland Center, is retiring from the Legislature. This column is excerpted from his farewell speech on the Senate floor in Madison last week.

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