Wednesday morning: The Wisconsin elections

[POSTED: JUNE 6, 2012]

It can be hard to tell in an election year, but life isn’t all about politics. In fact, life is very rarely about politics. Throughout this year, we’ll be asking for examples of the everyday things people will do the day after Election Day, on Wednesday morning, regardless of who wins.

We suspect that listening to people’s Wednesday morning routines will go further in identifying what issues Americans are really thinking about – beyond the rhetoric of candidates, campaigns and advertisements.

Here’s what some people in Wisconsin – some of the same people lamenting the incivility and vitriol in their communities leading up to yesterday’s election – are doing on this Wednesday morning.

Elizabeth Kay of Eau Claire:

I will be sending my youngest kid off to his last day of middle school, and my oldest to his last day of his Junior year in high school.

Roy Stacey of Rockland:

I’ll get up, have my coffee, go into the garage for my morning cigarette, turn on the radio, and will not be able to avoid the election coverage!  At least the damn ads and robo-calls will have ceased. Retirement can be trying at times like this.

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"I’m beginning to understand what the Civil War was like": How has Wisconsin changed?

[POSTED: JUNE 5, 2012]

Wisconsin residents are voting today on whether to remove Gov. Scott Walker, the state’s lieutenant governor and three Republican state senators from office. We asked Wisconsinites of all political stripes about the long-term effects the recall process will have on Wisconsin’s identity. Here’s how Public Insight Network sources are describing the atmosphere there.

Mike Kessler of St. Croix Falls:

It’s terrible here in Wisconsin. Family, friends, and neighbors are divided to the point where no discussion - of any type - is happening. It’s a bit unnerving in that one can see how a civil conflict can start. We eye each other with a combination of distrust and cynicism asking the silent question: “How can you possibly be for the ‘other’ candidate?”

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Mike Wallace vs. Ayn RandBy Jeff Severns Guntzel (3.9.2012) 
Mike Wallace has died, which means my Twitter feed is rich with links to the legendary interrogator’s notable one-on-ones. His 1959 interview with Ayn Rand falls right into my wheelhouse. I’ve been interviewing conservatives about their formative influences and Rand is there, almost always. 
Even where she is not respected as a novelist, she is revered as a philosopher. Here’s Linda Seebach, of Northfield, Minn., talking about Rand (in response to a Public Insight Network query):

When I read The Fountainhead in college — even though it came out in ‘43 — it wasn’t so much that I was swept away by Objectivism (I don’t think she had even named it), but it inoculated me against any sort of collectivist or socialist stuff with the belief that it won’t work. It’s not so much I’m in favor of the things Rand was in favor of, but that I’m opposed to the same things she was. But, she was a terrible novelist. The Fountainhead is pretty good, but Atlas Shrugged is awful.

By the time Rand was interviewed by Wallace, she had named her philosophy, but that name had not yet taken hold. Here’s his introduction:
Wallace: "Here in the United States, perhaps the most challenging and unusual new philosophy has beenm forged by a novelist, Ayn Rand. Ms. Rand’s point of view is still comparatively unknown in America, but if it were ever were to take hold, it would revolutionize our lives … What is Randism?"
Rand: "I do not call it Randism. I call it Objectivism … I am primarily the creator of a new code of morality, which has so far been believed impossible — a morality not based on faith, not on arbitrary whim, not an emotion, not on arbitrary edict — mystical or social — but on reason … Since man’s mind is his basic means of survival, I hold that if man wants to live on Earth and to live as a human being, he has to hold reason as an absolute … that his highest moral purpose is the achievement of his own happiness and that he must not force other people nor accept their right to force him — that each man must live as an end into himself and follow his own rational self-interest."
And with that, it’s on: Rand vs. Wallace. Highly recommended viewing. Watch it here.

Mike Wallace vs. Ayn Rand
By Jeff Severns Guntzel (3.9.2012) 

Mike Wallace has died, which means my Twitter feed is rich with links to the legendary interrogator’s notable one-on-ones. His 1959 interview with Ayn Rand falls right into my wheelhouse. I’ve been interviewing conservatives about their formative influences and Rand is there, almost always. 

Even where she is not respected as a novelist, she is revered as a philosopher. Here’s Linda Seebach, of Northfield, Minn., talking about Rand (in response to a Public Insight Network query):

When I read The Fountainhead in college — even though it came out in ‘43 — it wasn’t so much that I was swept away by Objectivism (I don’t think she had even named it), but it inoculated me against any sort of collectivist or socialist stuff with the belief that it won’t work. It’s not so much I’m in favor of the things Rand was in favor of, but that I’m opposed to the same things she was. But, she was a terrible novelist. The Fountainhead is pretty good, but Atlas Shrugged is awful.

By the time Rand was interviewed by Wallace, she had named her philosophy, but that name had not yet taken hold. Here’s his introduction:

Wallace: "Here in the United States, perhaps the most challenging and unusual new philosophy has beenm forged by a novelist, Ayn Rand. Ms. Rand’s point of view is still comparatively unknown in America, but if it were ever were to take hold, it would revolutionize our lives … What is Randism?"

Rand: "I do not call it Randism. I call it Objectivism … I am primarily the creator of a new code of morality, which has so far been believed impossible — a morality not based on faith, not on arbitrary whim, not an emotion, not on arbitrary edict — mystical or social — but on reason … Since man’s mind is his basic means of survival, I hold that if man wants to live on Earth and to live as a human being, he has to hold reason as an absolute … that his highest moral purpose is the achievement of his own happiness and that he must not force other people nor accept their right to force him — that each man must live as an end into himself and follow his own rational self-interest."

And with that, it’s on: Rand vs. Wallace. Highly recommended viewing. Watch it here.

"If you want to find real American heroes, find them in communities that are still fighting for the American dream."
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Newark, N.J., mayor Cory Booker, speaking with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. on the PBS program "Finding Your Roots." Booker, who grew up in a middle-class family, lived for eight years in Newark’s Brick Towers, an infamous housing complex that was demolished in 2006.

Tell us where you find YOUR American heroes.

By Jeff Severns Guntzel (3.20.12)

“City governments are the last standing functional form of government in the United States and possibly the world.” That’s what Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak told me recently.

I bounced this notion off of Peter Orazem in Ames, Iowa, who has the unusual distinction of being an economist, city council representative and stand-up comedian (if you want to hear his bit about diversifying your wealth — and just be generally inspired — listen to the interview above).

Orazem, who responded to my Public Insight Network query, Why do you work so hard?, added this to Rybak’s thesis about city government:

You don’t run into the same apparent dysfunction that appears to occur at the state and national levels, with people who seem to be talking past one another. We have real problems and we have to compromise to come up with solutions. I find that very invigorating.

I asked Orazem if he feels like he’s been a success in his two years on the council. “I didn’t get into this because I thought I wanted to be a great politician,” he said. “I got into this because my mom said if you think you see a problem, you ought to do something about it. And I think I have. I think that being part of the democratic process immediately means you’re successful.”

Finding meaning where you are is something that interests me as I try to make sense of  the “American now.”  For Orazem, that has meant challenging himself to play a role in social and political change, while carefully calibrating his expectations. 

Here’s more from Orazem, in a post about military service and citizenship. His late father has an incredible story.

To follow these conversations about finding meaning where you are, look for the tag hearandnow.

Eastwood, America and ads that sell… but what?


By Jeff Jones (2.7.2012)

 
Two minutes of sobriety may have been the real surprise winner on a Super Bowl Sunday that was otherwise exactly what we have come to expect: a glitzy half-time show and lots of sillycheeky ads. Then, just as the nation settled in for an exciting second half of football, it suddenly paused and held its collective breath.
 
If you haven’t seen the “Halftime in America” ad from Chrysler (aka the Clint Eastwood ad), take a moment to watch it below. It’s been the most talked-about commercial of the game. But most of the Monday morning quarterbacking has focused on unraveling some hidden political agenda.
 
My interest is different. Unlike most Super Bowl commercials,  this one seemed to try to capture a particular moment in America – something we’ve been calling “the American now.” But does it succeed? And if so, why? I put those questions to 40 sources from the Public Insight Network who list “advertising” as an expertise. Here’s some of what we heard…
 

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