MacIver News Service | Jan. 14, 2018
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — The nation’s debate on hate speech is replete with irony, particularly on the left (*See U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich.*).
Preaching against hatred with hate has become the norm in American political discourse. Just ask state Sen. Howard Marklein.
In his recent weekly e-update, the Spring Green Republican raised a couple of questions that get to the heart of the matter.
“How do we move forward with so much hate?” Marklein asked.
There has been a good deal of talk about a return to civility in Wisconsin, from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Republican leadership. But Marklein isn’t seeing it, at least in the recent round of hate mail he’s received.
“Over the last several weeks, my team and I have received an amazing amount of hate,” Marklein wrote. “Callers, emails, letter and visits have been filled with profanity, name-calling and hateful comments and accusations. We have done our best to receive the input and ideas despite the hate, but it has been difficult.”
Much of the overheated rhetoric spilled out of last month’s extraordinary session called by the Republican-controlled Legislature. Democrats have called the session a “power grab” because some of the bills passed and signed into law by former Republican Gov. Scott Walker limit the authority of the executive branch. Left-leaning groups last week filed a lawsuit challenging the validity of the session.
Democracy, Marklein wrote, is built on “deliberation, negotiation and discussion.” That requires listening to each other and seeking to understand opposing viewpoints. He and his fellow Republicans certainly did receive their share of opposing viewpoints. Too often, however, opposition turned into outright hostility, Marklein said.
The senator included a sample of the kinds of emails he has received of late.
“You are a human stain, Marklein. You and your crooked Republican cohorts should be tarred and feathered on Capitol Square,” wrote one angry citizen.
“Resign now and beg for forgiveness before you rot in hell,” stated another email.
Some sounded more menacing.
“Howard better watch his back if he is out in a group of people,” one email warned.
Does the senator worry about his personal safety and that of his family’s after receiving such threats?
“I guess it’s always in the back of my mind. You wonder how far people will go,” he told MacIver News Service last week. “But I think people are much more brave sitting behind their computers and Facebook than they are talking face to face.”
Marklein found out for himself. He said he received a nasty email from a constituent. Instead of emailing back, Marklein knocked on the constituent’s door and asked him if he wanted to discuss his issue. The guy told the senator that he had no problem with him.
At the same time Marklein’s office was “managing the influx of hate,” the senator said residents in Spring Green were putting up signs declaring, “Hate has no home here.” The signs were erected in response to white nationalist and anti-Semitic flyers popping up around the southwest Wisconsin community.
Indeed, hate should have no home in Spring Green or anywhere else in Wisconsin, Marklein said. Still, Marklein wrote, he struggles with this conflict:
“Why is hate acceptable when it is directed at my team? But it has no home in my community?”
The answer, according to some, is Marklein and the Republicans deserve it, that they brought the hatred and hostility on themselves. He wonders what the left would say if the shoe were on the other foot, so to speak.
“Hate is hate,” Marklein said. “You can hide behind any excuse you want, but it’s hate.”
“Because I disagree with you doesn’t mean I don’t like you or that I hate you. We just disagree.”
Marklein, like Evers, says he hopes for the return of civility, but he’s less than confident that the left will turn down the nasty rhetoric now that many liberals believe they have found the keys to electoral success.
“Unfortunately, I think the left has found in this past election a winning formula, using anger to their advantage,” the senator said. “I don’t see them changing that strategy whatsoever. They are trying to make elections on emotion rather than fact.”