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Editorial: Political parties have betrayed us

It's hard to say where it started, and likely the long slide to irrational rancor between Republicans and Democrats in Wisconsin began well before ordinary voters had a clue. But it's time to stop.

We are by no means pointing a finger at one party rather than the other, but this is part of the most recent ride to ruin:

Early this year, Republicans held the majority in the Wisconsin Legislature. It looked likely they would go along with a rather extreme goal on the part of the new governor to cut the legs off public unions, who in our opinion took a short-sighted approach by insisting on wage and benefits that regular citizens can no longer afford.

So a group of Democrats headed for the hills of Illinois with the intent of hiding out and delaying a movement they knew they couldn't stop.

The Republican leadership retaliated by threatening everything short of attempting extradition -- which wouldn't have worked anyway.

The Democrats came back, not because they feared reprisals, but because it was doing no good to stay away. The Republicans had maneuvered to separate the union-rights changes from the rest of the budget repair bill.

That action is still held up in the courts, at least in part because of the contention that the Republicans violated the Open Meetings law by voting on it -- which probably wasn't necessary because, as noted before, they have the majority in both houses and could likely have found another way.

So the Democrats came back and began circulating papers to force recall elections for as many Republicans as possible. The GOP began collecting signatures to recall as many Democrats as they could.

Then they all protested the signatures collected by the other party and the methods of collecting them. Still the Government Accountability Board decided enough signatures had been turned in and ordered recall elections for nine Senate seats.

Even though it's months too early to begin a recall campaign against Republican Gov. Scott Walker, Democrats have started that chant.

Then a week ago, Republicans announced a drive to collect signatures for tepid candidates, some of whom are apparently Republicans, to enter the recall races as Democrats, thus forcing primary elections.

So the Democrats, who railed against Republican senators who did nothing more than vote the way their supporters thought they would, are now outraged by "fake Democrats" muddying up the recall process.

We're not saying either party did anything illegal. While we believe the recall process should be available to use against lawmakers who shock the public conscience, the Democrats didn't break any law by starting recall drives.

And while the ethics of doing so are questionable, there's nothing illegal with a Republican slapping a "Hello, my name is Democrat" nametag on his shirt.

It's kind of like the sister and brother in the backseat of the car, spoiling a family trip by shouting, "He hit me," and, "She hit me first."

This may sound sacrilegious to hard-core party members, but there are a lot of us out here who want to make our choice between two candidates we trust rather than between two parties we don't.

Until now, most of us haven't shared the belief that wearing the label "Democrat" means you want to see the labor unions' foot on the public's throat, nor do we believe that wearing the "Republican" label means you'd gladly watch the old and infirm breathing their last breaths in road ditches.

In our innocence, we'd like to believe that our lawmakers want the best for all of us and our state. But it's maneuvers like the ones we've been watching since January that threaten our naiveté -- if you can call a belief in basic fairness naiveté.

We think it's time for the leaders of both parties, and the behind-the-scenes managers who issue inflammatory press releases, to step back and look at what they've been doing -- and to be very ashamed.

This is not what our state is about. This is not what we are about.

Online Poll: Could protest candidate win?

The Journal's online poll question asked: If there is a Democratic primary in July before the state Senate recall election, who would you vote for?

Early results show:

--Democrat Shelly Moore, River Falls, Ellsworth teacher, 50.8%

--Republican "protest" candidate Isaac Weix of Menomonie, 49.2%

Go vote at

Look for a new poll question Friday.