An Open Letter to Governor Walker and Stephan Thompson from a Loyal Republican

The outpouring of messages I’ve received via email, blog comments, phone calls, published columns, and direct communications from friends over the past week has been nothing less than overwhelming, and I honestly haven’t even begun to keep up with the flood that has poured through my computer and my life. I’m not sure when I’ll ever be able to do so.


But among all the communications I’ve received in the past few days, few have touched me as much as the letter below, sent directly to Governor Scott Walker and Stephan Thompson (the Deputy Executive Director of the Republican Party who submitted the open records request for my emails). It was written by a longstanding Republican voter in Wisconsin who is a strong supporter of the governor’s fiscal policies. The author (whom I’ve never met and don’t know at all) shared it with me because he wanted me to see what he had written, and I was so moved by his eloquent words that I asked permission to reprint them in this blog. He asked only that I omit his name and contact information for personal reasons that I respect, so I’ve agreed to do so and hope readers will take my word that he did not try to hide his identity from me (unlike many of the most negative commentators on this blog). I have no reason to doubt the truth of anything he says.


What I so admire about this letter is the author’s willingness to criticize leaders whose policies he supports but whose particular actions — at least regarding the open records request for my emails — he finds objectionable.  I admire the honor and integrity with which he declares his position, especially since I believe it is just these qualities — honor and integrity and fair-mindedness, even when dealing with people with whom one disagrees — that are so needed in our political life as a state and nation right now.


I’m grateful to all who have written constructive comments on this blog, and all who have offered words of moral support no matter what their views on particular positions I have articulated here.  Thank you.


Bill Cronon



Hello Governor Walker and Mr. Thompson,


I am a registered Republican and enthusiastically support the recent efforts to move the state towards fiscal responsibility.


I happen to be a state employee; in spite of the large personal cost this will mean in our family income, we recognize the value and necessity of adjusting public sector benefits to match similar compensation available to private sector employees.


I am also an Army veteran who volunteered to serve both here and overseas in defense of our most basic freedoms, including the freedoms of thought and speech.


I am very disappointed by the recent and transparent efforts by the Wisconsin GOP to intimidate Professor Cronon. Inquiry into political activities and discourse about such activities is a legitimate academic pursuit. Even public employees have the right to voice private opinions, this is one of the most basic American rights. If there is nothing for the party to hide, there’s no cause for concern about a historian investigating and describing funding sources for reasons of posterity. The suggestions of wrong-doing inherent in your request so close on the heels of his blog posting is beneath the standards of the Wisconsin GOP. Casting aspersions on one of the most respected professors at one of the nation’s most respected universities makes you look petty and ridiculous.


Excusing this behavior by suggesting that the “left” does so more aggressively than the “right” is justifying wrong-doing by others’ wrong-doing…is that really the course you want to chart for Republicans in Wisconsin? In response to his publicizing of this request, your press release also stated: Taxpayers have a right to accountable government and a right to know if public officials are conducting themselves in an ethical manner. Well, members of the GOP have the right to accountability and ethical behavior by the leaders of the party as well, and I expect you would lead this effort to change the way Wisconsin works in an ethical and civil manner yourselves.


This is not the way in which MY party behaves. Please adjust course before you lose your base.


Thank you for your time and consideration,

A Wisconsin Republican

47 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Governor Walker and Stephan Thompson from a Loyal Republican”

  1. @everyone. Commenters, read the Terms of Service link in the footer before you post.

    Because this was a new blog, the webmaster has previously given commenters generous numbers of warnings about abusive and personal attack postings in hopes that some civil dialogue about these issues could emerge. Beginning today, commenters who insist on posting items that violate the Terms of Service will be immediately moderated. We welcome the exchange of ideas, not the exchange of insults.

    1. @Webmaster, Thank you SO much for everything you’ve done to make this a productive space for people to come and share their opinions. I cannot tell you how grateful I am to you for all of your hard work, and I wish those who want to engage in this admirable exchange of ideas would think more carefully before posting things that are completely unproductive in the context of the ongoing conversation and that only serve to increase the amazing amount of work you are already doing to keep this place safe and informative for people of all political inclinations, just as Cronon has always intended.

      1. @hilary: Thanks, it is important. I think everyone nowadays is very hungry for answers and arguments that can help us make sense of everything. I’m hoping we keep attracting people to the blog who are doing the research and critical thinking that will help us all. For example, I think everyone would be fascinated by a well-written conservative viewpoint of ALEC’s ongoing filing of amicus briefs.

  2. You go, professor! I think I understand the basic principles you’re standing up for. And I’m very glad that you’re doing it in a way that encourages the center to hold. Too much of what we are encouraged to believe is legitimate commentary, these days, is just partisan sniping back and forth, from one radical extreme to the other. All that sniping going on, over the heads of what Nixon used to call “the Silent Majority,” causes any moderate, centrist people to disengage from the political process. What we need more of is honest engagement.

    Some say that the center cannot hold, and has not been holding for a long time. But that’s no reason to give up hope. I think you were right to engage with and to believe the earnest bona fides of your Republican correspondent, and to publish his letter. Thank you.

    (A loyal Canadian citizen, who also carries U.S. citizenship.)

  3. I enjoyed your 15 March post about ALEC, and hope you will soon post more informative articles. Your most recent posts seem rather self serving, and of course are being covered by other media. Please get back to writing about interesting topics [..]


  4. As I have written in other contexts, to members of both parties, I wish the author leaders worthy of his loyalty. I can only wonder where they have been for he past 30 years, though.

    As to moderation, I recommend Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s essay, Virtual Panel Participation.

    1. @Raven: Thanks very much for the link, interesting read. It reminds me of a saying: “The path to enlightenment is long and difficult, so bring snacks and a magazine.”

      1. 🙂

        You’re welcome.

        BTW,Talking Points Memo reports that three similar FOIA requests have been filed in Michigan, against entire labor studies faculties. It looks like someone with more money & power than sense has got a bee in their bonnet.

  5. Thank you for untangling the conservative hidden conservative legislative web into something “us” regular Americans can understand. Americans understand that there is much more going on than meets the eyes and ears. Know your efforts to impart a road map is appreciated.

  6. All of this turns my stomach. I realized that in the past years some members of Fox News have undertaken the irresponsible tactic of attacking faculty at universities by claiming they are all liberals (communists and nazis, too apparently). Unfortunately, they have swayed many people who only watch Fox News and, it would seem, some powerful members of the Wisconsin GOP. The WGOP have now begun a campaign of intimidation against Prof Cronon (and therefore all faculty across the US). Cronon, I might add, is a much-loved, well-respected, *grounded*, exceptional scholar. I have to add, he is an exceptional human being that is respected as much for his humanity and soft-spoken nature as his love of open and honest inquiry and impeccable and actually balanced research.
    What also makes me nervous is that now any scholar who studies labor movements, political parties/activities, public relations (and the list goes on) might become a target of the GOP across the nation. Some universities will not have the courage to stand up to pressures and begin to relax their support for faculty, perhaps not as well known as Prof Cronon. As he has so eloquently pointed out, the actions of the GOP have taken a bold step to limit or squelch entirely freedom of speech, impinged upon academic freedoms necessary for the dissemination of knowledge, and harkens to one of the darkest periods of our history–the McCarthy hearings.
    Perhaps history is bound to repeat itself in the persons of a poorly educated or fearful group of hopeful autocrats who, in the name of balancing the budget, attempt to limit the ability of those to do their civic duty to understand and be knowledgeable about the government and their elected officials so that they can be learned voters.
    I support you, Prof Cronon, and all of the other besieged faculty and citizens who suffer under the tyranny of intimidation. Stand strong, and know that the whole country is watching the Wisconsin GOP. You are on the front lines of this important battle and as I told someone yesterday, they’re fu**ing with the wrong man.

    1. The attack against Labor Relations professors has already begun in Michigan. According to Talking Points Memo, who published one of the FOIA requests, three conservative organizations have requested the emails of professors in three different universities. The key words they are looking for include, Scott Walker, Wisconsin, Madison, the situation in Madison and believe it or not, Maddow.

      I would include the link to TPM, but I’m not sure I can on here. However, it’s part of today’s top news and easily found on the site.

      This is very troubling to say the least.

      I stand behind Prof. Cronon and anyone else attacked in this manner.

  7. Ooops. Sorry, there is only one organization (not three) sending out requests to three different universities. The requesting organization is the Mackinac Center For Public Policy.

  8. Prof Cronan, it is us that should be thanking you but I am so glad that my continued support of you is helping, even if in a small way. Suppression of intellectual thought has always been the tactic of tyrants and it will go unchecked if the nation’s citizens are unwilling to call them on it. Thanks to the Republican voter for calling out the Governor and Thompson on their shallowly transparent motives.

    On another topic, I think it is imperative that younger students and savvy techies aid those professors that are uncomfortable or unfamiliar with social networking tools and smart phone technology. I think it would behoove most professors at this time to transition to smart phones for their own privacy and career safety. It also behooves them to use social networking rather than e-mail to keep appraised of what is going on.

    Webmaster, it would be helpful to readers to convert the href links to TARGET=_BLANK? I keep forgetting which windows have the original Scholar as Citizen blog after I follow a link. Thank you.

    1. @Lisa: I only edit comment links if the link is a commercial site or otherwise violates the Terms of Service. I’ll look into some software-based solution, but in the meantime you’ll have to hold down the CTRL key (or mac equivalent) when you click a link so it opens a new tab for you. Apologies. I’ve added a bit of code so that comment links now open in a new window. Thanks, Lisa.

  9. Prof. Cronon,

    I am a May 2010 graduate of UW-Madison in the history department and completed my senior thesis under the thoughtful direction of Prof. Sharpless in his 600 Class on Wisconsin History. I was a non-traditional aged student having finished five years in school at age 39. I have been a Wisconsin resident for all but a couple of years of my life and have taken the recent turn in Wisconsin politics very personally. To say I have been radicalized by Walker’s attack on our state would be an understatement. Each day I find myself becoming more edified on the topics you have coincidentally written about on this blog, taking it all in with the mind and skills of a trained historian. I find most disturbing the attacks on our schools, especially given the rich history and important public position that schools have had in our state. The tactics employed by the Governor and his regime remind me a great deal of those devices employed by fascists of the past: altering rules to avoid law, attacking unions and the dignity of work , creating private security details, devaluing children, the elderly and those with disabilities, restricting free speech, assembly and free association, restricting voting rights and of course attacking intellectuals. While Stephan Thompson is free to request your emails you should certainly examine the emails before surrendering them to ensure that agent provocateurs have not seeded your mails with fraudulent correspondence that could be used against you . On the surface this request appears routine but it looks to me like the opening of a rabbit hole that leads to the Republican goal of stomping out all dissent. What kind of state do I want to live in? One where elected person respect the offices they hold, the people they represent and the traditions they are following. I appreciate your dissemination of valuable information about the right-wing agendas that endanger both our state and our livelihoods.
    Sean Welch, citizen historian

  10. Thank you for your ongoing courage Professor Cronin. I respect you endlessly for the amount of courage it takes to fight this egregious inquisition. Many many have your back.

  11. Looking on the bright side: at least now you won’t have to search around for a topic for your AHA presidential address next year!

  12. I think this entire episode is going to inflict severe damage on the progressive notion that government entities of all kinds must be transparent to the public. What a shame.

  13. What disturbs me is this Republican feels unwilling to publish his name. In all other respects, his comments are illuminating for all of us.

    I recently had a ‘back and forth’ with William O’Connell (@boconnel regarding the United States Constitution Is seems I overstepped HIS bounds (however, I could be wrong) when I asked his thoughts on, “What a concept… A non-union union. ‘We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.’”

    1. I guess I find it more sad than disturbing that there are members of the Republican Party who feel that they cannot own their dissenting opinions for fear of persecution at the hands of a group of people who individuals like this one have supported in the past (and would presumably like to be able to support in the future). I agree that it would help Cronon’s case if there was a name at the end of this letter to prove that he did not write the letter himself, but given the trend these days, I can’t say that I blame this person for choosing to remain anonymous in the context of this blog.

    2. Interesting using that part of the Constitution in an “arguement”. I used this From the Declaration of Independence for a similar reason. And I just want to say that people all over the county and certainly your neighbors in MN support Professor Cronon and all the activities, protests, recalls, and the mobilization of political action and discourse!

      “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

  14. @Hillary Fey–The Republican letter writer presumably signed his name on the actual letter sent to Scott Walker and Stephan Thompson. Otherwise the gesture would have been totally meaningless–it could have been thought to be a hoax. It’s inexplicable why the writer would reveal himself to Walker and Thompson but not to a very sympathetic forum right here. In fact the letter writer is vulnerable to retaliation from Walker because no one but Walker and Prof. Cronon, who is bound not to divulge his identity here, knows who he is.

    1. The irony is that the letter writer is vulnerable in ALL public forums–we are seeing that truth born out in a very big way as the William Cronon story spreads across the country. Offering an opinion to the masses seems to be becoming more dangerous by the day right now, and that in itself is a pretty scary development. I wish I could say that this public forum is limited to people who are purely “sympathetic” to both Cronon and to this anonymous letter writer. Unfortunately, most things that are public are not privy to that kind of Utopian condition and it isn’t really reasonable to expect that they could be. That said, I would like to believe that this country and its free-thinking citizens are capable of civility in public discourse to a greater degree than I am currently witnessing, especially where this particular professor is concerned.

      1. Speaking your mind is not dangerous as long as none of us cave. There is safety in numbers. Don’t let them win by letting them silence us. Speak up, louder and louder. Make it normal behavior and you will start to see others speak up. These tactics don’t work when citizens are more fed up than they are scared.

    2. I believe Prof. Cronon explained that he himself deleted the name of the Republican who wrote the letter to Gov.Walker.
      As I understand it, the Professor did not want this kind person to be subjected to the abuse that comes from the anonymity of a blog. Once again, Prof. Cronon has demonstrated his integrity.

  15. Sorry, Wisconsin Republican, but this is the way your party behaves. Ever since Bush,Cheney,Rove,Gonzalez, Gingrich and a few more came on the scene.

  16. I expect that you’re busy enough these days with the moderating and the landslide of emails you must be receiving, so I’m somewhat reluctant to ask… do you (or any of the commenters here) know if anyone else is tracking the responses to this? The links from yesterday have been very helpful, but I know that the conversation is continuing forward, especially as this tactic of using FOIA requests to intimidate historians has now spread to Michigan.

    Meanwhile, my continued appreciation for the cogency and level-headedness of the discourse here. The quality of the community of a blog rests very heavily on the tone set by the owner/moderators, and I want you to know that I appreciate it – and the work that maintaining a space like this requires.

    Thank you.

    1. @Rachel: Yes, a bibliography with links is being created that soon will be kept on a permanent page on this blog. However, this blog wasn’t intended to focus on ALEC. See “About this Blog” page. The first post was a study guide that would lead people to start their own deeper research. There is also and related websites.

      1. Oh, to clarify – after re-reading your initial response I realize that in my enthusiasm I perhaps I read too quickly the first time – the issue I’m interested in is not ALEC per se but rather how this story has been picked up and discussed in various internet venues. It’s the discourse surrounding Dr. Cronon’s post and the Republican reaction to it that intrigues me.

        1. @Rachel: A direct inquiry to Prof Cronon will give you better insights. But from a technical standpoint, I think the interest in this story stems from people trying to make sense of the Wisconsin situation on all sides and sharing/searching for web-based information.

  17. I have been so swamped with various issues relating to the Republican Party’s request for access to my emails that I have barely been able to scan the many thoughtful comments on this blog, let alone read them carefully (for which I apologize).

    But I do want to clarify one point. The author of the letter above showed it to me as a courtesy, and it was I who asked permission to publish it in this blog–which was absolutely not the author’s original intention in sharing it with me.

    Since I’m the one responsible for asking this author to share with the public a letter originally intended for only three readers, let me simply suggest that those casting aspersions on the author aren’t thinking very carefully (or generously) about why a human being with responsibilities to other human beings might not want to subject people one cares about to the kind of words and judgments that anonymous bloggers seem to feel are completely fair game in this particular forum.

    And has anyone thought about whether there might be environments in which declaring oneself to be a supporter of Governor Walker’s policies might lead to ostracism from people who don’t agree with those policies? Retaliation for unpopular views is hardly limited to those at one end of the political spectrum.

    Speaking only for myself, I wouldn’t be eager to subject my children or family members to the very hostile kinds of communications we’ve seen in a few of these blog comments. Would you? Whatever else you may think of him, I don’t think Governor Walker uses the kind of language or personal invective we’ve seen in some of the comments on this blog. Would you want the people you most love to experience this kind of language directed at members of your family?

    Anonymity is of course part of the problem, since anonymous bloggers can hide behind their namelessness to indulge vulgarities that few would probably be willing to use when talking face-to-face with another human being. We’ve been repeatedly struck by the fact that many of the really nasty messages posted on this blog have come from people whose emails mysteriously bounce when we try to communicate with them. I myself would think twice if I were not already a public person about opening members of my family to these kinds of comments.

    That was why I was willing to offer this particular writer anonymity in return for the favor of letting me publish this message. If you want to rail against the anonymity of the message, please direct your anger at me for thinking it was appropriate to help this person protect loved ones from angry words in return for the favor of letting me (a total stranger) share a letter that I personally found very moving.

    I’m hoping to write more about this subject of blogosphere rhetoric when things calm down a bit and I finally have time to think again.

  18. Dear Prof. Cronon, I noticed that you like quotations, so I’m leaving you one of my favourites by EB White, that I think is particularly suitable for you.

    “As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.

    Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society — things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time, waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. we can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.

    Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.

    I am a Canadian. We are about to elect a new government in Canada. Members of the Conservative Party of Canada, our current party in power, have, apparently, made similar access to information requests about academics at the University of Ottawa, and other Canadian universities, who have been critical of the Conservative government. It is a very very disturbing development.

    I have nothing but admiration for what you are doing, and for the letter writer, who risked his own security, and that of his family, to speak truth to power. I hope that you will soon get your life back. Taking it back, retiring from the field is always an option. Thank you.

  19. I see in today’s New York Times that now some professors in Michigan are being targeted for labor-related emails, just like you. It’s a modern witch hunt!
    Please keep writing. It’s difficult to wrap our heads around what’s happening here and I find your blog enormously helpful in putting the situation into historical context.

  20. The Republican letter writer describes himself as a public employee who recognizes the need to sacrifice. That specific point is only secondary to the point of his letter, but it is critical to understanding the knowledge base of the base supporters of current Republican ideology as it is unfolding currently. The writer states early in his letter, “I happen to be a state employee; in spite of the large personal cost this will mean in our family income, we recognize the value and necessity of adjusting public sector benefits to match similar compensation available to private sector employees.” Note the erroneous point made in that statement, that public employee compensation needs to be adjusted to match similar compensation in the private sector. The use of the two terms benefits and compensation confuses the issue, but assuming that the writer means to imply that public worker’s compensation package needs to be adjusted to meet lower levels of compensation in the private sector his assumption is erroneous. When matched for education and level of employment public employees are already below the compensation level of private sector workers. The public sector makes more use of professional level employees relative to the private sector, which makes far greater use of non-professional workers. When matched for skill and responsibility the public sector worker is already sacrificing compensation relative to the private sector.

    Yet the writer is obviously a thoughtful person. Enough so to recognize that the Republican Party FOIA request has a hidden agenda. Granted that it is not all that well hidden. Why so then does this person not recognize that he is already making the sacrifice that he seems to agree yet needs to be made as presented by the Wisconsin Republican controlled administration and legislature. Republican voters need to think more critically about the issues as they are being presented to them by their Republican Party leadership and operatives. They are accepting as truth many misconceptions in the form of a responsible Conservative ideology. It is leading our government and our economy in the wrong direction. Ideological conservatives need to be more critical of the political class that pretends to share their conservative values when in fact they seek only their votes.

  21. I am curious about whether the writings of ALEC could be discovered through FOIA requests for e-mails of government employees that work with them.

    It seems to me that if a private group is writing legislative templates that would eventually be used for public laws that the information that they possess should be open to public critique at some point.
    Having said that, I would like to echo the support for Professor Cronon that others have stated. I appreciate your courage and respect for the freedoms that this country grants us. Your writing is clear, concise and erudite and I look forward to more of it in the future.

    It seems to me that in these days when the country is so polarized, it is important to have considered, knowlegeable persons like yourself who are capable of voicing the essential rights that we all enjoy and how important they are for us all.

    Thank you again for your research and concern for us all.

  22. Here are my thoughts on this:

    This is an investigation into the professional conduct of a state employee. Someone wrote elsewhere (and I agree) “The purported reason for the request was to determine whether the professor was using his position as a government employee to advocate for particular candidates, using government equipment, on government time (this is something UW professors are forbidden from doing, by law, but are free to do on their off-time, using their own computers and private email).”

    If a state official investigated the professor for activities he was forbidden from doing, by law, solely because of speech on a blog; and they said, “we are only investigating you because you spoke out against the governors party”, how many of you lawyers would take up his civil suit? Now, people can say, “the state is not investigating this employee; a concerned citizen is…”

    But, this is the public relation coup out of the republicans involved in this whole situation in my opinion. These guys have framed themselves as just some dudes exercising their rights. But, the republican party controls the state. If the governor can’t initiate an investigation into a professors professional conduct based on speech, it is still just as wrong that the law allows him to get a friendly person to facilitate the same investigation. In neither case should we construct laws that allow it.

    Let us sit back and reflect on human history. When fascist regimes come into power one of the ways they side step all the checks and balances built into even weak governments is through loyalty to a political party. The State becomes synonymous with a political party, but it is not just government that folds into the regime, it is party loyalty across all aspects of the society that slowly (or quickly) grinds down resistance to the regime.

    It is chilling to see a political party to be able to investigate an employee of the state because of opposing political speech, in a state that they currently control, simply because they donned the mask “concerned citizen”.

    While it remains the case that a liberal sunshine law can be used to initiate punitive professional investigations into state employees that exercise 1st amendment rights, that alone is reason to oppose these sorts of liberal sunshine laws and to ask for more restrictions on types of content that can be exposed. It shouldn’t be enough that the employee might be misusing their time or their computer. What we gain as a society, and a people, for having discovered another person misusing their time, their email account, and their computer, is not enough to risk that they are simply being targeted because of their speech and exercising their rights. It is petty cash (from the perspective of tax rolls) versus important constitutional rights.

    I am pretty sympathetic to you sir, but ultimately I concluded it was the laws themselves that were flawed–while you said you still support them. I hope you change your mind, but also continue to fight the good fight.

    1. This is a variation on a straw man argument. First, Thompson isn’t exactly someone parading as a private citizen. He has even had his communications director issue press releases on his behalf related to this controversy. However high sentiment may run against the union busting program instituted by Gov. Walker, we should step away and separate ourselves from individuals tossing about facile labels like ‘fascist’ when referring to the opposition. You begin by distorting the initial premise and then through stages of increasingly incoherent statements step wholly illogically to the conclusion that sunshine laws are flawed and in particular the FOIA and should be neutered or repealed. Nice try.

      Interestingly in the swarm of demands from a few groups on the right that even potential dissenters drop their drawers on command, there seems to be an ever increasing cry that should the targets of these demands pause to discover how the law actually applies to their situation and review how best to comply with it that even this reasonable step is somehow in itself criminal or at the very least indicting. All this is of course nothing other than more of the posturing we already see by those who want to scold those errant ’employees’ of Gov. Walker who visited Illinois rather than rubber stamp the precipitous pre-weekend rush to pass what is probably the most controversial and potentially damaging piece of legislation Wisconsin has seen in many years.

      Wisconsin is now a ‘template’ State for what we shall witness in other states where, following the same agenda, they are already making moves to preemptively stymie, quash and silence opposition. Fear is a powerful tool. No surprise there are some who raise the whip of fear to persuade us that the hallmarks of an open society are actually flaws and little things like unions should become a thing of the past.

    2. While I respect your opinion, I think that your aim may be slightly off the mark.

      ‘Sunshine Laws’ serve a legitimate and important purpose in a free society, especially one that is based on governance by consent of the governed. It is of primary importance that citizens be capable of seeing what is going on in the government that they have created. To that purpose, making government agencies and employees accountable and open serves a very important principle.

      The fact that these laws can be used in a punitive manner must be immaterial to the purpose of the law. The Republican party had every right to ask for this information and, in a country that is based on the rule of law, unless a compelling reason can be shown that they should not receive it, they should get it.

      I fully support the Professor’s claim regarding FERPA information. That information can reasonably be excluded from this search, since it is, by law, confidential. The effect on the rest of the data that he focused on is up to the College to rule on and decide whether or not to defend. However, it was a legal request and should be answered. Once we begin to limit what one person can ask for, we begin to damage our own ability to view what our government is doing, and we don’t want to do that. We must keep our eyes focused on the larger principle.

      Although the Republican Party possesses the right to request this information, the format and timing of the request make it clear that it is punitive in purpose, which casts them in a particularly bad light. However, as a student of the ideals of transparency of government, which those in power seem to only support when it suits them, we must support their right to request it. If we believe in freedom of speech, we must support the right of those who speak things we find offensive or evil, if we would take advantage of the same freedom to speak what we believe.

      The Professor seems a conscientious and intelligent man. I don’t believe that they could find anything much to smear him with. While I deplore the manner in which this request was made, I must support the principle behind the law.

      I would be much more in favor of revising 501(c3) laws in order to make it more difficult for groups such as ALEC to influence legislation in this country and to keep that proposed legislation secret. It seems to me that any agency that is involved in proposing such legislation should be as open and accountable regarding that proposed legislation as any governmental agency. This part of a 501 group should be transparent to citizens, since what they are proposing can affect them directly.

  23. I consider myself an adopted Wisconsinite. We have lived in the state going on ten years and both our children were born here. My wife and I have been appalled by the attack on Dr. Cronon, who I had the honor to know as a graduate student in the English department at UW-Madison.

    As a native of a “right to work” state (Virginia) with a healthy respect for authentic American conservative traditions, I have long appreciated the fairness and non-ideological approach of Dr. Cronon’s work as a scholar and citizen. So I was not surprised to find the first 3/15 posting one of the most informative things I had read about the Wisconsin crisis.

    But we have been shocked by the witch hunt that followed that posting. It has shocked me particularly because I know from firsthand experience the length to which Dr. Cronon goes in his public work to frame questions in a fair and thoughtful manner. And no one understands or values Wisconsin traditions more.
    We need moderate, thoughtful, and active public intellectuals of Dr. Cronon’s caliber in our democracy. We particularly need their illumination in our public universities in times of crisis.

    Numen Lumen!

  24. I continue to be interested in this case and hope to read updates again that may reflect more positively on the Republican Party in Wisconsin.

    Last week I got a physical mailing telling me I should mail enclosed postcards to one of my state senators to encourage her to vote for a new “Right to Work” law in New Hampshire. Thinking that, if a group that I believe is part of the national wave of anti-union attacks is targeting her for attention a voice encouraging her to keep her mind open might be appreciated, I looked up her official e-mail address and sent her a message. I referenced the mailing and the ways in which it disturbed me, and let her know that she will get support if she stands up for her principles.

    That night I got a phone call from her. She had gotten the same mailing I had. Aside from the fact that the boilerplate language in the letter referred to her as “him,” she believed there were legal issues relating to its content, and was going to talk to the state’s Attorney General about it. She also wanted to vent about how angry she is with the efforts that ALEC or similar groups seem to be associated with that are causing anti-union, “right to work,” or other initiatives to create strife where none had existed before, usually to the detriment of actual solutions to real problems being found.

    An interesting note in this is that my state senator happens to be a Republican.

    I have a bad feeling that our next state elections will see a lot of “anti-RINO” rhetoric, and the Republicans who have tried to maintain their integrity will have a harder time for it.

    Speaking as a former Republican, now registered as independent, the highjacking of a party I once respected and supported by people who do not behave as they pretend to bothers me enormously. I have heard neo-Republicans say that Lincoln was a bad benchmark, and that they should not refer to the Party of Lincoln again. I have heard some of this new movement advocate treason. What I have not heard is any of the purported leadership of what calls itself the Republican Party standing up for honesty, accuracy, respect for law, civility, or for trying to help make the United States better for all of us. This makes me both sad and angry.

  25. I am a blue collar worker who has a hunger for knowledge, but has only been able in my life to taste the waters and never fully swim in higher learning. I have heard and seen on many means of media that the learned and genius people in history have had to encrypt their knowledge for generations to come. They did this in order to avoid persecution by those who had their own agendas. I pray for people like Professor Cronon, and others who I respect greatly for their hard work and dedication, to gather and bring to so many such important information of varied subjects. This is knowledge that we could not possibly glean for ourselves. This is a service to all mankind, and should never be stifled or needed to be encrypted. I thank you Sir.

  26. THANK YOU! For the information in your original post and for standing up for academic freedom. Take care and please don’t leave us, we need you here!

  27. Can you provide an update on Mr. Walkers actions toward you? Perhaps he has been busy printing ballots but our concern is that he may have staff continue to “get” you.

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