Wisconsin News

We the People: Civil discourse leading up to recall

VIROQUA, Wis. -- No matter which candidate you support, there's no doubt the upcoming gubernatorial recall election in Wisconsin and the events leading up to it have divided the state.

We continue our series of reports with the "We the People" project. News 8 is one of several media organizations around the state taking part in the project that brings together people from diverse backgrounds and examines issues through their eyes.

This month, we're taking a look at civil discourse and the political climate leading up to the historic election.

Like most people in the state, Palmer Hoffland of Viroqua has strong feelings about this recall election. And like most people, he's become fed up with the endless ads and attacks coming from both sides that leave the voter in the dark about who to believe. But even so, Palmer says now is no time to sit back on the sidelines and watch.


Even for the most experienced, weeding through the political turmoil of this past year hasn't been easy. "It gets to be almost too much.  It should not be dominating our life," says Palmer.

Seventy-one-year old Hoffland spends a lot of time in his backyard garden these days. A quiet, peaceful refuge if you will from the realities of what politics in Wisconsin has become.  Palmer says, "Contentious, is probably one word.  It's divisive.  Almost aggressive and compared to any time I can ever think of, including times I've lived in Minnesota.

This self-proclaimed vocal independent who tends to lean mostly toward the right is finding out in this polarized political climate, there's definitely a time and a place to talk politics. "I don't think I've ever been afraid to express my opinion on almost anything and I'm not afraid to express my opinion about how I feel about this election and who I would support, but you kind of look around before you say it."

Even despite the negative tone and mudslinging the campaigns have taken to, Palmer is actually finding himself more engaged in the political process than ever before. "I think if ever, people in this state need to stand-up and try to make it better, now is the time. You can stand and complain all day long, but it isn't going to solve anything."

And he knows, no matter which candidate wins this historic recall election, it's going to take a long time for the wounds to heal and for politicians to find common ground again. "I'd like to believe, they'd all say OK, we exercised our rights under the constitution of the state of Wisconsin, these are the results we got, now we got to move forward, but I just don't see that happening."

Palmer says if there's one thing he thinks can help change the political climate, it's pulling in the reins on fundraising especially when it comes to how much money outside groups can spend.

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