On Wisconsin?

Renee Rosenow

I’m happy Arizona Sen. John McCain is the presumptive Republican Party presidential nominee. I’m happy Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is his presumptive running mate. And I’m even happy Delaware Sen. Joe Biden is running as Illinois Senator Barack Obama’s vice-presidential candidate. The reason I’m happy to see these three people in the national political spotlight is because they come from states that have never before been represented on a major presidential ticket. Nothing against Obama, but he comes from the land of Lincoln.

But once it was announced Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin would be the presumptive Republican vice-presidential candidate, I was saddened that my hopes of Wisconsin politicians being on a mjor ticket in the 2008 election went out the window.

Some may not remember, but in anticipation of the next election after the 2004 election, two Wisconsin politicians had been mentioned as possible presidential candidates. In 2005 Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold said he would tour the United States before deciding on whether or not to run for president. After the 2006 mid-term elections he announced he had decided not to run. Then in early 2007, former Republican Sen. Tommy Thompson announced his candidacy for the presidential election. It only took until August for him to withdraw from the race.

At a minimum, it will take four more years until another opportunity presents itself to put a politician from Wisconsin back in this type of spotlight. Sure, somebody could be appointed to something much like Thompson was with the Bush administration when he became Secretary of Heath and Human Services, even then, when you ask a non-resident to name a Wisconsin politician, they’re likely to say former Republican Sen. Joseph McCarthy, Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl, or no one at all. So basically if you are going to make a name for yourself as a politician from Wisconsin you have to make accusations against the U.S. government that turn out to be false or own a basketball team that drastically underperforms. The other night David Letterman singled out current Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle on his list of “Top Ten Things Overheard at the Democratic National Convention.” Number five on the list was, “Shut up! I’m trying to listen to Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle.”

But should an outsider be blamed for a lack of Wisconsin politician knowledge or making a joke involving one because they seemingly aren’t important on a national scale? When taking a look at the history of the presidential election, the answer is obviously no.

Wisconsin is preparing to see its 41st election since becoming the United States’ thirtieth state in 1848. Since then, eight states have been represented by a vice-president from their state, eight states have been represented by a president from their state, and 10 have had both a vice-president and a president from their state.

Additionally, nine states have had someone from their state run on a major presidential ticket and lose, 10 states have had someone from their state run as a vice president and lose, and 12 states have seen someone from their state run for both president and vice president and lose. Of the 20 states that have entered the Union since Wisconsin, 10 haven’t been represented in a winning or losing effort. Three of the 29 states from prior to Wisconsin’s admission have yet to be represented in this way also. Of all the states that have yet to be represented in a presidential race, Wisconsin is second to Washington’s 11 Electoral College votes with 10.

What does this say about our state’s politicians? With Wisconsin being described as a “battleground” state for the past two elections and in the upcoming one, why hasn’t the Democratic or the Republican Party included Wisconsin in their presidential races a little more? Why has Wisconsin simply become a place where nominees just make stops to eat brats and console disgruntled cheese factory workers? The other states that have yet to be represented may have a good excuse in that their Electoral College vote number is too small, although its not a good one seeing as Alaska and Delaware are the respective Vice-President’s states of representation and both only have three electoral college votes. But really Wisconsin has no excuse with it being toted as a “battleground state” and commanding a large portion of Electoral College votes.

I am a person who loves to see “firsts” and precedents being set. Obviously I can’t ignore that this is likely the biggest reason I wish someone from Wisconsin would get involved in the national political stage. But additionally, I’ve come to wonder what is happening to the kids who reside in Wisconsin as a result of this. When asked what they want to be when they grow up, has the number of kids that respond “president” decreased due to the lack of our state’s importance?

We live in an age where children love things now and fast. It’s a culture where attention isn’t a strong suit. So if they realize that being from Wisconsin will make it tougher for them to achieve the dream of one day being a president, vice president, or even just a recognizable figure, will they even want to attempt it? And if not, who knows what we potentially could be missing out on.

Soon the upcoming presidential election will come, pass, be analyzed, be over analyzed and then will even be analyzed some more. But hopefully in the weeks, months, years that follow, or however long it takes for the media to start predicting who will run in the next election, a politician from Wisconsin will get involved and represent our state more and better than what it has been in the past 160 years. I don’t hope for this because of the kids, or feeding my constant need to see underdogs win. It’s about giving Wisconsin some recognition and some better attention. Because after all, I know our state is better than a punchline to a joke or a good place to stop and get a brat while meeting with disgruntled cheese factory workers.

Hansen is a junior print journalism major and editorial editor of The Spectator. “Mmmboppin’ with Scott Hansen” appears every Thursday.