Friday, December 16, 2005

Political Ghosts Past And Present

Irony sent Bill Proxmire to meet his maker and Chuck Chvala to jail on the same day. Two of Wisconsin's most notable political figures now begin to fade into memory. But Prox's name will forever be attached to the state's proud past and his memory will always evoke images of independence and integrity. He will be fondly remembered for his considerable wit, his legendary frugality, his tireless handshaking and, of course, those Golden Fleece Awards. His relatively modest list of legislative achievements will be forgiven. Bill Proxmire was the embodiment of Wisconsin's tradition of clean and open government.

Chvala's political epitaph reads simply "convicted felon." He is the ghost of our political present, a tragic symbol of the culture of corruption that has been allowed to take root at the State Capitol. His many legislative accomplishments will be forgotten, overwhelmed by memory of his arrogant disregard for ethical boundaries. He will forever be associated with one of the darkest periods in Wisconsin history. He broke the law. He got caught. He was brought to justice. He is disgraced. His legacy is one of shame. Shame that he brought on himself and that he brought on the whole state.

Now what will we take from our encounters with these ghosts of Wisconsin's past and present? Will we choose to make things right?

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