The last straw: A letter to the Wisconsin State Journal by Grant Petty


I received permission to publish this letter from Grant. It was written Sunday, June 26 and is spreading rampantly on the net. From Grant, “I’m a bit stunned by the attention my open letter to the Wisconsin State Journal is generating. In addition to countless ordinary folks, I’ve heard from a state senator, a state legislator, and the former mayor of Fitchburg. And it’s still early Monday morning!”

Dear Wisconsin State Journal,

As non-union public sector workers (yes, we exist) who are about to be hit with an 8+% take-home pay cut, my wife and I have to decide what luxuries we’re going to cut out of our lives.  She has been arguing for weeks that we should let our subscription to your paper expire.   Despite my longstanding annoyance with both your coverage and your editorializing (which led to a previous email exchange with you last Spring), I halfheartedly argued for keeping the subscription.  My defense was that there was local news in your paper that I still wanted to be able to get from my breakfast reading rather than having to go online to look for it.

My grudging advocacy for renewing our subscription collapsed this morning when I read your editorial “Rampant recalls wrong.”  (

What did I find so exasperating in this editorial, as in so many of your other editorials?  You probably already think it was because you took a position that disagreed with mine.  Please don’t console yourself with that comforting thought.

Rather, it was that you once again completely glossed over large and important points while harping on a small one.   Just as you oversimplified the motivations of the hundreds of thousands of citizens — many of whom were NOT in unions — involved in the protests at the Capitol.  Just as you mentioned the “mess” of Prosser/Kloppenburg election in your advocacy for appointed judges (which I agree with) while utterly failing to address the obvious and profound implications of the same mess for ALL elections held in Wisconsin.  Just as you praised the bottom line of the “balanced budget” while largely ignoring the profound damage that many unwise, unnecessary and/or non-fiscal provisions of the budget do to the state.   And the list goes on.

You are writing for one of the most informed, educated, and civic-minded readerships in the country, and yet you’re writing pablum.  You are insulting the intelligence of a large fraction of the readership you depend on for your livelihood.

Do you really believe that the recall efforts against the GOP senators would have ever gotten off the ground if they were solely about disliking one specific vote those senators cast?   Your embarrassingly simplistic and superficial editorial makes it sound like that’s all there is to it and that those behind the recalls are just whiners and sore losers.

Since you’re apparently posting your editorials from another planet, or at least another state, let me be clear: the wave of opposition to the Walkers and Fitzgeralds of this government, and all of their enablers, may indeed be partly about specific policies, but it has been fanned to white heat by the following:

Arrogant contempt for the rule of law (e.g., open meetings rules) by our elected officials.  Cronyism.   Appalling power politics as manifested in successful efforts to disenfranchise voters, unions, etc.   Brazen pay-to-play favors to major campaign donors.   A rubber-stamp Supreme Court bought and paid for by the WMC.  Persecution of the public sector for partisan political purposes.  Harassment of critics (e.g. Bill Cronon). Evidence of extreme incompetence and/or bona fide malfeasance in the conduct of our cherished elections by highly partisan, ethically and legally challenged clerks.

In other words, all of the ugly things that we used to associate with banana republics, not with Wisconsin, of all places.   But especially those events, starting with the illegal open meetings violations and concluding with the compromised Wisconsin Supreme Court’s blessing of those violations, that give us good reason to fear that the rule of law is as dead as Monty Python’s parrot unless we fight for it with every tool at our disposal, including recall elections.

By failing to do what real journalists are supposed to do, which is to hold power accountable and to challenge your readers to revisit their prejudices and to have a more nuanced understanding of the issues confronting us, the Wisconsin State Journal has become one of the enablers of our spiral into political corruption, and we will not support it any longer.

It’s a luxury we literally can no longer afford.


Grant Petty

Fitchurg, WI


PS:  And just this morning, we have this:  When will YOU start defending Wisconsin?


  1 comment for “The last straw: A letter to the Wisconsin State Journal by Grant Petty

  1. Rob Blank
    June 29, 2011 at 2:16 am

    I ended my subscription to the WSJ in February, because of outrage over one of the editorials at the start of the protests. Mr. Petty and I are in near total agreement. I suggest sending the letter to Lee Communications as well. I complained to them as well as the WSJ when I cancelled my subscription. The Lee website has a laudable list of journalistic standards. In my letter to them, I outlined the ways in which the current WSJ editorial board fails to achieve them. Worst of all, the WSJ has relied on wire service feeds for important in-state stories. How pathetic can you get? There is an opportunity for Pulitzer Prize winning journalism here, but the feeble WSJ doesn’t have the stomach to even try to use the present political turmoil to its advantage.

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