A Few Headlines From 2015

Paul Whyte

Scott Walker’s Short Lived Run For President

Before 2011 many hadn’t really heard of Scott Walker other than that he was the new Governor of Wisconsin. He wasn’t in office for two months before he became very well known in Wisconsin and surrounding areas for launching an attack on the public work force, cutting their bargaining rights.  In 2012 he narrowly escaped being the the third governor ever to be recalled by constituents in the United States. Walker held on to 53% of the vote in the recall election against Tom Barrett. This may have had something to do with the $30.5 million that he raised, $21.5 million of that was from out of state contributors in comparison to Barrett’s $4 million in overall campaign contributions. Walker came out on top again in the 2014 Wisconsin gubernatorial election against Mary Burke. Wisconsin continued to be stuck with their union busting, Koch brother backed, Republican Governor.
While most who follow politics in the Northland had heard of Walker after his exploits in Wisconsin, in June 2015 he began to take steps towards running in the 2016 presidential race. In a few short months the whole nation would become aware of him. Walker started out looking good in the polls, but he quickly lost traction and got lost in the mix of other Republican candidates. Gaining funds may have been easy for Walker in Wisconsin, but when matched up to runners like Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz and John Kasich, contributors such as Texas billionaire, Doug Deason, didn’t see much of a future for Walker. After performing poorly in the Republican debates, Walker’s campaign took a quick nosedive. At the end of September he stood at less than 1% in the polls and with that ended his campaign for President. A fired Walker aide gave a long list of why his campaign failed including, “misunderstanding the GOP base, it’s priorities and stances. Pandering. Flip-flopping.”    
Paul Ryan Becomes Speaker of the House

Paul Ryan (not the columnist) became nationally recognized after he ran alongside Governor Mitt Romney for Vice President in the 2012 election. At the end of October, he emerged once again to stand out in the Republican party when he replaced John Boehner as Speaker of the House of Representatives. He is the first Speaker out of Wisconsin and the youngest Speaker since James G. Blaine in 1975.
Ryan was nominated by the Republican led house and he hoped to be a “unifying figure” with his position. In the world of politics being a “unifying figure” might as well be called “cat herder” because Ryan has already been ridiculed by his own party for compromising too much with Democrats on the spending bill, which might be understandable. What is ridiculous is that some on the more extreme right have criticized Ryan for his “Muslim beard.” Speaker Ryan is the first speaker to sport a beard in around 100 years.  

Black Lives Matter Hits Minneapolis

This issue has been growing in intensity with every black man, woman or boy killed under questionable circumstances in the United States by those in authority. In 2012, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was gunned down by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer. Things reached a boiling point after Michael Brown was shot to death while unarmed in Ferguson, Missouri. Protests eventually gave way to looting and the burning of some businesses in the area. The movement sparks memories of the Rodney King beatings which led to protests and massive riots in Los Angeles in 1992.
Minneapolis ended up on the long and growing list of Black Lives Matter protests when Jamar Clark had an altercation with officers and died from being shot be two officers. Witnesses claim that he was handcuffed and shot execution style by the officers. While that detail remains unclear, Clark was unarmed up to the point he came into contact with the officers and died from the incident. The situation has resulted in massive protests that have gone on for days. Initially the protests were held at the Fourth Precinct but then branched out to interfere with traffic on highways, were held at the Mall of America and even the airport. Whereever protesters went, the police were sure to soon follow in massive droves dressed in helmets and riot gear.
The attitudes of those who pay attention to the issue are extremely polarized. Some argue that those slain by police are thugs and got what was coming to them. While the backgrounds of some of those slain by police may not be the best, the fact that the police had a large advantage leading up to most of the deaths remains. 1200 total were killed by police in 2015. Some may have been a sincere and legitimate threats, but there is definitely a trend of unarmed African Americans being killed at the hands of Law Enforcement and rather than get angry at the protesters, keep in mind they wouldn’t be out their protesting if nothing had happened.  
Enbridge Gets What They Want Except For A Surprise Visit

Enbridge and the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) conducted a number of town hall style meetings in 2015 discussing laying down new pipelines or replacing old ones through Native American lands. We attended several of the meetings and noticed that while there were a number of people who attended the meetings. With each meeting we attended it became more and more clear that these meeting were just a formality and that there was nothing anyone against the pipeline could say that would change anyone’s mind about the pipelines.
At the end of August in McGregor, MN, it was interesting to see that semi-trucks were loading up pipeline down the highway where such a meeting was taking place as it was happening making it completely clear that the meeting was pretty much pointless. Earlier, in 2015, there was a large meeting the Holiday Center ballroom dealing with the Sandpiper pipeline that would carry fracked crude oil from North Dakota to Superior. The pipeline was approved by the PUC with a 5-0 vote to construct the $2.6 billion pipeline, which further made it really look like the whole thing was going to happen no matter how many showed up and spoke out against it.
On November 2, a larger than usual protest gathered at the Washington Community Center and headed down to the Enbridge offices. The Enbridge workers were not very thrilled to have over a hundred people in the their office lined out the door and down the hallway chanting and holding signs. Inevitably, the Duluth Police Department was called. The protesters insisted that a letter be delivered to Enbridge, but the workers refused to receive it. The police gave the protesters an ultimatum, they could leave of their own free will and nothing would happen to them or they could stay and be arrested. Seven remained and were arrested or detained and cited. This was one of the boldest demonstrations from those against Enbridge that we have witnessed. 


Paul Whyte

A South Shore native and University of Wisconsin-Superior journalism graduate. Lifelong musician, and former open mic host. Passionate about the music scene and politics.

View more of Paul Whyte's work »