Oh Say, Can You See the Pandering?

A dozen or so Wisconsin Democrats voted for a really stupid bill. They did the right thing.

Last week the Wisconsin State Assembly voted 74-22 to require that the national anthem be played before every sporting event at every venue supported by tax dollars. About a dozen Democrats joined the Republicans in voting for it while all 22 ‘no’ votes came from the Dems.

Democratic Rep. Lisa Subeck was right when she called it, “a political messaging kind of bill and not about anything serious. I also don’t think it’s possible for us to legislate patriotism.”

But Subeck is from Madison, where there is no downside for voting against a bill like this. Truth is that this is a political messaging bill. It was a cynical attempt by Republicans to get Democrats on record against the “Star Spangled Banner,” the flag, veterans, lemonade, Fourth of July parades and picnics, bunting, ice cream cones, puppies in red, white and blue capes, and sparklers.

Before you go any further, did you sing “The Star Spangled Banner” yet?

For the Democrats who voted for this thing it just wasn’t worth the political capital to be against it. They didn’t take the bait.

But who are the real patriots here? The Republican Party used to be for minimal government and for staying out of people’s day-to-day lives as much as possible. Technically speaking, this bill would require the anthem to be played before a pick up softball game at your local park.

And the whole thing is a solution in search of a problem. The controversy started when Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban ordered that the anthem not be played before his team’s home games last season. The NBA told him it had to be played and so he relented. End of story.

But not for the idea-challenged GOP. The party saw another chance to fight a culture wars battle and they jumped at it. Republican strategists have decided that they’ll pass on substance and spend the next year and a half banging away at problems that don’t exist, like transgender athletes, voter fraud and pre-game national anthem playing.

Frankly, it would have been better if Subeck and her liberal colleagues had just voted for the damn bill too. As it is, even their opposition to it will help brand their party as unpatriotic. If this legislation were anything but silly, I’d say it would be worth that price. But it’s not. It’s just a stupid bill designed to produce some “gotcha” votes to reenforce the negative-branding of Democrats.

And while I’m on the topic, the bill is really aimed at professional sports franchises in Wisconsin, none of which would ever consider not playing the anthem in the first place. But the bill applies to them because there is public money in their arenas and stadiums. Taxpayers dumped $600 million into AmFam Field and about $300 million each into Lambeau Field and the Fiserv Forum, So, all told, we ponied up $1.2 billion and we didn’t even get the naming rights. That’s the real problem. Taxpayers are needlessly subsidizing billionaire team owners. Now, if there were a bill to stop that, it would really be worth voting for.


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

One thought on “Oh Say, Can You See the Pandering?

  1. Wonder if the Republicans who introduced this bill might consider re-instating mandatory Civics classes in schools? Seems like that’s drifted by the wayside and might be more germane to our future voters. Oh wait, never mind, now I get it… šŸ™‚


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