What Am I Doing Here?

A few weeks ago I got a thoughtful email from a reader who said he liked the site, but had some suggestions for improvement. He’s a self-described “marketing guy” and I thought his ideas were more than worth considering. So, of course, I rejected them all.

Anyway, his observations were perceptive and you, good reader, may share them, so I thought I’d deal with them here.

First, our reader thought the name was too obscure. He’s right, of course. When I started the site at the first of the year, I kicked around a bunch of options: The Middle, Moderates, Moderation, The Center, Center-Left, The Midwestern Moderate, etc. All of those would have been more straight-forward and descriptive about what I was trying to do. I chose Yellow Stripes & Dead Armadillos because it was more creative and a little bit self-mocking. (One problem I find with my fellow liberals is that they can be humorless.) The phrase comes from long-time populist-liberal Texan Jim Hightower who famously (well, apparently not famously enough) said that, “the only things in the middle of the road are yellow stripes and dead armadillos.” Anyway, too late now, folks. We’ve gone down that road and we can’t turn back.

Second, our reader suggested I might want to post maybe three times a week instead of every single, gosh-darned day. He was too polite to come out and say it, but I suppose what he meant was that the writing would be better and the opinions better-considered if I wasn’t cranking out words like Ron Johnson pushes out conspiracy theories. Here again, he’s probably right, but I can’t help myself. As of today I’m up to 275 consecutive days of posts and I just don’t want to break the streak. And it is a fun challenge to see if I can put out about 700 words strung together to make a more or less coherent argument day in and day out. It’s a blogging marathon and I aim to finish it… wherever the finish line might be found.

But third, our reader makes a point on which I can’t completely agree. He suggests that I should emphasize that my disagreements with the left aren’t substantive; that I should suggest better language for the same arguments. But that is true only to some extent because I also have fundamental disagreements with part of the left.

The most significant disagreement is on issues of identity politics. I’m for equality, but not equity, and I’m against racism, but I’m not an anti-racist, as I’ve come to understand those terms. It’s not just an issue of which words to use; the left is choosing different words to convey very different points of view.

What I aspire to is a color blind society in which everyone is judged on their individual merits. For me, that’s the fundamental American project and what used to be the consensus American creed. (Actually, for the vast majority of Americans, it still is. That’s why, in addition to my disagreement with the left on fundamental philosophy, I also see their arguments and language as being absolutely politically disastrous.) But a sliver of very influential and well-placed people on the left have rejected the American creed. They see classical liberal values — like free speech, the presumption of innocence, individualism, the elevation of reason over experience and emotion, and merit — as mere “tools of the oppressors.”

I oppose that point of view with every part of my being. For those who believe — correctly — that America hasn’t kept all of its promises, the answer can’t be to abandon those promises. The answer has to be to fulfill them.

And that’s one of the central reasons for starting this site almost a year ago. I heard from a lot of liberals who were appalled by the way the left was going, and yet they felt like if they spoke up they’d be attacked. And, of course, the Republicans have gone so far off the cliff that there can be no refuge there.

So, with nothing to lose — may political career is in the rear view mirror — I decided to make a case for classical liberalism and reasoned public policy, every day, from a very liberal college town (and sometimes from a cabin in the North Woods) in the heart of the country.

Our reader’s (quite valid) criticisms gave me an opportunity to remind myself of what I’m doing here. And it gave me a chance to explain myself to you once again.

And on another matter… why are the Democrats not emphasizing this?! As part of Pres. Biden’s Build Back Better plan he’s asking for a $300 million increase (on a $139 million base) for a program that pays for more cops at the local level. The COPS program, started by Bill Clinton during another violent crime surge, has been tremendously popular and way over-subscribed. Biden’s Justice Department just announced the latest grants, which will be used to hire 1,000 cops in hundreds of communities around the country. Simple math would suggest that a $300 million increase would yield a total of around 3,500 or so more cops next year. Why aren’t the Dems talking about this to counter the “defund the police” narrative?

Welcome to the 275th consecutive day of posts here at YSDA. Thanks for reading!


Published by dave cieslewicz

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

One thought on “What Am I Doing Here?

  1. Point #1– “the name was too obscure” I’m familiar with the phrase, and understood it when I first saw it. (but then I’ve actually SEEN dead armadillos in the road) It is one of those “folkisms” with a dual meaning. Those in “the middle” find themselves isolated and alone. AND it is a cynical observation on the fate of armadillos, of either political persuasion, who venture to “the middle”. The appropriateness of the phrase in your case is to be seen, so by all means keep it.

    Point #2– If it ain’t broke, … If the format fits you, then it’s right. Blogs that post only two or three times a week are the ones you try to remember to check on over the week-end, to read all at once. That discourages feedback. Besides, you’ve got lots of photos, they’re interesting. I had never heard of the Apostle Islands (8/30/21), I learned something, thanks.

    Point #3– I don’t know your reader, but this might be a gentle warning to a “political armadillo” that is straying too far from his side of the road. The far left “uber-woke” are those most likely to TALK about race, yet least likely to DISCUSS it, and by discuss, I mean a rational two way conversation. If you simply clear your throat, they will accuse you of racism.

    Oh well, if third rails weren’t meant to be touched, at least occasionally, Gaia wouldn’t have made them.


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