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Our View: Look for 'passionate' voters next Tuesday

In just a few days we will all have an opportunity to vote in the June 5 recall election, and most of us will seek reconciliation with someone after the results are tallied.

Unless, of course, you fall in that extreme minority of Wisconsinites that has no opinion about Gov. Scott Walker.

And if you do, you'll probably be happier than the rest of us that it's finally over.

Recently, Learfield News reported that politics no longer has a place at our tables, whether we're sharing a cold beer, a coffee or a hot dish.

The conclusion was based on a poll by the Marquette Law School that indicated nearly a third of all the 705 adults surveyed said they'd stopped talking to others about politics because it's become so divisive.

Most of us could share first-hand stories of arguments that have erupted at dinner tables, workplace break rooms and church coffee hours. Wives disagree with husbands. Brothers argue with sisters. Ministers tread carefully from the pulpits and business people are careful not to show their loyalties at risk of alienating customers.

When the Public Policy Polling firm asked 1,136 people what they thought about Walker's job performance last month, only 13 said they had no opinion.

When it's all over, we're hopeful we'll have learned something.

Writing recently in the Los Angeles Times, New York University educator and self-declared Democrat Jonathan Zimmerman said he's "appalled by (Walker) who has cut spending for schools and stripped teachers -- and most of the state's public workers -- of collective bargaining rights.

"But I'm also appalled by the recall campaign against Walker by Wisconsin Democrats. ... The recall epitomizes the petty, loser-take-all vindictiveness of contemporary American politics ..."

Zimmerman goes on to recount recalls directed at former California Gov. Gray Davis and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein. Davis was ultimately tossed out during his second term and replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Feinstein, herself the target of a recall a decade earlier when she was mayor of San Francisco, decried an effort "started by people who were unhappy with the results of a legitimate election in which 8 million Californians voted."

If voters tried to toss everyone they disagreed with, no public official could effectively serve anyone. "Orderly government cannot prevail on the shifting sands of a recall brought, not because of any corruption or incompetence, but because of a difference of opinion on an issue," she said.

Zimmerman notes that "as a liberal, I'm troubled by the prospect of voters unseating an elected official over taxes. Or abortion. Or gun control. If you can recall leaders for any political reason, sooner or later your own ox will be gored.

"I'm also worried that the Wisconsin recall, which has drawn nationwide attention and money, will trigger a vicious cycle of partisan retribution. Your guy didn't win in November? No problem. Start a recall drive now.

"Most of all, though, I fear that the recall threat will make our elected officials even more timid and poll-tested than they already are. Sometimes great leaders need to make unpopular decisions. And politically-motivated recalls make that less likely, as President Taft warned in 1913:

"'Look back, my friends, through the history of the United States and recount the number of instances of men who filled important offices and whose greatness is conceded today, and tell me one who... if subjected to a recall at certain times in his official career when criticism had impaired his popularity, would not have been sent into private life with only part of his term completed. Washington is one who would have been recalled, Madison another, Lincoln another.

"I'm not comparing Walker to Washington or Madison or Lincoln. But Wisconsin voters should let him serve out his term," Zimmerman concluded.

While we agree, that's immaterial. Voters will decide in a few days and we support the voter's right to make the ultimate decision.

Then we'll all need to begin mending fences.