Kathleen Dunn: “If Wisconsin citizens are looking for good judgment, critical thinking and regard for truth, they will have to look beyond the current President”
Yesterday on CNN.com, Kathleen Dunn, a long-time Milwaukee resident and former radio host at Wisconsin Public Radio and WTMJ, penned an op-ed saying Trump’s failure to manage the COVID-19 pandemic will ‘not go unnoticed’ in Wisconsin
Dunn spoke with Democratic and Democratic-leaning retirees, teachers, students, lawyers, nurses and essential workers across Wisconsin and many expressed deep frustration for the lack of leadership. In one of the conversations, Milwaukee resident Gael Cullen said, “End the acrimony, hatred and self-centeredness that keep us from putting in place a plan to address public health quickly and effectively — and without regard for political consequences.”
Louisa May Alcott, author of “Little Women,” wrote in her famous novel, “I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.” If only President Donald Trump had learned how to sail the American government’s ship. Perhaps he might have been able to calm the storm that is the Covid-19 pandemic. His failure, however, has brought us perilously close to capsizing.
And this failure is not going unnoticed by Democrats in Wisconsin, a key state to his reelection strategy and one where Joe Biden has led Trump for weeks. I recently spoke with Democratic and Democratic-leaning retirees, teachers, students, lawyers, nurses and essential workers in the state. Among the vast majority, the pandemic is the issue of most concern, tracking closely with national polls on the issues motivating voters this election cycle.
Each person I spoke to asked the candidates to give them realistic strategies for containing the virus, as well as for coordinating access to needed medical supplies, adequate testing and updates from career professionals on treatments and a possible vaccine. Gael Cullen from Milwaukee phrased it eloquently when she said, “End the acrimony, hatred and self-centeredness that keep us from putting in place a plan to address public health quickly and effectively — and without regard for political consequences.”
This frustration makes sense when you consider that Wisconsin, like much of the country, is nowhere near the end of the pandemic. In recent weeks, according to Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, Wisconsin has had the misfortune of being one of the leading states for new Covid-19 cases. Sadly, our state’s cases now exceed 138,000, many among low-income minorities in Milwaukee. And, this week, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported that, on average, over 15% of Covid-19 tests have been coming back positive.
The state health department noticed the starkest increase in cases among those 18-24 years old since the beginning of August. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers said in an online briefing there has been “unprecedented near exponential growth” of coronavirus cases among this demographic, five times that of any other age group. And a New York Times survey of cities with fastest rising cases found Wisconsin had eight metro areas listed, seven where University of Wisconsin campuses are located.
The situation is not much better at the elementary or high school level, with each district proposing its own patchwork plan for creating a safe learning environment. Some districts have money and can create additional safe spaces for in-person learning. Others have large numbers of students and limited resources — and must offer all virtual learning. Many districts now have reported Covid-19 cases.
Now, while the state’s response to the coronavirus does not entirely fall on the shoulders of the President, he bears some responsibility for setting an example for the American people on how to respond to the threats posed by the virus.
Over 100 years ago, during a comparable pandemic, President Woodrow Wilson made no public comment about influenza. His concern was boosting morale for the World War I effort. Wilson’s indifference to the pandemic resulted in the deaths of 675,000 Americans.
Our current President’s concern? Not winning a world war — but rather winning another four-year term.
And Peggy Creer from Whitefish Bay, another town north of Milwaukee, wrote, “I want to hear evidence of good judgment, critical thinking skills and a regard for truth.” Mary Pat Siewert from Elm Grove, a village in eastern Waukesha County, echoed this sentiment when she said, “I think the greatest thing I need from Washington is honesty. I am tired of people in the federal government being there for anything other than to be of service to the people of this nation.”
If Wisconsin citizens are looking for good judgment, critical thinking and regard for truth, they will have to look beyond the current President.