Tag: WI-AD-48

(TRIGGER WARNING) Stealthing is rape

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This blog post contains a description of sexual assault. Reader discretion is advised.


Stealthing is RapeI fully understand that this story isn’t going to get a ton of attention anywhere because of the U.S. House vote on taking health insurance away from millions of Americans earlier today, but, as reported by the Madison-based Wisconsin State Journal’s Molly Beck, a Democratic member of the Wisconsin State Assembly has proposed legislation that would criminalize nonconsentual condom removal during sexual intercourse, which is also known as “stealthing”, in the State of Wisconsin:

As far as I know, no state has a law on the books explicitly defining stealthing as rape or explicitly criminalizing stealthing, and there’s not a lot of statistics about stealthing available. That doesn’t change the fact that stealthing is rape. If one sexual partner requests that another sexual partner use a condom during sexual intercourse between the two sexual partners, and then one sexual partner removes the condom and continues intercourse without using the condom without the other sexual partner consenting to sexual intercourse without use of the condom, that is rape.

Melissa Sargent, the Wisconsin legislator who proposed the anti-stealthing bill in her state, is one of the best advocates for women holding elected office anywhere in the country. Even though Sargent is a very progressive Democrat in a state whose government is controlled by very conservative Republicans, Sargent has had success when it comes to getting legislation designed to protect women enacted. A notable example of Sargent’s work when it comes to protecting women is Sargent’s successful 2015 push to make upskirting a felony in Wisconsin.

I encourage elected officials in all U.S. jurisdictions to criminalize stealthing, because stealthing is rape.

People like Melissa Sargent are the Wisconsin Democrats’ future

A while back, Chris Walker, a progressive political blogger from Madison, Wisconsin who is obviously not related, either by party affiliation or familial relationship, to Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), stated that he thought that Wisconsin State Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) sounded “gubernatorial.”

Let me preface this by saying that I am not a Wisconsin resident. However, having read several of Sargent’s op-eds on the website of the Madison-based newspaper The Cap Times, I believe that Sargent would be an awesome governor for Wisconsin if she were to run for governor and win.

As a state legislator, Sargent has advocated for marijuana legalization, a higher minimum wage, abolishment of sales taxes on tampons, and other progressive ideas designed to improve the lives of her constituents and the people of Wisconsin. However, few of Sargent’s ideas have been seriously considered by the Republicans who control the Wisconsin State Legislature. That hasn’t stopped Sargent from successfully leading the fight to make upskirting, a crime in which a pervert photographs or films up a woman’s skirt without her consent, a felony in Wisconsin.

Sargent believes that Democrats shouldn’t have to give up support for equality in order to support policies designed to empower the poor and the working poor. Sargent also believes that political resistance against the Republicans is only half of the battle; Sargent believes that fighting for progressive ideas is just as important as opposing the opposition.

Conventional wisdom suggests that Democrats should run a center-left candidate from a rural region of Wisconsin for governor. If Sargent were to run for governor, she would be running into a conventional wisdom headwind, to put it mildly. Sargent is a lifelong Madison resident and is one of the most progressive state legislators in the entire country. However, if Barack Obama could defy conventional wisdom in the 2008 race for the Democratic presidential nomination, then it would be very much possible for Sargent to defy conventional wisdom in Wisconsin in 2018.

I seriously doubt that Melissa Sargent would seriously consider the idea of running for Wisconsin’s highest office. That hasn’t stopped the Republicans from attacking her online; specifically, Sargent has been attacked in a sexist manner over the fact that her husband works for Wisconsin State Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) (Sargent response to attacks here). Anyone who has even the slightest familiarity with Sargent knows that she can think for herself without any difficulty. However, if she does run for Governor of Wisconsin, I believe that she would be an awesome candidate.

Because of the competitive Democratic gubernatorial primary in my home state of Illinois, I’m going to considerably scale back my blogging about Wisconsin politics to some degree.

WISCONSIN STATE REP. MELISSA SARGENT: “We must work to end the rape culture”

REPUBLISHER’S NOTE: Below the horizontal line is an op-ed, originally published by the Madison, Wisconsin-based newspaper The Cap Times, that was written by Wisconsin State Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison). The op-ed has been republished to this blog, as it appeared on The Cap Times’s website, with permission from Representative Sargent.


A young woman woke up not sure where she was.

She was covered in pine needles, her hands and elbows bloody. As she laid on a hospital gurney trying to put the pieces together, doctors performed one invasive procedure after another to determine what had happened. She was told — hours later, after she was finally allowed to shower — that she had been sexually assaulted and was found unconscious behind a dumpster.

By now, many of you have heard about this brutal rape on the Stanford campus. The power of social media allowed millions of us to read the chilling testimony that the victim read aloud to her assailant in court. And like me, I’m sure you were horrified by the light sentence — at most, six months in the county jail and three years’ probation — that the judge gave to the Stanford student. Not even a slap on the wrist.

This case is the definition of our society’s rape culture.

This made me think back to a few weeks ago when I was visiting a middle school in my district. I was talking to a young woman about her college plans. This seventh-grader said she has just read UW-Madison’s campus climate survey, which showed that one in four women will experience sexual violence during their time on the Madison campus. She told me that she felt she had to choose between her safety and her ability to pursue higher education.

This is wholly unacceptable.

As women, we are taught almost from birth that we have to be careful, and take extra precautions for our safety. There is a strict set of unwritten rules for women: Don’t walk alone, don’t drink too much, don’t wear that skirt. We live in a culture that views rape and sexual assault as inevitable, as something that “just happens” to (a certain kind) of woman, as something that can be prevented if we as women just follow that laundry list of unwritten rules — and always as something that is the victim’s responsibility to stop.

These attitudes are all part of rape culture. We live in a world where everyone from the media, to teachers, to school administrators, to many elected officials contribute to and normalize sexual violence against women. The media debate whether a rapist’s sentence will ruin his life — rather than talking about the lifelong impacts for the victim.

Sexual assault isn’t something that happens somewhere else, to someone else. It’s happening right here — to us, our sisters, our friends, our daughters. And it’s happened to me.

Every parent should know that this is what our children are being taught. Our daughters grow up hearing that if a boy hurts her, it’s love. Our sons grow up hearing that “boys will be boys” is an excuse for their actions.

Every parent should be acutely aware that this is the world their children are growing up in. While Brock Turner’s six-month sentence seems like such a far cry from justice, in actuality he is receiving more punishment than 97 percent of rapists, who face no jail time at all.

We must teach our children to do better to stop this community of inaction. We must stop victim-blaming altogether. And we must say that rape is rape — no excuses, no justifications.

 

The First Annual Order of The Progressive Midwesterner Awards

For the first time ever, this blog will be awarding end-of-the-year awards to several individuals who I consider to be effective at advancing progressive causes during the year, regardless of whether or not one meets the typical criteria of being politically progressive or not. This is the first annual awarding of the Order of The Progressive Midwestern Awards, for the year 2015. All ProgMid Award winners for this year and years in the future are automatically inducted into the Order of The Progressive Midwesterner.

The award categories for the first ProgMid Awards are as follows:

  • Person of the Year
  • Man of the Year
  • Woman of the Year
  • American of the Year
  • International Person of the Year
  • Group of the Year
  • Athlete of the Year
  • Blogger of the Year
  • Activist of the Year
  • Elected Official of the Year
  • Entertainer of the Year
  • Young Person of the Year

There are two important notes regarding the awards:

  • Many award recipients will receive multiple awards. For example, if the Person of the Year in a given year is a female athlete from Canada, she would win Person of the Year, Woman of the Year, International Person of the Year, and Athlete of the Year.
  • Should multiple people or a group of people win award(s) other than Group of the Year, the plural form of the name(s) of the other award(s) will be used (People, Men, Women, Americans, International People, Athletes, Bloggers, Activists, Elected Officials, Entertainers, and/or Young People).

With that said, I hereby present the First Annual Order of The Progressive Midwestern Awards, for the year 2015!

Person of the Year – Bernie Sanders

Person of the Year is the only open ProgMid Award category.

No person has made a bigger impact on advancing progressive causes in the year 2015 than Bernie Sanders. Bernie, the junior U.S. Senator from Vermont, is currently seeking the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in the 2016 elections, and he has made improving America’s economy a key part of his campaign. Bernie has publicly championed raising the U.S. minimum wage to $15/hour, guaranteeing paid family leave, making college in America truly affordable, breaking up large financial institutions, and many other progressive ideals. Bernie is the ProgMid Person of the Year for 2015.

Man of the Year – Bernie Sanders

Men are eligible for the Man of the Year Award.

Since the Person of the Year, Bernie Sanders, is male, Bernie is also the ProgMid Man of the Year for 2015.

Woman of the Year – Rachel Notley

Women are eligible for the Woman of the Year Award.

In Alberta, Canada’s most conservative province, Rachel Notley led the Alberta New Democratic Party to a landslide victory in the Alberta legislative general election in May of 2015, and, as a result of the election, Notley became Premier of Alberta. Notley and her party ran on a progressive platform that championed good government, Alberta’s environment, economic justice, and common sense, and they won in a very conservative part of Canada. Notley is the ProgMid Woman of the Year for 2015.

American of the Year – Bernie Sanders

In order for one to be eligible for the American of the Year Award, one must be a United States citizen, United States national, resident of the United States, or some combination thereof.

Since the Person of the Year, Bernie Sanders, is an American, Bernie is also the ProgMid American of the Year for 2015.

International Person of the Year – Rachel Notley

Those who are not eligible for the American of the Year Award are eligible for the International Person of the Year Award.

Since the Woman of the Year, Rachel Notley, is a Canadian, Notley is also the ProgMid International Person of the Year for 2015.

Group of the Year – The Black Lives Matter Movement

The Group of the Year Award is the only ProgMid Award that is required to be awarded to a group of people.

In response to racism, police brutality, and police shootings of black people in America, the Black Lives Matter movement, a group of progressive activists seeking reform of the criminal justice system and increased accountability of law enforcement in America, has brought the issues of criminal justice reform and law enforcement accountability to the forefront of American politics. Black Lives Matter is the ProgMid Group of the Year for 2015.

Athlete of the Year – Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Professional athletes and individuals primarily known for being amateur athletes (including, but not limited to, collegiate athletes and amateur Olympic athletes) are eligible for the Athlete of the Year Award.

Although one would usually not think of a NASCAR driver as advancing a progressive cause, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. played an important role in building public support for taking down the Confederate flag from the grounds of the South Carolina State House in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. When asked about his thoughts about the Confederate flag, Dale Jr. called the Confederate flag “offensive to an entire race” and said that the Confederate flag “belongs in the history books, and that’s about it”. For his condemnation of the Confederate flag, Dale Jr. is the ProgMid Athlete of the Year for 2015.

Blogger of the Year – Kelly Wilz

Those who are an administrator of, editor of, author of, and/or contributor to a blog are eligible for the Blogger of the Year Award.

One of the newest members of the progressive blogosphere is Kelly Wilz, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Marshfield/Wood County. Wilz is also the author of the progressive political blog Dissent and Cookies, which launched in May of 2015. As a blogger, Wilz has primarily focused on ending rape culture in America and supporting tenure protections for college professors, both of which are very important causes. Wilz is the 2015 ProgMid Blogger of the Year.

Activists of the Year – The Black Lives Matter Movement

Those who are largely or primarily known for being a political activist are eligible for the Activist of the Year Award.

Since the Group of the Year, the Black Lives Matter movement, is a group of political activists, members of the Black Lives Matter movement are also the 2015 ProgMid Activists of the Year.

Elected Official of the Year – Bernie Sanders

Those who were a public official elected either directly by the people or elected by a body elected by the people (such as the U.S. Electoral College) at any point in the year in which the award is given are eligible for the Elected Official of the Year Award.

Since the Person of the Year, Bernie Sanders, is an incumbent elected official, Bernie is also the 2015 ProgMid Elected Official of the Year.

Entertainer of the Year – Jon Stewart

Those who are entertainers (actors/actresses, comedians/comediennes, musicians, sports announcers, radio show hosts, television show hosts, etc.) are eligible for the Entertainer of the Year Award.

While Jon Stewart left the anchor desk of the Comedy Central news satire program The Daily Show in August of this year, Stewart has not abandoned the first responders who responded to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Stewart passionately advocated for, and won, renewal of federally-funded health care for 9/11 first responders. Stewart is the 2015 ProgMid Entertainer of the Year.

Young Person of the Year – Keanan Sargent

In order to be eligible for the Young Person of the Year Award, one must be less than 18 years of age on December 31 of the year in which the award is given.

At an August 2015 LGBT pride parade and rally in Madison, Wisconsin, Keanan Sargent, the then-nine-year-old son of Wisconsin State Representative Melissa Sargent, did something incredibly creative when confronted by homophobia. Keanan used balloons to obscure a sign that anti-LGBT protesters were displaying at the pride parade and rally. For his creativity and progressive values, Keanan Sargent is the 2015 ProgMid Young Person of the Year.

Why free tampons in public building restrooms is actually a great idea

I’ll admit that this is an idea that I hadn’t even thought of until I heard about it being proposed in Wisconsin, but Wisconsin State Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) has proposed legislation that, if enacted, would legally require “restroom facilities in buildings owned, leased, or occupied by the state have tampons and sanitary napkins at no charge.” In this case, “state” refers to the State of Wisconsin, and “sanitary napkins” refers to pads.

This prompted the latest right-wing outrage over a progressive idea, with two main arguments against free tampons in public building restrooms. First, the right-wingers are arguing that spending taxpayer money on tampons and pads are…well, a waste of taxpayer money. Second, the right-wingers are arguing that this does nothing to benefit men.

While Sargent’s bill has virtually zero chance of becoming law in Wisconsin with the current, Republican-controlled Wisconsin State Legislature, this is actually a very good idea. For example, many people, including many women, travel on Wisconsin’s Interstate highways on long-distance trips, and making tampons and pads available at Wisconsin rest areas would be of great convenience to women who, for whatever reason, forget to bring their tampons or pads along with them. Also, menstruation is something that men don’t have to deal with, although I’m guessing that most, if not all, women would find it very embarrassing to have to deal with menstruation without a tampon or pad.

This is something that legislators in other states should seriously support.

Meet the most creative LGBT rights activist ever

Love is LoveEarlier this month, Keanan Sargent, the nine-year-old son of Wisconsin State Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison), became the star of a recent gay pride rally and parade in Wisconsin’s second-largest city by using colored balloons to obscure signs that anti-LBGT bigots displayed at the parade:

Keanan Sargent, the 9-year-old son of Wisconsin state Rep. Melissa Sargent, found himself confronted by homophobia at a pride rally in Madison earlier this month.

(Melissa) Sargent told The Huffington Post she was marching in the parade with her husband and two youngest sons, and the anti-gay protesters gathered at the base of the capitol building. The homophobic signs bore slogans like “gay sex is a sin” and “sodomy is the same as bestiality.”

When her son noticed the signs “were hurting people,” he took a balloon and stood in front of one of them, according to fellow attendee Lars Koch, who took the below photo. When the sign holder tried to move around the solitary balloon, members of the crowd starting handing Keanan their balloons, too.

Keanan Sargent’s creative use of balloons to obscure hateful anti-LGBT signs worked successfully: The bigots eventually rolled up their signs and left the pride event!

Make no mistake about it, Melissa Sargent is one of the finest progressive advocates in this country, and she’s certainly taught her kids well!

Why President Barack Obama’s use of the N-word is acceptable

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The following blog post includes quotes that contain racist epithets.

The right-wing corporate media in this country is manufacturing yet another, for lack of a better term, non-scandal scandal over something involving President Barack Obama. This time, it’s over Obama’s use of a six-letter racial epithet that begins with the letter “n” in an interview by comedian Marc Maron.

Here’s what Obama said while being interviewed by Maron:

Racism, we are not cured of it. And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say nigger in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It’s not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don’t, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior.

You can listen to a podcast of the full Maron interview of Obama here.

I firmly believe that the president used the N-word in an appropriate context. The underlying message of what the president was saying was this: Just because one removes racial epithets from their vocabulary doesn’t mean that he or she isn’t a racist anymore. There are many people in this country who don’t use racial epithets (at least not in public), yet hold prejudiced views of ethnic minorities.

The president isn’t the only Democratic elected official to have used the N-word in such a context. One person who has used the N-word in an appropriate context who I can think of off of the top of my head is Melissa Sargent, a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly. Sargent, a white woman who grew up in an interracial family, wrote this op-ed, in which she talked about having racial epithets directed at her when she was a child, for a Madison, Wisconsin-based newspaper last year.

Here’s the part of Sargent’s op-ed where she used the N-word in what I would consider to be an appropriate context:

I grew up in Madison. I have two brothers and a sister. One of my brothers and my sister were adopted; they are African-American.

We did all the normal things that kids do around Madison. We played in the park, went to the beach, and rode our bikes. When it came time to go to school, we naturally walked there together. When I was in fourth grade, our mom made us all matching outfits to wear on the first day of school so my brand new first-grade sister would feel more connected to us. We were proudly marching arm-in-arm, wearing our Hawaiian print shirts when I started hearing the catcalls: “Nigger-lover, nigger–lover, nigger-lover.” As a child it was hard to comprehend why they were mocking me. The words were beyond my years, but I could feel the hatred in their voices.

That was just one of many times I witnessed this kind of treatment toward my family. I knew then that my brother and sister, and their future children, would have a much different experience in the world than I.

The rest of Sargent’s op-ed was about fear institutional racism in this country; the op-ed was written not long after Michael Brown, a black teenager, was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, in Ferguson, Missouri.

Sargent was quoting racists who used the N-word to verbally attack her and her family, which is what I consider to be using the N-word in an appropriate context. The message that Sargent was conveying is that she has been subjected to overt racism because her parents adopted black children.

Make no mistake about it, the Southern Strategy is absolutely disgusting and, to this day, the modus operandi of most Republican politicians. However, when the late Lee Atwater, a far-right Republican political consultant who ran George H.W. Bush’s winning 1988 presidential campaign, used the N-word while describing the evolution of political messaging used by right-wing politicians in this country in an anonymous interview by political scientist Alexander P. Lamis, it was technically in an appropriate context.

Here’s what Atwater said about the Southern Strategy in his 1981 interview by Lamis, which was uncovered by The Nation magazine in late 2012:

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968, you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things, and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

(slight grammar edits mine)

While I despise Atwater and his racist style of politics, what he said is right. In 1954, politicians could get elected in many parts of the country, especially in the South, but also in many other places across the country, by using the N-word and other forms of overt racism to appeal to white racists. By 1968, using the N-word in political messaging was considered disqualifying for major party politicians in much of the country (although it was still considered acceptable in many parts of the South), and racist politicians resorted to using dogwhistles like “states’ rights” in order to defend racist policies. Technically speaking, Atwater used the N-word in an appropriate context, since he was talking about political messaging that racist politicians used in the mid-20th century.

Usually, using the N-word and other racial epithets are considered highly inappropriate and racist. However, if one is having an intelligent conversation about racism, and uses the N-word in the context of an intelligent conversation about racism, then it can be, depending on exactly how it’s used, considered appropriate to use the N-word.

Wisconsin’s Melissa Sargent makes the case for legalizing recreational marijuana

Once again, Melissa Sargent, a Democratic member of the Wisconsin State Assembly from Madison, has proposed legalizing recreational marijuana in Wisconsin.

While Sargent’s bill has zero chance of being enacted by the Republicans who control Wisconsin’s state government, I strongly support all efforts to legalize marijuana for recreational use in this country. Sargent made a great case for legalizing marijuana in her home state of Wisconsin in this editorial, which was published by the Madison, Wisconsin-based alternative newspaper The Cap Times:

Adults choosing to use marijuana in the safety of their own home is a matter of personal liberty and freedom. As a matter of philosophy, the government must have a compelling reason to make something illegal in our society. If an individual action does not harm yourself, your neighbors, or your community, it is no business of the government. Likewise, Wisconsinites with ailments that could be alleviated through marijuana should have the freedom to use inexpensive and effective medicine that works for them.

As Wisconsin deals with devastating financial shortfalls created by Gov. Walker, we must look at all available options for generating revenue. While Republicans demonize the use of marijuana, what is truly criminal is the money Wisconsin is losing by not legalizing it.

As of today, each stop a police officer makes for simple marijuana possession costs taxpayers, on average, $425. Over 650,000 Americans were arrested in 2012 for marijuana possession. That’s one possession arrest every 48 seconds, and more arrests than for all violent crimes combined.

With limited resources, and an overextended prison system, it is not sustainable to continue imprisoning people for these offenses.

What Sargent is talking about are not just Wisconsin problems by any stretch of the imagination. They’re serious problems in every state in this country where marijuana is illegal. Legalizing marijuana for recreational use would bring states more tax revenue, save taxpayers money, reduce the number of people who are incarcerated, and provide more freedom to people. As Sargent herself stated in her editorial, “…the most dangerous thing about marijuana in our society is the fact that it remains illegal.”

A tale of three Wisconsin Democrats on economic messaging, part two

You may remember a blog post I wrote late last year on here in which I compared the political messaging of three Democratic members of the Wisconsin State Legislature, State Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, State Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, and State Representative Melissa Sargent, when it comes to so-called “right-to-work” legislation, which is actually wage theft legislation since it allows non-union employees at a shop in which wages and other benefits are determined by a collective bargaining agreement between organized labor and management to effectively steal wages and other benefits without paying for them in the form of union dues.

Now, that Wisconsin Republicans are formally pushing to implement wage theft legislation in Wisconsin, I’d figure I’d analyse the press releases that Barca, Shilling, and Sargent sent out earlier today.

Here’s the key part Barca’s press release:

“Governor Walker has called so-called ‘Right to Work’ legislation a distraction and apparently that’s exactly what he wants. By rushing to pass Right to Work in less than a week, clearly the governor and Republican legislators want to distract from how destructive their budget is for Wisconsin’s workers, students and middle-class families.

“Wisconsin is already lagging behind most of the nation in jobs and wage growth and ‘Right to Work’ would only make things worse. In fact, the average worker in Right to Work states makes between $5,000 and $6,000 less than the average worker in other states. And calling an extraordinary session will make the budget disaster Republicans have created worse since we’re already scheduled to be in session the following week anyway. What’s the emergency?

Here’s the key part of Shilling’s press release:

Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling released the following statement regarding the call for an extraordinary session of the Legislature to take up so-called “Right to Work” legislation:

“It is absurd that Republicans would fast-track legislation to interfere with private business contracts and lower wages for all Wisconsin workers at a time when our state is facing a massive $2.2 billion budget crisis.

Here’s the key part of Sargent’s press release:

“Let’s call this what it really is. Plain and simple, this is a wage theft bill,” stated Rep. Sargent.

[…]

“It is important that the treatment of our workers reflects the challenges and dangers that they face on a daily basis. This proposal would also suppress wages for the true profit creators, the workers, which are already growing at a slower rate than the national average, and further polarize our state,” continued Rep. Sargent.

“People struggling to find work and stay in the middle class do not need this divisive legislation. Instead, we should be supporting workers’ rights and helping to build the economy. I know that workers deserve the freedoms that unions provide. The freedom to take a sick day if they need to get well or help take care of a family member, the freedom to earn a family sustaining wage, and the freedom to work in a safe environment are things that I will always fight for.”

While Barca and Shilling are talking about the negative effects of wage theft legislation, such as driving down wages and interfering with negotiated contracts, they’re still primarily referring to the legislation as “so-called right-to-work” legislation, which does nothing more than reinforce the right’s absurd talking point about union busting and wage theft. Sargent, on the other hand, is referring to right-to-work legislation as “wage theft” legislation, which reinforces the notion that such legislation allows non-union workers to effectively steal union-negotiated wages and benefits without paying for them, is referring to workers and consumers as “profit creators” (after all, without people earning salaries, there’d be nobody to buy goods and services and help businesses prosper), and is talking about the various freedoms that unions and workers’ rights provide. I find Sargent’s messaging, which is recommended by the Forward Institute, a Wisconsin-based progressive think tank, to be far more effective than the messaging that most other Democrats use.

16 elected officials and soon-to-be elected officials I’d like to meet in person

Since this will be my last blog post of 2014, I’d like to take the opportunity and list 16 elected officials and soon-to-be elected officials that I’d like to meet in person someday.

16. Minnesota State Representative Carly Melin (D-Hibbing) – Melin, a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives from the Iron Range region of the state, is like me in many ways: Progressive on a wide range of issues, millennial, not from a large city, loves to use Twitter, and not afraid to criticize Republicans and corporate Democrats.

15. U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-Evanston, Illinois) – Schakowsky is one of the most progressive members of my home state’s delegation to Congress, especially on economic issues like the minimum wage and worker’s rights. We don’t have too many politicians who are willing to stand up for worker’s rights here in Illinois, but she’s one of them.

14. Montana State Representative Amanda Curtis (D-Butte) – Curtis won’t be an elected official for much longer after losing her bid for a U.S. Senate seat in Montana, but Curtis is surprisingly progressive for a Montana Democrat. She’s a supporter of background checks on gun sales and she’s progressive on many other issues. Also, she also seems like a wonderful person to be around.

13. Michigan State Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) – Whitmer won’t be an elected official for much longer, but, during her two terms as a Michigan State Senator, she was a fearless advocate for progressive ideas and a vocal critic of the far-right Republicans that run Michigan’s state government.

12. Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug La Follette (D-Kenosha) – The only member of the La Follette political family (which produced legendary progressive Robert M. “Fighting Bob” La Follette) that is still in public office, Doug La Follette has served as Wisconsin’s Secretary of State for decades (although his office has very little power nowadays); prior to that, he was a Wisconsin state legislator who was known for championing environmental protection.

11. U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Hennepin County, Minnesota) – Klobuchar is perhaps the nicest elected official in the entire country, and she’s built up a solid track record of serving her constituents in Minnesota as a U.S. Senator. I’m not exactly sure what Klobuchar’s hometown is, so I’ve listed her by her home county instead.

10. U.S. Representative John Lewis (D-Atlanta, Georgia) – Lewis, one of the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s, is an important person in American history, as he fought to end the Jim Crow laws that discriminated against Black Americans for over a century after slavery was abolished.

9. U.S. Representative Mark Pocan (D-Madison, Wisconsin) – Pocan, by some measures, has the single most progressive voting record of any member of either house of Congress, and he’s also a cool guy.

8. U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Burlington, Vermont) – Sanders, who is considering running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, is a strong progressive, especially when it comes to his opposition to rampant income inequality.

7. Dane County, Wisconsin Supervisor Jenni Dye (D-Fitchburg) – Most of you probably don’t know who Jenni Dye is, since she’s a local elected official in Dane County, Wisconsin (specifically, a county legislator), but she is a Twitter master, an all-around cool person, and a strong supporter of women’s rights. Dye is elected to an officially non-partisan office, although she is a known Democrat, so I’ve listed her as such.

6. U.S. Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-Tuscon, Arizona) – Grijalva is a strong progressive from a congressional district that includes much of southern Arizona. Grijalva understands better than anyone else the issues that Hispanics face in this country.

5. U.S. Representative Alan Grayson (D-Orlando, Florida) – Billed as a “Congressman with Guts”, Grayson is a notorious progressive firebrand who is often willing to speak his mind in support of progressive values and ideals on a wide variety of issues. More importantly, he’s willing to do whatever it takes to get progressive ideals enacted into law, even against conservative opposition.

4. U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Cambridge, Massachusetts) – No, she’s not running for president, but, make no mistake about it, Elizabeth Warren is the elected official that scares Wall Street fat cats more than any other. She is a fearless advocate for protecting consumers from Wall Street greed and is progressive on many other issues as well.

3. Illinois State Representative-elect Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago) – The only person who is not currently an elected official (although, in just a couple of weeks, he’ll be sworn in as one), Guzzardi ran as a progressive for a state house seat in Chicago’s North Side, took on the corrupt Chicago Machine in the Democratic primary, and won.

2. Wisconsin State Representative Chris Taylor (D-Madison) – One of the most progressive members of the Wisconsin State Assembly, Taylor is a fearless advocate for progressive ideals on a wide range of issues. Prior to entering electoral politics, Taylor ran Planned Parenthood’s Wisconsin political operation.

1. Wisconsin State Representative Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) – If I could only meet one elected official that I like in my entire lifetime, it would be Melissa Sargent, the Democratic member of the Wisconsin State Assembly from the East Side of Madison. Sargent is a fearless advocate for collective bargaining rights, raising the minimum wage, reproductive rights, equal pay for equal work, internet privacy, legalization of recreational marijuana, and many other progressive ideals. More importantly, Sargent is a down-to-earth person who cares about people.