Battle for america’s soul: Wisconsin’s April 6 election

Joe Biden inaugurated his presidency with a bold intention: restore the soul of America.

If the spirit is ailing nationally, it’s code blue in the bellweather Badger State.

Citing Harvard’s Electoral Integrity Project that measures the health of democracies around the world, Wisconsin’s democracy on a scale of 1 to 100 scored a 3—“the lowest in the world”—said author David Daley in a recent public radio interview. 

Wisconsin’s state government is less responsive to its citizens than authoritarian states like Venezuela, which scored a 14.” Wisconsin’s extreme gerrymandered “lines have provided a firewall against politics, against the public will,” said Daley.

Spiritual renewal 

Ideally, spiritual renewal happens in hearts and minds—with ideas, pens, and ballot boxes. Wisconsin’s next renewal opportunity comes on April 6 when we choose our new State Superintendent of Schools. 

That position hardly seems important—unless seen in strategic context. 

Make no mistake: the spirit of America is not just sick, it’s been poisoned.

Fascist Conservatives are out of the closet and openly walking the Halls of Congress, calling for and participating in attempted political assassinations. They’re using the same toxic playbook as genocidal mass murderer Adolph Hitler, with neo-Nazis, and other hate groups

Attacking education is an old-time strategic move.

According to historians, political scientists, and communication scholars in The Disinformation Age(Social Science Research Council, Cambridge University Press, 2021) this is part of “decades-long efforts by political and business interests to undermine authoritative institutions, including parties, elections, public agencies, science, independent journalism, and civil society.” 

Fascist Conservatives goal: re-write the Constitution 

“While the nation has been transfixed by the daily tweets of President Trump, the Koch network has quietly lined up authorizations from state legislatures to convene the first national constitutional convention since the Constitution was drafted,” wrote Nancy MacLean, William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University. “Common Cause has called the effort ‘the most serious threat to our democracy flying completely under the radar.’” 

The poisoning of Wisconsin’s body politic began decades ago with nasty rhetoric, demonizing teachers. Then our former governor, Scott Walker, whose campaign slogan was “Spread the Pain”—a clearly fascist goal—decimated teachers unions, claiming school choice to be a superior educational system.

Suppose School Choice is much better, which some studies suggest. Where’s Conservatives’ plan to duplicate what’s working, and improve education for all Wisconsin children? Where’s the plan to fix our ailing infrastructure, health care system—any improvement for all the people?

As Gary Hart once said, “Where’s the beef?” 

There is no beef—no Conservative plan to improve anything.

The goal of Fascist Conservatives is to tear down, to destroy, and to decimate public institutions — especially education. 


Because they can’t let people know that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” as Nelson Mandela said.

Education is key to freedom, growth, and progress — and that is a direct threat to Fascist Conservatives whose playbook is control and enslavement through fear and hatred. It’s the same old reason authoritarian “slave legislatures” 200+ years ago barred slaves from learning to read

“To read and write tends to excite dissatisfaction in their minds and to produce insurrection and rebellion,” wrote William Jay to Congress in 1835 about laws banning education of Black slaves. “Slave legislatures…enslave the minds of their victims; and we have surely no reason to hope that their souls are regarded with more compassion.”

Questions to start the process

Questioning authority is a time-honored American tradition. Questioning and then listening for the inner answer is also the path to spiritual restoration.

Mr. Biden posed a restorative question: “What are the common objects we, as Americans, love?….Opportunity, Security. Liberty. Dignity. Respect. Honor. And yes, the Truth.”

As an Orthodox Christian, truth is absolutely the path to freedom. As my priest, retired Rev. Fr. Bill Olnhausen reminds us God is a spirit of Truth, while “Satan is “‘the father of lies’, the Destroyer, and all lies are destructive.”

Like Abraham Lincoln, Mr. Biden also quoted scripture to identify unity as our core essence — that a house divided cannot stand.

Remembering the United States of America

To restore the spirit, review, meditate, and journal on each word’s meaning and symbolism in the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag:

  • Republic: our form of government in which power is vested in the people and their trusted representatives. (How are relationships of trust created? How can trust be restored?)
  • Indivisible: cannot be divided. (Are the costs and consequences of divorce worth it?)
  • Liberty: freedom to do as you choose. (Are you free to choose your responses?)
  • Justice: fair treatment. (What do you think is fair?)
  • Thirteen (13) stripes of the flag for the courage of the founding colonies who declared independence and fought for freedom.
  • Stars for each of the United States—all equal, originally 13, now 50. 
  • Blue field behind the stars representing vigilance, perseverance, and justice.
  • White for the values of the purity and innocence—how all children are born into the world, needing love and protection.
  • Red for valor, bravery, and strength to stand up for what is right and what is good for all. Also, as in red-blooded Americans —that which is common in all our diversity.

Another key aspect of the spirit of America worth meditating on is a powerful virtue Greeks call philotimo, which means to be a devoted, loyal friend and lover of honor and duty. Philotimo is central to our Judeo-Christian Fifth Commandment ethos to love and honor family — the foundation of all functional societies. Philotimo was most profoundedly demonstrated during World War II. Check out this excellent short video (14:36) with many famous people explaining the concept, which deserves to come into the English language.

To restore the spirit of America, we need to do two things:

1) Make choices that glorify, enhance, magnify, and expand upon these values — opportunity, security, liberty, dignity, respect, honor, truth, unity, equality, perseverance, justice, purity, innocence, valor, bravery, strength, what is right, what is good, commonality within diversity, and philotimo. 

2) Reject that which diminishes them. Such as slavery and other forms of fascism. 

Recognizing Fascist Conservatism 

Fascist Conservatism opposes American values as it seeks to enslave. Stir up mistrust. Create confusion. Stoke fear. Provoke anger. Encite violence. Divide into warring factions. Manipulate people to break laws, commit acts of violence, destroy property, kill, and worse.

The end goal of Fascist Conservatives: abolition of representative democracy—which is hanging on by a thread in Wisconsin. 

Fascist Conservatives promote the opposite of philotimo: disregard for truth, honor, love, integrity, and family pride.

Fascist Conservatives demonize teachers, public schools, and education. They claim that deregulated, profit-driven industries and free market forces are more trustworthy to deliver great quality at low prices, than government. They manipulate messages and point fingers, promoting destruction of representative government as superior service to taxpayers.

Friends down in Texas: how’s that working out? 

Perhaps at no time in history is there a greater need for educated, intelligent citizenry, able to keep up with the blinding speed of advancements in science, expanding understanding of how the natural world works, appreciating advances in medical science. We need as many hands on deck as possible, educated, trusting in each other, to help us survive and thrive through these genuine crises we are facing. Not fake crises.

The final questions

My dear conservative friends about whom I care and know to be decent people who value education:  Which side of this battle for the soul of America will you be on?

Will you choose leaders who value education, decency, philotimo, truth, freedom, hope, rolling up sleeves, burying hatchets, working together for the good of all, educating all, rising above the political fray, pulling together in the same direction?

Or will you choose to side with Fascist Conservative loyalists eager to break faith with our ancestors who fought fascism in WWII, tear down the Constitution, and replace it with a Fascist Conservative autocracy?

Your choice will most impact the youngest generations alive today — our children and grandchildren. They will inherit the mess the world is in right now.

Will our children see adults grow up and act like adults? Will they see us all calm down, cool off, shake hands? Will they see us grab the rope to pull together behind wise visionary leaders who care about them? Will they see examples of true servant leaders who speak kindly, value safety, and who love them?

Will the children see us choose effective strategists, analysts, visionaries, thinkers, creators, artists, writers, team builders, team leaders, and executives, who prioritize children and all people of all ages? 

Endorsing candidate: Jill Underly

Jill Underly is the candidate I support for Wisconsin State Superintendent of Schools on April 6. Explore her qualifications, see her speak at and VOTE!

Let’s start getting our dismal score back up into at least the double digits.

Oprah on The Daily Show

Great interview with Oprah on her new book, THE PATH MADE CLEAR!

I love how Oprah answered Trevor’s question: what did she find to be the common denominator to those who have found their path to success in life? We find the path when people ask themselves “what is the truest, highest expression of myself as a human being?” When people find clarity, and focus on their heart’s desire, what they want most deeply and passionately, the path appears. The book is on my “must read” my list.

Ten outside-the-box campaign reform ideas

President-elect Trump is outside the box in just about every thing he does. Good, bad, or horrendous, the fact is, we’re living in unprecedented times. It’s time we all get out of our respective boxes and think very differently.
With a mis-leader who campaigned on breaking rules, we need lots of brainstorms to find outside-the-box responses and solutions.
I’d like to start with campaign reform ideas. Not just campaign finance reform– but the entire campaign process.

It’s not just global temperatures setting record highs. As of two weeks post election, the 2016 presidential campaign season is estimated to have cost in the neighborhood of  $6.6 billion. 

Campaign spending has skyrocketed faster and higher than the cost of healthcare, GDP, and income, as Time Magazine reported. Unprecedented in American history.

Courtesy, Time Magazine.

From the letter to the Spirit of the Law

Let’s look at the spirit of the law—it’s overall purpose and intent.
The founders of the United States designed a system to prevent corruption by preventing consolidation of power.
Lots of people today are saying we should eliminate the electoral college. But what happened this year is an anomaly and result of decades of gradually degradation of checks and balances on power.
A hundred years ago, there were no primaries.
If we eliminate the electoral college now, that will truly be the end of our democracy and morph straight into tyranny, just as Plato predicted. If its not already too late. But that’s another discussion.

The intention–the spirit of our U.S. election process–was to serve as a means of sourcing, vetting, and then electing good, qualified candidates for leadership.
That’s what an election in a representative democracy is supposed to do.
I’m certainly not saying it’s doing that now. Nor has it in years.
But would you not agree – that is supposed to be the function and purpose of our democratic process?
In non-Democratic societies where the voice of the people is suppressed, elections are purely a sham, just for show.

How do we find good, qualified candidates, and unity, as in the UNITED States of America,

Did $6.6B put people to work, and strategically help grow our economy?

Did it invest in our future—our children? Did it care for our veterans and elderly? Did it help repair our crumbling national park facilities, clean up lead in our pipes or Superfund sites, or rebuild our ailing bridges, electrical grid, or wifi infrastructure?  How about hiring a tutor to help us with our infrastracture grades —  we currently score as a dismal D+.

Or did $6.6B help out the growing number of states struggling with budget crises of their own?

How can we improve two things:
1) the sourcing and vetting of candidates for elections, plus
2;) reduce the amount of money spent. Or use the money spent more wisely, more fairly, and more equitably?

An aside:  Want to stop all the protests? Treat the monkeys fairly. Really. Even monkeys will tell you that, as this 2:36 TED Talk excerpt shows.

In light of all these ideas questions in our brainstorming session, here are some election reform ideas I’ve come up with, for 2020.

Ten Outside-the-Box Election Reform Ideas

1) Election Spending Tax (EST). Every candidate and PAC gets charged a tax, dollar-for-dollar, equal to what they spend on producing and buying space in the media. (Sorry mass corporate media, after this year’s election, you deserve to lose ad revenue.)  We earmark that EST money for the states, reinstating that back-in-the-good-old-days idea from President Nixon called revenue sharing, to reduce local property taxes.

That $6.6 billion would provide $132M to each state. In Wisconsin, that would amount to $284,483 to each of our 464 school districts. Households in my district of 1,135 students would receive a property tax credit of between $150 to $250 per student.

If corporations really are people, and money equals political speech, then is it not fair that corporations should pay a tax on that privilege? I think a $250 stipend to every student in the country, for the privilege of “speaking” out to influence our elections, would be fair.

2) Set up Sister Districts. Years ago there used to be an organization called Wisconsin-Nicaragua Partners, which instituted this idea. Communities in Wisconsin “adopted” communities in Nicaragua. There were cultural exchanges and charitable giving. So why not do the same for our schools? Here in Wisconsin, there are a number of very wealthy suburbs. How about each of the wealthy school districts “adopt” a Sister District that’s not so wealthy. There could be cultural exchanges with potluck joint PTA meetings, fundraisers, mentor programs, and charitable giving. Let the wealthy district lend a helping hand to give the poorer district’s kids a hand up–not a hand out. Take them under the wing, lovingly, and teach them how to fly.

OK. This wasn’t a campaign reform idea. See what happens when you get outside the box? Other ideas happen.

3) Waive the tax for any low-budget videos featuring talking heads only–the candidate just speaking to voters, on camera, without high-priced, slick ad agencies. Prior to the 1960s, for nearly 200 years, that’s how all our candidates spoke–just facing the audience. Use technology to level the playing field for all challengers.

4) Shorten the election season to 6 months–90 days each for primary and general.
5) Limit terms of office by leveling the playing field for challengers. Establish a dedicated public broadcasting station, mirrored on cable, online, and published to YouTube, and give all candidates free equal airtime on that channel. (I don’t support arbitrarily term limits without including a clear method of recruiting new qualified candidates chosen by the people. Think we’ve had puppet candidates now?  Who will feed the mill of new candidates if we arbitrarily set term limits on members of Congress?)
6) Here’s an idea aimed at getting better quality leaders, who are more responsive to the people, and happier voters. For any federal election to be valid, require there to be at least 66% voter turnout in the general election. If there’s lackluster candidates and less than that turn out to vote, the encumbent admin goes into overtime, and a new primary election in 3 months followed by new general election 3 months after that–all new candidates required.
All salaries in Congress are frozen 2x the length of the overtime.
Maximum 2 overtime election attempts. After 3 strikes, if no worthy candidates can be drafted, the country reverts back to being a British colony, and all federal politicians are immediately subject to forfeiture of all worldy possessions including their homes and cars, requiring them to live homeless and start over from scratch–the penalty for dereliction of duty.
7)  Change the constitution to make our election days fall on a Saturday instead of a weekday. It would be a really simple, 1-word edit. Change second Thursday to second Saturday. Thanks to Bernie for this idea.
8) Automatically register all voters whenever people turn 18, and when they relocate. Another idea inspired by Bernie.
9) Hello. This is the 21st century. Create an online voting system.
10) Require all candidates to have a public LinkedIn profile. Let them compete on their actual qualifications for office, and let them make the case publicly, on LinkedIn. That’s what all the recruiters are using these days.

So there’s my brainstorm of an idea. What do you think?


Laurel Kashinn is a certified ghostwriter, resume writer, Orthodox Christian, student of A Course In Miracles, and mom living and writing in Cedarburg, Wisconsin.