Gallagher, Bice and Education Leaders: "Career Comes First!"

Gallagher, Bice and Education Leaders: "Career Comes First!"

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”  --Upton Sinclair.

“If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” –Martin Luthe King, Jr.
This week we’re going to explore how the politics of advancing one’s own career instead of serving the public--either in government or journalism--hurts America, Wisconsin, and our kids' educations.
Let’s start with Republican Mike Gallagher, who will be vacating his congressional seat next Friday, April 19.
Last Sunday, there was an article in the Washington Post that examined the reasons that 21 Republicans, including Mike Gallagher in Wisconsin’s 8th Congressional District, decided to leave Congress early or to not run for reelection in 2024.
The crux of the story was that he, along with most of the others leaving, was frustrated that the MAGA wing of his party had used the GOP’s razor-thin majority to turn Congress into a chaotic carnival of sound bites, Trump/Putin worship, and a black hole where important legislation went to die.
What this article left out was the obvious question—why WOULDN'T Gallagher and others, INSTEAD OF QUITTING, work with Democrats to overcome MAGA obstruction to actually govern?
That’s where Upton Sinclair’s quote comes in: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” 
Of course Gallagher would rather leave quietly and move on to a lucrative lobbying job than stand with Democrats to do what is right and SERVE his constituents, because his motivation was never to actually SERVE anyone. On the contrary, the accumulation of money and power were his goals, and you can’t achieve either if you cross party lines to pass honest legislation that doesn’t benefit the special interests that helped you get elected in the first place.
If Gallagher truly cared about his state and country, he would STAND UP to the Trump/Putin sycophants in his party and reach across the aisle to support Ukraine and NATO against Russian aggression and pass a very conservative yet bipartisan immigration bill to solve our border crisis.

Speaking of Mike Gallagher, another thing that happened last week in Wisconsin’s 8th Congressional district was that my friend and Democratic congressional candidate, Dr. Kristin Lyerly, got “Biced.”
Getting “Biced,” as it is known in political circles, is having a hit piece written about you by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s most salacious reporter, Dan Bice.
Bice will publish dirt on anyone in the public eye. The dirtier, the more scandalous, the more embarrassing--the better, because the resulting attention he gets for writing this garbage feeds his ego and makes politicians fear him.
I got my first taste of Bice in 2023, after reading a hit piece he put out on Jennifer Dorow, the conservative judge who ran for Wisconsin’s Supreme Court. His piece delved deeply into Dorow’s son and his potential involvement in another college student’s drug overdose. This article had absolutely nothing to do with whether or not Judge Dorow would be a good Supreme Court justice, and while I opposed her candidacy, I was angry that Bice dragged her family through the mud.
Fast forward to this latest article about Dr. Lyerly.
In his piece, Bice insinuated that an administrative action by the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice involving Dr. Lyerly was somehow scandalous, and that one complicated delivery among the thousands she performed in her career suggested that she was an inferior OBGYN.
To publish this minor blip on Dr. Lyerly’s distinguished record a mere month after she declared her candidacy REEKED of dirty politics. Instead of helping the public understand that the Republican party alone, NOT BOTH SIDES, has lost its way by attacking doctors, teachers, librarians, and basically every respected occupation that requires a college degree, Bice furthered the dangerous MAGA narrative that experts in their fields can’t be trusted. 
Because he wanted a lot of people to read his article and to further his brand as THE GUY who can get dirt on anybody. OH the dopamine rush he must get when he presses the “publish” button to hurt someone’s career!
In short, Dan Bice is the reason I don’t read the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and instead choose to read the Atlantic, the Washington Post, and other respectable journals. His very employment at the paper tells me the institution lacks credibility and is not worthy of my support.

Now it’s time to talk about the worst news Wisconsin got all week: Justice Anne Walsh Bradley won’t seek another term on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court in 2025.
This one hurt because so many of us WENT TO THE MAT for Janet Protasiewicz last April to change the balance of that court and protect Wisconsin from future assaults on Democracy, women, public education, etc.
While Justice Bradley has earned a long and graceful retirement after decades of distinguished service, her decision just threw a wrench into our voucher school lawsuit and reinforced my disdain for career hand-wringers who care more about job safety than getting results.
Let me explain.
The reason the Minocqua Brewing Company Super PAC was alone in funding the lawsuit to rid ourselves of Wisconsin’s parasitic private school voucher system was because our natural allies were moving too slowly.
I probably said it 1000 times last summer: “Guys, we only have two years to do this, because there’s no telling whether or not we’ll have a majority of progressive justices sympathetic to public education after 2025.”
What I heard back was “You’re moving too fast, you’re too brash, we need to expand the coalition, we don’t know what it will look like politically to align with you, etc. etc. etc.”
And that’s why I decided to throw a Hail Mary and launch an original action straight to the Supreme Court last fall, which was ultimately denied. I felt our little Super PAC simply didn’t have the money to fund a multi-year lawsuit that would wind it’s way through the court system, and we couldn’t find any institutional allies to help donate to the cause.

Of course I’ll take much of the blame. I’m a firebrand that’s doesn’t have the time nor the desire to scratch political backs and stroke egos, and there’s a lot career politicos that need their egos stroked before they’ll lift a finger to help, regardless of how important the issue.
I was very naïve when I started the voucher school fight. “Of course the entire public education community will help with this lawsuit. Their very existence depends on getting rid of vouchers,” I thought.
Instead, I kept seeing an unspoken bubble pop up next to people’s heads while trying to convince them to pitch in and help.
“What might partnering with Bangstad do to my career?”
“Nobody else has partnered with Bangstad yet, I don’t want to be the first.”  
“I’m going to wait until someone above me tells me to help.  I won’t get fired for doing nothing but I might get fired if I try to do this and fail.”
All that handwringing wasted a lot of time, and now we don’t have a lot of time left to help fix public education before Justice Bradley leaves the bench.
So this is what I’m going to do.
I have absolute faith in Dr. Julie Underwood--my friend and our original plaintiff in the voucher school case. I also have faith in the Wisconsin Public Education Network (WPEN) --the organization she founded to keep sounding the alarm that Wisconsin’s public education system is in danger.
I’d like to ask anyone reading this email to donate money to WPEN’s Wisconsin Public Education Defense Fund, so that they can keep moving this lawsuit forward.
I’d also like to ask every public school teacher, principal, superintendent, and bureaucrat that’s tangentially related to public education to demand that your trade organizations join the fight to get rid of private school vouchers NOW--for your own sakes and for the sake of Wisconsin’s children.
DEMAND that the leaders of your organizations stop wringing their hands and ACT! Justice Bradley’s impending retirement means that the window to fix public education might be closing, and there’s just no more time to waste.
Now I just shellacked Mike Gallagher and Dan Bice because their naked ambition in politics and in the media, respectively, hurts Wisconsin. But I really don’t want to shellack anyone by name in Wisconsin’s public education community because we still desperately need them to come to the table. They’ve been beaten down over the last few decades by Scott Walker and his ilk, and have been starved of funding year after year. That abuse over such a long period would make anyone overly-cautious.

No, instead of shellacking these folks, I hope that with enough positive pressure and encouragement, we can build them up so they feel strong enough to stick their necks out and act quickly before the window to better educate Wisconsin’s kids closes.
In the immortal words of Martin Luther King:

“If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

We need the leaders in Wisconsin’s public education space to keep moving forward, and we need our politicians and our journalists to put their egos away and do what’s best for Wisconsin and America during these dangerous political times.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for sticking with the Minocqua Brewing Company.
Together, we MUST crawl towards progress, one beer at a time.
Kirk Bangstad
Owner, Minocqua Brewing Company
Founder, Minocqua Brewing Company Super PAC

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