Unpacking the manufactured outrage in local politics

February 10, 2022


By way of background, I started looking at local politics because I couldn’t help myself. My background is in organizational and social change and I am trained to see patterns in social relations and interactions.

There were political campaigns in 2020 and 2021 that I couldn’t ignore even if I tried. There was a school board recall in my community that was bitter, mean and divisive followed by a Spring 2021 election that was even worse. The issues at the forefront of these campaigns were things that had a direct impact on my family and I wanted to understand what was going on.

So I started to pay attention, make observations, gather and test insights and get involved in making a difference.

I want to share with you what I’ve learned, with a particular focus on our school districts in Wisconsin.

This talk will move from high altitude to low altitude, so keep your seatbelts fastened!

Let’s get going.


Somehow, in 2021, we went from this ↴


School board meetings that were quiet and boring affairs, poorly attended except by the odd individual in the community who had some interest in an item that was on the agenda.

Somehow, went from that, to this ↴


Impassioned parents with signs swarming school board meetings, focused on reopening schools before moving on to things like masks and contact tracing.

Public comments that stretched well beyond the three-minute limit as speaker after speaker railed against their school board’s policies.

We even saw a Republican political candidate, Kevin Nicholson, show up at a school board meeting as a special guest to introduce “critical race theory” as an issue of concern in order to keep the parent group mobilized over the summer months.