I have do not know John Gurda but have always admired his work on the history of Milwaukee. I have all of his books and enjoy his monrhly columns in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel even as they have become increasingly political. He clearly leans left but I've never been one to think that having and expressing political views undermines one's professional or academic work. In areas that are politically fraught (and both public law and history are), people who claim to pronounce from the Olympian Heights are often fooling themselves.
So I offer the following with some measure of sympathy. In his Sunday column, Gurda recites a bit of Wisconsin's abolitionist history and then calls for an end to our current civil war in which, he says, "confrontation has trumped compromise and ideology has overwhelmed practicality."
A bit over the top, I suppose, but there is a point to be made. I've called Wisconsin "the bloody Kansas" of our current political divide, although I do so with some irony. I think the Left's response to Scott Walker is hysterical and detached from reality. But we could all do well to dial it down a bit.
But I'd take Gurda a bit more seriously if he hadn't - in the same issue of the paper - allowed his own ideology to overcome common sense. He calls it tone deaf and "breathtaking." Taking down David Lenz' "Wishes in the Wind" is hardly tantamount to removing the Mona Lisa from the Louvre. The painting is OK but it's hardly a masterwork. It evokes a kind of Sesame Street urbanism - possibly because anything else would be too edgy for the Governor;s Mansion. It is in a realistic style that some would argue is tantamount to photography and unappealing.
In any event, choosing a work that emphasizes a different theme is hardly evidence of animosity toward children or the poor. Promoting the view that removing a painting is a politically divisive act is itself a triumph of ideology. I understand that we boomers once thought that the personal is the political. It was a bad idea then. It still is.