Left-wing New York Times columnist Reid J. Epstein traveled to Marathon County, Wisconsin last week to defame my hometown and smear its working-class residents as racist because they refused to commit our community to racial “equity.”
Earlier this month, the Marathon County Executive Committee shot down a proposed resolution called “A Community for All,” which aims to “achieve racial and ethnic equity” and to acknowledge “systemic inequality.”
The resolution, proposed by the county’s “Diversity Affairs Commission,” a committee many residents had no idea existed until now, was originally called “No Place For Hate.” The resolution was drafted last spring after George Floyd’s death and was hotly debated by board members for nearly a year until the committee voted it down 6-to-2 on May 13.
Epstein “reported” on the vote in a disparaging article, projecting his own political narrative onto a place he visited for no more than a few days. The “fight” over the resolution, claims Epstein, “is amplifying the tensions that had been simmering before Mr. Floyd’s death” and “ripping at the communal fabric in this central Wisconsin county.” Only a political hack could describe our quiet, blue-collar county as “simmering” with racial tension.
This Isn’t About Racism At All
Talking with board members and community leaders it’s easy to see that opposition to the resolution had nothing to do with “racism.”
Those who opposed the resolution simply did not believe it was the county board’s place to comment on problems in other cities that were irrelevant to Marathon County. “My focus is on good policy and making good budget decisions that affect Marathon County,” said County Board Supervisor Chris Dickinson, “not what’s happening in Minneapolis, California, or Portland.”
Others said they believed the board should be focusing on things that would benefit citizens, not fighting over an ideological resolution. “Folks from Marathon County are really expecting us to work on infrastructure, keeping taxes low, and building our economy back up,” said Mayor Brent Jacobson of Mosinee, who is also a Marathon County Board supervisor.
No one I interviewed opposes diversity or racial inclusion. In fact, they were very much in favor of these concepts. But unfortunately, the resolution was never about diversity or attracting new people to the area.
Indeed, board members I spoke with said the diversity commission refused to compromise and was adamant about using language that “aligned with a critical race theory mindset, things like systemic racism, white privilege, and equity,” said Dickinson. “That tells me there’s some other agenda besides just being a welcoming community,” he added.
Residents of Marathon County are smart. They understand the difference between equality and equity, as promoted in the resolution. Equality is about opportunity for all. It’s a thoroughly American ideal. Equity is about trying to engineer equal outcomes. It’s a Marxist goal, and board members opposed “A Community for All” because they rightly perceived the resolution to be a Marxist Trojan horse that, once passed, could have much farther-reaching implications.
In a ridiculous paragraph that can only be described as projection, the Times’ Epstein asserts that the “The racial divisiveness that President Donald J. Trump stoked during his four years in the White House endures in the daily life of towns like Wausau… exacerbated by the deaths of Black Americans at the hands of white police officers, and leading to new battles over whether racism is baked into local institutions.”
Start with the fact that, according to Deputy Chief Matthew Barnes, Wausau, the rural county’s largest city, has never seen an officer shooting involving a black citizen.
Marathon County is predominantly white, but has become increasingly multiracial over the years. Notably, during the Vietnam War, local churches welcomed Hmong refugees from Laos who bravely helped Americans fight the communist North Vietnamese. The Hmong community now makes up about 9 percent of Wausau’s population, and is the second-largest Hmong population by percentage in the United States.
What The New York Times wrote about Marathon County residents says more about The New York Times than Marathon County. Leftists love to paint flyover America as racist because they fear multiracial blue-collar workers uniting against elites, globalism, and policies that disadvantage the working class.
In 2016, Time Magazine named Wausau the most middle-class city in America. Its blue-collar residents look for representatives who have their best interests in mind, irrespective of race or even political party. In fact, Marathon County has historically been a swing area, and over the years has thrown its support behind Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and twice for former President Donald Trump.
The recent switch from blue to red in Marathon County is not unlike the political swing seen in other rust belt areas. The New York Times article reads like a revenge piece against Trump country. Someone should really tell Democrats that they won’t get these voters back by calling them racist.
Why Is This Happening?
Marathon County residents wondered what motivated this nasty article. Who called for this equity resolution? And why does Marathon County have a “Diversity Affairs Commission” in the first place? The answers all come down to apathy and negligence in local elections.
County Board Supervisor William Harris, a Florida-born lawyer, was elected to the County Board in 2020. Harris, who is African-American, was a major supporter of the resolution. “I want to feel like I’m a part of this community,’’ he declared prior to the vote, suggesting that if the Black Lives Matter-inspired “equity” resolution didn’t pass, it would be proof that he is unwelcome in the community — an odd conclusion from an elected member of the county board.
In another bizarre statement, Harris blasted county officials for pushing rural broadband access and rural health care because, according to him, these things mostly benefit white people. So rural broadband is racist? Harris shows professional class “privilege” when he resents that rural working-class people also desire internet access and health care.
Wausau Democrat Mayor Katie Rosenberg was quick to throw Wausau under The New York Times bus. She shared the article on her Twitter account, with a scolding message, “My peers on the county board and our shared constituents shouldn’t have to fight for basic acknowledgment.”
My peers on the county board and our shared constituents shouldn't have to fight for basic acknowledgement.
— ✌ Katie Rosenberg (@katierosenberg) May 18, 2021
Overriding the wishes of her constituents, Rosenberg created a city-wide racial “equity” proclamation, “A Community for All” which states that “the city of Wausau recognizes diversity, inclusion, and equity as essential to positive and healthy lives…”
There are so many people who did the work already on A Community For All: @YeeLengXiong1, La'Tanya Campbell, @klo1622, William Harris, and the whole Marathon County Diversity Affairs Commission. I want to use my platform to support their work and their voices.
— ✌ Katie Rosenberg (@katierosenberg) May 18, 2021
Despite publicly promoting the disparaging New York Times story by sharing it on social media from her widely followed blue check-marked Twitter account, Rosenberg now disingenuously claims she is unhappy with the way our community was portrayed in the article. Rosenberg reinforced The New York Times’ narrative by publicly condemning her former county board colleagues who opposed equity resolution.
“Those comments were devastating,” Rosenberg told Up North News of those who opposed the resolution. “I read the comments from my former colleagues and I bristled.”
It is widely known that the mayor has bigger political aspirations. Her voluminous tweets prove she is attempting to walk a fine line between appearing loyal to her constituents, while also posturing and virtue signaling to a national audience and the Democrat donor class.
I think the most amazing accusation levied against me today is that I colluded with the @nytimes to have the most negative story about my community in decades published published internationally.
Do you think I would use my influence to make us all look like THAT?!
— ✌ Katie Rosenberg (@katierosenberg) May 19, 2021
In many ways what happened in Marathon County is a cautionary tale for every community. Local elections matter. Especially county boards.
Meg Ellefson, a local conservative talk radio host, said, “The conservatives in this community sat back and weren’t paying attention to our (local) elected leaders.” The result has been the likes of Harris and Rosenberg, the equity resolution, a horrendous Times article, and a useless and divisive “Diversity Affairs Commission.”
Pay Attention to Your Own Local Government
Marathon County is so much more than what the New York Times wrote after a couple of days of driving around with a Prius and an agenda. Understanding the values and concerns of this area might actually help The New York Times crowd understand the 2016 election. After all, this is an area that, until 2010, was represented by a Democrat congressman for 42 years! It voted for Barack Obama and Trump.
If the Times is looking for racism stories, they should spend more time close to their home office in Manhattan where black on Asian crime and antisemitic attacks are terrifyingly on the rise. In Marathon County, by contrast, blue-collar whites, blacks, Asians, and Hispanics have been living and working in racial harmony.
The lesson in all this for Marathon County residents is to pay closer attention to local races so representatives on the school board, county board, and in the mayor’s office reflect the values of our community. These values are not based on race; they are largely economic issues that affect families of all colors.
We should also be wary of candidates who care more about political ambition than they do about the good name of our community, a community that has a long and proud history of welcoming immigrants.
It’s understandable that Democrats and their partners in the corporate media are angry that Marathon County is no longer reliably blue, but that is no excuse to smear them as racists. Four years after Trump’s unlikely election, liberals are still in no mood for serious political introspection.
The New York Times’ article was hurtful and damaging for our community, but it also exposed Democrats’ deep-seated fear and frustration at having lost their grip on blue-collar, rural voters. One thing is for certain, though, lashing out and insulting them is no way to win them back.