Milwaukee has the WORST drivers – and that ain’t GOOD!


A typical intersection in Sussex on a weekday morning.

Milwaukee has the worst drivers.    That’s just my personal opinion of course.  But after driving from my home in St. Petersburg through Atlanta, Chicago and Milwaukee to Madison to attend the second annual Democracy Convention, I have plenty of firsthand experience in traffic to make that call.  And based on those experiences, Milwaukee wins easily over St. Pete and Madison, and although closer, Milwaukee definitely is home to more bad drivers than Chicago and Atlanta.


Driving to work in the morning on SH 164.

Why are Milwaukee’s drivers so bad?  It’s not just because they drive fast.  Drivers almost everywhere, including Chicago and Atlanta drive just as fast or maybe even faster.   But in Milwaukee, when traffic isn’t fast enough or slows down too much, drivers jump over to the next lane, and the next, or back to the original lane, and so on like jumping beans.  In the other cities, except Madison, where there is essentially no traffic to speak of, drivers seem more resigned to their situation.  They aren’t happy, but they accept the fact that they are going to have to tough it out with the other people on the road to eventually get to their destination.


Many Milwaukee drivers on the other hand, commute from the surrounding suburbs.   In the burbs they are used to driving on formerly rural roads where for most of the day the roads are lightly traveled and drivers are rarely behind another car.  But in the city during rush hour, they get frustrated when they find there are so many other cars in THEIR way.    

It’s a matter of freedom.   According to George Lakoff, the concept of freedom is developed from our ability to move our body and extremities freely, without restriction.  Freedom to move as you choose, to live the way you want, without the necessity of having to adjust your life to accommodate other people, is one of the reasons people move to the suburbs.  In the burbs people expect to be able to drive wherever they want or need to go whenever they want to without a delay of any kind.  Especially not due to OTHER people who are doing THEIR thing.  


They buy a house on a lot large enough that they don’t really have neighbors, yet still expect to be able to conveniently drive to work, shop, go to restaurants and entertainment, and have friends or tradespeople easily drive to their house.  But because they don’t consider themselves part of the driving community, suburbanites often can’t understand how they contribute to the problem.  It’s their idea of freedom.

It’s a matter of politics, economics and the shape of society.  An interesting hypothesis, but so what?  Who really cares?  Well, you should, because the people that expect to exercise freedom to live, drive, shop and work when and where they like also hold to a conservative tradition that has never trusted the will of the people — the unprivileged masses –that believes “freedom” is achieved by following strict rules, by accepting the discipline of those in authority.   To conservatives, their authoritarian freedom seems the only natural road to human fulfillment. People are born bad, and will remain bad and “unfree” without discipline, punishment, hierarchy, and authority. To progressives, justifying authority in the name of freedom seems little more than a transparently hypocritical justification of elite privilege and control.


Progressives believe freedom means the opportunity for individuals to set and achieve their own goals, and the recognition that freedom is impossible unless we accept responsibility for ourselves and for others. Conservatives recoil at the progressive notion of liberty and argue that the prattlings about freedom and responsibility from the left are nothing but weak pleas for leniency from the debauched and the libertine, the unworthy and the unreconstructed.

Over the past 30-40 years, conservatives have been in the process of changing the meaning of “freedom,” using conservative values to win political power that in turn they use to change the law so it favors them economically.  New wealth is turned toward purchasing new influence to win political power.   Since 1970 the US has become more unequal economically, reversing the trend of the preceding century.



While conservatives may predominate in the Fox River Valley and rural areas of the state, the center of conservative politics in Wisconsin is the counties surrounding Milwaukee.  Among them Ozaukee and Washington County had the highest percentage of votes for Romney in the 2012 presidential election and Scott Walker in the effort to recall him in 2010, respectively. 



Wealth distribution in the US by state, by county




Voting by county in 2012 Presidential election. Red=Republican, Blue=Democratic

In part The Democracy Convention is meant as a response to the success of Scott Walker and the conservatives in WI.  It is organized by The Liberty Tree Foundation for Democratic Revolution and features a combination of workshops, panels, and plenary sessions convened by a separate coalition of organizations.  

The problem is that the Democratic Party has a tough row to hoe vs scott walker, and conservatives in general, but the Democratic Party and the Democracy Conference fail to address these problems with significant new ideas.  Their continued reliance on classic activism as the way to create change and advance their agenda might be summed up by Paul Batalgen’s three aphorisms:   “Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.”  “If we keep doing what we have been doing, we’ll keep getting what we’ve been getting.”   “The definition of lunacy is to keep doing what you’ve always done and expect different results.”  More concerning these issues in the next post






About Freedom to...

Consultant helping people and employers in health care, education and government to see and understand how their organization works and how to change them to improve performance.
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