Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Off, Wisconsin!

As a native Illinoisan, it's difficult for me to give my neighbors in Wisconsin any credit or respect. It's a regional rivalry, plain and simple. From a political perspective, the "Cheddar Curtain" has historically been an incubator for nonpartistanship, competence, and honesty; Wisconsin stayed out of the limelight while bordering states were embarassed by the likes of Jesse Ventura, George Ryan, and Rod Blagojevich. It is neither a red state nor a blue state, but a gooey shade of purple. With mild trepidation, I'll admit that Wisconsin has a legislative method that I ardently envied... until now.

In 2010, Scott Walker was elected governor during the big Tea Party bum rush. A fiscal and social conservative, nearly every move Walker has made in 18 months in office has been under scrutiny. His eradication of collective bargaining rights for unions (exempting only police officers and firefighters) made national headlines. The labor guys felt blindsided, but Walker justified the move as a budget cut in the face of a deficit. Unions aside, some argue that the cuts were also a cynical manuever to emasculate a deep-pocketed Democratic constituency. This would be mere partisan chess if not for a) Walker threatening to sic the National Guard upon his critics and b) all of the union scuffling happened in his first six weeks in office. So much for a strong first impression.

Of course, that's not the only nitpick against the Walker administration. His promise to add 250,000 jobs to the Badger State hasn't panned out, and the nonpartisan Tax Foundation determined that Wisconsin has a less business-friendly tax climate than before Walker took office. This past weekend, Walker nonchalantly signed three bills that impede a woman's right to choose, denied hospital visitation rights for same-sex couples, and repealed the state Equal Pay Enforcement Act. Walker quietly signed off on Good Friday, thinking his critics wouldn't pay attention on a religious holiday. He guessed wrong.

With their agenda all but transparent, Walker and Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch are now subject to the first recall election in state history; the primary is next month, the election in early June. The state that begat Joseph McCarthy more than six decades ago is afraid of another bullying activist, and for good reason. Some will judge the state capital of Madison as a liberal enclave and Milwaukee's history of electing Socialist mayors (three total, none since 1960) but any left-leaning activism is limited to those two cities only. Wisconsin is centrist at its core, one of the last sectors of the country where the government actually gets work done, and democracy in its purist form is at stake.

Other notes:

+ Down goes Rick Santorum. As polarizing as he and his campaign might have been, and the cards stacked ever higher for Mitt Romney, he didn't want to fight futilely for his own home state. Ultimately, I suppose it came down to the well-being of his young daughter, too. At least Santorum left the race with his dignity intact.

+ Improv Update: over the weekend, my independent team The War Room made our unofficial debut. Even though we'd performed before on the Chicago "barprov" circuit, this was the first time we had demonstrated our form to an audience. This was several months in the making; my friend Brandon had formed the group, and I had never done genre-specific improv before. We play again on the 14th, so wish us luck!

+ Over on Facebook, I created an internet meme-cum-unofficial holiday. Follow this link to spread the word about "Mothra Day."

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