MADISON, Wis. - I awake each morning with a happy dream: Perhaps I have just been imagining that the Republicans have taken over our state government and proceeded to wreck it.
Then I pick up the paper and read the headlines.
One day, I'm told, the Legislature has decided the state has no power to regulate high capacity wells, even if a multiplicity of such wells might dry up creeks and ruin the wells that provide drinking water for our families.
The next day -- or the previous day, it's hard to keep track -- I learn that it isn't enough to cut aid to education by almost a billion dollars, we're going to take some of what money is left and give it to private schools. I know I'm old, but I do remember a day when our public schools were the pride of Wisconsin.
Now, the legislature is debating abortion. The majority wants to force women to go through ultrasound procedures before having an abortion and it wants to force doctors who provide abortions to have admitting privileges to local hospitals (that doesn't sound too bad unless you understand it would prohibit a Madison doctor from serving a clinic in, say, Green Bay).
And, then, I see national stories suggesting that Gov. Scott Walker is being taken seriously as a potential presidential candidate. Why? Well, I guess some people think that taking money out of the pockets of government employees and destroying their ability to bargain work conditions is reason enough.
I see all this stuff and I wonder, "What in hell happened?"
Actually, I pretty much know what happened. Democracy happened. There has always been a contingent of us who thought we should give up our pretensions of being a great state and, instead, settle for being a mediocre state.
I even have some sympathy for that position. Many of the people I know work long, hard hours at fairly low-paying jobs. They don't get the benefits that state workers enjoy. Their children don't go to the great University of Wisconsin. Their communities don't even have bus service, much less high-speed rail.
These are real frustrations, frustrations that Madison Democrats are all too willing to dismiss.
Unfortunately, turning a good state into a mediocre state isn't going to resolve these honest resentments.
That's the sad part. The Republican reforms aren't leading to new jobs. They aren't leading to better rural schools.
Limiting a woman's constitutional right to an abortion won't do a thing toward helping that woman raise the baby we want her to deliver.
The problem is that we're taking things away -- things I would argue helped make this a great state, even for those who aren't in the elite -- and we're not replacing them with anything better, actually, not with anything at all.
But, it's a democracy. We elected these people. Then, we reelected them. I think my best bet is to stop reading the morning paper.
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