Saturday, May 19, 2012
This is not a game. It's not a horse race. It's not just politics as usual. This is about the future of Wisconsin.
I know this is supposed to be funny, and the "gambler's guide" is actually a satirical look at the different aspects of the recall in comic strip form. So why do I find the Isthmus cover treatment so offensive this close to the election? Am I just losing my sense of humor? Maybe. But I don't think so.
What bothers me is that this kind of "inside baseball" coverage focusing almost exclusively on the ins and outs of campaigning -- who's up? who's down? who leads in the polls? -- has come to dominate modern political reporting. It's also a disaster for democracy. The public needs in-depth reporting more than ever, since money so dominates the political landscape. If the media don't use their scarce resources to focus on the issues and what the election means for the citizens of Wisconsin, who will? What chance will the public have to get the facts they need to make an informed decision?
Certainly, humor can be an effective means of addressing political issues. Just look at Jon Stewart. But not when the humor leads to lame and misleading conclusions like this:
"So where to put your money? Bet on hate. The outcome of the election will please half the state, and enrage the other half. Barrett or Walker, vitriolic politics will continue to dominate Wisconsin for years to come. That's a safe bet!"
This is just one more way of saying it doesn't really make a difference, that the campaign is just a stupid political game, that everything will continue in just the same hateful manner, no matter who wins. In other words, why bother? Why vote at all?
In reality, a Barrett victory would start heaing the divisions in the state and start undoing some of the damage Scott Walker has done -- because it would be seen as a public rejection of Walker's mean-spirited politics of division. In contrast, a Walker victory would mean Walker's first year was was just his opening act -- the election would be a mandate for further cuts in Badger Care, more assaults on women's rights, a concerted push to make Wisconsin a right to work state, and a likely move to privatize the state pension system.
Smug, superficial cynicism really seems inadequate -- even offensive -- at such a crucial turning point. This is not a game. It's not a horse race. And it's not just politics as usual. It's about the future of Wisconsin.