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The Battle of Madison

The Battle of Madison–so far a peaceful one–is, in its way, almost as fraught with significance as what is now sweeping the Middle East. History, for better or worse, is being made in both places. In both places the forces of the status quo are battling the forces of change.

But there the analogy ends. In the Middle East it is the forces of change that are in the streets while those of the status quo have been clinging desperately to power as they hole up in their palaces.  In Madison, a democratic and fair election (and Wisconsin’s reputation in that regard is nearly the polar opposite of that of its neighbor to the south) put the forces of change into the State Capitol. They have a clear mandate, indeed duty, to implement the platform they ran on. Those determined to continue business as usual–the people be damned–are the ones howling in the streets.

The status quo is clearly losing in the Middle East, as the tyrants of Tunisia and Egypt have already fallen, those of Bahrain and Yemen are tottering, and now Libya’s strongman is clinging to power only by turning the Air Force on his own people (with limited obedience from the Air Force, apparently). I, for one, would not be inconsolable with grief if Moammar Qaddafi suffered the same fate as Romania’s Elena and Nicolae Ceausescu. The justice that was meted out to them may have been summary, but justice it was. How much further this revolution may spread in the Arab world is anyone’s guess right now, but I imagine a lot of kings, emirs, and perhaps the odd mullah or two,  have helicopters on standby in their palace gardens.

There is no chance of firing squads being employed in Madison. But the importance of the forces of change prevailing there can hardly be overstated. If Governor Scott Walker wins this battle, the forces of change will sweep other states as well, just as it has the Middle East. The 21st century can begin in the United States as, it seems increasingly clear, it has in the Middle East. If he goes wobbly, however, the status quo could prevail for quite awhile.

Wisconsin State Senator Mark Miller, Democratic minority leader, said today that “The governor has not done anything except insist that it has to be his way, all or nothing. The governor needs to recognize that this is a democracy and in a democracy you negotiate.”

Not when you have the votes you don’t, Governor.


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