For two days, I've been wracking my brain, trying to figure out what's so novel and intriguing about the political stalemate in Wisconsin.
Having Republicans angry about taxpayers funding lucrative union benefits isn't new. Having Democrats accusing Republicans of destroying America's middle class by union-busting isn't new, either.
And as they say here in Texas, "shoot fire!" Having petulant legislators high-tale it to another state to avoid a vote ain't new, neither. Texas Democrats pulled that stunt back in 2003, when they fled to neighboring Ardmore, Oklahoma to protest Republican redistricting.
Not that Republicans can hold their heads too high in this matter of elected officials cowering out-of-state to keep from doing their jobs; they did it in California in 1994 and Nevada in 1999. And, if you're keeping score, Democrats have also pulled this stunt in Alabama and Oregon.
That makes it two to four; Democrats win.
Or do they?
Can this be a pretty picture for politicians who aspire to portray themselves as representatives of the disenfranchised? Don't these walkouts only delay the inevitable? Is such petulance an ethical way of conducting the public's business?
Perhaps what's most discouraging about the scene being played out in Wisconsin this week isn't that politicians can get away with antics like this. Instead, it's what this goofy vignette of political hubris represents: the inability of both the electorate and the elected to balance current responsibilities with future rewards.
I'm not disparaging liberal Democrats on this issue just because I personally believe most unions have outlived their usefulness and need to be neutered. Plenty of issues exist in our sociopolitical discourse on which Republicans have taken similarly myopic stances.
But at what point do the blinders of our prejudices fall away, and we realize maybe we don't have the best viewpoint? We actually ARE incorrect? Somebody else is right.
Has our wildly individualistic American self-as-hero-worship finally begun to get the better of us? Has our society evolved to the point in which three hundred million people can all have different opinions and all be correct? Have we now spun every fact wildly out of its orbit? Does our reality now consist of millions of porcelain plates, each spinning on spindle rods? With our politicians and talk radio personalities scurrying around, keeping them from falling?
Whatever happens in Wisconsin this week won't be the end of America, but it could be a healthy dose of unscripted reality if, in this case, liberals see that times are indeed a' changin'. After all, they're always the ones coming up with the wacky social experiments conservatives have to be cajoled to tolerate. They're the ones usually foisting redefinitions of social mores and institutions on the rest of us.
Come on, Wisconsin Democrats: Let's see you walk the talk.