Voters gave Wisconsin divided government. This is what it looks like in the Age of Polarization.
AND SO IT BEGINS. Wisconsin citizens should get used to gridlock, possibly even to the extent that Wisconsin is destined this year to repeat what was seen in Illinois not long ago.
A complete inability to pass a budget, the most fundamental obligation of a legislature and a governor. When Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner squared off against the Democrat-controlled legislature, with neither side willing to give ground on a budget, Illinois went two years without the government's foundational spending blueprint. Vendors went unpaid. Services suffered. Schools were strapped. Agencies were unsure what they could or couldn't do.
Will that happen in Wisconsin?
Key question: Is there any reason to be optimistic Wisconsin's political class will come together in a spirit of compromise to get a deal?
HERE'S THE BACKGROUND. Last November Democrat Tony Evers beat Republican Gov. Scott Walker and replaced him in January. Meanwhile, Republicans retained control of the Assembly and Senate. Both sides essentially claimed a mandate from the people. Evers vowed to change course. Republican legislators vowed to stand firm, and punctuated that point by passing a series of lame-duck measures intended to dilute the authorities of the new Democrat governor and attorney general.
In other words, this budget fiasco was baked into the cake since November.
So Evers proposed his budget including a laundry list of new directions. Republican legislative leaders declared it dead.
Next week the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee will make that official, tossing aside Evers' plans and beginning the task of writing a new Republican budget.
Make no mistake: When that process is over and majority legislators pass their plan, Evers will swat it away with a veto.
THEN THE TWO SIDES will bark at each other and point fingers of blame.
News flash: Both sides are to blame.
The polarization in Wisconsin is counter-productive to the point of being sickening. Democrats and Republicans absolutely refuse to acknowledge anything but their own supporters. The state is roughly divided in half, yet each party thoroughly ignores the 50 percent of the state not sharing partisan views. The only goal is to seize power and forcibly ram down the throats of others an ideological agenda. Neither side has any interest in searching for middle ground.
Call it what it is: For the political purists this already is America's second civil war.
KIDS IN SCHOOL learn that America's government is a representative republic, where the diverse interests of the people are considered by leaders elected to reflect the views of a big and dynamic population. The representatives are there to solve problems and make people's lives better, through deliberation and, yes, compromise in order to settle differences while avoiding the most destructive element of confrontation, which can be violence. Checks and balances among the three branches - legislative, executive, judicial - are there to mitigate human nature, or the tendency hoard power.
Face it: The country is lying to its kids.
Look to Washington, to Springfield, to Madison for the evidence. Working together, solving problems, is on nobody's agenda. All that matters is seizing power and wielding it with the objective of imposing the will of one side on the other.
So expect the GOP legislature to move forward as if voters had not elected Evers last November. And expect Evers to act as if voters had not kept Republicans in charge of the legislature.
It will take a miracle for Wisconsin to adopt a budget this year. And keep in mind: That's not the disease; it's a symptom of the disease.
A FINAL WORD: The JFC Republican co-chairs vow to strip out more than 70 Evers' proposals they consider to be policy items, saying such initiatives should be considered, if at all, separate from a state budget. We agree with that principle, and have said so for years. But we also call out hypocrisy when we see it. When Walker placed controversial policy items within a budget Republican legislators sloughed off Democrat objections and couldn't wait to pass those items. Now, suddenly, they have discovered that sort of practice is awful, just awful. It's yet one more reason citizens are disgusted with government, where principles are elastic and depend upon whether there's an "R" or a "D" by the name of a governor or president.