GOP Partisanship Over COVID Must End At Wisconsin Statehouse

One paragraph, comprising one sentence, jumped from the newspaper Saturday. The news story reported by Mitchell Schmidt for the Wisconsin State Journal said everything we know to be true about the current state of affairs when it comes to passing a COVID relief bill in our statehouse.

(Senate Majority Leader Devin) LeMahieu said the amendments were necessary for the package to get support from both GOP-led chambers.

With a mere 17 words, we can see the central problem as to why we are entering another year with no far-reaching COVID-relief legislation. Reaching across the aisle and opting for a bipartisan plan to address a medical crisis, one unlike anything we have seen in over a century, seems to have never been contemplated. A strong centrist type bill grounded to science could pass both chambers if the Republicans did not feel a need to placate every far-right conservative member.

The greater good be damned!

The latest storylines in this too-long saga as the state legislature, dormant for most of 2020 as the virus raged and ravaged our state, is now in a confrontational stance with Governor Tony Evers. On Friday a veto was used to stop the bill from being enacted. What is most dispiriting about this entire episode is that only a couple weeks ago a senate version of the bill had the approval of Evers. But with ever-more conservative amendments added over a back-and-forth with the assembly, the final version passed by the senate was not one any governor could countenance.

Front and center is thy most outlandish power play I have ever witnessed from any legislature in this state during my lifetime. I say that unequivocally as the issue at hand, the very health and well-being of the citizenry, is at stake. The constitutional discourse Republicans wish to have over the use of masks, and the means by which such orders can be put in place, and by whom, so to ensure the widest use of them at a time of pandemic is so over the line of absurdity that we are in need of creating a new word to best define it.

If Evers is so out of bounds and abused his authority so great then, by all means, the GOP-led legislature should pass their own measure with such health orders mandated. (Tick, tock, tick…) The reason the GOP has played so callously with the greater needs of the state during the pandemic, is their desire to be viewed as adhering to small-government and opting that individuals best know how to stay safe from a virus that has killed over 6,000 of our state residents.

The problem with the GOP approach is that they leave science and medically-driven data out of the equation. That can be justly stated given the bill which was vetoed would have prohibited employers from mandating vaccines for employees and limited local public health officials the ability to limit gatherings at churches. The most shockingly bad inclusion in the bill, from my perspective, was the business liability protections.

As one who has adhered to the health orders and advice over the past year, I yearn to return to stores and shop. I want to eat at restaurants. But if there are loopholes in the way a business can go about its prevention measures and thereby not face legal consequences, it greatly reduces the sense of safety required before entering a brick and mortar establishment. And spending money.

This all cycles back to the bottom line that before there is any economic revival, so to restore employment and the bottom line to a business, we first must win the battle over this virus. But if the majority party only thinks of the issue in partisan terms, and who can make a political score then the entire state will continue to suffer. There must be an abrupt end to the idea of working for only the needs of the GOP-led chambers.

James Michener Makes His Mark On Madison Isthmus With “Alaska”

The year-long pandemic and the need to be apart from others who do not reside in our home has had one positive outcome. While always an avid reader I find myself over the past many months venturing into the covers of books by authors I had not tried before. Between Amazon, the online use of Libby via the library, and now a Kindle there is no shortage of ways to access anything I wish to read. But what about those books that, for whatever reason, I have not considered holding in my hands?

A Facebook reader of this site, who left Wisconsin in the past four years to live in Cologne, Germany was commenting back and forth in messenger with me about a variety of topics when we landed on books. When I asked her favorite authors among the names she offered was James Michener.

“I have never read any of his work”

“What! You love books and well-written sentences and you haven’t read Michener?”

“Where would you have me start” (Since there are roughly 40 books in his listing)

She took about four seconds to type out her response.

“Alaska”

This week I started the tome which pushes to nearly 900 pages. Two things, however, struck me at once. First, his almost sly way of lulling a reader into the pages. Not with a somewhat modern event where Alaska becomes a state or mineral wealth is located deep underground. No, we trek far back in time to the earth’s plates moving and grinding and uplifting over and around the nucleus rock formation of that far northern land. In human terms, we would be talking about something that doesn’t even have eyelids, yet. The geologic birth of Alaska was presented with words that makes one read portions twice as it is so artfully done.

The second aspect of the book that took me by surprise is that Michener writes single sentences that are, at times, 30 plus words. Modern writers could not, and current publishers would never allow based on mass-market sales, for such expansive writing to occur. When my reader in Europe said the sentences would be loved, she was correct. They are gems.

I will add only one other note about the opening chapters that intrigued me regarding his style of writing. In one the death of a mammoth is viewed from the eyes of a matriarch in the animal herd. In the next chapter, we meet in Siberia a starving group of people 29,000 years ago who migrate across the land amass to what will be Alaska. It is there we then see, from the human perspective, the same sequence of events that land them food and fur that will last for most of the year.

My print version of the book arrives in the mail this week, as Libby will want their digital copy back long before I am finished. It is the type of book that–at least from this reader’s perspective–is not only an epic tale of a place and various peoples who made their lives on the land, but also the ability of an author to so adroitly craft an engaging story.

That is the type of book that warms my heart. I am so pleased to have had a conversation from abroad that alerted me to an author to help make this time of pandemic less trying.