Back from my annual foray to Arizona, where everything in the world is made right again because a new baseball season is underway.
In addition to watching a baseball spring training game virtually every day, I'm fascinated with the Arizona political scene. Used to be it was sort of comical — you were glad that you were just visiting while the Arizona Legislature would refuse to declare a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, make huge cuts in public education aid (the state now ranks 48th in the nation in per-student support), slash unemployment benefits and aid to the down and out, and declare it quite OK for anybody to carry guns anywhere. And, of course, Sheriff Joe Arpaio would always provide entertainment by dressing up his prisoners in pink prison attire, housing them in tents while the temperatures soared to 120 or so, and stopping and frisking anyone who looked like he or she might be from Mexico, just in case they needed to be in one of those tents too.
For someone from Wisconsin, it's not so funny anymore. In fact, it's getting harder and harder to tell the difference between our politics and what goes on in Arizona nowadays. The citizens of Maricopa County, Arizona's most populous, finally had enough of Sheriff Joe last fall and kicked him out of office after two decades of him defying court orders and admonishments from immigration authorities — actions that cost the county several hundreds of thousands in lawyers' fees and fines.
But what the heck, in Milwaukee County we've got our own Sheriff David Clarke, who promises to strong-arm anyone, including Packers fans, who makes a snide comment about his Dallas Cowboys jersey. He accuses the district attorney and county exec of being lamebrains and insinuates that the down and out have no one to blame but themselves. It's those damn liberals, he insists, who have caused all the problems in Milwaukee and cause him to fill up his jails, where, unfortunately, a few just happen to drop over dead. And like the voters of Maricopa County did for years, Milwaukee County keeps sending the good Sheriff Clarke back to office.
And let's face it: Few of Arizona's off-the-wall legislators have anything on ours. Remember it was Glenn Grothman — then a state senator, before we promoted him to Congress — who railed against the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and this nonsense of celebrating the African-American holiday of Kwanzaa. Where once there used to be a sprinkling of NRA fanatics in the Legislature, there is now a majority pushing guns in everything from our schools to our churches. Even our state Supreme Court, once a bastion of common sense, believes it is perfectly OK for folks to carry guns on city buses, where they can sit next to teenagers on their way to school.
Every week we get a new dose of craziness from these legislators — threats to university professors who teach subjects with which they don't agree, bills to give known polluters greater access to the state's natural resources, ham-handed attacks on health care clinics that serve poor women, and, of course, further erosion of the American tradition of public education.
Let's not forget, of course, our governor, Scott Walker, the Donald Trump wannabe, who tells nearly as many tall stories as The Donald. One of the doozies is the one that goes that because of Walker's stewardship, Wisconsin's state pension system is fully funded. He had nothing to do with it, of course. It was fully funded for decades before he happened on the scene.
But telling the truth has never been one of our governor's strong suits, preacher's son or not.
So here we are in 2017. We've finally succeeded in emulating Arizona. Mississippi next?
Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. email@example.com and on Twitter @DaveZweifel
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