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Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2010

Extremism Unchecked

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The loss of Russ Feingold, one of the country’s great progressive senators, to an absolute zero was tragic, but it’s the election of Republican Scott Walker as governor that will have a profound effect on the lives of everyone in Wisconsin.

Actually, Walker’s election itself isn’t the most frightening part. It’s the accompanying Republican takeover of both the Assembly and the state Senate that raises the threat level to terrifying.

What that means is there will be absolutely no check on anything Walker, a right-wing extremist with a deceptively pleasant personality, wants to do.

Just as scary, Walker will provide no protection at all from the worst legislation the most extreme Republicans can churn out.

Such a perfect storm of political extremism is historically unprecedented in Wisconsin.

Even when Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson had control of both houses of the Legislature for a time in the 1990s, Thompson was a practical enough politician that he provided a check on his own party’s worst tendencies.

Thompson was the one who prevented legislative Republicans from ending one of Wisconsin’s greatest historical accomplishments—its 157-year ban on capital punishment.

Thompson opposed the death penalty on both moral grounds (as a sincere, pro-life Catholic opposed to both abortion and murdering fully grown human beings) and for economic reasons (the exorbitant cost of setting up the machinery of death and hearing years of appeals).

Ironically, Walker, who claimed to be pro-life while pandering to the most extreme anti-abortion voters, would gladly pour millions of taxpayer dollars down the murderous rathole of restoring capital punishment.

So far, at least, the courts still will prohibit Walker from enacting the most extreme steps to outlaw a woman’s right to choose whether to give birth to a child. He opposes abortion even in cases of rape, incest and to save the life of the mother (a contradictory position for anyone claiming to be pro-life).

But nothing can prevent Walker and other extremists from creating as many obstacles as possible to interfere with health care decisions between a woman and her doctor.

Walker and other extreme Republicans also are eager to strangle in its crib the pioneering embryonic stem cell research that was virtually invented at UW-Madison.

Tommy Thompson not only fended off attempts by his own state party to destroy the landmark medical research that promises to save millions of lives, but he even got an exception for UW-Madison written into President George W. Bush’s anti-stem-cell-research policies.

Not very long from now, James Thomson, director of UW-Madison stem cell research, will win the Nobel Prize for his discovery of the almost unlimited potential for using embryonic stem cells to cure diseases and repair the human body.

Unfortunately, by then, Walker and Republican legislators may well have driven Thomson and the entire high-tech, stem cell research industry with its boom in high-paying, highly skilled jobs out of Wisconsin.

The Hits Keep on Coming

On the subject of pro-life poseurs hypocritically promoting anti-life policies, it is now a given Walker and the Legislature will flood city streets with guns, concealed or openly carried by the armloads.

Don’t worry, either, about any of those namby-pamby restrictions to prevent people from carrying guns into schools, churches, day care centers or crowded stadiums and festivals. Let the free fire begin.

And just to assure their most appalling policies reign throughout the state for a long, long time, Republicans immediately will pass voting restrictions, including a requirement that only people with photo IDs can vote.

Coincidentally, most people who don’t have a photo ID with a current address are poor people, African Americans, Latinos, students and the elderly, those most likely to vote Democratic.

Look for elimination of Election Day registration as well. The increased voter turnout among underrepresented groups in recent years is a direct threat to political control by the people who have always run everything.

They don’t like riffraff being allowed to vote so freely in a democracy.

This is just the beginning of the mean-spirited proposals that will sweep through the Legislature unchecked. Any offensive, undemocratic idea you have ever heard uttered by a right-wing extremist is now well on its way to becoming state law.

Republicans will be limited only by the meanness of their imaginations. They’ll warm up by gutting public education and health care.

You’ll notice nothing has been mentioned yet about creating any jobs, which presumably was the driving force behind so many voters tossing out the Democrats.

That’s because Republicans actually are opposed to government doing anything to create jobs. In fact, one of Walker’s first official acts will be to try to shut down a national high-speed rail system in Wisconsin that would create nearly 5,000 jobs over the next two years.

Enjoy the absence of poisonous smoke in restaurants and bars while you still can.