Surviving Walker: Republicans spiking the ball, but the game goes on

Saturday, 12:35 p.m., halftime of the Badger game. Scott Walker flashes a baleful grin from the front cover of Isthmus — a wonderful but haunting shot by frequent IB contributor Eric Tadsen that only serves to gin up the angst we lefties already feel about our once and future governor.

It still stings.

There’s been plenty of gloating on the World Wide Internets following the Republicans’ rout on Tuesday — on Facebook, on Twitter, in the blogosphere.

Was there this much ball-spiking going on two short years ago when President Obama cruised to victory and the GOP stood chastened, seemingly lost in a wilderness of bad demographics and an even worse identity crisis?

There was a lesson to be drawn from 2012. Campaigns are about candidates. This year, every Republican ran against Barack Obama, who allowed the faux Ebola crisis to become a distraction and was unable to pierce through the fog of propaganda that’s dragged down the popularity of his health care reform law.

In 2012, a mechanical and uncharismatic Mitt Romney was unable to unseat a vulnerable president. This year, Mary Burke — a focus-grouped candidate who never quite seemed comfortable in her own skin and, frankly, never seemed too enthusiastic about running — was unable to defeat a governor whose “Wisconsin comeback” was based on a series of diced, pureed, and heavily processed fact-like assertions.

All bad news for progressives. But we’ve seen this story before.

Here, for example, is a short but illuminating video history of the Republican Party following its sweeping gains in both houses of Congress during the 1994 midterm elections:

As we all remember, the Republicans drastically overestimated Newt Gingrich’s appeal (which is far worse than Michelle Obama thinking she can get kids to like kale leaves and spinach, don’t you think?), proceeded to overreach, impeached the president, and managed to pull off a truly spectacular feat — losing congressional seats during a midterm election while a president from the opposing party occupied the White House.

After a big victory, it’s human nature to believe the wins will just keep piling up. The fans of Super Bowl winners always think their team is on the cusp of greatness. Those guys who wrote Dow 36,000: The New Strategy for Profiting From the Coming Rise in the Stock Market achieved national prominence, while the far more prescient authors of Dow 6,500: Trading Your Underpants for Soup in George W. Bush’s America went nowhere. When things are going well, you never think you’ll fall flat on your face. Eventually, you always do — and most of the time, you get back up again.



There’s an old Zen (or possibly Taoist or Native American) story that points to the foolishness of thinking you’ve got the world by the tail and your enemies are permanently vanquished. The following version of the story is taken from The Daily Zen.

Here’s hoping parables and platitudes can help get you through the coming winter. But be assured, spring will follow. It always does:

A farmer’s horse ran away. His neighbors gathered upon hearing the news and said sympathetically, “That’s such bad luck.”

“Maybe,” the farmer replied.

The horse returned on his own the next morning and brought seven wild horses with it. “Look how many more horses you have now,” the neighbors exclaimed. “How lucky!”

“Maybe,” the farmer replied.

The next day, the farmer’s son attempted to ride one of the wild horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. “How awful,” the neighbors said. “It looks like your luck has turned for the worse again.”

The farmer simply replied, “Maybe.”

The following day, military officers came to town to conscript young men into the service. Seeing the son’s broken leg, they rejected him. The neighbors gathered round the farmer to tell him how fortunate he was.

“Maybe,” said the farmer.

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