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Guest Thinkers

Is Wisconsin Governor A Modern Day Carrie Nation?

I guess Scott Walker isn’t totally heartless. One of the few areas of Wisconsin state government where Governor Walker wants to increase funding are “payments to counties to cover the costs of burying Wisconsinites who die destitute.” After slashing $500 million from Medicaid, a program which covers 1.2 million Wisconsinites, there is more than a little irony in this line item, an irony that has come to typify the “citizens be damned” approach by the Walker administration that seems to permeate every page of his budget repair bill.

Historian John Gurda, a monthly contributor to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel , takes a look at the Walker experiment from a different perspective, comparing the anti-union fever Republican governors across the country have succumbed to lately to the efforts of Carrie Nation and her band of Prohibitionists.

 In its moral fervor, its contempt for compromise, its demographic base and even its strategies, today’s new right is the philosophical first cousin of prohibitionism.

Smashing ‘Demon Government’

Right wing apologists will immediately call Gurda’s perspective ridiculous, as if they should hold clear title in perpetuity to the cultural and political reins of America’s democracy in the manner of the old style European monarchs. One of the strengths of our nation, however, is its ability to reinvent itself in the face of changing times. In this instance, Gurda’s comparison of the inflexible worldview of the tea party conservative with the intolerant stance of the prohibitionists is spot on.      

It is here, finally, that prohibitionism and tea party conservatism find common ground: Both are ideologies. They represent fixed, blinkered views of the world that focus on single issues and dismiss all other positions as either incomplete or simply wrong-headed. Get rid of alcohol, the prohibitionists promised, and the U.S. would become a nation of the righteous and a beacon of prosperity to the world. Just cut government to a minimum, the new right contends, and you will usher in a brave new era of freedom and opportunity.

Smashing ‘Demon Government’

The Prohibitionists had to face reality after fourteen years. How long will Wisconsinites have to suffer the excesses of their modern day counterparts who inhabit the governor’s mansion?


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