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Can you picture this becoming a reality in Wisconsin? Me, neither.
Can you picture this becoming a reality in Wisconsin? Me, neither. (Photo: shutterstock.com)

Why is Wisconsin behind the curve?

I've been thinking a lot about some of the national hot-button issues that are dominating the news. Among the more interesting ones is the trend of legalizing marijuana, for either medicinal or recreational purposes. My gut says that the days of criminalizing pot use, nationally, are waning, and in 10 years, we'll all be laughing about this like it was Prohibition.

And then I think of Wisconsin, and I can't even imagine our state getting on board with this on its own. Just like the smoking ban, we waited until most of our neighbors enacted it, and even then, it didn't happen without a contentious fight.

Yet, when it comes to curbing alcohol use or drinking and driving laws, Wisconsin only complies when it has to.

But take high-speed rail. Even if the rest of the country goes forward gung ho, Wisconsin completely shuts it down.

Or gay marriage. Or the death penalty. Or separation of church and state.

And I won't even touch the gun control issue on this forum, but given Wisconsinites fondness for hunting, I can imagine it will be the hottest of the hot-button issues.

Please understand that I'm not advocating one way or the other on these issues; my opinions on these topics are not germane to this blog posting. I'm only wondering why, when it comes to following the lead of the rest of the country for right or for wrong, at least lately, Wisconsin says "thanks but no thanks."

I don't think it's a Democrat or Republican thing. Yes, Gov. Scott Walker is certainly a Republican, but congressionally, Wisconsin is very "purple." And in presidential elections, Wisconsin votes Democrat more often than not.

Wisconsin has a very progressive history, actually, but lately it seems content with the status quo. Are we that much smarter than the rest of America? Or are we so much dumber?

Maybe it's a rural-urban thing. Milwaukee and Dane Counties are obviously extremely liberal, while the rest of the state (with a few exceptions) tends to be much more conservative.

It's puzzling to me that Milwaukee is so much more different than the rest of Wisconsin than, say, Minneapolis is to the rest of Minnesota. Right?

Or maybe not. My perception is that Wisconsin has taken a hard right turn when it comes to social and fiscal issues, and it extends beyond its choice for governor. Please enlighten me.

Talkbacks

mikeb | Jan. 20, 2013 at 11:09 a.m. (report)

Is Wisconsin really behind the curve or do we not have some of the liberal policies you'd like to see enacted? Take the issues you list:

Gay Marriage: I may be mistaken, but I don't think this has passed anywhere in the country from a referendum. It's gaining momentum in most places, but the majority of voters just isn't there yet.

High Speed Rail: I think had the initial spending been for improving the existing Hiawatha line, it would have received a lot more support. Instead, they lead with a Milwaukee to Madison line that is not a pressing issue for most people.

Smoking: There's something to be said for letting people use a legal product in a private establishment. That was an issue where the marketplace was starting to enact its will. Bars like the Sugar Maple started to pop up and some of their popularity was due to the fact that you couldn't smoke there. More bars would have made that decision. Then we could have had bars that catered to non-smokers and those that cater to smokers. Everyone wins.

Gun Control: While there's a lot of raw emotion on this issue, don't be surprised if there's not much done. Why? Most people still support the second amendment.

I know you're completely bummed out about Scott Walker being the governor, but that doesn't mean Wisconsin is behind the curve.

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emills81 | Jan. 17, 2013 at 2:22 p.m. (report)

On a side note, please leave this article up as long as possible. I really enjoy looking at the photo throughout the work day..... Dont worry, my boss is Canadian.

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emills81 | Jan. 17, 2013 at 10:32 a.m. (report)

I would love to see a state referendum on Medical Marijuana. It is a state issue and should be treated as such. WI being an agriculture state, could create well over 250,000 jobs with just medical. It is inevitable that it will happen. Especially with the public coming to terms that there is an over prescriptions epidemic of dangerously addictive opiates.

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Slugworth | Jan. 17, 2013 at 10:31 a.m. (report)

I see other states adopting some of the budget-saving measures that Walker implemented. I see other states pushing school choice (pioneered in Wisconsin). On these two issues, Wisconsin is unquestionably a leader.

Other states have been "gung ho" about high speed rail, until the bills start coming in. Watch as these projects get cancelled. We'll see how many of these projects actually get completed. Once again, Wisconsin was one of the first states to take a hard look and do the responsible, commonsense thing and not get swept up in silly emotion.

I don't understand the death penalty issue? Wisconsin has outlawed the death penalty forever, and the rest of the country is just catching up....

So who is right? Am I right that Wisconsin is a national leader, or are you right that Wisconsin lags the rest of the country?

Ever hear of confirmation bias?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias

The bottom line is that the voters in this state don't like a lot of the things you like.

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TheyThink | Jan. 17, 2013 at 10:13 a.m. (report)

Wisconsin, with republican or democrat leadership, has rarely had knee-jerk reactions when it comes issues or policy. For as liberal or progressive as we may have been, we still are very conservative fiscally. Heck, even the socialists, who, until rather recently ran Milwaukee, were very tight-fisted when it came to spending. Despite the explosion in entitlement spending, our state is still running a budget surplus thanks to our fiscally conservative approach. Of course, there are blips on the radar when it comes to this fiscal restraint (2 terms of Gov. Doyle, last term of Tommy Thompson) but by and large we like to save money which extends to other areas of restraint.

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