My friend, the joke’s on you

Published in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on March 17, 2011

My Friend, the Joke’s on You

by Karl Garson

The day after an estimated 85,000 to 100,000 people massed on or near the state capitol in Madison in response to the passage of Governor Scott Walker’s budget repair bill, the day after Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota mistakenly disclosed that Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts were really in New Hampshire, a friend e-mailed me a Sarah Palin joke. In this reincarnation of an old joke, Palin jumps from a stricken aircraft with a child’s backpack she thinks is a parachute. Substitute a priest, a rabbi, a North Dakotan, a Muslim cleric, Charlie Sheen; anyone, and the joke aims to say whoever is jumping is stupid.

My friend once sent me Bush the 43rd jokes, may, in fact, have sent me the Palin joke in Bush clothing. My response never varies. I reply that the joke is really on my friend. Her response is to continue not to get it. Just as George Will didn’t get it when he observed on Sunday morning on ABC’s “This Week”  that Representative Bachmann is not a serious contender in the 2012 race for president. Will’s observation falls in line with those who don’t get it by discounting Palin’s chances at the presidency in 2012.

My friend, Mr. Will and the rest who don’t get it are comforted in their collective belief by an apparent assumption that they are intellectually superior to the Walkers, Bachmanns and Palins of the opposite camps. Whether or not that’s true is beside the point. What is not is their belief that it’s true and, thus, that their superiority will somehow effortlessly win the electoral day in November 2012 because, well, it just has to, doesn’t it? No, my friend and the rest who believe it just has to, it doesn’t.

News reports on the masses in Madison on Saturday told of actors Susan Sarandon and Tony Shalhoub of TV’s Monk addressing the throngs while farmers on tractors and a donkey circled in opposition to the governor’s agenda.

I’ll give the donkey a bye, but count Sarandon, Shalhoub, the farmers and most of the 85,- to 100,000 among those who don’t get it as well.

And what, you ask, is it that all of those very smart, very committed, very vocal people don’t get? This: every pundit’s overconfident certainty, every shout and drumbeat of protest, every sleeping bag rolled out,  every feel-good speech by a political or entertainment celebrity, every lap of the capitol by a tractor and every protest sign directly diminishes the effectiveness of whatever they seek to accomplish.

In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker and the state senate Republicans  may have been total jerks in discovering a way to pass a redrafted version of the budget repair bill but, appeals not withstanding, they did pass it. They did not accomplish that, odious though it may seem to many, by discovering a loophole on some dark and stormy political night. No, they accomplished that because they had the power to do so in the state senate, power they had gained by months and years of planning that came to fruition, aided by favorable political winds, in November 2010.

Any amount of massing, shouting, drumbeating and all the rest of the agitprop of protest will not change that. What will is months and years of deliberate planning, fundraising and work to make that planning so, an effort that may, or may not, reach fruition on some future November.

The joke will continue to be on anyone who doesn’t believe that.

Link to article in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

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