By Andy Tarnoff Publisher Published Jan 16, 2013 at 5:37 PM Photography:

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.

Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.

Before launching in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.

Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.