Tens of millions of dollars from out of state will be poured into Wisconsin in 2012. That money will not go toward restoring the state's crumbling infrastructure. It won't go into the state's aging school buildings. It won't go into training the state's workforce. It won't go into protecting the state's natural resources or in boosting its struggling nonprofit community.
Nope. All that money will flow directly into Wisconsin's toxic political bloodstream. For a moment, think of the time, talent and treasure that will be devoted to recalling or defending Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four Republican state senators. Then add the millions of dollars to be invested in the most expensive U.S. Senate race in Wisconsin history.
And just imagine the lead-up to the Nov. 6, 2012 presidential race playing out in this purple state.
Make no mistake, Wisconsin is a state divided against itself. The state has devolved into camps of "us" and "them."
Brace yourself. Your television is on the verge of becoming one perpetual political soapbox. The bulk of the commercials will not even be bought by the candidates, but by outside, shadowy forces.
Walker is good. Walker is evil. Walker is good. Walker is evil. Back and forth the commercials will go. And go. And go some more. Other than Wisconsin TV station managers, the only people smiling will be attorneys assigned to either protect the recall process or disrupt it.
With such a fractured populace, how can the state's economy collectively move forward in 2012?
Let's step back for a moment to June 16, 1858, when more than 1,000 Republican delegates met in the Illinois statehouse in Springfield for the Republican State Convention, where Abraham Lincoln, a candidate for U.S. Senate, made the following statement: "A house divided against itself cannot stand."
Lincoln's remark was a paraphrase of a biblical passage (Matthew 12:25): "And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand." (King James Version)
Of course, Lincoln's remark was in reference to the growing national debate over the morality of slavery.
Wisconsin's philosophical debate of 2012 is much more murky, complex and nuanced. But the people on both ends of the Wisconsin debate feel no less impassioned. I know of families that have been split in half by Wisconsin's divide.
Us and them.
And no matter whom your "us" and your "them" are as this Wisconsin drama plays out in 2012, we will eventually have to move forward somehow.
Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes in Milwaukee and is past president of the Milwaukee Press Club. BizTimes provides news and operational insight for the owners and managers of privately held companies throughout southeastern Wisconsin.
Steve has won several journalism awards as a reporter, a columnist and an editor. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
When he is not pursuing the news, Steve enjoys spending time with his wife, Kristi, and their two sons, Justin and James. Steve can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.