I hadn’t seen my buddy Ernie in a few months since I had visited him at St. Mary’s. That day Ernie was sipping ice water through a bent straw looking paler than usual – which is something for a guy who spends his free time either in a tavern or a betting parlor. “I never should have listened to that dopey doctor,” he moaned. “Jeez, this new hip is killing me.”
Ernie jumped at the chance when I asked if he want to come with Ralph and me to the Rockford OTB. As we backed out of the driveway Ralph said, “Hey Ernie, you can take down that Kloppenburg sign. If you ever read a newspaper, you’d know that the election was held three weeks ago. And what’s with the sign that says "Thanks Mark?" Is that the guy who shoveled your driveway when you were laid up with your new hip?”
“Funny, funny guy,” said Ernie, a union guy through and through. “Kloppenburg had the Supreme Court race stolen out from under her. We’ll just wait and see what the vote count really was. Until then, the sign stays.”
“So who’s this Mark guy you’re thanking?”
“That, my friend would be Senator Mark Miller,” said Ernie proudly. “He’s my guy and he lives right here in Monona.”
“And you’re thanking him because …”
“I am thanking him because he stood up for us when Scott Walker tried to stick it to the working men of Wisconsin.”
“Oh yeah,” said Ralph. “He’s the one who led the Democrats to Illinois. We should have asked him to come along today. He must know his way around Rockford. Anyway, so your Senator Miller leaves the state, gives that goofy speech where he looked like an inebriated Russian beamed in from Murmansk, and he’s now back sleeping in his own bed right here in Monona.”
“Correct my free market friend,” replied Ernie.
“So Ernie, I get all of that. But what I don’t get is what your guy Mark Miller is for. I mean, I know he don’t much like Scott Walker, but what does he stand for?”
“What do you mean what does he stand for? He don’t need to stand for anything. It’s enough that he stands against your Scott Walker,” said Ernie, his blood pressure rising.
“I don’t see it that way Ernie. It seems to me, this Mark Miller, the leader of the Senate Democrats, I mean, this big important leader, he doesn’t need to be for anything?”
“He’s for something. He’s for lots of stuff, just nothing that Scott Walker is for.”
“Ok then, what does Mark Miller think we should do with the University, you know, that plan Biddy Martin is peddling?”
“How am I supposed to know that, Miller never said anything about it.”
“Ok, what’s his plan for jobs? What’s his plan for balancing the budget? What does he want to spend on highways? Does he support tax increases the way he did when Doyle was governor? I mean, what is this guy - the head of the Senate Democrats - what is he for?”
“Well,” said Ernie swallowing hard.
“I mean, he’s got to be for something doesn’t he? If he says nothing, then he’s either he’s a status quo kind of guy, or he’s completely out of ideas. If that’s the case, why make him the leader?”
Ernie, shaking his head said, “You just don’t get it. Mark Miller has bigger fish to fry. He’s got his eye where it belongs - on politics. He’s got a bunch of recall elections coming up this summer and when they’re done, it’ll be time to move on to the next election cycle, maybe even try to recall Walker. So Mark Miller’s got plenty to do. He just isn’t preoccupied with, you know, with what’s going on in the Capitol.”
“So the public’s got it about right when they say what they see coming out of Madison is all politics all the time. Ok, I get it. But if that’s the case, why doesn’t Mark Miller come out and say that?” said Ralph.
“And Ernie, I hear what you’re saying, but no matter how many recall elections there are, no matter how long they delay, won’t Mark Miller and his team eventually have to say what they’re for? Or are they really out of ideas?”
-April 21, 2011