Today’s award for Biggest Literary Stretch goes to Kevin Binversie:
Writing a screenplay of the Walker recall? Look for inspiration in Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, the 1851 novel about Captain Ahab’s mad revenge quest against the white whale that sank his last ship and took his leg.
There’s a surfeit of Democrats who could play Starbuck,the crew member who openly questions Captain Ahab’s true intentions for the three-year voyage aboard the whaling vessel Pequod.
In the run-up to the recall, and in the days afterward, such prominent national Democrats as former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and retiring Massachusetts U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-4th District) have openly called the Walker recall “a mistake.”
Despite his skepticism, Starbuck’s sense of duty to captain and crew bind him to the Pequod. In the end, he too perishes. We’ll learn in November whether the Democrats share Starbuck’s fate.
Moby Dick, the titular great white whale, can be no other than Gov. Scott Walker. Like the white whale, Walker serves as the chief antagonist for the majority of the characters in the book, and his name symbolizes something different to each character.
Ahab is Wisconsin’s public employee unions. Having lost the 2010 election (Ahab’s ship prior to the Pequod) and then harpooned by Act 10 reforms (especially the ability to collect mandatory dues from members — like Ahab, a metaphorical leg), organized labor went full bore into destroying Walker, regardless of the cost. …
If anything embodies the character of Pip, the joyful cabin boy whose madness foreshadows the psychological decline of the crew, it’s the protesters in Madison. The capitol demonstrations started as a single act of civil disobedience. It devolved into raving anarchists who dumped beer on state representatives, chained themselves to the state Senate gallery, and scores of other acts never publicly denounced by either labor or Democratic leaders. As in Moby-Dick, the adults pretended not to notice the sociopathologies of the child.
There are many other characters in the book, but none as important as Ishmael, the novel’s narrator and the only survivor who lives to tell the cautionary tale. No one in this saga fits that role better than the voters of Wisconsin. Wisconsin voters not only watched it all from their front-row seat and their televisions, but if exit polls are to be believed, 60 percent of them want nothing to do with recalls like those we just completed.
For those who care: Ishmael, the narrator of Moby-Dick, was played in the movie by Richard Basehart, who can now be seen Saturdays at 11 p.m. on “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” on Me-TV (channel 26.2 in Green Bay and channel 27.2 in Madison). Captain Ahab was played by Gregory Peck, a well-known Hollywood Democrat in his day.
From great literature to ’80s pop culture: The Wisconsin Reporter’s M.D. Kittle channels his inner David Letterman and provides a Top Ten list of weird recall moments, including:
10. Beer guy. Who could forget the story of Capitol protester and beverage tosser Miles Kristan, charged with disorderly conduct after dumping a beer on state Rep. Robin Vos’ head. Kristan, as the police report notes, screamed out some nasty invectives at the Burlington Republican, drenched him with some Wisconsin holy water and fled. Pleading no contest to the charges, Kristan was ordered to pay court costs and Vos’ dry cleaning bill. …
8. Fleeing 14. In the heat of battle over Act 10 in February 2011, 14 Democratic state senators took what they believed to be a courageous stand: They fled. To an undisclosed location. In Illinois. Supporters called them heroes. National news media certainly painted that picture. Conservatives saw them as cowards, derelict in their duty. The fleeing 14’s plan to stall a vote on the budget bill ultimately failed; the Republican-controlled Senate did some legal maneuvering and went on to vote without them. …
6. To error is Kathy. The April 2011 Supreme Court race pitting [David] Prosser against liberal JoAnne Kloppenburg ended in confusion and anger when, two days after the election, Waukesha County clerk Kathy Nickolaus announced that thousands of votes hadn’t been counted. Kloppenburg had celebrated a 204-vote lead over the incumbent conservative, but Nickolaus then announced that 14,000 votes from the city of Brookfield had not been included. The votes gave Prosser the win, brought immediate demands for an investigation and spurred a prolonged recount. An independent investigator later ruled there was no malicious intent, that it was “human error.” But Nickolaus was asked to sit out overseeing the recent recall elections. …
4. Barrett-slapped. Maybe for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett losing in Tuesday’s recall election to the same opponent who beat him in November 2010 by nearly the same percentage was a slap in the face. But one of his supporters took that feeling a little too far. Not pleased that Barrett conceded defeat within minutes after the Associated Press called the race for Walker, the woman slapped the mayor. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise. She told Barrett she wanted to slap him on the face. He said he’d rather have a hug. When he bent down to do so, she clocked him. The candidate has said he will not press charges
3. “Democracy is dead” guy. In an era of political hyperbole, the “Democracy is dead” guy takes the top prize. The Barrett campaign worker, perhaps understandably distraught over the Democrat’s defeat, went off the reservation with his rant about Wisconsin’s election.”If the people you see here behind me can’t get it done tonight, it’s done. Democracy’s dead,” he told CNN. Cheer up, Mr. Cranky. Some 2.4 million people voted in the election, representing 58 percent turnout. That’s a record for a gubernatorial election. I’d say democracy is alive and well in the Badger State. …
1. “Hit the Road, Scott.” In a moment that simultaneously desecrated the memory of the legendary Ray Charles and assaulted music at large, U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-District 4, rolled out her “Hit the Road, Scott” to a frightened audience of Democrats. Warning: What you are about to see may make you mourn the death of political decorum.
Number one is sad, sick and wrong, regardless of what Charles’ politics were.