For all the trickery, the verbal venom and Square-clogging protests, the signage, the prank call, the white-hot national spotlight and the throaty promises of retribution, one emotion that is settling in as I recall Gaylord Nelson is just a profound sense of sadness.
When, if ever, can Wisconsin recover from being an epicenter of politics as blood sport to return to something that Gaylord Nelson would recognize?
As governor, Walker set out on a mission that diminishes every public employee in our state not because it was necessary, but because it was possible for his party's union-busting political gain.
He was able to do so because of what is almost certainly a temporary concentration of power in GOP hands. He and legislative allies utterly disregard that Walker got only 52 percent of the vote in a fabulous year for the GOP - hardly a landslide. Yet Walker governs as if he won 99 percent support, the backing of virtually every voter except the teachers, firefighters and other public servants personally engaged in protests.
How does he get away with it? Well, he lied, or at least misled voters by never disclosing his goal of effectively ending 50 years of public sector collective bargaining.
But he also apparently understood something about the core selfishness of some people, a skill that comes naturally to Walker's brand of tea party Republican. He knew that while the average person might appreciate his or her child's teacher or know a cop or firefighter, or heaven forbid, even a University of Wisconsin professor, this whole thing was not directly about them.