Still polarized, down the middle

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With half leaning one way, half the other, shouldn't Wisconsin learn to collaborate?

SO WHAT CAN Wisconsin learn from the razor-thin race for state Supreme Court between appellate court judges Brian Hagedorn and Lisa Neubauer?

At least two things:

• First, do not read too much into the results, just like voters should not have read too much into the November 2018 or November 2016 outcomes. In Wisconsin, it all comes down to who votes on Election Day. Democrats did well in the higher-turnout November election, winning all statewide races, but found the going tougher in a low-turnout April election when only about one in four eligible voters cast ballots. A high-turnout presidential race will top the 2020 ballot, and Wisconsin is a toss-up.

• Second, the state remains one of America's most polarized places. Though Democrats won statewide races in November, Tony Evers ousted incumbent Gov. Scott Walker only by a thin margin of about 1 percent. The Hagedorn-Neubauer race - after more than 1.2 million votes cast - is whisker thin, decided in Hagedorn's favor by about 6,000 votes. Though officially nonpartisan, Democrats backed Neubauer and Republicans backed Hagedorn. Looking at the map, it's a tale of two states - major urban areas are deep blue, while the large sweep of rural and small-town Wisconsin is deep red.

HERE'S THE TRULY frustrating situation that accompanies the split-in-half nature of Wisconsin politics: Despite the electorate's obvious lack of a clear favorite between the two parties, when one faction or the other ekes out a narrow win the next step is to govern like the other 50 percent of the state does not exist.

It's the modern 50 percent plus-one rule: No matter how thin the margin, seize office and govern like it's a landslide mandate. No cooperation. No compromise.

That kind of take-no-prisoners approach guarantees a state increasingly and angrily divided. Politics today is blood sport, as if the true believers on both sides really are convinced the other side is a mortal enemy to be not just defeated but crushed.

Don't believe that? Read the comments from both sides posted with our Facebook page about the Beloit College incident involving protests over the appearance of Erik Prince.

We continue to believe most Americans yearn for government that works for them with efficiency, is frugal with tax dollars, and acts with a collaborative spirit intended to reflect the best interests of all. Maybe some day. Keep hope alive.

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