The Lovers, the Dreamers and Me

Columnist : Albert Paschall

“Rainbows are visions, but only illusions
And rainbows have nothing to hide
So we’ve been told and some choose to believe it
I know they’re wrong, wait and see
Someday we’ll find it,
The rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers and me.”

-Kermit the Frog
The Rainbow Connection

If it had been published a year ago that two distinguished colleagues Matt Brouillette of the Commonwealth Foundation and Barry Kauffman of Pennsylvania’s Common Cause agreed on anything other than the best burgers to be found in Harrisburg, I’d have called it a wild dream. They’re both dreamers, though always in different directions. Matt goes right; Barry goes a little left and up until last July 7th I don’t remember the twain ever meeting.

But around 2AM last July 7th the Governor and the General Assembly in Harrisburg created the extraordinarily rare circumstance where the right, the left and even the so-called middle of the road collided. One vote, one circumstance, one 16% pay hike for the elected elite and their minions approved while most of the state was sleeping, dreaming of a better life, has turned into the worst political nightmare that Harrisburg has ever had.

In its wake 17 incumbents lost their jobs in last month’s primary, another 23 have retired rather than face forced retirement. The Governor is on the run from a football player turned politician who has yet to make a consistent policy statement. There’s another score of people endorsed by PA Clean Sweep who dream they’ll hold elected office in Harrisburg come November and courtesy of the pay hike they probably will; even if they have no clue what they are getting into.

No clue may be exactly what they need. In the state that boasts that Wal-Mart is its largest employer, with employees surviving on public welfare subsidies and a Governor who thinks that’s a great idea, the traditional Harrisburg approach to government, shall we say, isn’t working?

But there’s a way out, a plan crafted by a bunch of wild eyed dreamers. In addition to Kauffman and Brouillette the Roadmap to Reform in Pennsylvania is endorsed by Democracy Rising, The League of Woman Voters, Citizens for Accountability, The Pennsylvania Council of Churches, Rock the Capital and the Young Conservatives of Pennsylvania.

It calls for lobbyist control, open records, complete disclosure of salary and perks for legislators coupled with the wild eyed notion that state senators and representatives actually have to be in Harrisburg to vote. It would require a constitutional convention to get it all done.

A bunch of dreamers got together and put partisan issues aside and have constructed a plan to get Pennsylvania back on track. Primarily by getting its politics in order to try and get its economy moving. They tabled their agendas because they love this state and know what it could be. They actually see a rainbow after the storm created by the pay raise. The lovers, the dreamers, I hope their plan will work. Then there’s me: this plan was dead when it hit Harrisburg. Then again once upon a time a frog dreamed of marrying a pig. And they’re living happily ever after.

Albert Paschall
Senior Fellow
The Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, Inc.