Imagine, if you will, that 2020 has sneaked up on us. Election campaigns are going full tilt, fiery and furious, with name-calling, libelous labels and innovative insults fouling the air.

Oh, I apologize if that came across like fake news, leaving the impression that this is about presidential politics. To clarify: This is about La Crosse elections — in particular, the La Crosse mayoral race in 2021 — with political temperatures reaching fever pitch.

Envision, if you will, a candidate unknown to us now, a newcomer to politics. Let’s call this imaginary candidate Ivana Wynn. She would be the first woman mayor in La Crosse after 43 men over 162 years.

Let’s listen in as Wynn unveils her major platform plank at a press conference:

“Hospitals in this town are getting out of control. So unfair. I propose a 25 percent tax on all hospital bills at Gundersen Health System and Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare.”

The hospitals “just have too much clout, and they don’t pay their fair share, and maybe a tax would teach them a lesson,” Wynn insists.

Acknowledging a young reporter in the front row, Wynn says, “Whaddya want, pizza face?”

“Are you sure you want to do that? Why punish the public? What would we do for health care if the hospitals had to shut down?” the reporter asks.

“True patriots will realize that they must embrace the pain to prosper — believe me,” Wynn counters. “Only I can fix this, and I’ll come up with something bigger and better, and everybody will benefit. You’ll get such good care you’ll get tired of it.”

Another reporter raises her hand, and Wynn nods in her direction, reluctantly, allowing her to assert a fact and question the candidate’s judgment: “Gundersen is the biggest employer in not only the city but also the county. Are you sure that’s a good idea?”

“I don’t have bad ideas, and I inherited a mess. This is something that should have been taken care of a long, long time ago — when Joseph Boschert was mayor, in 1902, before he let the German Gundersen wave take over,” Wynn laments.

“I think the Gundersens are Norwegian …” she begins before Wynn cuts her off with a snarky, “Fake news — and even if that were true, a lot of other mayors could have corrected the problem — William Torrance, Ori J. Sorenson, Arthur A. Bentley. Pat Zielke had 22 years to do it, and he didn’t lift a finger — that’s why I call him Zleepy Zielke. And why couldn’t Mathias Harter put ’em out on the curb, with the trash? They all left the problem for me.”

A reporter in the back, standing on a chair to catch Wynn’s attention, waves wildly, yelling his question, “Whattya got against Mayo?”

“Mayo,” Wynn says, her voice dripping with sarcasm. “Mayo, Mayo, Mayo — where did they even get that name? Sounds like a sandwich spread. Do ya want fries with that? I’m tired of Minnesota sucking all the money from our hard-working sick people and piling it up in Rochester. I’ve got no patience, and they shouldn’t get patients, either.”

“But where are the people who lose their jobs going to go?” an unseen reporter hollers from the sidelines.

“Well, I’ve always said there are too many brown doctors who immigrated here and stole jobs that white doctors should have had,” Wynn replies. “Let ’em go back to their own countries. Who knows how many belong to MS-13 and were killing patients instead of healing? They’re bad people, and a few good ones, maybe.”

Of course, this could never happen, because no politician would think to diss the largest employer in a Wisconsin town — no matter what the product, be it health care ... or motorcyles.

Far beyond the thousands of jobs in the immediate metro area, Gundersen and Mayo-Franciscan employ hundreds more in hospitals and clinics throughout the region. Plus all the indirect jobs of vendors for the hospitals, workers on expansion projects, the traffic they bring to town, and the hotels and restaurants that house and feed families and friends visiting their loved ones.

It would be ridiculous for Wynn to criticize businesses on her own turf, businesses that contribute to the tax base, foster development, improve lives and enhance the quality of life for everybody.

Or is it ridiculous?

Is my imaginary scenario any more ludicrous than a president going to a state — South Carolina, let’s say, just for the heckuvit — and slamming a German manufacturer that employs thousands in the state?

Take BMW, for example, although it’s a decent bet that the 10,000 South Carolinians who have BMW jobs in the Palmetto State and 30,000 more who have jobs in the BMW supply and sales chain, would say, “Please don’t (take BMW).”

It’s surprising that TV footage from 45’s campaign rally June 25 in West Columbia, S.C., didn’t show more supporters’ expressions as they realized they were cheering against their own interests.

Oh, there were a few in the background who appeared to stop mid-whoop, elbow each other and exchange glances as their brains engaged and thought, “Wait — WHAT?”

Precisely: Wait, WHAT?

Mike Tighe can be reached at mtighe@lacrossetribune, or follow him on Twitter @necktye.

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