They say that in life, timing is everything. That will likely prove true for the city of Madison as it deals with the shooting of an unarmed, black teenager by a white police officer last week. Had this incident happened three months ago during the height of the tensions in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City, all of the news networks would have been broadcasting live all weekend from Madison. There would have been cameras trained on the streets waiting for rioters to start looting stores and for armored police to start shooting tear gas canisters into the surging crowd.
But because the 24-hour news cycle has moved on, Madison will be spared from having that type of drama playing out on a national stage. Even MSNBC is focusing on more important things now--like whether Scott Walker thinks President Obama is a Christian--and CNN is probing deeply into Hillary Clinton's email practices. Even on the day when Attorney General Eric Holder was forced to admit that there was no evidence to refute the story presented by Ferguson Police in that shooting--and that no charges would be filed against the officer involved--the news channels were distracted by pictures of a weasel riding on the back of a woodpecker.
So that means Madison Mayor Paul Soglin won't be made to answer repeated questions about why African Americans living in his city face greater income inequality than anywhere else in the state. (His guaranteed answer: "It's Scott Walker's fault") Former Democratic gubernatorial candidate and current Madison School Board member Mary Burke won't be grilled as to why students of color perform worse in her schools than they do in Milwaukee schools. (Her guaranteed answer: "It's Scott Walker's fault").
Madison also caught a break in that everyone who uses racial issues to get in front of TV cameras was in Selma, Alabama this weekend for the 50th anniversary of the "Bloody Sunday" march--so they couldn't be in Wisconsin to lead marches, give speeches on the Capitol steps and demand the immediate arrest, conviction and sentencing of the officer involved. Perhaps they may show up later on this week--but that will only happen if the TV cameras are going to be there as well.
But the cameras and satellite trucks likely aren't going to come. Because the folks in New York and Atlanta already know how this is going to play out. The internal police investigation will find the officer acted in accordance with his training. The state Department of Criminal Investigation will find no grounds for criminal charges and the federal Department of Justice (if the new Attorney General wants to follow the pattern of her predecessor and conduct an investigation into every incident like this across the country) will find that the officer did not violate the victim's civil rights--even though they really, really wish they could have.