The April 5 Demodisaster

On Friday, my opponent on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Joy Cardin (or substitute host) Week in Review predicted, among other things, that Hillary Clinton (for whom she apparently is an official representative, whatever that means) would win the Wisconsin Democratic presidential primary and Joanne Kloppenburg would be elected to the state Supreme Court, while claiming that the Republican Party is “in ruins.”

Her conclusions began with a false premise. I am not a Republican, but an objective observer who can count would notice that 31 states have Republican governors, and 23 states, including Wisconsin, have Republican governors and GOP control of both houses of their legislature. In contrast, there are 18 Democratic governors, and only seven states have complete Democratic control of their executive and legislative branches. All of that took place before Donald Trump decided to run for president as a “Republican.” Perhaps she meant “ruins” as an acronym, something like Republicans United In Neutralizing Socialists, or something.

So what happened in Wisconsin yesterday?

First: The anointed Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, lost, by 13 percent to Comrade Sanders.

I maintain that Hillary! will still get the Democratic nomination, because the fix is clearly in thanks to her support among Democratic superdelegates. It is not, however, a good sign for her that Sanders has won seven of the last eight Democratic votes, despite the fact that Democratic economists from the last two Democratic presidential administrations have nothing good to say about Sanders’ economic ideas.

Yesterday I got an email from someone from the Hillary! campaign suggesting I read the transcript of Sanders’ meeting with the New York Daily News editorial board. The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart summarizes:

The more I read the transcript, the more it became clear that the candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination doesn’t know much beyond his standard stump speech about breaking up the banks and how he had the good judgment to vote against the Iraq War in 2002. …

From his own plans for breaking up too-big-to-fail banks to how he would handle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to dealing with the Islamic State, the man giving homegirl Hillary Clinton a run for her money seemed surprisingly out of his depth. …

1. Breaking up the banks …

2. The legal implications of breaking up a financial institution …

3. Prosecuting Wall Street executives for the financial collapse of 2008 …

Considering this is the core of his campaign message, Sanders should know all of the points covered in 1, 2 and 3 inside and out. He should have been able to lecture his interrogators into a stupor with his detailed knowledge. Instead, Sanders sounded slightly better than a college student caught off-guard by a surprise test in his best class just before finals. …

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the most vexing and vital for the occupant of the Oval Office. It bedeviled Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. And as we learned from Jeffrey Goldberg’s excellent piece on “The Obama Doctrine,” our current president has given up. Solve that foreign policy Rubik’s Cube and you might unleash broader peace on the Middle East. But it requires being able to answer 4, 5 and 6 with finesse, which can’t be done if you “don’t quite think I’m qualified to make decisions.” …

Paris was attacked. Istanbul was attacked. Brussels was attacked and is basically a bedroom community for terrorists seeking to destabilize Europe. And several African nations have been terrorized by Islamic State affiliates. That Sanders “[doesn’t] know the answer” to whether the president has the right policy against the Islamic State is unacceptable. …

“Actually I haven’t thought about it a whole lot”?!  C’mon, man! What makes Sanders’s responses to all of these foreign policy questions even more troubling is that he spoke with more clarity and certainty on foreign policy during a speech on March 21.

That is who a majority of self-identified Democrats voted for yesterday. That proves that Sanders is indeed the Democrats’ answer to Trump, which brings us to …

Second: The Democrats’ preferred Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, lost, by 13 percent, to Ted Cruz.

As a Cruz non-supporter, I find this good news merely because it makes Trump’s path to the GOP nomination more difficult, and makes the bizarre specter of a brokered convention more likely. Like Sanders instead of Clinton, Cruz has the momentum and not Trump. Although the numbers people say Cruz cannot win the nomination on the first ballot, it’s starting to look as if, unless momentum swings differently in the coming weeks, Trump can’t either. It seems that Trump, who polls enormously negatively in November poll questions, can only get the support of about one-third of Republicans, and he’s been winning because the anti-Trump vote has been spread among too many candidates. Now it’s not.

Trump may never come to Wisconsin again given how his week went. He began with the smart move of going on conservative talk radio with four hosts who have made clear their opposition to Trump — Charlie Sykes, Jerry Bader, Vicki McKenna and Mark Belling. It was a smart move, until Trump opened his mouth and revealed himself to be unprepared (the biggest sin of all when appearing on talk radio) and basically making it up as he goes.

Trump then doubled down by going on Illinois talk radio to castigate Gov. Scott Walker, who earlier that day had endorsed Cruz. (Walker said when his presidential campaign ended that the GOP needed to unite behind a candidate not named Trump, so his endorsement was certainly not unexpected.) Trump attacked the Act 10 reforms that are only the most successful Republican policy objective in my lifetime in this state, and on which, following Recallarama, Walker and Republicans maintained control of the executive and legislative branches of state government. Then came his taking five different, and of course contradictory, positions within one day on abortion rights.

There are Trump supporters who are rightly angry with the state of things, political, economic and otherwise, in this country today. (The same applies to some Sanders supporters, even if their anger is focused on the wrong things and they have absolutely wrong policy solutions for those issues.) There are Trump supporters whose anger blinds them to political realities, such as the fact that Americans do not support stopping immigration of Muslims or anyone else, or deporting Muslims (both of which I think are Trump’s position, at least until he changes them again), and the fact that supposed Republicans In Name Only like Speaker of the House Paul Ryan are vastly preferable to the Democratic alternative. (Remember when Peter Barca represented Ryan’s House of Representatives district?)

How did Trump react? This is his campaign’s purported statement:

(Note to future non-establishment presidential candidates, regardless of party: Feel free to castigate the party establishment, or establishments, but for your campaign find someone who knows what the hell he or she is doing.)

The biggest non-politician winners of Tuesday, in fact, may well have been Sykes, Bader, McKenna and Belling, who were castigated by some people I mentioned one paragraph ago as establishment toadies, Republicans In Name Only, sellouts, etc. Those four dared to ask Trump questions and bring up issues that such national talk show hosts as Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Michael Savage and others failed to do in their Trump worship. I may well be biased in believing that Republicans need to do a better job in and with the news media, and politicians and candidates shouldn’t complain about being asked tough questions, but if Trump folds like a cheap folding chair against conservative talk show hosts, what do you think will happen when he faces the national media this fall?

Third: There were, according to current unofficial totals, 96,000 more votes cast in the Republican primary than in the Democratic primary.

My theory for several weeks has been that Trump has gotten a lot of votes from Democrats who either crossed over in open-primary states (of which Wisconsin is one), or even changed their party identification to vote for the GOP candidate easiest for Hillary! to beat in November. That could help explain why Trump suddenly is not so successful the past few weeks, in that he’s lost Democratic votes as the Democratic primary has gotten more competitive.

The bigger issue for Democrats is that the GOP would seem to have an advantage going into the fall vote, which is good news for U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R–Wisconsin) and whoever wins the Eighth Congressional District GOP primary, along with chances for the GOP to finally end the Democratic run of wins of Wisconsin’s Electoral College vote. As the financial types say, past performance does not necessarily predict future results, but any Democratic excuse for falling nearly 100,000 voters shy of Republicans when there was one big statewide race fails to hold water. And speaking of which …

Fourth: The Democrats’ preferred state Supreme Court candidate, Joanne Kloppenburg, lost to Rebecca Bradley, appointed last year by Walker after the death of Justice Patrick Crooks.

Kloppenburg wasn’t only the Democratic choice. My opponent Friday claimed that Milwaukee County lawyers had determined Bradley to be “not qualified.” Kloppenburg also got the endorsements of the liberals who run the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Wisconsin State Journal opinion pages. And yet, Kloppenburg has now equaled the state Supreme Court election success level of former Justice Louis “Loophole Louie” Butler. (Butler, however, still has the edge in being (1) the first sitting justice to be defeated for reelection since the mid-1960s, and (2) having been nominated and rejected by non-vote three times by the U.S. Senate for a federal judgeship.)

Republicans obviously need to not get a big head or exaggerate the state of things based on last night. (To quote the financial types, past performance does not necessarily lead to future results.) It is possible, though no better than a 50–50 chance, that Democrats could take over the Legislature by winning at least 11 of the 16 state Senate races this year. (There are eight Democrats and eight Republicans whose seats are up this year; for the Democrats to gain control of the Senate they have to hold all eight of their seats and flip three Republican seats. As of now two GOP incumbents, Sen. Rick Gudex (R–Fond du Lac) and Mary Lazich (R–New Berlin), are not running, but Democrats have little hope of winning Lazich’s seat, while Gudex won a narrow election against a Recallarama winner in a good Democratic year, but Gudex’s seat at least leans Republican. Sen. Duey Strobel (R–Saukville) was elected in a special election last year without Democratic opposition after winning a three-way GOP primary; that tells you how likely Democrats are to win that seat.) There is less chance than that for Democrats to win back control of the state Assembly. (Democrats would have to retain all 36 of their Assembly seats and win 14 seats now held by Republicans.)

Even if both of those events were to happen, a Republican with the strongest veto power in the U.S. — either Walker or, if a Republican president appoints Walker to a cabinet post (someone online suggested making Walker secretary of labor, which would make Wisconsin Democrats’ heads explode), Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch — will be governor, and five of the seven Supreme Court justices will be conservatives. Whether you like Republicans or not, the GOP is definitely in charge in Wisconsin politics even in statewide races, as proven yesterday.

 

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