The year in stupid

I didn’t get around to writing my usual That Was the Year That Was 2018 because I was too busy at the end of 2018 to do it.

It would be hard to improve, however, on the opinion of James Wigderson:

It was the worst of times, it was the dumbest of times. Wisconsin politics can get pretty stupid, and politicians and voters in Wisconsin just seemed determined to prove how stupid they could be in 2018. Unfortunately, in the stupidity contest between voters and politicians, everyone lost.

There was so much stupidity in 2018, the decision by the Shorewood School District to cancel a play production of To Kill a Mockingbird only rates an honorable mention. Putting false signatures on nomination petitions doesn’t even come close. School administrators allowing students to just walk out of class to make a political point is just another forgotten note of folly. GOP Senate candidates going full-tilt Trump when his popularity tanked in Wisconsin? Hah! Even “The Hop” hops on by without making our list. We would hope that 2019 will be better but, so far, we haven’t been given too many reasons for confidence in the future.

Here is the list of the dozen dumbest events in Wisconsin politics in 2018:

12. Stormy Daniels’ Strip Bar Tour Through Wisconsin.

A porn star was treated like a hero by Wisconsin’s political left as she made appearances at strip clubs in Milwaukee and Madison because she once (allegedly) had sex with President Donald Trump.

“Look what she’s doing for women in this country,” 70-year-old Linda Nelson told the Capital Times. Nelson had never been to a strip club before Daniels’ appearance. “She’s suing our president. What could be stronger than that?”

Daniels would later lose her defamation law suit and has been ordered to pay the president’s legal fees.

After a Stormy stop in Madison, Dylan Brogan wrote in Isthmus, “Stormy sign{ed} my Constitution on a stack of topless portraits of herself.” At least she didn’t give the Constitution a lap dance.

11. Leah Vukmir’s pop up ad has funny looking union thugs.

We could create an entire list of the stupidity that occurred during the Republican primary for U.S. Senate last year, but the decision by state Sen. Leah Vukmir’s campaign to find some very blue collar-looking actors and call them union thugs was one of the dumbest ideas of 2018. It even knocked the Vukmir campaign’s press release calling Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) a “member of team terrorist” off our list.

Additional note of stupidity: everyone on the left that accused Vukmir of racism because they thought the actors looked Hispanic. Really? Just by looking at someone you can tell they’re Hispanic? And that’s not racist?

10. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers compares abortion to a tonsillectomy. 

There was a lot of stupidity in the Evers campaign for governor. Evers promised to reduce the prison population by half, and then backed away from it. Evers said he won’t raise taxes when he’s planning on raising taxes. When asked about raising the gas tax $1 a gallon, Evers said everything is on the table. Evers even defended plagiarism found in the Department of Public Instruction budget.

But it takes a special kind of stupid to compare an abortion to a tonsillectomy and then say taxpayers should pay for abortions. So much for “the party of science.” We should be grateful that Evers spent most of his “education career” as a bureaucrat rather than in a science classroom.

9. The tuba that shook the walls of the GOP.

Judge Michael Screnock’s one and only television ad for his campaign for Wisconsin Supreme Court showed him playing a tuba. His campaign probably could have gotten away with it if he wasn’t being crushed on the airwaves by Judge Rebecca Dallet, who was busy falsely portraying herself as a moderate. Screnock deserved a better commercial, a better campaign plan, and more financial support from conservatives.

8. Kevin Nicholson decides to attack his fellow Republicans.

When the national Club for Growth attacked Governor Scott Walker’s record to attack state Sen. Leah Vukmir in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, that was pretty stupid. Nicholson’s campaign compounded the error by refusing to repudiate the attack.

Nicholson then attacked Republican Party activists, inventing the term “Madison swamp” to describe the GOP just prior to the Republican Party of Wisconsin state convention. Apparently Nicholson missed the fact that Republicans controlled nearly everything in Madison prior to the last election and that a lot of grass roots Republicans worked hard to make that happen.

Nicholson even decided to accuse Vukmir of not respecting his military service, a false attack that resulted in Nicholson then saying in an interview that everyone who served in the military should be a conservative. If they weren’t conservatives, Nicholson said he had to question their “cognitive thought process.” That disaster prompted criticism from everybody.

Finally, there was Nicholson’s odd decision to have someone like Brandon Moody as his spokesman so he could alienate even more conservatives by picking a stupid fight with RightWisconsin. We’re still waiting on the explanation behind that stupid decision.

7. Rep. Rob Swearingen’s war on wedding barns.

Republicans are supposed to support free enterprise and the free market. Apparently that support stops when a committee chairman is a former president of the Tavern League of Wisconsin. Swearingen is determined to squash potential banquet competition from “wedding barns” even though they bring more tourists to Wisconsin and more business to Tavern League members.

Swearingen and the Tavern League even pushed a bill that would have eliminated tailgating at most major sporting events in their zeal to kill the wedding barn industry. While the bill passed the Assembly, it (thankfully) died in the Senate after the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty did an analysis.

Swearingen’s response to opposition to his economic protectionism was to label his critics “the far right.” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) should put an end to Swearingen’s stupid little war lest Republicans completely alienate an entire class of entrepreneurs.

6. The Democrats nominated Randy Bryce in the 1st Congressional District, wasting millions of dollars on a losing candidate for an open seat.

This is how stupid Wisconsin politics got. How is nominating Bryce to run for Congress not number one on our list?

Let us list the reasons this was a stupid decision by the Democratic voters of the 1st Congressional District:

Bryce had a record of being arrested nine times. He couldn’t explain his back child support getting paid after declaring his candidacy. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s political gossip columnist helped another person owed money by Bryce get in touch with the candidate so that debt could be mysteriously settled by an unknown Democratic Party lawyer. Bryce had to buy a rifle with campaign funds just so he could be seen shooting it in a commercial. His brother campaigned against him after Bryce called the police “terrorists.” Bryce claimed he wasn’t a politician (after losing three other political races) but was getting paid to be a political consultant by former Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairman Mike Tate. (Proof that anything Tate touches – dies.) His campaign spokesman left to go work for Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon’s quixotic campaign for governor. Bryce compared his drunk driving arrest and conviction to the arrests of civil rights icon John Lewis for civil disobedience during the civil rights struggle.

In addition to all of that, Bryce was a pretty typical leftist with no understanding of economics who looked pretty stupid on CNN when he was asked how he was going to pay for Medicare-for-all. (Okay, so did every other Democrat who didn’t lie through their teeth.) Bryce’s understanding of the issues was so bad, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI02) had to be a babysitter for Bryce at interviews.

Despite the Hollywood millions spent on Bryce’s candidacy, despite campaign appearances by Sen. Bernie Sanders to fire up the Democratic base, despite all of the national attention, Bryce got a lower percentage of the vote than Rob Zerban received in 2012.

5. Jeremy “Segway Boy” Ryan was arrested for allegedly trying to buy radioactive material.

Guess what? That person who is offering to sell radioactive material on the Internet so you can allegedly commit murder with it might be an FBI agent. Who would’ve thunk it?

By the way, for those media outlets that called Ryan a Republican without mentioning that he was just running for Congress as a prank and that he was actually a die-hard leftist protester? You’re pretty stupid, too.

4. Hey Leah, where are you going with that gun in your ad?

Vukmir’s campaign might have had the worst political ad this century in Wisconsin politics. The worst. When the Republican National Committee runs its seminars on political campaign management, this ad will be used as an example of what campaigns should never, ever do. From putting their own candidate in scary lighting, to the unfired gun just sitting on the table, to the manufactured threatening call, this ad was a disaster. That somebody looked at it before it was aired and said, “We gotta run this,” is a sad commentary on the IQ level of some political consultants.

If there was one, just one, fence-sitting suburban mom who saw this ad and said, “I’m going to vote Republican in November,” we can guarantee it had the opposite effect on many more.

3. Kevin Nicholson, the $11 Million Dollar Man.

Richard Uihlein invested $11 million, according to Politico, in Nicholson’s campaign to become the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, only to watch him lose to state Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Brookfield) in the August primary. Uihlein spent that money through various Political Action Committees, including: Club for Growth, an alleged scam PAC called the Tea Party Patriots, Solutions for Wisconsin, Restoration PAC, the Great America PAC (no roller coasters), and the John Bolton Super PAC (buying his endorsement).

According to, only $1,468,523 was spent by outside groups on Vukmir’s behalf during the Republican primary.

The next time Uihlein wants to spend $11 million on one race in Wisconsin, he should give us a call. Not because we will help him spend his money more wisely, but we will happily help him spend it.

2. Wisconsin voters decided to keep the state treasurer.

It’s literally a job with almost no duties except answer the phone and attend a committee meeting occasionally. That’s it. Yet Wisconsin voters were dumb enough to believe that the job is some sort of “watchdog” on the state’s finances. Worse, some Republicans even bought into the idea and even contributed financially to the effort to keep the position on state treasurer.

Instead of shrinking state government with a constitutional amendment to eliminate the state treasurer, we still have a no-work, full-pay job on the state payroll. Worse, the voters put a Democrat in the position in November. This means Secretary of State Doug La Follette will get to go on more taxpayer-funded trips thanks to the additional Democratic vote on the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands.

That’s democracy for you. Sometimes the voters are stupid. And this time they were really, really stupid.

And the number one stupid thing that happened in Wisconsin politics in 2018 is…


Record low unemployment. Budget surpluses every year. Lower taxes. A complete structural change in state government to keep state and local governments financially stable (if they choose to use the tools offered by Act 10). A friendly business climate. More economic freedom. A modest expansion of school choice. Even more money invested than ever before in public schools, if that’s what you wanted. All thanks to Governor Scott Walker.

The voters threw it all away in favor of a governor who wants to raise taxes through the roof, release prisoners from jail, and return us to the days of Governor Jim Doyle.

Evers can’t even admit that voucher schools and independent charter schools are outperforming their legacy public school counterparts when his own Department of Public Instruction is supplying the evidence. Meanwhile, Evers did almost nothing to fix the failing schools in our state.

How stupid can Wisconsin get?

No, really, Wisconsin chose this guy?

If you don’t like prosperity, I guarantee there won’t be any in Wisconsin by the end of this year, thanks to Evers and his left-wing toadies.
The MacIver Institute contributes another 10:

There were many sins of omission committed by the Fourth Estate’s usual suspects. Sometimes they left important pieces out of the story. Sometimes they bypassed the story altogether. 

There are more, many more, but MacIver News Service has narrowed down the Top 10 most underreported stories by the mainstream media in 2018. And here they are.

#10 – John Doe raids forgotten 

An important anniversary came and went in October without so much as a back-page note from most members of the mainstream media. That’s probably because they don’t want to be reminded that the John Doe investigation, one of the darkest chapters in Wisconsin history, was replete with prosecutorial and bureaucratic abuses. 

They forgot that five years ago, on Oct. 3, 2013, armed officers stormed the homes of conservative citizens before the break of day to conduct unconstitutional raids. Among the victims, Republican strategist Deb Jordahl. Her children awoke to armed deputies standing over their beds. For hours, officers searched their home. The family was forced to watch investigators root through their possessions — all in the name of a bogus, secret investigation into alleged campaign finance violations. What it was, according to stacks of court documents, was a sinister probe into the left’s enemies. Sound familiar? 

#9 – Extraordinary narrative 

This month’s extraordinary legislative session possessed no shortage of coverage. In fact, it may have been over-covered. It’s how the mainstream players told the story, helping the left paint a picture of a Republican “power grab,” that poisoned the well, so to speak. They’re stifling poor Tony before he even takes the oath of office, went the Democratic Party talking points regurgitated by the legacy press.

There’s no doubt that the Republican majority, seeing the writing on the wall, pushed some legislation that will restrain Evers’ executive power, the power that the GOP had no problem allowing Gov. Scott Walker to wield. What was often missing from the overheated narrative, though, was that Democrats attempted to tie the hands of then-Gov.-elect Walker in late 2010 when they hastily tried to cram through expensive union contracts. 

Also missing in the din of discontent is the fact that many of the measures Republicans eventually passed had previously been taken up in one house or the other but failed to make it off the floor. That’s important, because the narrative throughout the session was that Republicans were trying to swiftly push through legislation with little debate.  

But who needs context when you’ve got a good, half-reported narrative. 

#8 – Act 10 savings 

It seems whenever the mainstream media report on Act 10 it’s always about how rough Walker’s cornerstone reform has been on public employees. When it comes to the savings the law has wrought, well, crickets. 

Such was the case in August, when MacIver News Service reported that Act 10 has saved Wisconsin school districts more than $3.2 billion in benefits costs. 

The 2011 law that launched massive union-led protests and a recall campaign against Walker holds public employee pay increases to the rate of inflation and requires them to contribute more — or something — to their taxpayer-funded health insurance and pension plans. 

Districts found savings by opening up bidding to new insurers for the first time in years, while others increased required employee contributions toward insurance plans. Overall, since 2011, districts have largely moved to more taxpayer-friendly health plans – freeing up more money for the classroom.

That’s big news, important news, for the people paying for schools and education in this state. So, of course, the mainstream media mostly ignored it. 

#7 – Direct primary care dies in silence

What if health care were much more transparent, much more affordable, and much more direct? That would be a pretty big deal, right?

Direct primary care is delivering on that promise in half the country. Not in Wisconsin, though. While debate over legislation codifying direct primary care in the Badger State did receive some love from the mainstream press early on, the love was scant and fleeting. 

Direct primary care, a method of delivering health care in which patients pay their primary care doctors directly via a monthly fee, bypasses health insurance and the morass of red tape, inflated costs, and financial uncertainty that plague the traditional system of financing health care. A bill in the last session of the Legislature looked like it was moving until special interests choked it dead. It pretty much died in silence. 

#6 – $907,000 question 

While most news outlets didn’t seem to care that some government retirees are banking hundreds of thousands of dollars in unused sick pay, MacIver News did — and so did some lawmakers. 

Thanks to Wisconsin’s generous sick leave conversion system, some retirees will have mountains of cash they can use to pay for post-retirement health insurance premiums in the Wisconsin Group Health Insurance Program.  

As MacIver News Service first reported in its series, “Bureaucrat Benefits,” the highest sick leave balance in 2017 topped $907,000 for a 69-year-old public employee with 27 years creditable service at a top annual salary of $290,000. That’s equal to more than three years of the retiree’s peak salary. 

Following the investigative report, lawmakers said reforms to a state employee benefits system that includes “golden health care parachutes” for some retirees are long overdue. 

“These stories are certainly getting my attention,” said Sen. David Craig (R-Big Bend). “It’s another situation where state government is on another planet than the private sector. You have spiraling health care costs and you have these government workers immune to a certain extent.” 

#5 – Buffering

When the city of Madison rolled out it’s big-government, broadband-for-all proposal, the legacy media was there. When the city launched an ill-fated pilot broadband project in some of Madison’s poorest neighborhoods, the mainstream media were back again. When the whole thing fell apart on cue, they were nowhere to be found. 

The costly plan to build a government-owned fiber optic broadband network in Madison finally died in late summer. It went out “with a whimper and not with a bang,” according to a city official overseeing the process.

The city’s Digital Technology Committee in September approved a motion to not pursue a Fiber to the Premises (FTTP) network that had been in the works — mostly behind the scenes — for years. MacIver was there all along exposing the astronomical cost of the proposal, while nary a member of the mainstream media was to be found at most of the consequential committee meetings.

#4 –  Broad brush 

In the fever-pitch election year, the mainstream media and the Democratic Party political machine hammered Attorney General Brad Schimel, accusing him of being slow to respond to a pileup of untested sexual assault kits. They painted the Republican AG as a skinflint who put taxpayer savings ahead of swiftly clearing the backlog of some 4,100 untested rape kits. 

They painted with a very broad brush. 

MacIver News Service review of the record found Schimel’s state Department of Justice had worked assiduously for three years solving a problem 30 years in the making. As of September, all of the untested kits had been tested. More so, the Wisconsin Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (WiSAKI), is changing attitudes, ideas, an entire culture of how law enforcement officials deal with survivors. In fact, the Republican-led DOJ was lauded by the Obama administration for its victim-centered approach to what is a national decades-old problem – a problem, experts say, that is much more complicated than the media investigative reports and partisan press releases like to admit.

That kind of context meant nothing to liberal Attorney-General-elect Josh Kaul, who defeated Schimel in November, arguably in part on the rape kit narrative the mainstream press created. 

#3 – Double standard 

For the past eight years, mainstream outlets have feverishly reported on Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s conservative and pro-business allies. It’s funny how silent they have been so far on the far left, big-government types Democrat Gov.-elect Tony Evers has surrounded himself with. 

As MacIver News Service first reported earlier this month, Evers liked to talk about compromise and bipartisanship following his election win, but his picks for policy advisers suggest he’s playing politics to the far left. The incoming governor has quietly assembled advisory committees packed with some of the most left-leaning people from some of the more left-wing organizations in the state. Nary a conservative to be found, of course, and even truly moderate Republicans are missing from the far left-heavy advisory committees. 

The lineup includes big labor bosses, extreme environmentalists, social justice warriors, and espousers of socialism.

None of that seems to matter to the mainstreamers that have fed the Evers-as-moderating-force narrative.  

#2 -Radical plans exposed

Liberals typically aren’t furtive creatures. They generally tell you they want more tax increases, more government programs, more government. But the mainstream news outlets opted to turn a blind eye to the Legislature’s left wing socialism-lite manifesto last spring. 

Assembly Democrats, led by Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) released a roadmap that includes 18 policy changes ranging from gutting the Second Amendment to guaranteeing a “right to a living wage.” 

MacIver News Service exposed the Democrats’ radical plans. Much of the rest of the media yawned or looked away, perhaps because they share the same vision of big government as the liberals do. 

#1 – Good times get no respect, or coverage

With apologies to Frank Sinatra, 2018 was a very good year for Wisconsin’s economy. But the Badger State boom — in an election year — didn’t seem all that compelling to many of the traditional news outlets in the state. 

Wisconsin’s jobless rate fell to as low as 2.8 percent, and has stood at 3 percent or lower for nine straight months. More people are working in the Badger State than anytime in the state’s history. Initial unemployment claims are at 30-year lows. Pretty much crickets from the mainstream media.  


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