Category: Uncategorized

The actual threat to democracy

Rich Lowry:

Joe Biden’s video announcing his reelection bid makes much of his supposed defense of democracy.

If it weren’t for that, it strongly implies, he’d be happy to decamp to Rehoboth Beach to a contented retirement rather than stay on the job until age 86, guarding against threats to the republic.

There is no doubt that Donald Trump’s conduct after the election was a disgrace, his attempt to get Mike Pence to distort the counting of the electoral votes was a grotesque dereliction of his duty (among others on that day), and, if he’d gotten his way, he would have dragged the country into an unprecedented constitutional crisis, even if he was very unlikely to succeed in his ultimate objective of overturning the election result.

That all of this is a matter of record is a large part of the reason that Biden would have to be heavily favored in a rematch against Trump, although nothing is guaranteed.

Trump’s failings don’t excuse Biden’s lapses, though. One would think posing as a defender of our system would force Biden to be more fastidious about his own relationship to our institutions and norms, but that doesn’t seem to have occurred to him.

It bears noting, by the way, that Biden’s suggestion in the video that Republicans are bent on taking away people’s right to vote is a rank lie. This poisonous talking point should have died with the results of the 2022 election in Georgia, which served as a stark rebuttal of the claims from Stacey Abrams and the rest of her party that the Georgia election law was a Jim Crow (or, Jim Eagle) exercise in disenfranchisement.

Is it too much to ask some of the self-appointed information cops to whistle Biden for basing a pillar of his reelection message on a provable piece of disinformation? Why, yes, it is.

More fundamentally, Joe Biden has shown himself to be a determined enemy of the rule of law and constitutional constraints on the power of the executive branch.

This, too, is almost never noted in the press but is one of the most consequential aspects of his presidency.

Put aside the big kahuna, the student-debt forgiveness, which has no plausible basis in law, and the ongoing treatment of immigration law as a mere suggestion. Just consider the acts that have been in the news the last couple of weeks: the frank defiance of the Comstock Act prohibition on sending abortion-inducing substances through the mail; the rewriting of Title IX on the fly to include gender identity and to impose new nationwide rules on schools regarding males in women’s sports; and the distortion of the rules to make illegal immigrants covered under DACA — itself the product of an edict with no basis in the law about a decade ago — eligible for Obamacare.

All of this alone would be a pretty good record of lawlessness. None of it rates, but it should.

First, in a nation of laws, denying, ignoring, or defying the law is simply wrong, period, full stop.

Second, by further untethering the executive from lawful bounds, Biden is doing his part to reverse one of the foremost achievements of Anglo-America. Through a couple of centuries of political struggle, bloodshed, constitutional thought, and trial and error, we neutered the monarchy in England and created a chief executive in America embedded in a constitutional system designed to keep the position in check.

Third, in a two-party system, any action is going to create a reaction. The more Biden governs by willful edict and pretextual legal reasoning, the more incentive it creates for a Republican to do the same.

Fourth, ends-justifies-the-means reasoning, which undergirds all these acts, is inherently dangerous and can take you to unexpected places. (One reason that Trump couldn’t get his way after the 2020 election is that numerous Republican officials put the rules over their partisan interests and preferences.)

Fifth, government by administrative edict is itself a form of indirect disenfranchisement by taking power away from senators and representatives who were elected from a dizzying array of states and districts to sit in Congress and actually write the nation’s laws.

Finally, there is no substitute for presidents and other elected officials who take their constitutional oaths seriously. We have grown used to the courts as the sole arbiter of constitutional matters and the backstop against lawlessness. But they don’t always fulfill this function — bad judging and procedural questions such as standing take a hand (and the Biden administration has, in some instances, gamed the system to try to keep the courts from checking it). If the political actors are faithful to our system, the responsibility for preserving it doesn’t fall entirely on the courts.

Now, clearly the attitude of the Biden administration and the press is that a little bit of lawlessness in behalf of a good cause isn’t so bad. And so long as Biden isn’t trying to undermine an election result (although his side did that in 2017) or gin up a mob outside Congress, what’s the harm? But our democracy depends on more than simply holding a vote every four years. Lots of countries have votes; fewer have a system that balances and distributes power so you have elected officials beholden to a system bigger and more important than they are, rather than autocrats.

The republic would be safer with Biden enjoying Rehoboth Beach.


How to start a civil war, or not

Matt Purple:

It was Saturday morning and MSNBC’s Tiffany Cross had a bee in her bonnet. With Senator Lindsey Graham predicting riots in the streets, with Donald Trump reacting to the FBI raid on his home like the Archduke Ferdinand had just been offed, Cross told her audience, “These days, it feels like we are not just at the brink of a civil war, but that one has already begun.”

Six months ago, here’s how I would have responded to Cross: of course this is what a hyper-partisan MSNBC host would say. Civil war fears are really just LARPing by Twitter elites who thrive on hatred of the other side and so assume everyone else must too. “WE’RE GOING IN!” screams Elie Mystal as he screeches up in a Power Wheels Jeep while waving around a purple and orange Nerf Kalashnikov. The chaos is mostly imagined and we should treat it as such.

Six months ago, that’s what I would have said. These days, I’m not so sure.

There has been chatter about a second American civil war since approximately the first civil war, and mostly among conservatives. They’ve watched the left grow entrenched and imperialistic, imposing its inclusion ideology in schools, telling Trump supporters to leave blue states — and wondered whether there’s any hope for mediation. Trump, meanwhile, has as usual been stirring the pot until his rotator cuff goes flying off. And there has been real violence: the scrum in Charlottesville, the riots after George Floyd was killed, clashes in the streets between Proud Boys and Antifa, January 6.

The late political thinker Angelo Codevilla called this “a cold civil war,” and it seemed only a matter of time until it burned hot. Yet there was always an objection to be had here, namely that a cold civil war translated into American is just “politics.” This is not Scandinavia. Political debate here has always been a full-contact sport. Even the sainted 1990s, remembered today as a more innocent time, saw the infamous Waco raid, the Oklahoma City bombing, and a president accused of everything from perjury (yep) to rape (probably) to murder (that’s a negative, chief).

Why should today be any different? If anything, talk of a civil war seems like a kind of presentism, a sense of hysteria about the here and now unmoored from any historical context. Besides, aren’t we, as my friend Michael Davis has observed, too fat to fight a civil war? Don’t we have too many Insta accounts to maintain to possibly find the time to start butchering each other en masse? Bread and circuses are supposed to be a bad thing, but if they stop us from killing, then kick off NFL season early, say I.

The problem is that lately more omens have been appearing. For one, a new YouGov poll finds that 43 percent of Americans think it’s likely there will be a civil war in the next ten years. Clearly this isn’t just a bugaboo of overcaffeinated elites. For another, Washington Post poll finds that only 62 percent say political violence is never justified, a record low, down from 90 percent in the 1990s. So while American politics has often been fraught, today it is unusually fraught, perhaps even the most fraught it’s been since the 1850s (as some historians maintain).

For another, thanks to the latest political drama, you can now see how such a conflict might begin. The Justice Department decides to indict Donald Trump over his Florida documents caper. The left, being the left, insists that he’s a perp walked in front of the cameras. The images rile up his most dedicated supporters who warn of a poisoned justice system, a rogue FBI, an entire federal government under enemy occupation. A few at the fringe decide it’s time to refresh the tree of liberty. The government responds with force of its own. And off we go.

Yet the most worrying sign of all was Joe Biden’s speech last week. Broadcast from the deck of a Star Destroyer or wherever the hell he was, much has been made about its ludicrous backdrop — the silhouetted Marines, the red glow. And surely there are no accidents in American politics, not in this age where every politician employs a battalion of image consultants. The imagery was intentional, a message to Republicans: you’re worried about a tyrannical government? Keep going and you’ll get one. That plus the language he used (MAGA is “a threat to this country”) made this not just a tough speech but a martial one.

The import of this can’t be understated: here was an escalation by the most powerful man on earth. Biden just contributed his own chapter to the civil war narrative.

So are we doomed to civil conflict? Over Labor Day weekend, I had the chance to visit family in a small town in Pennsylvania. Their neighborhood is on the up and up, with new houses being built and new families moving in, including a striking number of immigrants from Nepal. The kids play in the streets, chasing each other and riding bikes, while the adults chat, amiably discussing the culture divide: why do the Nepalese cook in their garages anyway? Amid all the friendliness, you can’t help but notice something: these people are not bludgeoning each other to death over the classification stamps on folders at Mar-a-Lago. They aren’t even impaling each other over the systemic racism of Hulu user settings.

Experiences like this can make you squint: is this picture of Americana the real world? Or is the very-online darkness slowly bleeding even into the most tranquil of scenes? There is, after all, all the difference in the world between telling a pollster there could be a civil war and actually fighting one. All we can do is put our hope in what remains so good about this country, even if the unthinkable seems more plausible than it should.

The president who hates you

Mike Vance:

During a campaign event on Thursday evening in Maryland, President Biden ripped “MAGA Republicans.”

Biden ripped President Trump and his “Make America Great Again” slogan and accused his movement of taking the country “backwards.”

“Now you need to vote to literally save democracy again,” Biden said to a crowd just outside of Washington, D.C. “Trump and the extreme MAGA Republicans have made their choice — to go backwards full of anger, violence, hate, and division. But we’ve chosen a different path forward, the future, unity, hope and optimism.”

“We choose to build a better America,” Biden said.

Biden also made a point to differentiate between conservative Republicans and “MAGA” Republicans.

“The MAGA Republicans don’t just threaten our personal rights and economic security. They’re a threat to our very democracy,” Biden said near the end of his remarks. “They refuse to accept the will of the people. They embrace, embrace political violence. They don’t believe in democracy.”

“This is why in this moment, those of you that love this country — Democrats, independents, mainstream Republicans — we must be stronger, more determined, and more committed to saving America than the MAGA Republicans are destroying America,” he said.

Instead of moving forward and focusing on what the Democratic Party can do for America, President Biden is unable to move beyond Trump. He is still focused on the 45th president, even with the midterms just over two months away.

Biden is lying in the distinction between “mainstream” and “MAGA” Republicans since his administration has routinely attacked Republicans who were not Trump supporters. This makes him no different from his former boss, Barack Obama, of course.

Trump is right about one thing: This is about you, not him.

Another sermon you won’t hear in church

Teresa Mull:

The number of Americans who believe in God has reached an all-time low, according to a Gallup survey that’s been tracking our nation’s “values and beliefs” since 1944.

For a God fearin’ woman such as myself, it’s a disheartening statistic. But we are told never to abandon hope, and recent events — the Supreme Court rulings against abortion and in favor of prayer, a million swing voters switching their registrations to RepublicanKeeping Up with the Kardashians finally airing its last season — betoken a more God-centered future.

Gallup reports:

An impeachable offense if it happens

The Wall Street Journal:

Democrats denounced Donald Trump as a dictator for invoking emergency powers to build his border wall after he was blocked in Congress. Well, now they’re demanding that President Biden declare climate change a national emergency to advance their anti-carbon agenda that Congress won’t pass. Apparently dictators are in the eye of the beholder.

Progressives are furious at West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin for scuttling a big climate spending bill. “With legislative climate options now closed, it’s now time for executive Beast Mode,” Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse tweeted last week. And now the White House is leaking that the President may declare a national climate emergency as soon as this week.

This would be an even greater abuse of power than Mr. Trump’s repurposing of military funds for the border wall. We criticized Mr. Trump at the time and warned that a Democratic President might use the precedent to declare a climate emergency. And here we are.

While a President may sometimes need to act with dispatch during an emergency, climate change isn’t close to such an event. Climate change is neither sudden nor unexpected. The world has warmed by 1.1 degree Celsius since the late 19th century, and the pace of future warming is uncertain and depends on multiple variables.

In any case, nothing progressives want Mr. Biden to do will affect the climate or even reduce global CO2 emissions. China and India will continue to build coal plants that offset all of the West’s climate sacrifices.

But that isn’t stopping progressives from demanding that Mr. Biden roll over the Constitution’s separation of powers. One irony is that Congress passed the National Emergencies Act of 1976 to limit abuses of executive power. The law requires the President to activate his powers under one of 130 or so statutes that authorize emergency actions.

Here are some of the ways progressives now want Mr. Biden to impose his climate agenda without democratic assent:

Halt oil exports. A 2015 legislative compromise by Barack Obama and Paul Ryan lifted the decades-old ban on crude exports in return for extending green-energy tax credits. This helped unleash U.S. oil production, especially in the Permian basin.

Progressives want to end shale fracking. But banning U.S. exports would drive up global oil prices, and the U.S. would still have to import refined products and crude to meet demand. In the name of meeting a climate emergency, they’d create a bigger energy emergency.

Stop oil and gas drilling in the outer continental shelf. Mr. Biden has already imposed a de facto moratorium on new offshore leases, but progressives want him to suspend existing leases. This would reduce U.S. production by about 1.8 million barrels a day—about two to three times as much as Russian output has declined owing to Western sanctions.

Progressives want Mr. Biden to self-sanction the U.S. oil and gas industry while they prod him to lift sanctions on Venezuela and Iran. Canceling active leases would abrogate contracts and presumably require compensation, which would require money from Congress.

Use the Defense Production Act to build green energy. This Cold War-era law lets the President marshall domestic industry for national security. Mr. Biden has already invoked the DPA to boost manufacturing of solar panels, lithium-ion batteries and heat pumps.

While Mr. Biden could try to command manufacturers to make more green products, logistical snags would abound. Auto makers couldn’t easily convert factories into making solar panels or even electric vehicles. A shortage of critical minerals such as cobalt and lithium would also limit production, and it takes years to develop new mines.

Repurpose funds as Mr. Trump did.The climate left wants Mr. Biden to use funds for disaster relief or military construction to build green energy systems. Americans whose homes are destroyed in wildfires or hurricanes won’t be happy if Mr. Biden raids disaster funds to build solar plants.

The most serious harm with all this would be to the rule of law. The Supreme Court in its landmark Youngstown Steel (1952) decision blocked Harry Truman’s attempt to nationalize steel mills during the Korean War. Justice Robert Jackson famously explained in his concurrence that a President’s authority is “at its maximum” when he “acts pursuant to an express or implied authorization of Congress,” while it’s weaker when acting “in the absence of a congressional grant or denial of authority.”

Declaring a climate emergency would flagrantly circumvent Congress. The President may do it anyway. But thanks to the High Court’s recent West Virginia v. EPA decision, lower courts will be well-equipped to decapitate the executive beast.

How to fix this mess

Michael Smith:

There is no question that people are hungry for a way to fight back against the leftist onslaught the years of our neglect has wrought. That neglect is not the fault of any particular person or group, it comes from assuming the left is just like we are – that they liveBut that is wrong.

There is an old saying within the trades and in the engineering community: “Rust never sleeps.”

It is the same with the political and ideological left, they never sleep either and as it turns out, they are just as corrosive.

“What can we do?” is probably the most common question conservative pundits (even amateur ones like me) get.

It is a lot like the old question of “How do you eat an elephant?”

Of course, the answer is “One bite at a time.”

Our system of governance depends upon people who believe in it. It was different in that aspect from most of the governments in existence when America was born. You are not forced to obey at the point of a sword, and it didn’t require being born into the right family or to be a member of the “right” religious group.

No matter who you are, no matter your station in life, you have the opportunity to participate in your own government.

That distills it down your family, your friends and neighbors and your home.

The American experiment was created by individual men in their own homes, in their local taverns and in their churches. Several of the greatest defenders of liberty were preachers, priests, and pastors – men of the Cloth – and as we all know, many of the first settlers in America came here to escape religious persecution in Jolly Ole England.

Why would the preservation of their legacy gifted to us be any different?

Chapter 20 of Matthew records Jesus talking with his disciples. In verse 20, Jesus says:

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

Jesus’s point was that one person alone does not make a church — but two gathered in the name of Jesus can. Three is even better. God calls us to be a community.

Not to be sacrilegious, but the same can be said of the spirit of our Founders. They left us all the information we need in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, and their letters.

There’s already a tried and true model for us to use.

I was born and raised in rural Mississippi, in the deep heart of the Bible Belt.

We had Sunday School and Church services on Sunday morning and Sunday evening, as well as a service and Bible study on Wednesday nights. There were also several different groups that met independently to study the Word. We taught each other, we taught our kids, we discussed and learned and often speakers were invited to help us with things with which we struggled or just wanted to know more about.

But it was mostly lay people teaching and learning from each other. It was friends and family meeting together to understand and to learn how to be stronger in the Spirit.

I have been thinking that as Jesus called on us to be a community under God, the same is demanded of us as a people seeking liberty and freedom in a civil society.

Why would we not adopt that model to build and maintain our representative republic in the manner in which it was designed?

If our country is to be salvaged and saved, it is more likely to be done in the living rooms and dens of private homes than in the smoke-filled back rooms and cloakrooms in DC – but it can’t be done without some prep work.

It’s all there for the reading. Prager U and Hillsdale College have some great reference material available as well.

America was born in homes, taverns and churches of people just like us.

It can be saved and restored the same way.


Everything is for sale for the right price

The Wall Street Journal:

Twitter Inc. is in discussions to sell itself to Elon Musk and could finalize a deal as soon as this week, people familiar with the matter said, a dramatic turn of events just 10 days after the billionaire unveiled his $43 billion bid for the social-media company.

The two sides met Sunday to discuss Mr. Musk’s proposal and were making progress, though still had issues to hash out, the people said. There are no guarantee they will reach a deal.

Twitter had been expected to rebuff the offer, which Mr. Musk made April 14 without saying how he would pay for it, and put in place a so-called poison pill to block him from increasing his stake. But after the Tesla Inc. TSLA -0.37% chief disclosed that he has $46.5 billion in financing and the stock market swooned, Twitter changed its posture and opened the door to negotiations, The Wall Street Journal reported earlier Sunday.

Mr. Musk has said from the beginning that his $54.20-a-share offer is his “best and final,” and he reiterated to Twitter’s chairman Bret Taylor again in recent days that he won’t budge on price, some of the people said. The conversations between the two sides were expected to focus on issues including what Mr. Musk would pay should an agreed deal fall apart before being consummated.

Twitter is slated to report first-quarter earnings Thursday and had been expected to weigh in on the bid then, if not sooner.

The potential turnabout on Twitter’s part comes after Mr. Musk met privately Friday with several shareholders of the company to extol the virtues of his proposal while repeating that the board has a “yes-or-no” decision to make, according to people familiar with the matter. He also pledged to solve the free-speech issues he sees as plaguing the platform and the country more broadly, whether his bid succeeds or not, they said.

Mr. Musk made his pitch to select shareholders in a series of video calls, with a focus on actively managed funds, the people said, in hopes that they could sway the company’s decision.

Mr. Musk said he sees no way Twitter management can get the stock to his offer price on its own, given the issues in the business and a persistent inability to correct them. It couldn’t be learned if he detailed specific steps he would take, though he has tweeted about wanting to reduce the platform’s reliance on advertising, as well as to make simpler changes such as allowing longer tweets.

Some shareholders rallied behind him following the meetings. Lauri Brunner, who manages Thrivent Asset Management LLC’s large-cap growth fund, sees Mr. Musk as a skilled operator. “He has an established track record at Tesla,” she said. “He is the catalyst to deliver strong operating performance at Twitter.” Minneapolis-based Thrivent has a roughly 0.4% stake in Twitter worth $160 million and is also a Tesla shareholder.

Mr. Musk already has said he is considering taking his bid directly to shareholders by launching a tender offer. Even if he was to get significant shareholder support in a tender offer—which is far from guaranteed—he would still need a way around the company’s poison pill, a legal maneuver it employed that effectively blocks him from building his stake to 15% or more.

One oft-employed tactic to push a bid, seeking to gain control of the target’s board, is out of reach for now. Twitter’s directors have staggered terms, meaning a dissident shareholder would need multiple years to gain control rather than a single shareholder vote. Twitter tried last year to phase out the staggered board terms given that they are frowned upon by the corporate-governance community, but not enough shareholders voted on the measure. The company is attempting to do so again at this year’s annual meeting set for May 25. Only two directors are up for re-election, and it is too late for Mr. Musk to nominate his own.

Twitter’s shares have been trading below his offer price since he made the bid April 14, typically a sign that shareholders are skeptical a deal will happen, though they did close up roughly 4% Friday at $48.93, the day after he unveiled financing for the deal. Mr. Musk has indicated that if the current bid fails, he could sell his stake, which totals more than 9%.

The financing included more than $25 billion in debt coming from nearly every global blue-chip investment bank aside from the two advising Twitter. The remainder was $21 billion in equity Mr. Musk would provide himself, likely by selling existing stakes in his other businesses such as Tesla. The speed at which the financing came together and the market selloff in recent days—which makes the all-cash offer look relatively more attractive—likely contributed to Twitter’s greater willingness to entertain Mr. Musk’s proposal.

Twitter’s board should engage with Mr. Musk since its stock has “gone nowhere” since the company went public eight years ago, Jeff Gramm, a portfolio manager with Bandera Partners LLC, a New York hedge fund with about $385 million under management, said earlier. The firm last bought Twitter shares in February and owns about 950,000 overall, which accounts for about 11% of its portfolio.

Mr. Gramm said Twitter’s board can’t walk away from Mr. Musk’s offer without providing an alternative that gives real value to shareholders. “I’m not sure what that can be at this stage besides finding a higher bid,” he said.

This will give Twitter employees a new attack of the vapors this morning.


“No amendment to the Constitution is absolute”

Zachary Evans:

President Biden unveiled executive orders on gun control on Thursday, at a press conference in the White House Rose Garden.

“Nothing I’m about to recommend in any way impinges on the Second Amendment,” Biden said. “They’re phony arguments suggesting that these are Second Amendment rights in what we’re talking about.”


Biden added that “no amendment to the Constitution is absolute. You can’t yell ‘fire’ in a crowded movie theater and call it freedom of speech. From the very beginning, you couldn’t own any weapon you wanted to own. From the very beginning of the Second Amendment existed, certain people weren’t allowed to have weapons.”

The Biden administration announced six actions to spur various gun control initiatives, which the White House described in a fact sheet. The Justice Department will propose a rule to curb proliferation of “ghost guns,” or guns that are assembled at home through kits or a 3-D printer, and will issue yearly reports on firearms trafficking, among other initiatives.

Biden will also nominate David Chipman to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. A former SWAT agent with the bureau, Chipman is a gun control advocate and adviser to former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’s gun control organization.

Chipman claimed in a Reddit post last year that members of the Branch Dividian religious cult shot down two Texas National Guard helicopters during the 1993 siege at Waco, Texas. While members of the cult did in fact shoot at the helicopters, none were shot down.

Well. According to Biden’s “logic” the following things would be acceptable:

  • A future Republican president can round up protesters of his administration and have them imprisoned. Because no amendment is absolute.
  • Police can torture suspects until they confess. Lawyers? Don’t need them. You see, no amendment is absolute.
  • Reinstituting slavery. No amendment is absolute, after all.
  • A state could eliminate elections and choose whoever it wants in the U.S. Senate. All together now …
  • A state could reinstitute poll taxes and disallow non-whites or women or anyone younger than 30 from voting. No. Amendment. Is. Absolute.
  • Someone who is not the vice president could remove the president from office and take over himself. Our president says no amendment is absolute.
  • Barack Obama or George W. Bush can run for president again. But didn’t they already reach the term limit? Who cares? No amendment is absolute.

By accident the moron in the White House displayed his respect for the Constitution yesterday. And a majority of voters voted for that.


View from the other Bay

The Tampa Bay Times:

On the day before the big game, one of the team owners is wearing an old Packers T-shirt with camouflage shorts. He’s behind the bar pouring beers, wiping the counter and filling bowls with peanuts.

Heaven knows if Marty Leonhard was serving any of his fellow Packers shareholders inside Lenny’s Tap on Saturday. There were 16 people in the bar at 11 a.m. and, statistically speaking, the odds were good that at least one of those morning drinkers also had stock in the team.

This may be a hard concept to grasp in Tampa Bay where stadiums are built — or not — only after years of nasty public debate. But folks around Green Bay willingly toss their money into a proverbial hat to make sure their stadium is competitive and their team stays put.

The Bucs’ opponent in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game is the only not-for-profit franchise in major-league sports in America. In a city with a population just over 100,000, the Packers are owned by 361,311 shareholders. The stock, by the way, pays no dividends and cannot be resold.

It’s been made available only five times in the past 97 years — the last time was in 2011 at $250 a share — and prospective buyers are warned their certificates hold virtually no monetary value. The stock exists only to provide a financial lifeline for the Packers and to give the community a sense of ownership in the team.
Which, around here, makes it priceless.

To me, my certificate is just another piece of Packers art. It’s no different than hanging a picture of Aaron Rodgers on the wall,” said Leonhard, whose family has owned Lenny’s Tap for 45 years and who bought his stock in 1997. “It’s the only game in town. Yeah, we have the Wisconsin Badgers and the Bucks and Brewers. But this is it in Green Bay.

“And if you own a little piece of the team, some people get to walk around like they’re one of the bosses.”

In terms of population, Green Bay is almost identical to Brandon [Florida]. The major difference being Green Bay has 13 NFL championships and 26 Hall of Famers. This is what you would get if the New York Yankees were, say, the Topeka Yankees.

Other fan bases may be just as rabid, just as loyal, but none share the same romance of a blue-collar town and its team that always seemed on the verge of bankruptcy before Vince Lombardi showed up. And few other major-league cities could duplicate the same small-town feel.

“It’s a big-league team in little town America, and I don’t think you’ll ever see another one like it. The money has grown too much in sports,” said retired University of Wisconsin-Green Bay professor Daniel Alesch, who was commissioned by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute to write a white paper on the uniqueness of the relationship. “It really is a love affair between a team and a community.”
It wasn’t unusual in the 1960s and 1970s to see Packers players shopping at the grocer on the corner, or picking up their kids from school. Fans would run into players all around town and, to hear the natives tell it, no one ever complained.

Irene Fennell was still in elementary school in the late 1960s when her 10-year-old brother, Doug, got a copy of a Bart Starr biography. One of the older Fennell children piled his siblings in the car and they drove to the house of the Packers quarterback.

“While the rest of us sat in the car, Doug went up and knocked on the door,” Fennell said. “They invited him right in the house, gave him cookies and a drink and Bart signed his book for him. When Doug said he had five brothers and sisters, they got out pieces of paper and signed autographs for each of us with, you know, ‘Warm wishes’ from Bart Starr. That was Green Bay.”

And the rest of the kids waited in the car the whole time Doug was alone in the house?

“Well, we didn’t all want to knock on the door,” she said. “That would be rude.”

The Green Bay Press-Gazette recently ran a feature remembering locals who passed away due to COVID-19. Each resident was memorialized with a paragraph or two, highlighting significant details of their lives. It was noted that one gentleman was married for 57 years, was a math teacher and died while still on the Packers season ticket waiting list.

Around here, the waiting list is simultaneously loathed and revered. Since 1960, Packer games have sold out at Lambeau Field, leaving unlucky fans searching for tickets in the newspaper and on street corners in previous generations, and through ticket brokers and the Internet in recent years. At last count, the waiting list was more than 137,000 long and only a few hundred season tickets come open each year.

When his son was born, Jeff Ash thought it would be a hoot to put Evan’s name on the season ticket list. That was 26 years ago. Every year, the Packers send a postcard to let him know his current spot on the waiting list.

“I moved to Green Bay in 1980 and I wish had I put myself on the list back then because I might just be receiving season tickets now 40 years later,” Ash said. “Somebody signing up today? The list is so much bigger, you’re not going to get tickets in your lifetime.”

Yet it doesn’t deter the fanaticism.

“The schedule comes out in April, and everybody commits it to memory. Your friend may call and say, ‘Hey, we’re getting married October 15.′ ‘Oh, sorry, the Packers have the Vikings that week,’” said Corey Vann, who manages the Hagemeister Park bar. “You go to a liquor store 15 minutes before a game and there’s 100 people buying beer. Once the game kicks off, there’s nobody around. It’s what we do.”

It’s a short walk from the Lambeau Field locker room to the team’s practice field and, for decades, kids have risen before dawn on the first day of training camp to secure a job as an unofficial bike buddy during the summer. The bicycle is turned over to the player, and the child runs alongside with the player’s helmet in hand, or rides on pegs attached to the back tire.

John Gee was a middle school student who had just moved to Green Bay from California in 2005. He convinced another player to pass the word to Aaron Rodgers that he was waiting for the rookie quarterback from the University of California to arrive after a brief contract dispute. When Rodgers walked out of the locker room for his first day as Packer, Gee was waiting with a Cal baseball cap on.

“I was kind of shy growing up and wasn’t the most popular kid because I had just moved to Wisconsin,” said Gee, who is now 28 and a real estate agent back in California. “Aaron would ask me questions to get me to open up. We talked about California, video games, football, music. I tried to get him to check out some metal bands that maybe he didn’t know about. We found common ground with the Foo Fighters.”

For the next three years, they rode together before and after every training camp practice. Suddenly, the shy kid from California had the Packers’ first-round draft pick showing up to watch him play his middle school football games.

By 2008, Rodgers had replaced Brett Favre as the starting quarterback and the Packers deemed it a security risk to have him riding a bicycle across the Lambeau Field parking lot, so Gee was out of a job. Still, their relationship did not end.

“We got together for one last ride the following year, which would have been my junior or senior year. He had already been the starter for a year at that point, but he reached out to me and said, ‘Hey, you want to take one last ride together?’” Gee said. “It’s a difficult thing to conceptualize as a kid but I’ve thought about it a lot over the years and it really is a unique thing. It’s been around since the Lombardi years and there’s really nothing quite like it. You almost feel like you’re part of history.”

Named for the Indian Meat Packing Company in 1919, the franchise would not exist today were it not for the community coming through with the first two stock sales in 1923 and 1935. Conversely, the town of Green Bay would be as anonymous as Sheboygan were it not for the Packers.

It’s not as if it were easy. If it were, the Frankford Yellow Jackets, Akron Indians and Duluth Kelleys would still be in the NFL. It works only because the community was willing to invest, and the franchise consistently won.

And as evolution turned the NFL into a league of bigger and bigger cities, the mystique of Green Bay grew more and more around the nation.

“That small-town story line is how they built interest going back to the 1920s when they started slaying the Bears and the Giants,” said Cliff Christl, the team’s official historian. “A lot of people in small-town America closely identify with the Packers.

“When I first went to work for the team, I told them this is the greatest story in sports. It’s that romance of the team surviving against all odds and then becoming the most successful franchise in the NFL.”

Question of the next month and four years

George Mitchell, who is not one to engage in conspiracy theories:

President Trump questions whether the election results are legit. I have zero idea if he is correct. Only hard evidence matters. But context also matters. In the last four plus years his opponents and the swamp tried to rig/overturn an election. They conjured up the phony collusion narrative. They impeached him for doing what we now know Joe Biden did. So how far fetched is it to think something is amiss … again?

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