Category: Wisconsin politics

Barnes vs. the police

James B. Freeman:

Democrats who joined in reckless political attacks on police need voters to forgive and forget the crime surge that followed. Don’t count on it, especially when it comes to candidates who continue to attract the enthusiastic support of defunders.

Eric Bradner, Omar Jimenez and Donald Judd report for CNN:

Republicans in Wisconsin have in recent weeks hammered Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes on crime, casting the Democratic nominee to take on GOP Sen. Ron Johnson as “dangerous” as they seek to reach the small swath of suburban voters who could decide one of the nation’s most competitive Senate races.

Public safety is not just an issue for suburban voters. Today it’s difficult to find any jurisdiction in Wisconsin—or anywhere in America for that matter—where citizens want fewer police officers on the streets. Therefore even leftists like Mr. Barnes have been sticking to a consistent script in the 2022 election cycle. CNN reports:

In Wisconsin, Barnes, in his own ad launched two weeks ago, said Republicans are trying to scare voters, calling the charge that he wants to defund the police “a lie.”

“I’ll make sure our police have the resources and training they need to keep our communities safe and that our communities have the resources to stop crime before it happens,” Barnes says in the spot.

But even CNN can’t completely ignore his record, reporting:

The attacks so far have focused on Barnes’ efforts as a state lawmaker to end cash bail, as well as a 2020 interview with PBS Wisconsin — weeks after the police killing of George Floyd in neighboring Minnesota — in which Barnes suggested that funding should be redirected from police budgets to other social services.

“We need to invest more in neighborhood services and programming for our residents, for our communities on the front end,” he said then. “Where will that money come from? Well, it can come from over-bloated budgets in police departments.”

“Wisconsin saw a 70% increase in murders from 2019 to 2021,” notes CNN, and voters should hold politicians who supported defunding accountable. In February, Daniel Bice wrote in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

… Barnes is now distancing himself from two unpopular, far-left political movements — defunding police and abolishing ICE — despite support from groups backing these efforts and past social media activity referencing these causes.

Indeed, in the case of “Abolish ICE,” the 35-year-old Milwaukee Democrat even got the T-shirt.

“Don’t know how I missed this reply, but I need that,” Barnes tweeted July 4, 2018, when a Madison activist offered him a red “Abolish ICE” shirt from the Democratic Socialists of America in his size.

Mr. Bice noted a different message in the current election cycle, although its meaning could be open to interpretation:

“I am not a part of the Abolish ICE movement because no one slogan can capture all the work we have to do,” Barnes said in the statement.

Mr. Bice reported more of the disturbing history:

Barnes has received the endorsement of five national groups that have called for defunding the police… In November, Barnes was a speaker at a major meeting of the Center for Popular Democracy, which is a supporter of defundpolice.org. The center tweeted last year, “Defund police. Defund police states. Defund militarized occupation. Defund state-sanctioned violence.”

… As for the numerous groups that favor defunding police but are backing him, Barnes had little to say.

His campaign declined to provide the Journal Sentinel with his answers to the endorsement questionnaires from the Center for Popular Democracy, Democracy for America, Indivisible, MoveOn.org or the Working Families Party. Each of these groups also supports the movement to eliminate ICE.

As radical as the defunders are, it’s hard to say they haven’t made progress in achieving their goal. A recent report for PBS Wisconsin by the nonprofit Badger Project notes:

The number of law enforcement officers in the state ticked down again in 2022, setting a new record for the lowest statewide total since the Wisconsin Department of Justice started tracking the numbers in 2008.

To relieve some of the burden on law enforcement agencies, and attempt to de-escalate encounters between police and civilians, some cities and counties across the state are experimenting with sending non-police employees to answer some 911 calls.

Nothing scares criminals like a non-police presence in response to 911 calls. The idea is to dispatch the non-cops to take information about low-level offenses. But in no way does this mean that serious offenses are getting the attention they deserve.

These days even when budgets are available to hire more cops, it’s harder than ever to find people willing to do a dangerous job that too many Democrats love to demonize when it suits them.

In Wisconsin, the resulting tragedies are not concentrated in the suburbs but in the state’s largest city. The PBS report continues:

Milwaukee has taken the brunt. In 2020, the city set a record for its highest number of homicides in one year: 190. In 2021, it broke that new record by reaching 197. And with 160 homicides recorded by the end of August 2022, the city is on pace to break that record again.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel maintains a website tracking the data and now reports:

There have been 163 homicides in 2022.

This is 30 more than last year at this date.

The PBS Wisconsin report adds:

Instead of “Defund the police,” some law enforcement reformers have promoted a different slogan: “Solve every murder.”

Amen.

Three (at least) forms of conservatism

Daniel J. Mitchell:

At the risk of over-simplifying, there are three types of Republicans/conservatives today (at least from an economic perspective).

  • Reaganites – principled supporters of smaller government and individual liberty.
  • Trumpkins – populists or national conservatives who don’t care about the size of government
  • Bushies – the establishment crowd that often supports a bigger burden of government

Regular readers know which option I prefer, but I can appreciate anyone who has a consistent point of view (hence, my Ninth Theorem of Government).

Today’s column, however, is about how right-leaning organizations deal with the different strains of conservatism. Particularly when they have to deal with politicians.

I’m motivated to cover this topic since the Heritage Foundation (where I worked from 1990-2006) is under attack.

We’ll start with some excerpts from an article in the Dispatch by Audrey Fahlberg  Charlotte Lawson.

…some former employees believe Dr. Kevin Roberts, president of the Heritage Foundation since December 2021, and other senior leaders have lost sight of the think tank’s original mission. Where it used to function as a haven for conservative intellectuals to shape the Republican Party’s agenda, many worry that the institution is attaching itself to a faction of the conservative movement that prioritizes partisanship over policy. …Several former employees cited Heritage’s departure from its foundational commitments—without the knowledge or consent of the scholars hired to translate them into policy positions—as their reason for leaving. Others pointed to one-on-one confrontations with the members of the leadership team over the organization’s ideological trajectory. Fights over who sets Heritage’s “one-voice policy”—which requires that all staff be publicly aligned on any given issue—have caused much of the friction. …Whereas scholars at right-leaning 501(c)(3) research institutions like Cato Institute, the Hudson Institute, and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) are permitted and often encouraged to disagree with each other about policy issues, Heritage prides itself in projecting the same voice on every policy issue.

The main bone of contention is whether to give full support to Ukraine.

The disputes extended beyond the debate over Ukraine and preceded Roberts’ leadership. Several former experts and researchers detailed limitations on their intellectual freedom beginning in the Trump era… “There were several instances where I was asked to scrub the phrase ‘President Trump’ from my pieces. I think it was to tamp down any suspected criticism,” said one former Heritage employee, speaking on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly about internal dynamics. “We were definitely discouraged from mentioning the Biden administration by name as well, unless we were attacking them.” …At the tail end of the Trump presidency, one former communications staffer said, the media team shut down requests to schedule economics scholars for television appearances about the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement to preemptively quash any public criticism of Trump’s support for the trade deal. …Some tension has emerged between establishment conservatives and the national conservatives on Capitol Hill, though national conservatives are from the dominant force in the GOP today. That’s not necessarily the case at Heritage. Tori Smith—a former trade policy analyst at Heritage…observed that a similar “tension is playing out at Heritage, and the nationalist conservatives are winning, it’s abundantly clear.”

In a column for the Washington Post, Josh Rogin opined about this controversy inside the conservative movement.

The Heritage Foundation’s turn toward the “new right” is the clearest symbol yet that the MAGA movement’s foreign policy is becoming institutionalized… Some former staffers told me Roberts has prioritized political messaging over policy formation. As Heritage becomes beholden to the MAGA movement’s political whims, these analysts allege, the organization is now following the mob rather than leading it… On Ukraine, Heritage has broken with center-right think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute and the Hudson Institute and is now aligned with the Center for Renewing America (run by Donald Trump’s former budget director Russ Vought), the Koch Institute, and conservatives at the Quincy Institute, who all argue for “restraint,” meaning the opposite of the long-standing internationalist bipartisan D.C. foreign policy consensus. …at the National Conservatism Conference, Roberts said, “I come not to invite national conservatives to join our conservative movement, but to acknowledge the plain truth that Heritage is already part of yours.” …on Fox News, Roberts said it’s time for the United States to declare independence from the “liberal world order.”

I’m not an expert on foreign policy, but I fully agree with the folks at Heritage that non-military foreign aid will not help Ukraine.

But I am wholly sympathetic to that country’s fight against Putin’s aggression. And I’m not sure if Heritage’s opposition to the “liberal world order” means standing aside while Ukraine is attacked.

I’ll close with a broader point about Trump, so-called national conservatism, and think tanks. Heritage’s president said that his organization is “already part of yours” in a speech to national conservatives.

This worries me. At the risk of understatement, national conservatives don’t seem very interested in controlling the size and scope of government.

I’m a believer in “fusionism,” the idea that conservatives and libertarians can be strong allies on economic issues. But that won’t be the case if groups like the Heritage Foundation throw in the towel.

As previously noted I consider myself a “conservatarian,” an economic conservative and somewhere between a social conservative and social libertarian. Another way to put it might be to be a “Wall Street Journal conservative,” since the Wall Street Journal editorial page’s five-word mission statement has always been “free men (people) and free markets.”

Reagan wanted to reduce the size of government, but political forces got in the way. The common feature of Mitchell’s Bushism (or “compassionate conservatism”) and Trumpism is that neither cares about reducing the size and scope of government as long as they are in charge of government. (That’s also a Wisconsin GOP feature.) That is the wrong approach.

Mitchell wrote in August 2020:

I’m skeptical of “common-good capitalism” in the same way I’m suspicious about “nationalist conservatism” and “reform conservatism” (and it should go without saying that I didn’t like the “kinder-and-gentler conservatism” and “compassionate conservatism” we got from the Bushes).

Here’s what I prefer.

Whether you call it libertarianism or small-government conservatism, this is the approach I wish Republicans would follow (or Democrats, if the spirit of Grover Cleveland still exists in that party).

But there are many self-styled conservatives who disagree. They think Reagan and his successful policies are passé.

Interestingly, the desire to move beyond Reaganism comes from pro-Trump and anti-Trump outlets.

David Brooks, a never-Trumper with a column in the New York Times, thinks Reagan’s anti-government approach is misguided.

If you came of age with conservative values and around Republican politics in the 1980s and 1990s, you lived within a certain Ronald Reagan-Margaret Thatcher paradigm. It was about limiting government, spreading democracy abroad, building dynamic free markets at home and cultivating people with vigorous virtues… For decades conservatives were happy to live in that paradigm. But as years went by many came to see its limits. It was so comprehensively anti-government that it had no way to use government to solve common problems. …Only a return to the robust American nationalism of Alexander Hamilton, Henry Clay and Theodore Roosevelt would do: ambitious national projects, infrastructure, federal programs to increase social mobility. The closest National Greatness Conservatism came to influencing the party was John McCain’s 2000 presidential bid. He was defeated by a man, George W. Bush, who made his own leap, to Compassionate Conservatism. …The Reformicons tried to use government to build strong families and neighborhoods. …Most actual Republican politicians rejected all of this. They stuck, mostly through dumb inertia, to an anti-government zombie Reaganism long after Reagan was dead and even though the nation’s problems were utterly different from what they were when he was alive. …there is a posse of policy wonks and commentators supporting a new Working-Class Republicanism… But if there is one thing I’ve learned over the decades, it is never to underestimate the staying power of the dead Reagan paradigm.

Maybe I’m just an “anti-government zombie,” but my response is to ask why Brooks thinks the federal government should be in charge of state and local infrastructure.

Even more important, it would be nice if he could identify a government program that successfully promotes social mobility. There are several hundred of them, so the fact that he doesn’t offer any examples is quite revealing.

By contrast, the Reagan approach of of free markets and limited government works anywhere and everywhere it is tried. And he was right that big government is bad government.

But at least Brooks’ column reminds me to add “national greatness conservatism” to my list of failed philosophical fads.

Now let’s shift to an article from the Trump-friendly American Conservative. Rod Dreher also argues that Reaganism is no longer relevant.

Reagan nostalgia has long been a bane of contemporary conservatism, because it prevented conservatives from recognizing how much the world has changed since the 1980s and how conservatism needed to change with it to remain relevant. …by the time Trump came down that escalator, Reagan conservatism was about as relevant to the real world as FDR’s New Deal liberalism was in 1980. It is no insult to Reagan to say so. Until Trump arrived on the scene, it was difficult for right-wing dissenters from orthodox Reaganism—critics of free trade, immigration skeptics, antiwar conservatives, and others—to break free of the margins to which establishment conservatives had exiled them. …It is impossible to see the clear outlines of a post-Trump future for the Republicans, but…Reaganism—the ideology of globalized free markets, social and religious conservatism, and American military and diplomatic domination—is never coming back.

Sadly, I don’t think Dreher is correct about “New Deal liberalism” being irrelevant.

How else, after all, would someone categorize Obama’s policies? Or Biden’s platform? It’s “We shall tax and tax, and spend and spend, and elect and elect,” just as FDR advisor Harry Hopkins stated.

And Reagan’s policies are definitely still relevant, at least if the goal is to improve the well-being of the American people.

Yes, Dreher is right that “the world has changed since the 1980s,” but that doesn’t mean that good policy in 1980 is no longer good policy in 2020.

I think the problem may be that people think Reaganomics is nothing more than lower tax rates, perhaps combined with a bit of inflation fighting. And it’s definitely true that Reagan’s tax rate reductions and his restoration of sound money were wonderful achievements.*

But the Reagan economic agenda was also about spending restraint, deregulation, trade liberalization (he got the ball rolling on NAFTA and the WTO), and other pro-market reforms.

To be sure, Reagan’s policy record wasn’t perfect. But the policies he preferred were the right ones to restore American prosperity in the 1980s.

And while there are different problems today (the need for entitlement reform, for instance), the Reaganite approach of smaller government is still the only good answer.

*Let’s also remember to applaud Reagan for the policies that resulted in the unraveling of the Soviet Empire.

P.S. As explained in the Fourth Theorem of Government, pro-growth, Reagan-style policy can be smart politics.

Trump-style conservatism got rejected in 2020. Reagan won two presidential elections with it. The evidence is clear that voters don’t vote for gloom-and-doom candidates, even if that candidate would have been a far better choice (see 2020).

The criminal-coddler in Maple Bluff

Wisconsin Right Now commits what Charlie Sykes used to call a flagrant act of journalism:

“We will not release violent criminals,” Tony Evers promised voters in 2018.

That was an insidious lie.

Gov. Tony Evers’ Parole Commission has released at least 884 convicted criminals, freeing them early on parole mostly into Wisconsin communities, including more than 270 murderers and attempted murderers, and more than 44 child rapists.

The list, from 2019 through 2021, includes some of the most brutal killers in Wisconsin history and some of the most high-profile. The cases span the state, from Kenosha to Rib Mountain, Wisconsin Right Now has documented through a public records request.

How brutal are these killers? Carl Beletsky, then 39, of Oconomowoc, shot and decapitated his bank manager wife, Kathleen, with a large kitchen knife and then tried to burn her head in a wood-burning stove in 1982. Newspaper articles from the time say that Beletsky, who was worried she was going to leave him, placed Kathleen’s headless body in the trunk of a car, dumped the body in a cornfield, and then went to drink liquor.

Beletsky, now 79, was paroled in August 2019 by the Evers administration and now lives in Hatley, Wisconsin.

There are many cases that rival Beletsky’s in their outright brutality. And don’t think they’re all old. The average age of the released killers and attempted killers is 54, and they range in age from 39 to 79.

Even though they’ve only been out for three years at the most, 16 of them have already re-offended or violated terms of their parole, Corrections records show, including one man accused of strangulation.

Slightly more than half are black. About a third are white. Only four were paroled as “compassionate releases.” In 27 cases, Corrections records list no address for the parolees. Some are double murderers; there is even a triple murderer among them.

Joseph Roeling shot and killed his mother, stepfather, and 8-year-old half-sister while they slept in 1982 inside the family’s mobile home in Fond du Lac County. Roeling told a sister he was planning to get rid of everyone in the family to have free run of the home, according to a newspaper article from the time.

Roeling, 56, was paroled by the Evers administration in June 2021 and lives in Oshkosh today.

In another particularly heinous case, Terrance Shaw randomly murdered a young mother, Susan Erickson, who worked at a La Crosse hospital, raping, stabbing, and strangling her after spotting her through her home’s picture window while driving past. They were strangers. He called it “one really bad day.”

Today Shaw, 73, lives in Onalaska.

Roy Barnes, 62, lives in Milwaukee. In 1999, he murdered the brother of one of Jeffrey Dahmer’s victims and received 45 years in prison for it. Barnes tortured the victim and used his ear as an ashtray, according to a 2000 Green Bay Press-Gazette article. In 1998, the article says, he committed “a hammer attack on another man.”

Evers’ administration paroled Barnes in September 2020.

Over the next two months, in a new series, Wisconsin Right Now will be naming names and profiling some of the most brutal killers and child rapists paroled by the Tony Evers-Mandela Barnes administration (with the total silence of Attorney General Josh Kaul).

We will be running one story each day.

About one-third of the killers and attempted killers live in Milwaukee. Racine, Madison, and Kenosha are next in that order. All of the 274 cases are listed under homicide statutes by the Parole Commission; a review of court records, news stories, and other documents confirms that most of those homicides resulted in deaths. A far smaller number were attempted homicides. …

Democrat Tony Evers took office on Jan. 7, 2019. Evers first named John Tate to chair the Parole Commission, starting on June 3, 2019 and reappointed him in 2021.

Tate, who stepped down in June after outcry from another victim’s family, had sole authority over the releases, but Evers could have fired him at any time.

Last spring, Evers acted shocked, as if the rescinded release of wife killer Douglas Balsewicz, which ignited news stories all over the state, was an aberration.

It was not, and he had to know this. The Parole Commission’s own records firmly prove: The Balsewicz case was the pattern.

The other cases are as horrific as that of Balsewicz, who stabbed his estranged wife Johanna more than 40 times, and that’s saying a lot. Unlike Balsewicz, there’s no evidence Evers did anything to stop the paroles. Worse, he reappointed Tate after many of them.

The released criminals include multiple cop killers; men who stabbed, strangled, and asphyxiated their wives and girlfriends; a man who shot a teenage gas station clerk in the head for $5 on the clerk’s first day alone on the job after shooting two other clerks in the head; and people who murdered and bludgeoned and raped elderly women, including a killer who used a wheelbarrow to dump the body of a murdered 86-year-old woman in the woods.

They include a killer who blew his parents’ heads off with a rifle and then went out to party, telling people his mom and dad were “laying around the house.”

A sniper who hid in the woods and randomly shot an elderly woman who was walking a dog along the Menomonee River Parkway because he wanted to kill someone.

A woman who stabbed an elderly Richland County grocer 63 times for $54; a man who strangled a baby, either with a cord from behind or by suspending the infant.

A man who went to a technical college intending to commit suicide and murdered a technical services coordinator.

A foster dad who beat a 2-year-old to death because he soiled his pants.

A biker who slashed a woman’s throat so severely he almost decapitated her after participating in a violent gang rape and then threw her in a manure pit. …

Some of the killers were released even though they already had blemished records on parole or behind bars. …

In most cases, Tate had the final say. However, Evers knew full well about Tate’s philosophy, which focuses far more on rehabilitation/redemption than punishment or protecting the public.

The paroles are reflective of an admitted belief system by both. The governor even promised to slash the state’s prison population by 50%. This is apparently who he meant.

In 2018, Evers “signaled” in an interview “that he would favor increasing paroles.”

The governor appointed Tate, a proponent of repealing truth-in-sentencing laws and police “reform,” twice to chair the Parole Commission. Evers re-upped Tate’s appointment in 2021 AFTER many of the killers, including Beletsky, were paroled, expressing zero concern about the releases. Thus, Evers is going to have to own them all.

Tate has been open about his beliefs; a Racine city council member, he once hung a Black Lives Matter flag behind him during a virtual meeting on police reform.

The paroles were only possible because of truth-in-sentencing laws Tate and Evers oppose; these are people sentenced under old laws before the Legislature eliminated parole in the state.

When Evers first appointed Tate to the job, Evers’ focus was on “improving our parole system” to eliminate “racial disparities.” He pledged that Tate would be a “strong advocate for the change we need to ensure our criminal justice system treats everyone fairly and focuses on rehabilitation.

An Associated Press article said Evers’ choice “has been eagerly anticipated by prison reform advocates.”

“I’m trying to find ways to get people back to their communities,” Tate promised. He did not reveal that would include some of the state’s worst killers and rapists.

On Feb. 24, 2021, Evers signaled that he was happy with how Tate, a social worker, had done his job. He wrote the state Senate, “I am pleased to nominate and with the advice and consent of the Senate, do appoint JOHN TATE II, of Racine, as the Chair of the Parole Commission, to serve for the term ending March 1, 2023.” Senate Republicans let the nomination languish, meaning Tate could continue serving.

Tate bragged in 2021 about releasing more prisoners than Gov. Scott Walker’s Parole Commission. He told other officials involved in parole releases: “I just wanted to note that your efforts to really evaluate individuals where they are, giving that real chance… as well as individuals’ own progress, resulted in a great deal of people being able to return to the community… So, I just wanted to give you kudo.” He mentioned the families of criminals but not victims.

Evers has been under fire for letting Kenosha burn during riots there, but the release of some of the state’s most violent and heinous murderers and child rapists – and the impact on public safety and on traumatized victims’ families – has gone almost unnoticed in the news media. A few of the paroles were covered at the time, but most were not.

Unlike sex offenders, the public doesn’t receive a notification when convicted killers move next to them.

Evers accused Walker of lying when Walker warned that Evers planned to release violent criminals to the streets. It turns out that Walker was right, but Walker understated the problem. Even he did not fathom that Evers’ administration would release so many violent murderers and child rapists.

Tate helped found a group called “Our Wisconsin Revolution” that is openly opposed to truth-in-sentencing laws and other legislation to keep criminals behind bars longer.

We tried to reach Tate at the time of the Balsewicz story, but he never returned calls.

With Evers, this is a long pattern. He recently said he wasn’t sure he had met with murder victims’ families other than those involved in the Waukesha parade attack; he’s pardoned more than 400 offenders (including a sibling of Balsewicz who was going to give her paroled brother a place to live – pardons are different than the paroles in this story); he increased the number of early release prisoners by 16% and decreased the prison population by 15%; he softened revocation rules; and, perhaps most egregiously, he wanted to get rid of truth-in-sentencing and expand early release in his last budget.

For his part, Barnes authored legislation in 2016 to get rid of cash bail entirely in the state. The MacIver Institute has the round-up

Tate’s resignation came just three days after Wisconsin Right Now asked the Wisconsin Parole Commission for information on two past paroles Tate granted for men – Kenneth Jordan and Lavelle Chambers – convicted in connection with the murders of Milwaukee police officers. …

This is a pattern; victims’ family members were not notified of the parole releases in multiple cases, including when there was still a chance to stop them.

A victim has a right to attend a parole interview per s. 304.06(1)(eg) Wis. Stats. However, to be notified, victims’ family members must enroll in a system to receive notice.

Here’s the reality; in many cases, after decades pass, the closest family members – parents, siblings – have died or moved away or aged, leaving few alive to speak for the victim anymore.

Traumatized families fray, and PTSD takes its toll. At this stage, it’s up to the governor’s appointee to stand for public safety or not.

We asked the Parole Commission about the cases of Block, Ketterhagen, Brook, and Whiting. Why were these men paroled? When did Brook die? Were the victims’ families notified? If not, why not? Why was Ketterhagen paroled after failing parole before?

The Commission promised to respond to our questions before our deadline, but never did.

 

The GOP’s message for the next two months

William Otis:

There’s an emerging train of thought that one reason Republicans might be headed for only a modest victory in November rather than the “Red Wave” is that they have failed to put forward their own positive message. What exactly would they do if they had majorities in Congress?

The criticism sounds plausible enough, but is easy to overstate. First, the out party runs against the in party, and in order to do that, the main message has to be about the failings of the in party. Not only is this not rocket science, it’s particularly sound advice where (1) the failings of the in party are so obvious and so painful that even the press can’t hide them, and (not coincidentally) (2) the in party’s principal strategy is to pretend it’s not really the in party — that instead, Donald Trump is The Ghost President, it’s still January 6 (indeed, it’s never anything but January 6), and the “insurrectionist” overthrow of democracy is just around the corner.

All that is baloney, and Republicans shouldn’t be fooled into buying it — that is, they shouldn’t act as if they have a record to defend in this election. Biden, Schumer and Pelosi, all of whom are way underwater, have the record to defend. Remember this and make them do it.

The second reason the “positive message” theory is easy to overstate is that Republicans have no single, commanding voice to carry the banner. Ordinarily, the main voice of the out party tends to be its most recent Presidential candidate. That won’t work this time because, for one thing, its most recent Presidential candidate is the problem not the solution. For whatever one may think of Donald Trump’s term in the Oval Office (and for the most part I think highly of it), his irresponsible, self-involved, and possibly illegal behavior after the 2020 election — behavior that’s getting worse not better — abets the Democrats rather than challenges them. And of course Trump is to say the least a divisive figure inside the Party, largely because that’s the way he wants it.

Still, to the extent there is something to be gained by putting forth a positive message — say, an updated version of the Contract with America that won a stunning victory in 1994 — the questions are, who should be its spokesman, and what should it say?

The truth is that Republicans don’t have a single spokesman. Their leading figures other than Trump — Cotton, DeSantis, Pompeo, and Pence (and to an extent McConnell and McCarthy) — can carry the message, but because none is yet a commanding figure, its effectiveness and resonance will depend on making sure it’s the same message.

That would ordinarily be a Herculean feat, but this time we have help, namely, the neon-light luminescence of the Democrats’ blunders. When the other side is giving you a guided tour of what to do, hey, count your blessings and take them up on it!

So here’s the message in a nutshell:

What we’re doing now is failing. You are worse off now than when the Democrats took over and it’s easy to see why: Reckless, carefree deficit spending that spikes the higher prices you pay every day; giveaways to favored constituencies at the expense of the working man; hecktoring shame driven by a poisoned view of American history that paints one race as callous bigots and the others as helpless victims; and an educational establishment that believes your kid is state property and you as parents should bug out. With thinking like that, it’s no happenstance that criminals and drug pushers run wild while the police are scourged as racist thugs.

This is wrong and we will change it. We know how to do better because we’ve done better before, when crime was falling and real incomes were rising.

First, control of education will be restored to parents. The Woke education establishment and its allied teachers unions will take a step back. In assessing nominees for high office, America will be viewed as a good and great country rather than as something to be ashamed of. Sexual and other minorities will be respected and protected but will not control the national agenda through cultural bullying or otherwise. Working and saving will be rewarded rather than punished. Government spending will be at last resort rather than a slap-happy first option. Criminals will be put in jail and police on the street rather than vise versa.

The past is done and we can’t change it. But we can change the future if we chart the right course. The course we’re on now is not merely wrong but disastrous. Your standard of living is at risk and America’s place in the world is shrinking. We can do better, and with Republican control of Congress, we will.

An alternative to Michels?

Most Wisconsin reporters probably wrote after the Aug. 9 primary that Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels will face Democratic incumbent Tony Evers and independent Joan Ellis Beglinger Nov. 8.

Which brings up a question: Who is Joan Ellis Beglinger?

 

Nurses are knowledge workers. We often encounter people at the most difficult times in their lives and deep human connections result.  There is no work I can imagine with a greater opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. My clinical practice was the care of the critically ill.  As a clinical nurse specialist, I worked with patients and families experiencing multi-system failure, which means the sickest of the sick.   A months-long stay in intensive care was not unusual. During my 10 years of clinical practice, I developed expertise in evaluating the patient, interpreting the situation from an extensive knowledge base, and managing a plan of care to achieve the best possible outcomes for the patient and family.  Critical thinking, problem solving and managing outcomes are hallmark skills of clinical nurses.

As a hospital administrator I no longer directly cared for patients.  In nearly 30 years of administrative practice, I developed a clear understanding that my job was to create the conditions for the organization to produce exceptional outcomes.  That meant positioning those who do the organization’s work, day in and day out, with the information, skills, resources and authority they needed to do their best work.  At St. Mary’s in Madison, where I was the Vice President for Patient Care and Chief Nurse Executive for 22 years, we consistently produced exceptional results that were in the top tier of the nation and included clinical outcomes, patient and family satisfaction, employee and physician engagement and financial performance.

The governor is the CEO of the state.  It is a huge bureaucracy with a multi-billion dollar budget and thousands of employees.  An effective governor will manage the bureaucracy in a way that protects the freedom of citizens to live the lives they want to live.  I will have a great deal to learn about the specific workings of state government, as would any CEO taking a position in a new organization, but the skills I have acquired over nearly 30 years are readily transferable.

Many of us have turned away from career politicians and political parties because they rarely produce the results that are important to us.  Producing outcomes requires skill that is acquired from both education and experience. My track record is long, public and objectively measurable.  Candidates in this race will tell you about all of the great things they are going to do for you. The single greatest predictor of future performance is past performance. Competence is not what we are capable of doing.  Competence is what we have actually accomplished.  I have the competence to lead. …

I am often asked why I am running as an Independent candidate for governor.  Some are concerned that without the political machinery and big money backing of the major parties, a candidate doesn’t have a chance.  Looking back, this argument would seem to have merit.  I’m here to argue that now is the time for the right independent candidate to defy history, and the odds, because so many of us have had enough of politicians who are not doing the work of the people.

The major political parties have disqualified themselves from our trust and our support.  Their focus is on maintaining and increasing power rather than governing.  We have seen cycle after cycle, despite their claim to differing governing philosophies, it doesn’t really matter which party is in power.  As you become familiar with who I am and how I will govern, I am confident you will understand why I cannot affiliate myself with a political party. The corruption of our political system is one of the biggest issues we face.  John Adams warned early in the formation of our republic, “When the legislature is corrupted, the people are undone.”

It’s understandable if you feel uneasy about casting your vote for an independent candidate.  As you get to know me, if you find you feel good about the person I am, the values I hold, and the leadership skills I bring to the governorship, I hope you will decide to support getting back to the fundamentals that made our country the greatest in the world.

According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 40% of Americans identify themselves as Independents.  I believe many of us have rejected party membership because of their abysmal failure to produce for us.  We have the great privilege and power of self-determination in this country.  Our votes, in the end, will determine who leads.  It’s in our hands.

So what does Beglinger want to do? She lists her priorities:

As Governor I will:

  • Make it clear to my administration that we exist to serve, not to impede.

  • Minimize the burden of taxes and regulations. Spending in my administration will be tied to results.

  • Require government agencies to be timely and responsive with permitting and other essential services.

  • Promote self-sufficiency.

  • Promote energy independence.

  • Reject the “climate crisis” agenda. Its burdensome regulations will destroy businesses and crush our citizens. New sources of energy will come from human ingenuity, not government coercion.

  • Work to restore responsible management of our natural resources, including fish and game, which are so important to our economy and tourism.

She also claims she will “protect the constitutional right of law-abiding citizens to bear arms” and “keep our focus where it belongs. We do not have a ‘gun violence’ problem in Wisconsin; we have a murder problem.” On schools she says she will “tie our investments in education to measurable results” and “work for parental choice that includes the public money spent per student going to any setting – public, private, or home – that produces results.” And she says she will “work to eliminate controversial, divisive social theories from our public schools.”

Beglinger’s other views can be found here, including one on my line of work:

 

Our founders understood that a free and honest press is critical to a free society. They must be our watchdogs of truth. Dishonest career politicians and corrupt political parties would pose a far lesser threat if we had real investigative reporting and journalistic integrity. Instead, we have a media that pushes a political agenda and is complicit in the dishonesty of government officials.

Here are some examples of big issues, beyond COVID-19, that we all need to understand so we can responsibly exercise our right to self-governance.  A watchdog media would be all over them:

  • The 2,702-page Infrastructure bill and the 2,135-page “Build Back Better” bill are designed to radically change our country. They include massive expansions of social programs including Medicare, childcare, and paid family leave; billions for climate change; changes in immigration; and much more government intrusion into our lives. What else is in these bills?  The media acts as the government’s mouthpiece by reporting the bills are popular with the people and are paid for.  The Congressional Budget Office puts the price tag of “Build Back Better” at nearly $5T and says it will add nearly $3T to the deficit. Lies.

  • $20 Billion flowed into Wisconsin under the umbrella of COVID Relief. Where has it gone? What outcomes, if any, have been produced?

  • Migrants are flowing illegally across our southern border in record numbers. Who are they? Where are they?

  • Law enforcement is under attack and our criminal justice system is failing.  Crime is on the rise. Murder and mass stealing are everyday occurrences. The massacre at the Waukesha Christmas parade brought it home in our own backyard. Public safety takes a back seat to fantasies about criminals.  The pandemic is blamed for crime.

  • The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction released 2020-2021 report cards for our schools. Low proficiency rates in reading and math don’t prevent a grade of “meets” or “exceeds expectations” for poor performing districts. The media passes on a deep dive into how creative math makes failure look good.

Our freedom is seriously threatened when the media fail us. Until they prove themselves trustworthy, we must turn them off and tune them out. Go to the primary source when possible so you can evaluate for yourself what is true. Think critically and resist acting on emotion.

As your governor, I will always tell the truth. I won’t sign any bill until its contents have been fully communicated to the citizens. I will go around a dishonest media directly to the people. Doing what’s right means standing alone when you must. I’ve done that many times and will do it again while we await the re-emergence of journalistic integrity.

So far, so good. It appears as though Beglinger learned some of the right things from Donald Trump. She seems more conservative than Michels in several areas, for that matter. (Michels has failed to prove that more money needs to be spent on transportation, has not proposed how to pay for that besides the gas tax whose increase he once endorsed, and has said nothing about the need to de-pork the bloated state Department of Transportation.) Perhaps she will be seen as a conservative alternative to Michels for those who don’t like how Michels’ supporters treated supporters of Rebecca Kleefisch (and are utterly clueless about how that’s being viewed among conservative-leaning voters).

One of Beglinger’s appeals probably is the fact she’s not establishment GOP. The GOP and the Democratic Party are part of the larger Incumbent Party, which is interested only in perpetuating its own power. Neither Michels nor the GOP has, for instance, endorsed a Taxpayer Bill of Rights-like constitutional mechanism to permanently limit the growth of government in Wisconsin. (Had Wisconsin had a TABOR-like mechanism since the late 1970s, state government would be half the size it is today.) Politicians do not want to do things to reduce their own power.

Beglinger’s problem is that she doesn’t have the level of independent wealth (think GOP supporter Diane Hendricks, one of the too-few really rich people in Wisconsin) needed to fund an independent campaign. The fact she got 7 percent in the latest Marquette Law School poll doesn’t make her a serious contender, but one should assume every vote Beglinger gets makes the low-T governor more likely to win.

Michels has been slow, and his supporters have done nothing, to patch up the splits between supporters of the first- and second-place finishers in the primary. Some GOP-leaning voters might look at the unlikelihood of the GOP losing control of the Legislature and decide that a vote for Beglinger, unlikely as she is to win, might be better than a vote for someone who seems unlikely to win and has questionable conservative credentials.

 

 

Vos vs. Gableman

David Blaska:

One of Tommy Thompson’s former staff members relates how the governor backed him into a wardrobe closet at an event that had gone wrong and growled, “You are so fired!” Tommy fired and rehired the same aide twice that day.

Ronald Reagan retired his Bedtime for Bonzo image for all time when — seven months into his presidency — he fired air traffic controllers for illegally striking and endangering public safety. The man meant business!

One of Donald Trump’s greatest accomplishments (among many) was firing FBI director James Comey. Trump had perfected firing under-achieving apprentices on his reality TV show. Recently, Florida Gov. DeSantis fired the district attorney who vowed not to enforce state law. Good leaders fire poor performers. We have our own list. (When will the Uvalde TX school police chief be fired?)

Our only regret is that Vos didn’t give Mike Gableman the heave-ho on camera like Trump used to do on The Apprentice. The public has been denied the image of Gableman at the bus stop holding a cardboard box. Instead of an honest investigator, Gableman was always a partisan Stolen Election mythologizer. Like the Queen of Hearts, he was verdict first, evidence later.

Which makes him a martyred hero to too many Republican dupes like like N.J. and D.G. here in Dane County WI. Willing and eager dupes. They and the like-(un)minded gave Timothy Ramthun a round of applause at Saturday’s Dane County Lincoln-Reagan dinner 08-13-22. (Except from that one guy at Table 3.) A nominee who would have lost to the tooth fairy.

Ramthun ran for the Republican nomination for governor promising to decertify the the last presidential election in violation of state statute and constitution — and practicality.

The name “Robin Vos” went unspoken Saturday at the Concourse Hotel, lest dinner rolls be thrown. The man himself elicited a fierce booing at the Republican state convention this past May for explaining that neither he nor Tim Ramthun is above the law. Survived a vote of no confidence. Barely hung onto his Assembly seat last week in the Republican primary with 51.3% of the vote. Find where, oh ye self-proclaimed constitutional conservatives, elections can be “decertified.” Especially in the absence of any actual — you know — evidence. How many voters will you disenfranchise because they dropped their ballots into boxes authorized by their local and state election officials in order to get the result you want? How do you know they all voted “wrong?”

Blaska’s Bottom Line: Our Republican party is in deep, dark doo doo if it thinks Robin Vos is the enemy. The Speaker has been Lord Voldemort to Wisconsin’s Democrat(ic) governor. Why would the leader chosen by 61 Republicans elected around the state put in the fix to keep Joe Biden in the White House? It doesn’t make sense.

The stakes Nov. 8

William Otis:

I’ve been following politics for more than 50 years. Never has it been as corrupted and depressing as it is now. It’s almost as bad as what used to be known as journalism.

We have two major parties, and the next President is going to come from one of them. At this moment, the leading candidates for their respective party’s nominations are Joe Biden and Donald Trump. I seriously doubt that Biden will actually run again and I’m quite sure that, for the good of the country, Trump shouldn’t.

Biden is just too old and it shows. But even if he were younger, the chances of his renomination are slim because, to be blunt, he looks like a loser and the Democrats know it. I’ve noted his dismal and massively unpopular record before: A cowardly and precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan a year ago today, one that cost American lives and made that country once more a Taliban and terrorist stronghold; a major war in Europe our “diplomacy” failed to avert; an increasingly aggressive and dangerous China with its sights on Taiwan; inflation at a 40-year high and visiting itself on your pocketbook in ways so ubiquitous and relentless the press can’t fuzz it over; supply chain shortages in everything from semi-conductors to baby formula; race huckstering and racial antagonism getting stoked as Biden looks on (or abets); murder surging across the country to levels we haven’t seen since the last century; an illegal immigration crisis at the southern border the Administration sort of acknowledges but seems unable or unwilling to staunch; and drug overdose deaths at levels (over 100,000 last year) unseen in American history.

Biden is just too old and too weak to lead the country or to withstand having his party taken over by what we see now. Not to put too fine a point on it, what is that exactly? It’s a Democratic Party that has become a consortium of relentlessly dishonest, anti-American, pro-criminal, race-huckstering, Woke-hugging coastal elitists who think American history, to the skimpy extent they know it or care to know it, is nothing but the vileness of slavery with a few footnotes.

It’s a commonplace that a country cannot long survive being run by people who hate it. The fact that America is in the shape it’s in after just a year and a half of Democratic rule is no happenstance. The predominant thinking in the Democratic Party is that America is a stain on the world and has it coming — indeed, has had it coming for a long time. Our current dismal state is, therefore, not bad luck. It’s exactly what you’d expect this poisonous view of America (or “Amerika,” as they like to say when they think no one’s looking) would seek to produce.

So the answer is the Republicans, right? Well, yes and no. “Yes” in the sense that it’s the only major party left, and one of the two of them is going to be holding power (a viable independent third party is a pipe dream and isn’t going to happen). “No” in the sense that the likely Republican nominee, Donald Trump, is constitutionally incapable (in more than one sense) of responsibly exercising of the powers of the office.

I’m not going to go through the long list of Trump’s accomplishments for the country, nor the about equally long list of his personal and character defects that make him unfit for public service (and make him the endlessly talking gift that, to the Democrats’ rapture and delight, keeps on giving — and talking).

I voted for Trump twice and was his nominee for a body in the judicial branch, the US Sentencing Commission. I defended him for years as his behavior sank lower and lower — ask any of his five chiefs of staff, or Jeff Sessions, or Bill Barr, or Betsy DeVos or a host of others. But he has at least one characteristic that makes it unambiguously imperative that he not be re-nominated.

He doesn’t care about law. I doubt he knows much of it or wants to. This would be bad enough in a nominee for any public office, but is terminal in a nominee for the office whose central constitutional duty is to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”

Last week he took the Fifth, for cryin’ out loud. But — in a turn of events as revealing as it is depressing — our expectations of him are now at the point that we barely noticed.

When I became aware of civic life during the Eisenhower administration, the notion that the President — or a once and perhaps future President — would take the Fifth simply did not exist. Dwight Eisenhower take the Fifth??? Now, with the Donald Trump we have come to know, it barely gets mentioned.

And then there’s the search at his Florida estate. Let’s assume arguendo that the search was politically motivated, excessive in force and scope, without precedent, grossly incendiary, and essentially part of the Democratic Party’s use of the organs of government to scourge its opponents. Very likely all of that is true to some extent, perhaps a large extent. But what did we learn in its aftermath?

We learned, for one thing, that the federal government had spent months seeking presidential records Trump just packed up and took with him when he left the White House. Fifteen boxes of them that we know of so far. They weren’t his property and he had no right to them, classified or not. Under the Presidential Records Act, they were government property. But he decided he wanted them, so off they went.

Question: Presidential Records Act or not, when do you learn that you don’t walk off with mounds of stuff that doesn’t belong to you?

Answer: By about first grade.

But Trump walked off with them anyway. And yes, it may well be true that other presidents took papers they shouldn’t have and had no right to. But the question is, do we want America’s chief executive to be saying, as is now being said in Trump’s behalf, “But everybody does it!

When I said that to my parents, the certain result was getting sent to my room. And I was maybe eight or nine. If that sort of excuse-making, and the mindset that produces it, doesn’t go over in grade school, should we want it — indeed, should we tolerate even thinking about it — in the White House?

The question answers itself. Trump’s obliviousness to law, and his easy acceptance if not pugilistic embrace of that obliviousness, is disqualifying per se. And this would be true even if the Republican Party did not have a bevy of high quality potential nominees who would carry forward most if not all of Trump’s substantive policies without the consistently reckless and lawless coloration. Candidates who would — how should I say this? — make America great again.

Which brings me to the point of this entry (with apologies and thanks to the readers who have been patient enough to stick with me).

The point is to ask what’s really behind the Mar-a-Lago search, and the January 6 Committee, and the grand juries, and the growing prospect of a Trump prosecution. I doubt it’s to put Trump in jail, even for as much as a big segment of the Democratic Party would love to see that happen. Indeed, I doubt there’s going to be a federal prosecution at all.

Here’s the deal. All these moves against Trump will continue, for months at least and probably into 2024. There will be leaks galore. There will be press speculation every day, much of it passed off as “news,” see, e.g., Russiagate There will be dozens of interviews with now-disillusioned Republicans. Liz Cheney will get an anchor spot on CNN to do nightly updates with Andrew McCabe and Peter Strzok. There will be a boatload of panels with “legal experts” (i.e., Democratic operatives who went to law school at some point) about where things are headed.

They say that the process is the punishment — but here, it’s much, much more than the punishment. It’s the strategy to return the Democrats to power in 2024 despite their record. The point of the exercise is to see that their record is not the center of the electorate’s attention and that Donald Trump’s is. The Democrats almost surely cannot win running as the incumbents they are, so the plan is to make Trump the quasi-incumbent and run against him, having used every operation in the book to stockpile negatives for the campaign.

Somewhere down the road, when the Democrats feel they’ve obtained about as much mileage as they’re going to get out of this strategy, we’ll see the kicker: A sober and serious Joe Biden will announce from the Oval Office that, at his direction, in order to promote coming together and national unity, that despite the mountain of evidence the Justice Department has uncovered — evidence that’s easily enough to support indicting Mr. Trump — he has ordered that no prosecution is to take place. Healing, dontcha know.

If I’m lucky, my assessment about what’s really going on will prove more cynical than prophetic. But I regret to say that I tend not to be that lucky.

The reality of 2024 (and Nov. 8)

Walter Olson:

“Lost, Not Stolen” is a new 72‐​page report from a group of prominent conservative legal and political figures that knocks down some of the more frequently heard claims from Donald Trump and allies that the 2020 election was stolen or illegitimate. Their “unequivocal” conclusion is that Trump lost; in fact, they find no credible evidence that fraud changed the outcome even in a single precinct, let alone in any state.

Most of the report consists of a state‐​by‐​state refutation of claims circulated about voting results in Arizona and Georgia (six claims apiece), Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Note that the last‐​named of these states has already been the subject of a useful report from the right‐​leaning Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, which I wrote about here, and that Republican authorities in states like Georgia have also carried out extensive audits and reviews regarding those states’ votes.

The new report’s signers include three prominent retired federal judges (Thomas Griffith, Mike McConnell, Michael Luttig), former Solicitor General Ted Olson, Republican election lawyer Ben Ginsberg, former senators John Danforth and Gordon Smith, and longtime Congressional staff chief David Hoppe. I should mention that I have known three of these figures at various times over decades (McConnell, Ted Olson, Hoppe) and admired each for their insight, analytical skills, and dedication to principle.

There is no defensible case that Trump won the 2020 election. “We urge our fellow conservatives to cease obsessing over the results of the 2020 election, and to focus instead on presenting candidates and ideas that offer a positive vision for overcoming our current difficulties and bringing greater peace, prosperity, and liberty to our nation.”

Cato adjunct scholar Ilya Somin has more on the report, and Price St. Clair at the Dispatch traces its origins over a year and a half of work. Let’s hope it finds a wide audience.

Whether or not Republicans believe Trump lost (because of Trump’s own fault), it’s imperative they act that way. Too much of the GOP fails to grasp that most voters — including the people Republicans need to vote for them in November and in November 2024 — do not believe the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. Continuing in Trump’s thrall is a good way to lose elections.

 

The pro-business gubernatorial candidate is …?

We know who is not the pro-business candidate for governor. That is the governor mentioned by M.D. Kittle in February:

Tech titan Intel Corp. chose Ohio over Wisconsin as the future home of its $20 billion semiconductor manufacturing complex —an economic boon for the Buckeye State that Intel promises will bring thousands of high-paying jobs.

Does Wisconsin’s big loss have something to do with its big government governor? In his three-plus years in office, Gov. Tony Evers is as advertised: an anti-business, tax-and-spend liberal who broke Wisconsin’s biggest economic development contract to score political points.

“One of his (Gov. Evers) first orders of business was taking down all of the ‘Open for Business” signs around the state,” a legislative aid for Republican leadership said, referring to Evers’ decision to remove the signs his predecessor, Republican Gov. Scott Walker had placed at Wisconsin’s state lines. Instead, Evers put up signs bearing his name.

He’s clobbered business early and often.

Despite unprecedented state surpluses, Evers has proposed more than $2 billion in tax hikes in his two biennial budget plans. He wanted to gut the popular manufacturing and agriculture tax credit  that economic experts say has been a game-changer in job creation. Intel certainly would have been a leading recipient of the credits.

Scott Manley, executive vice president for Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, said Evers’ attack on manufacturers must raise red flags with companies like Intel.

“Instead of looking at a very low tax liability under the manufacturing and ag tax credit, you have a governor who wants to eliminate that tax credit and boost us up to one of the highest tax rates in the country,” Manley said. “That doesn’t help when you’re making a 30-, 40-year investment in a place. You’re definitely looking at taxes over the long term. Right now we have a governor who says, we want to tax you to the max.”

At the outset of the pandemic in 2020, Evers locked down much of the state, ordering thousands of businesses closed and sending hundreds of thousands of workers to the unemployment line. His administration then extended the stay-at-home order even as businesses pleaded that they were on the brink of permanently closing. When employers asked him to do the one thing in his power to ease a worker shortage crisis, he refused. Then he vetoed a bill that would have ended federal subsidies that kept unemployed workers out of the workforce.

Wisconsin reportedly was a front-runner for the Intel project, The planned complex is expected to cover nearly 1,000 acres and employ 3,000 workers on average earning $135,000 a year. Intel is looking at a total long-term investment of $100 billion, with thousands more jobs.

According to Biz Times, Wisconsin offered 471 acres of land owned by the village of Mount Pleasant, next to Foxconn, and an additional 400 acres of privately-owned land.

But Ohio was the “entire package,” Intel’s Keyvan Esfanjani said.

“Ohio comes to the top, the talent pool, the infrastructure, the regulatory environment and the team,” Esfanjani told Statehouse News Bureau. 

Sources say Intel was impressed with what Mount Pleasant-area officials had to offer.

“I think all the representatives from the Mount Pleasant area worked so hard to create a great environment,” said state Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine). “I think we did everything we could to show them” the area was a “good fit.”

Intel was less than impressed with Evers and his economic development team, sources tell Empower Wisconsin.

Economic development officials and community leaders have complained about the lack of communication and urgency in the administration and Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Biz Times reported Evers’ team offered an incentive package that was “in accordance with Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation guidelines.” Biz Times Editor Andrew Weiland estimated the package at approximately $2.2 billion, based on a $20 billion capital investment.

But there seemed to be a communication breakdown in between.

“It seems to me we would have heard a little more out of the governor’s office,” Wanggaard said. “I don’t know if they were excited about bringing this type of business to the Foxconn area because that would give you-know-who (former President Trump, a Republican) a win.”

Trump was a big player and an even bigger cheerleader for the Foxconn deal in Racine County.

Wanggaard said he hopes Evers, a Democrat, and his team kept politics out of negotiations.

Evers seemed to make clear he wasn’t going to do a Foxconn-style deal. Of course not. Evers campaigned against the economic development deal former Gov. Scott Walker helped broker with the technology giant. In fact, Evers’ first campaign ad in his 2018 race against Walker attacked the Foxconn deal.

That project has yet to pan out the way its proponents have hoped. Foxconn originally had planned a $10 billion campus employing as many as 13,000 people in the production of advanced liquid crystal display panels. The state incentives package was worth $2.85 billion. While Evers and critics of the deal claim Foxconn has taken Wisconsin taxpayers for a ride, the company only received tax credits based on the jobs it created and the capital it invested.

Foxconn Technology Group recently qualified for tax credits for the first time. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. verified the company had created 579 jobs and had made a capital investment of $266 million at its Mount Pleasant complex. Foxconn qualified for $2.2 million in job creation tax credit and more than $26 million in capital investment tax credits.

Despite the contract stipulations, Evers effectively tore up the agreement and renegotiated a new contract with Foxconn.

“When I ran to be governor, I made a promise to work with Foxconn to cut a better deal for our state—the last deal didn’t work for Wisconsin, and that doesn’t work for me,” Evers said in a press release at the time. “Today I’m delivering on that promise with an agreement that treats Foxconn like any other business…”

In changing the terms, Evers told Foxconn and the world that Wisconsin state contracts are no good, Manley said. That has a chilling effect on business development.

“Businesses are going to be very hesitant to make very large investments in a state where the current governor is unwilling to honor the agreement made by the prior governor,” Manley said. “If you want to be serious about attracting investment in the state, you have to be willing to honor your word.

“Evers campaigned on the idea that he was going to essentially tear up the Foxconn agreement. That has real-world consequences.”

The governor’s anti-business practices haven’t gone unnoticed.

Wisconsin last year dropped seven spots to 22nd in Chief Executive magazine’s annual Best & Worst States For Business rankings. The Badger State has fallen eight spots since Evers has been in office. Chief Executive each March hundreds of CEOs of U.S. companies.

Under Walker, Wisconsin rose from 41st in the ranking in 2010, the year before Walker took office, to No. 10 in 2017.

“Businesses need certainty, they need the rule of law. They need contracts to be honored,” WMC’s Manley said, adding that states that break deals get a “bad reputation” among site locators and businesses poised to relocate or expand.

But is the pro-business candidate the business owner, or not?

Wisconsin Right Now:

Several top Republican donors and business leaders, including retired Bradley Foundation President Mike Grebe and major GOP donor/businessman Fred Young, are challenging the national Club for Growth for its deceptive ad against Rebecca Kleefisch, saying that Tim Michels lacks Kleefisch’s “unwavering conviction” to conservative principles.

The donors noted: “Here are the facts: Tim Michels has a detailed history of supporting questionable economic policies with his company. Michels led or was a member of three different organizations which tried to raise Wisconsin’s gas tax. Michels was president of a group that lobbied against a bill banning illegal immigrants from working on projects paid by taxpayer-funded contracts. Furthermore, Michels Corporation was part of a group whose sole focus was opposing right to work and prevailing wage repeal. His company even fired an employee for refusing to pay union dues. These are not the free-market, competition-driven principles that The Club for Growth has historically championed.”

[Note: Wisconsin Right Now was the first in Wisconsin media to break the story that Michels Corp fired an employee for refusing to pay union dues. We were also the first to break the stories on the organizations/gas tax issue and the illegal immigrant bill.]

It’s impossible to trace who is funding the national Club for Growth ads (although a source close to conservative donor Richard Uihlen says he’s not funding them). They’re clearly designed to destroy Kleefisch in the Aug. 9 gubernatorial primary.

Michels is the other leading contender. Wispolitics is reporting that the Club for Growth made a $1.3 million ad buy in the race. Their first ad attacked Kleefisch for her work on a women’s suffrage group; her work making trade job videos for a group that pushed Walker’s reforms; and her overseas trade missions to find new markets for Wisconsin farmers.

Here is the donors’ letter in full:

“Dear Club for Growth Leadership,

As you may be aware, we represent a collection of Wisconsin supporters and financial backers to The Club for Growth. We have supported The Club because of its strong stance on the principles of freedom, lower taxes, reducing government waste, regulatory reform, and expanding school choice. We’ve been proud of the efforts by The Club to elect conservative candidates across the nation who share these principles. That is, until now.

To say we are deeply concerned and disappointed in The Club’s decision to launch negative and false attacks ads against former Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch would be an understatement. It’s also a decision that has led us to question whether to provide any future support. Under the administration of Scott Walker and Rebecca Kleefisch, Wisconsin led the nation in conservative reforms and experienced one of the most prosperous eras in our state’s history.

Rebecca Kleefisch not only exemplifies these conservative principles, she is the only candidate for governor who has never wavered in her conviction and defense of the principles even when faced with the strongest of opposition. To suggest that former Lt. Governor Kleefisch is anything other than a proven conservative reformer is not only a lie, but a disservice to Wisconsin’s conservative movement as a whole. This is why we are so surprised by The Club’s decision to attack Rebecca. Based on various conversations we have had with The Club, it is our understanding the organization is acutely aware, and previously never in question, of Rebecca’s conservative credentials.

Furthermore, it has become increasingly evident throughout this campaign that her opponent Tim Michels does not have the same breadth of experience and unwavering conviction to these conservative principles. Repeated gaffes by the Michels campaign have also demonstrated it lacks the competency and talent demanded to win a competitive statewide race in Wisconsin.

Without doubt, Michels’ campaign is in need of outside help. Sadly, however, it appears The Club for Growth has cast aside its proud record of adherence to conservative ideals and integrity in an attempt to save Michels’ campaign by tearing down Rebecca Kleefisch.

Here are the facts: Tim Michels has a detailed history of supporting questionable economic policies with his company. Michels led or was a member of three different organizations which tried to raise Wisconsin’s gas tax. Michels was president of a group that lobbied against a bill banning illegal immigrants from working on projects paid by taxpayer-funded contracts. Furthermore, Michels Corporation was part of a group whose sole focus was opposing right to work and prevailing wage repeal. His company even fired an employee for refusing to pay union dues. These are not the free-market, competition-driven principles that The Club for Growth has historically championed.

In contrast, Rebecca Kleefisch has never backed down from these principles. Protesters swarmed the Capitol to try and stop Rebecca and Governor Scott Walker from enacting reform to balance the budget, but Rebecca didn’t waver. She didn’t back down when roadbuilders ran ads trying to scare the Walker/Kleefisch administration into raising the gas tax. She stood on principle. When protesters again showed up at the State Capitol to protest right to work legislation, Rebecca Kleefisch proudly stood alongside Scott Walker when he signed the worker freedom bill into law.

To us, there is no question about who conservatives should vote for on Tuesday, August 9th — and that’s Rebecca Kleefisch. We cannot risk voting for a gubernatorial candidate who won’t even commit in writing to vetoing any net tax increases or forced unionization policies.”

November optimism

National Review:

A large majority of Democrats don’t want Joe Biden to be the 2024 nominee for president mostly due to his age and poor job performance, especially on the economy.

Among Democratic voters, 64 percent said they would prefer another candidate while only 26 percent said the party should renominate him in 2024, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll released Monday.

At 79, Biden’s elderliness weighed heavily on respondents, with 33 percent of Democrats citing his advanced age as the reason for favoring an alternative candidate. The president is the oldest in American history. Younger voters are particularly eager for a fresh face more responsive to their interests, with 94 percent of Democrats under the age of 30 favoring someone new, according to the survey.

In late June, a video of Biden falling off his bicycle went viral on social media, leading to more frank discussions on both sides of the aisle about the president’s physical and mental health as he approached his 80th birthday.

A minority of Democrats cited concerns aside from Biden’s age in justifying their opposition to his 2024 candidacy: 10 percent said he was not progressive enough, 4 percent cited his ability to win a general election, and 3 percent specified his mental acuity as a barrier.

Jobs and the economy were the most motivating issues to 20 percent of voters, followed by inflation and the cost of living, which were the most important to 15 percent.

Inflation climbed to an alarming 8.6 percent for the twelve months that ended in May, according to CPI data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, positive signs are emerging for gas prices, with the average cost at the pump dropping by 3.1 cents on Friday to $4.721 a gallon after approaching $5 in some parts of the country, according to auto organization AAA.

More than 75 percent of voters in the poll said the economy was “extremely important” in their assessment of the country’s direction. Only 1 percent of respondents graded the economy as excellent. Meanwhile, 93 percent of working voters, those aged 18-to-64, graded it as poor or only fair.

Many Americans are feeling financially constrained, unable to afford the same commodities and leisure items in this economy in comparison to years ago, the New York Times indicated. Others are growing disillusioned with a president who has exhibited symptoms of cognitive decline and slipped into embarrassing gaffes repeatedly in public appearances and speeches.

Despite the angry progressive reaction to the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, abortion only looms largest for 5 percent of voters, specifically one percent of men and 9 percent of women, the poll shows, mollifying some Republican fears that the decision could ruin the GOP’s expected midterm spoils.

The Hill:

The midterm election doomsday scenario for Democrats is becoming clearer, scarier, and more real as inflation and gas prices remain stubbornly high and dissatisfaction with President Biden is through the roof.

Democrats are seeing their chances of retaining the House slimmer than ever, with both history and the dreary political environment working against them. In the Senate, where the party had hoped strong swing state candidates could help save the majority, fears are also growing.

It seems that wherever voters look, things are bad in Biden’s Washington — and getting worse.

“Democrats haven’t done things they promised,” said Connor Farrell, a strategist who founded the progressive consultancy Left Rising. “In this environment, the best general election candidates will be bold [ones] that can distinguish themselves from what we’re getting from the White House.”

The high national anxiety  — which many lawmakers, operatives, and activists are now openly acknowledging as problematic  — was further laid bare when a poll released by the New York Times found that just 13 percent of voters surveyed think the country is on the right path. More strikingly, 64 percent of Democratic voters want someone other than Biden as their nominee in 2024.

The high prices of daily essentials, a gloomy appraisal of what’s happening around the country, and the prospect of more impending losses are leaving Democrats more concerned than ever about their odds in November.

“Democratic leadership should look no further than the fact that they need to wake up and step up to the plate,” said Jon Reinish, managing director at the political strategy firm Mercury.

While the idea that Democrats need to brace for a potential fall wipeout is not new, Monday’s poll highlights a trend that many see as particularly damning — a majority of registered Democratic voters are not happy with the overall direction of the U.S. under Biden’s leadership and they are not on board with another four years of it.

Sixty-three percent of Democrats polled said the country is headed in the wrong direction, while only 27 percent said it is on the right track.

“They’re not just losing Independents or you know, Never-Trump Republicans,” said Reinish, referencing two blocs that helped Biden establish a diverse coalition in 2020. “They’re losing their own voters. Democrats’ own voters don’t feel as if their leaders hear their concerns.”

That mindset is adding to what many already fear is an uphill midterm battle. A Politico/Morning Consult poll conducted last month did, however, find that registered voters are evenly split on the generic congressional ballot if the election were held that day.

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