Category: Wisconsin politics

End of the Eversmergencies?

James Wigderson:

In a 4-3 decision released Wednesday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that Governor Tony Evers’ cannot use successive emergency orders to tackle the same Covid-19 crisis.

“The plain language of the statute explains that the governor may, for 60 days, act with expanded powers to address a particular emergency,” Justice Brian Hagedorn wrote for the majority. “Beyond 60 days, however, the legislature reserves for itself the power to determine the policies that govern the state’s response to an ongoing problem. Similarly, when the legislature revokes a state of emergency, a governor may not simply reissue another one on the same basis.”

Evers used his emergency powers initially to close bars, restaurants and retail businesses across the state. When the governor attempted to extend the business closings, the Supreme Court ruled 4-3 against Evers in a lawsuit brought by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL).

The subsequent emergency orders from the governor authorized, and re-authorized, a statewide mask mandate. When the legislature voted to end Evers’ emergency order in February, Evers reissued the emergency order.

Republicans then called on the Supreme Court to rule on Evers’ emergency orders in a lawsuit brought last fall, Fabick v. Evers. The Court had heard oral arguments in November, but withheld issuing a ruling until now.

Studies have shown that widespread mask use reduces the spread of the Covid-19 virus. However, the challenge in the Supreme Court was not about the efficacy of masks in containing the pandemic, but whether Evers was exceeding his authority under state law.

In his opinion, Hagedorn addressed whether the Court considered the effects of repealing the statewide mask mandate.

“Some may wish our analysis would focus on ensuring the Governor has sufficient power to fight COVID-19; others may be more concerned about expansive executive power,” Hagedorn wrote. “But outside of a constitutional violation, these policy concerns are not relevant to this court’s task in construing the statute. Whether the policy choices reflected in the law give the governor too much or too little authority to respond to the present health crisis does not guide our analysis. Our inquiry is simply whether the law gives the governor the authority to successively declare states of emergency in this circumstance.”

In addition to challenging Evers’ original attempt to continue use of emergency powers, WILL filed a lawsuit challenging the emergency orders authorizing the mask mandate. That lawsuit was on hold while the Supreme Court considered Fabick v. Evers, in which WILL filed an amicus brief.

“Governor Evers abused the law and the constitutional separation of powers by declaring multiple, consecutive emergencies,” said Rick Esenberg, president and general counsel for WILL in a statement Wednesday. “This decision ensures that Wisconsin’s constitutional order cannot be suspended for unlimited periods of time as long as the executive branch can justify an emergency declaration.”

Given the reaction from Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), it is highly unlikely the legislature will impose its own statewide mask mandate in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling.

“The Wisconsin Supreme Court confirmed what we already knew. Governor Evers exceeded his authority by issuing multiple emergency orders without consulting the legislature,” Vos said in a statement Wednesday. “People and businesses are free to make decisions based on what’s best for them and don’t need state government telling them how to live their lives.”

Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) framed the decision as a restoration of the balance of power between the legislature and the governor:

“I applaud the Court for ending this constitutional crisis in our state. Their ruling upholds the separation of powers and the rule of law – core principles since the founding of our state and nation. The Governor’s repeated abuse of emergency powers and pervasive violation of state statute created a state of chaos and had to be stopped. The Legislature exercised its authority to revoke Governor Evers’ order in February, and today the Court handed down the final rebuke of the Governor’s illegal actions.”

“Today’s ruling vindicates the Legislature as a co-equal branch of government and will expand freedom and opportunity for the people of Wisconsin. As we work to fully and safely reopen our state, we trust our residents to follow CDC guidelines when appropriate, get vaccinated when ready, and always employ common sense.”

Despite the ruling, the governor urged the public to continue wearing masks to combat the spread of Covid-19.

“Since the beginning of this pandemic, I’ve worked to keep Wisconsinites healthy and safe, and I’ve trusted the science and public health experts to guide our decision making,” Evers said. “Our fight against COVID-19 isn’t over—while we work to get folks vaccinated as quickly as we can, we know wearing a mask saves lives, and we still need Wisconsinites to mask up so we can beat this virus and bounce back from this pandemic.”

Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) urged the governor to work with the legislature.

“Today’s ruling only validates what we’ve known all along – Governor Evers has been using his office to break the law for months. This decision is welcome, but long overdue,” Steineke said. “As we continue work to safely reopen our state, I’d encourage the governor to rethink his go-it- alone approach to leading.”

While the Court’s ruling does not address local health orders, at least one local Republican leader has made it clear that he will not be introducing a mask mandate.

“Our residents and businesses continue to make tremendous progress in overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow. “More than a third of our population has now had at least one dose of vaccine, hospitalizations remain low, and our cases have dropped dramatically since the beginning of the year. With these improvements in mind, residents should be able to continue to make informed choices to protect themselves and their families from the virus without a government mandate.”

You can read the entire Wisconsin Supreme Court majority opinion and the dissents by clicking here.

How not to win friends and influence voters

The Wisconsin State Journal:

Senate Minority Leader Janet Bewley said voters who reject local tax increases are “not smart” during a Wednesday webinar of legislative leaders — comments the Democrat later attempted to walk back as a “failed attempt at sarcasm and poor choice of words.”

During a prerecorded Wisconsin Counties Association online panel that aired Wednesday, leaders in the state Assembly and Senate discussed a proposal in Gov. Tony Evers’ budget that would allow counties and some municipalities to raise their sales tax to fund operational needs, a proposal Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, rejected.

“There is no chance this is going to happen,” Vos said. “Dead on arrival.”

Bewley, D-Mason, spoke in favor of the half-cent tax increase but acknowledged that, if put before voters, such a measure could likely fail. When asked by Vos if that would imply voters don’t support the tax increase, Bewley replied, “perhaps it means that they’re not smart.”

Vos asked Bewley if she wanted to rethink her statement, adding, “I disagree with people a lot, but I don’t think people who disagree with me are dumb. You just basically said all constituents are dumb who disagree with you.”

Bewley didn’t immediately retract her comment but issued a statement following the video’s airing in which she said the statement was an attempted sarcastic reply to Vos’ comment that voters were smart enough to vote a certain way.

“I hope that we can focus on the serious issues that were discussed during the taping of this roundtable, and not on my failed attempt at sarcasm, and poor choice of words,” Bewley said in a statement. “Lives and livelihoods are at stake and we have to do better than play political ‘gotcha’ games.”

James Wigderson reported further:

The senator was advocating for a provision in the governor’s budget proposal which would allow counties to raise the sales tax an additional .5% if approved by the voters. She pointed out the need for higher taxes by mentioning four townships in her area that are unable to provide ambulance services.

“Have they gone to referendum already and asked the voters to increase their own revenues?” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) asked.

“They haven’t had time yet but they’re thinking of it, yes,” Bewley responded.

“They have option now, right?” Vos asked.

“Yes they do,” Bewley responded. “And the voters will turn it down and they are going to be in the same position that they’re in right now.”

“So if the voters turn it down, doesn’t that mean that they don’t support what you’re advocating for?” Vos asked.

“No. Perhaps it means they’re not smart,” Bewley said. “You know. Sometimes we have to do things that allow them the ability – we, as the state have to do things that are part of the state’s responsibility that should not always be linked to one group. If they can’t provide it, don’t we have some collective responsibility to help those communities that depend on volunteer emergency services?”

“Janet, do you want to re-think that?” Vos asked. “I disagree with people a lot but I don’t think that people who disagree with me are dumb. You just basically said your constituents are dumb who disagree with you.”

“Well, the reference to Walworth County didn’t go over to well with me, so…” Bewley responded, referring to an early comment by Vos about Walworth County using their existing sales tax authority to lower property taxes.

One way to avoid “political ‘gotcha’ games” is to not make statements that make you “gotcha” bait in the first place.

Evers’ proposal is an example of what proponents would call “local control.” Of course, state politicians use those words when localities would provide, they think, the outcome they desire, which is why in this case most Republicans would be opposed to this form of “local control,” since it leads to higher taxes, for which Wisconsin is legendary.

Jordan Morales explores that point:

As a Milwaukeean who supports Governor Tony Evers’s sales tax proposal, this is extremely frustrating. A key point of the proposal is that any increase would have to pass a referendum, which means that the people could very well say, “no, thank you.” That does not make them dumb, it may just mean that those specific communities have a different vision for what services their local governments should be providing.

Secondly, it is frustrating that Bewley let her ego get in the way of getting the sales tax proposal through the Republican-held legislature. Vos didn’t even say anything that I would have considered offensive, yet she just had to get a sarcastic word in while she’s supposed to be winning his support. Talk about “not smart.”

But while Vos was rightly taken aback by Bewley’s ill-advised retort, he may be wandering into the same erroneous mindset with the comments he made after the meeting. He said that there was zero chance that the sales tax proposal was going to happen, calling it “dead on arrival.”

Again, a key component of the sales tax proposal is that the voters would have to approve any sales tax increase in their jurisdiction. Why would Vos be against the ability for residents to determine what revenues their municipalities or counties should be able to raise, unless he thinks they are “not smart” enough to vote the way he believes they should?

Even though the Wisconsin League of Municipalities endorsed the proposal, Vos specifically mentioned Milwaukee as the main culprit for why it is being asked for in the first place. It is true that things have been mismanaged in Milwaukee; there is very little doubt about that. Most Milwaukee politicians railed against policies such as Act 10, without which the city’s fiscal crisis would be ten times worse than what it is today, specifically the pension crisis. But that does not mean we can just let the city crash and burn as penalty for its past errors. There are a lot of great people that live here and we need help.

The city is currently paying $71 million for pension obligations but by 2023 it will be $160 million, a spike that will result in deep cuts to services such as the Police and Fire Departments. Already Milwaukee is having to cut between 100 and 150 police officers per year to make the budget work. Homicides, shootings, and reckless driving are on the rise, so the police department cuts come at an especially inopportune time. The Fire Department is also stretched thin leading to an increase in structure fires and fire-related deaths as it has had to pause door-to-door fire prevention efforts.

Earlier this year, Milwaukee’s Common Council was debating accepting the COPS Grant because the city was apprehensive about being on the hook for the officers it would provide after three years (when the pension crisis will hit) per the grant’s terms. But many of us in Milwaukee emailed, called, and knocked on doors to get our aldermen to support it, hoping that the state would look upon us with mercy if they saw that we weren’t just trying to “defund the police.” We were successful and the Common Council ended up accepting the grant.

But now we need the state to cover our rear, otherwise it will be the Wisconsin Legislature that is “defunding our police.”

That assistance can come one of two or even both ways. The first way would be to allow the people of Milwaukee to empower our Common Council to raise new revenues through a sales tax with a referendum. This gives us local control, and truly gives the people the power to determine the city’s destiny, rather than politicians who work in Madison that don’t live here AND big tax-and-spend Milwaukee politicians. No sales tax could be raised unless the people ask for it.

The other way is that the city can continue to be overly dependent on state welfare through the shared revenue program, from which we would need a substantial increase in order to avoid disastrous cuts to city services. As a Milwaukeean, I would like to see both options employed for the city, but at the very least we should get the ability to determine our sales tax through referendum.

Milwaukee is a city with lots of potential. The residents just need to be given the tools that other cities in the country have: a much more blended revenue structure, including a sales tax.

We can solve our problems if we are given the power to do so through referendum. Speaker Vos, we the people are smart enough to handle it.

That’s one view — the small-D democratic view, perhaps. Another is that Milwaukee County voters (and voters in Dane County and several other counties in this state at least) would of course choose to raise their taxes. And when people raise their own taxes, you become a tax hell, which Wisconsin remains, particularly when any effort to cut government spending is termed “disastrous.”

In a general sense, though, I do favor required voter approval of all tax increases through referendum as part of a Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which should be part of the state Constitution instead of trusting that the voters will make correct choices in who decides spending and taxes, since the voters failed in that regard in 2018 and 2020.


A GOP alternative, or what the GOP should have been all along

Neal B. Freeman:

On April 15, 1943, tens of millions of Americans sat down at a broad mahogany desk or, many more of them, at a rickety kitchen table, and wrote out checks to the federal government. Most of those Americans wrote checks in the four or five figures, a few of the wealthiest in the six figures.

That day was a bonding moment for a chesty, prosperous nation, a moment when citizens from all stations came together and divvied up the bill for public services. It was also a republicanizing civic experience. Every taxpaying American, from the lawn guy to the industrial mogul, found the same two questions at the tip of his tongue. The first was, “Wow! How did my tax bill get so high?” And the second was, “Wow! What did I get for all of that money?” Both of those questions were potent, small-r republican questions. April 15, even more than religious holidays or the Fourth of July, had become the most conservative day of the calendar year.

That would never happen again, of course. The statists of all parties, as Hayek might have put it, made sure that it wouldn’t. Soft statists from the stupid party and hard statists from the evil party conjured up a swift, sure, bipartisan solution to a problem that no citizen had to that point detected. For all subsequent years, the tax bill for every American would be sliced into 52 bite-sized pieces, after which employers would be coerced into stripping tax revenues off the top before cutting an employee’s weekly paycheck. Never again would an American citizen feel the sandpaper scrape of hard-earned tax dollars passing through his fingers. Never again would an American taxpayer add his voice to the deafening chorus demanding answers to those two questions. The stealth phrase “take-home pay” would soon infiltrate the language and, as between the citizen and his government, it was now manifestly clear who would get paid first.

In the Museum of Modern Statism, which will one day break ground on the Washington Mall, an alcove should be reserved for the man or woman, or quite possibly, the committee that came up with this ingenious scheme to separate more Americans from more tax dollars with less resistance. (For the alcove, my mind’s eye suggests a bust of a man bearing close resemblance to Andrew McCabe. Just a thought.)

Another political development of like consequence rolled out over several decades, beginning with First Lady Hillary Clinton and consolidating under President Barack Obama.
For reasons now forgotten, I spent a few years helping to build a political organization in Nassau County, a big, fast-growing suburb of New York City. We were pretty good at it. With Nassau running up huge GOP majorities, New York State was led for a time by a governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller, and two U.S. senators, all of whom were elected Republicans. (Our county committee proudly passed around a story describing ours as a “political machine led by one Jew, two WASPs, and ten thousand Italians.” For us political machinists, this story fell into the category of “too good to correct.”)

Our secret sauce was to recruit for leadership in every town, of which there were dozens sprawled across the vast county, a prominent family physician. “Prominent” because he saw lots of patients, all of whom had invested in him both financially and psychologically. “Family” because as a general practitioner he would come to know not only mom and dad but the kids, too. “Physician” because he was one of the most trusted men in town, the only man in a prim suburb whom neighbors would allow to poke and prod their naked bodies.

More salient than these surface attributes, the town doctor was a fiercely independent businessman. He did responsibility-accepting, BS-rejecting, profit-seeking, result-based work. He didn’t know it yet, but he was a born Republican leader.
Soon thereafter, predictably, he became a target. Mrs. Clinton, in her role as the overperforming spouse of an elected official, tried to run town doctors out of business. Health care for all, as she proposed to contrive it, meant private practice for none. Despite her tireless efforts, or perhaps in some measure because of them, Mrs. Clinton managed to scare the bejesus out of the American people and her campaign to nationalize health care came up short. But all, alas, was not lost. After unleashing the shock troops of Left activism — the tort lawyers — Mrs. Clinton secured a significant political victory: She softened up the doctors. Her tort lawyers distracted them with malpractice suits, squeezed them with rising insurance premiums, and intimidated them with reputational attacks. Staunchly Republican doctors began to appreciate the subtle charms of bipartisan solutions.

Barack Obama finished the job. After disarming the pharmaceutical companies, he demobilized the doctors. Obama, again, failed to deliver on his stated goals of universal health care at basement prices, but, again, he achieved substantial political gains. Consult your own experience. If it coincides with mine, your primary-care physicians, one after the other, went to work for a hospital, folded into a multi-practice consortium, or hired themselves out to some large health-care bureaucracy: The compliance python had crushed the prominent family physician. These doctors were soon converted from independent businessmen into nonprofit executives. Over time, and in thousands of towns across the country, the most trusted man in the Freedom Party became a stalwart of the administrative state.

Now to COVID-19, yet another crisis that Left activists are determined not to waste. This past year has been a radicalizing civic experience. Families have splintered, breaking down along generational lines. Church attendance has plummeted. Voluntary organizations have withered. In many communities, private services for the young and the old, the weak and the halt, have simply vanished.
Beyond these incalculable social costs — costs borne disproportionately by the Freedom Party — there have been huge and ominous financial costs. The decline of the dollar in international markets tells us that we have spent too much; that some smart people think we will be unable to pay our bills; and that — here’s the ominous part — it’s time to consider swapping out the dollar for the renminbi as the world’s reserve currency. That would be the tipping point of all tipping points. (The radical wing of the Democratic Party, the loud wing, has been silent in this matter. They profess to believe that some redundantly modernized monetary theory will float the boat.)

Beyond these widely distributed costs of the pandemic, consider the targeted measures implemented by blue-state Democrats and complicit Republicans. Have the authoritarians imposed harsh lockdown measures on tech executives, teachers unions, debtors, rioters, media organizations, government bureaucrats, Hollywood producers, academic types, talking heads, tort lawyers, and tax-advantaged activists? No? Well, have they imposed harsh measures on merchants, savers, working couples, amateur athletes, salesmen, churchgoing Christians, synagoguegoing Jews, police officers, parents, students, clergy, and senior technophobes? They have?
Indeed, so. The groups hit hardest by the lockdowns happen to be the constituent elements of the Freedom Party and, to those of you who choose to see this division as the work of coincidence, we say that you are sweet souls and you have our concern.

Take the egregious case of restaurants. Immigrants who come to America for the right reasons open restaurants for good reasons: (1) they can leverage their intellectual property (Mom’s recipes); (2) the kids will never go hungry; (3) it is still in some measure a cash business; and (4) they can launch and grow their business with a loyal, hardworking, and underpaid staff — the kids and their cousins. Immigrant restaurants have been for more than a century a first-class ticket to the American dream.

Here in Florida where I live, we are blessed not only with the legacy restaurants — French, Italian, Chinese, and Mexican — but with more recent arrivals, including Cuban, Haitian, Puerto Rican, Nicaraguan, and most recently of all, Venezuelan. These restaurants are run by independent businesspeople, who ripen over time into prime prospects for the Freedom Party. (The Puerto Ricans present a special case. Since the turn of the century, a million Puerto Ricans have settled in the Orlando area. That’s more than New York, more than San Juan. It’s been a veritable diaspora from an island with three million people. To overstate but accost the central point: The early arrivals came for opportunity and started their own businesses. The later arrivals, after Hurricane Maria, came for social services and became welfare clients. To read the national press, you would think that “Hispanics” are a fungible lot.) The Associated Press reports that, across the country, 110,000 restaurants have closed during the pandemic. That’s an astounding number, a tragic number. Not one of those families came to America aspiring to become government dependents.

I recount these episodes to drive home the obvious point. It is not only in war — when the patriotic citizen cedes ground carelessly to the national-security state — that individual freedoms shrink and shrivel. It is not only in bursts of ideological exuberance — the New Deal, the Great Society, the Biden Infrastructure-Boondoggle-To-Be-Named-Later — that the state advances. As every American knows in his hips, to borrow Willmoore Kendall’s timeless phrase, the state never sleeps. Sometimes slowly, sometimes with gathering speed, sometimes on cat’s paws, sometimes with the banging of rhetorical pots and pans, the state advances. The era of big government is never over.

Which makes it surprising, and troubling, to hear the conversation rising in Zoom confabs, and extended in political journals, to the effect that conservative writers, even “conservative leaders,” have lost patience with libertarians. The contention is that our cause has been damaged or even contaminated by libertarian excess, as if libertarians were a problematic faction in need of ideological cleansing. I’m not clear as to precisely what “cause” is referenced here, but some of this talk is surely disingenuous: It is no more than strawman-swatting to conflate healthy libertarian impulses with the handful of capital-L voters who march to the polls with perverse intention to tip close elections from the slightly less statist candidate to the slightly more statist candidate. To the extent that the current talk is substantive, however, and seeks to drive libertarians from our coalition, it is both amnesiac and misguided.
I have spoken here of the Freedom Party, by which I mean to denote that once dominant, now receding community of Americans who cherish individual liberty: those Americans who have been willing to defend the tiny but sacred space within which we are permitted to exercise our God-given rights as promised by the Declaration and secured by the Constitution; those Americans whose philosophical yearnings have been fire-started by the clarity of Locke, the passion of Jefferson, the poeticism of Oakeshott.

Freedom-loving Americans. We share a long and honorable tradition. At the very birth of our nation, the 56 brave men who pledged their lives and their fortunes — assuming, correctly, that many of them would lose both — did not take on mortal risk in the cause of a levelling statism, or some form of socially engineered equality. They took on the certain perils, and hoped for the uncertain rewards, of a robustly free society pursued in the cause of individual liberty.

As of course did the founders of the conservative movement. Russell Kirk may have begun with his quirky individualism, William Buckley with his Nockian anti-statism, and Frank Meyer with his hard-shell ex-communism, but they all took it as a given that conservatives would begin by layering their own fusionist priorities atop a foundational commitment to personal freedom.

The hour is late, but we are still the Freedom Party.

Fauci to closed schools: Open

The Wisconsin State Journal:

The nation’s top infectious disease expert just urged schools to reopen.
We hope school officials in Madison and across Wisconsin were listening — those who have kept most of their students at home for online learning during the pandemic.

School officials should be ready to open for the second semester in late January, at least for elementary school students. Districts also should share their plans with the public. School officials always can push back their opening dates based on what’s happening in their communities. Not every school and situation is the same.

But Dr. Anthony Fauci told ABC’s “This Week” last Sunday that in-person classes should be “the default position.”

The spread of COVID-19 “among children and from children is not really very big at all, not like one would have suspected,” Fauci said. “So let’s try to get the kids back.”


The potentially deadly virus is more than a public health threat. It’s a detriment to learning, especially for children whose parents don’t have flexibility with their jobs or the latest technology in their homes to help students with their studies.

Online classes are hurting math scores and widening achievement gaps along racial and economic lines, a nonprofit research group reported last week. The NWEA’s analysis of data from more than 4 million third- through eighth-graders across the country showed student progress is slipping. The researchers also worried their study underestimates the impact on minority and poor students, who have been disproportionately stuck at home for school.

That concern definitely applies to Madison, where more than half of students are of color and nearly half are economically disadvantaged. The district absolutely should figure out how to follow Fauci’s advice.

While gathering students in classrooms presents some risk for infection, leaving them at home contributes to social isolation, abuse, depression and hunger, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. That’s especially true for younger students. Schools can help keep students safe from the virus by isolating them in small groups, separating desks with plexiglass and, for middle and high school students, requiring masks. Parents should still be given an online option.

New York City’s progressive Mayor Bill de Blasio reversed course last week by embracing in-person classes — despite a higher percentage of New York City residents testing positive for COVID. The nation’s largest school district plans to reopen school buildings to many of its youngest students Monday.

“We feel confident that we can keep schools safe,” de Blasio told The Associated Press.

Republicans who control the Wisconsin Assembly want to require schools here to open by late January. We share the Legislature’s urgency. But those decisions should be left to local officials.

State leaders can help ease health concerns among teachers and other school staff by prioritizing them for vaccines, ahead of the general public. Vaccines should start arriving for health professionals and the elderly later this month and expand from there.

Europe has learned that schools are not major sources of transmission of COVID-19, and children there have benefited from in-person instruction. America needs to learn that lesson, too.

That doesn’t mean the virus should be taken lightly. A Madison student at East High School, which has relied on remote learning, died last month after an apparent “COVID-related illness,” according to the district. Cases of COVID-19 in Wisconsin remain high, though they have been falling for the last two weeks.

Schools should prioritize what’s best for children — not what’s best for teachers unions or business interests. And according to Fauci and other health experts, that means opening schools for in-person classes sooner than later.

Who has been pushing schools to keep closed? Teacher unions. Which proves that Gov. Scott Walker didn’t go far enough in Act 10. He should have pushed to eliminate teacher unions.

Shorter: Mandates don’t work

William McGurn:

Californians live under some of the tightest Covid-19 restrictions in the nation. So when Gov. Gavin Newsom was recently caught without a mask at a crowded table for 12 at a posh Napa Valley eatery, he instantly became the poster boy for the “Do as I Say, Not as I Do” crowd.

He’s hardly the only one. Not long after Mr. Newsom’s visit to the French Laundry was exposed, Californians read about a delegation of their lawmakers who’d jetted to a Maui resort for a conference as everyone else was being told to avoid nonessential travel. New Yorkers earlier learned that Mayor Bill de Blasio was working out at his favorite Park Slope YMCA right as he was shutting down the city. And of course Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot made headlines for sneaking off to get their hair done when barbershops and salons were closed to everyone else.

No doubt Thanksgiving will bring fresh examples. While many citizens dutifully inform grandma there’s no room for her at the table because of new Covid-19 restrictions, someone inevitably will be caught enjoying the holiday with dozens of friends and second cousins who have flown in for some bird and gravy. And we in the press will let our righteous indignation rip.

Yours truly enjoys a good gotcha as much as the next man. And it’s easy to mock these pols for their blatant hypocrisy when they are caught. But maybe the more important lesson to be learned here is that hypocrisy is guaranteed when we impose one-size-fits-all mandates that are rigid and unworkable.

The COVID sheeple

Tom Woods:

Here’s the first thing I saw on Twitter this morning. I promise this is real and not a parody:

So she’s delighted to learn that indeed they cannot leave the house to walk the dog or to exercise.

This is for everyone’s health, of course. Because a society can be run successfully when it’s allowed to operate, then suddenly shut down, then started again, and then shut down again. No problems there!

Second, I wanted to share a few charts with you. The heroic Ian Miller (@ianmSC) has more of them.

The CDC credited masks with bringing down Arizona’s curve. Are they planning a follow-up statement now? (I’m just playing with you with that question: we already know the answer.) And here’s New Mexico as well, for good measure:

Here’s New Jersey. The governor there said masks played a significant role in bringing their curve down. And it’s true that this is one of the rare charts in which that story at least has a surface plausibility. The problem is that there’s a right-hand side to that chart now:

Then there’s Minnesota, which has had all kinds of crazy restrictions, and Florida, which was mostly open for a while before becoming completely open on September 25. Isn’t it odd that their case counts are the opposite of what the hysteria would lead you to expect?

And finally, here are three states that believe in science! That’s funny: I guess by an interesting coincidence they all just abandoned their sciency strategies at exactly the same time (because remember: rising case counts are always somebody’s fault!):

In short, the world looks nothing — as in nothing at all — like it should if the cartoon version of the virus and the government responses were correct. And yet people continue to believe it.

And not only do they believe it: but they shame and condemn you if you don’t believe it.

Why, you’re “selfish”!

I’ll never forget, earlier this year, when people protested lockdowns because their livelihoods were being destroyed, everything they’d devoted their lives to was being taken away, and their kids were suffering very badly — and the lockdowners, being the compassionate lovers of mankind they always claim to be, responded, “You just want a haircut, you selfish person.”

Wisconsin’s mask mandate has worked so well that COVID diagnoses have increased 514 percent since it took effect Aug. 1. Now Gov. Tony Evers is extending it somewhere into January. Perhaps by then everyone in the state will have it. And yet most Wisconsinites appear petrified to dare question the people who are supposed to be representing them about why failed policy is allowed to continue.



Full of sound and fury signifying nothing

This Just In from Franklin:

In a televised address [Tuesday] Evers announced he has signed an executive order advising, not mandating Wisconsinites to stay home.

So, please, cancel the happy hours, dinner parties, sleepovers, and playdates at your home. And if a friend or family member invites you over, offer to hang out virtually instead.
And unfortunately, with the holidays just around the corner, we recommend that you plan to celebrate just with your own household. You can still invite others to join virtually, but we advise you not to go to any gatherings with people who are not in your immediate home.

Has there ever been a wimpier, more useless governor in Wisconsin’s history?

Evers’ advice came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, apparently staffed by unmarried orphans.

This is what Evers’ press people sent out Tuesday night:

Gov. Tony Evers tonight delivered a primetime address, calling for unity and working together in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. …

As COVID-19 continues to surge across the state, Gov. Evers announced Executive Order #94, which includes new measures to combat the spread of COVID-19. Executive Order #94 advises Wisconsinites to stay home, urges precautions Wisconsinites should take to stay safe if they have to leave their home, and encourages businesses to take additional steps to protect workers, customers, and the surrounding community.

And Evers said …

It’s not safe to go out, it’s not safe to have others over—it’s just not safe. And it might not be safe for a while yet.
So, please, cancel the happy hours, dinner parties, sleepovers, and playdates at your home. And if a friend or family member invites you over, offer to hang out virtually instead.
And unfortunately, with the holidays just around the corner, we recommend that you plan to celebrate just with your own household. You can still invite others to join virtually, but we advise you not to go to any gatherings with people who are not in your immediate home.

It should have been obvious by now, but Evers is the weakest governor this state has had in memory. I guess that’s what happens when your big effort is slapped down by the state Supreme Court and your relationship with the Legislature is so bad that everything you propose is dead on arrival. Democrats got Joe Biden Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes (by hook or crook, as the saying goes), but the rest of the election was not a ringing success for Democrats, unless you consider trimming the GOP majority in the state Assembly from 63 to 61 a success. (While losing two Senate seats in the process.)

The thing is that what Evers says, proposes or even does doesn’t matter. The coronavirus doesn’t respect state lines or national borders. Until a vaccine is in wide use, nothing is going to stopm or even slow down, the coronavirus. Nothing. (Including a change in presidential leadership.)

I wonder at what point state Democrats are going to start thinking about running someone not named Evers for governor in 2022.


For “everyone” who “needs to read this”

On Facebook yesterday someone posted this, with the command “Everyone needs to read this.”

So, for those who slavishly follow dictates from others, here is Mitch Albom, of “Tuesdays with Morrie” fame, who wrote this on Election Day:

To be honest, I am less concerned with what we do Tuesday than what we do Wednesday, Thursday, and every day thereafter. My biggest fear isn’t who sits in the Oval Office come January; if the rest of us keep conducting ourselves the way we have been the last six months, it won’t make a difference.

We have more than taken sides in America. We have tunneled moats. In the name of “our way” we have demeaned, denigrated, destroyed. We’ve lost friends, alienated families, split our communities by lawn signs. We have hurt one another, emotionally and even sometimes physically. Yet far from looking at our guilty hands in regret, we continue to make fists and shake them across the great divide.

Is this who we want to be?

Let me start in my own backyard. The media. I used to be so proud of this business. I would defend it to any critic. I’d point to the need for an independent press as the only thing standing between big power and big money running rampant over the citizenry.

Now it seems we are running alongside them.

Some of us are even carrying their banners.

The partisanship of the news has never been worse. Subtlety is a memory. Asking for balance brings an eye roll, as if asking an adult to finger paint.

Cable news has long been considered slanted, but there used to be an attempt to acknowledge another side. Not anymore. Fox News will regularly begin programs with reminders that you only have so many days left to vote for President Trump and a future, or Joe Biden and earthly destruction. Biden is mocked, referred to with nasty nicknames, and regularly derided for his age and cognitive abilities. In recent days, the Hunter Biden story either leads or is highly featured nightly.

Meanwhile, you can’t find that story on the CNN or MSNBC broadcasts. It doesn’t exist. Instead, Trump gets a daily and nightly skewering on coronavirus, and is the focus and blame for a large percentage of their stories and panels. Even the rare piece of positive data — i.e. last week’s report of record GDP growth for the third quarter — gets the “Yeah, but…” treatment. Snide asides are now woven into the dialogues.

This is bad behavior. It’s also bad, period, because so many Americans get their information from cable news.

The print media used to be different. It used to take pride in standing above such food fights.

Not anymore. In many places, print has abandoned even the pretense of objectivity. It’s very hard, for example, to read the Op-Ed sections of the New York Times or Washington Post and think you’re getting an evenly balanced chorus. (Thursday’s Times featured op-ed pieces with these titles: “How Trump Lowered America’s Standing in the World,” “Trump Killed the Pax Americana,” “Four Wasted Years Thinking About Donald Trump,” “Lies, Damned Lies and Trump Rallies” and, too rich for irony, “Five Great Things Joe Biden Has Already Done.”)

The Wall Street Journal — which leans decidedly in the opposite direction — ran an op-ed last week claiming those in charge of once-traditional newsrooms defend and protect Joe Biden “on the grounds that Donald Trump is a unique threat to democracy and that they have been forced to take commensurately unusual measures.”

If true, that’s the problem. We can’t throw out the rules of journalism because we feel it’s our moral imperative to replace one guy with another. Who put us in charge? Many in our business act as if we’re simply smarter than the common folk who vote, and it is therefore our duty to give those people what’s good for them.

When I watched the recent 60 Minutes interview with Trump — in which he evidenced more bad behavior by walking out before it was done — I took note of one question by the interviewer, Lesley Stahl. She asked, “Can you characterize your supporters?”

It struck me as odd. Would that be asked of Biden? It’s as if those who support the current president are a strange cult, a foreign herd with wacked-out beliefs, instead of nearly half the country based on the 2016 election. Then again, as a Midwesterner, it often seems that many coastal “experts” can’t grasp why anybody out here votes the way they do. That’s not journalistic curiosity. That’s hubris.

And more bad behavior.

Of course, we have plenty of inspiration from the politicians themselves. You can start with the president. There is no question his preening, his prevarication, his fast-and-loose-with-the-facts approach and his infatuation with putting people down is, by any measure, bad behavior. Heck, many of his supporters will admit that. He gathers masses with no COVID-19 concern. He lauds his staff members, then trashes them if they dare speak their mind. The Republican senators, congresspersons and governors behind him often seem to have taken a see-no-evil, hear-no-evil pact.

But if you think that makes his opponents holy, you’re not being fair. Joe Biden brags about his “transparency,” but he barked, “No they don’t,” when a reporter asked if the public had a right to know his stance on Supreme Court packing, and he remains radio silent about his son’s business dealings, carefully avoiding any situations where he might be asked a single question. Is that really being “transparent?”

As for decorum? Nancy Pelosi called the president “morbidly obese” and said he’s like a kid “with doggy doo on his shoes.” Chuck Schumer threatened Supreme Court justices, saying, “You won’t know what hit you.” Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono, instead of casting a simple “nay” vote on Justice Amy Coney Barrett, marched to the table and declared, “Hell, no.” And for adopting two kids from impoverished Haiti, Barrett was likened to a “white colonizer” and her kids as “props” by a celebrated author and professor.

Are we proud to express ourselves that way? Is that admirable behavior?

We’ve attacked one another over the simple act of wearing a mask. People have been shot. A security guard was killed. Over a mask? We die on the hill for that?

The summer of protests saw many good people gathering to be heard. That’s our right, something to preserve. But the looting, burning, destruction and intimidation of innocent citizens was far too often excused or ignored because, once again, certain forces felt bad behavior, even violent behavior, was justified in the current ideological struggle.

Well, here’s some breaking news: the struggle isn’t going away. It won’t magically disappear on Tuesday night. We will eventually have a freshly elected president, but he’ll be presiding over the same nation, the same people, the same Congress, the same media and the same disagreements.

We keep acting as if this is the first time liberal and conservative have clashed, the first time race or police have been issues, the first time we’ve faced a health pandemic. None of that is true. And all of these things will repeat themselves in the future. In fact, they’ll all still be here, smack in our face, come Wednesday morning.

How will we be any different?

A common refrain has been, “If Trump goes away, we’ll all go back to being nicer.” That’s naïve, like a 5-year-old pointing to his kid brother and saying, “He started it!”

The fact is, we’ve gotten quite used to behaving badly. To rude and self-righteous postures. So when do we stop? The Republicans shoved through a Supreme Court justice because they had the power; now the Democrats threaten to pack the court if they have the power. Does that sound like a stop? Twitter and Facebook, who brazenly act as editors of their users’ viewpoints, aren’t getting any smaller. Where’s the stopping there? No matter who wins the White House, half the country will view it as Armageddon and vow to fight the oppressors.

Does that sound like an ending — or a beginning?

A recent poll showed three out of four Americans are concerned about violence on Election Day. City stores are being boarded up. Security is being strengthened near expensive properties. Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills is literally shutting itself down Tuesday and Wednesday. Violence when we vote? Does that sound like America, or a revolution in some small, war-torn country halfway around the world?

We are stressed, locked down, haunted by a common enemy virus that should have united us but instead divided us further. The truth is, our future won’t be determined by who we choose to lead us this week. It will be determined by how we act after we do.

An American president, when he wakes up, doesn’t step off a cloud. He is a representative, nothing more. What will he represent? What will we represent? Think about the friends we’ve lost this election season. The neighbors we’ve alienated. Who will we be on Wednesday, Thursday and beyond?

I know this: If the winners gloat and the losers threaten, we won’t be any better than we’ve been the last six months. And does anyone really want the country of the last six months to be the country of the next four years?

In spite of the admonition that is usually a sign for me to ignore what I have been commanded to read, Albom makes numerous good points here, but ignores the biggest point of all.

The obvious reason things are like this today is that government and therefore politics is too large and therefore too important. The political behavior we see today is the logical result of the overwhelming power government has at every level. When government is as large and powerful as it is, winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing. That means politicians and their supporters will do and say anything to get into power and to stay in power. (How we have not had widespread assassinations so far is beyond my understanding.)

Cases in point: Democratic Assembly candidates Kriss Marion, Erik Brooks, Emily Siegrist, Kristin Lyerly and Sarah Yacoub. Each raised between $390,000 and $540,000, and each spent between $335,000 and $409,000 running for their Assembly seats. Each outspent their Republican opponents. They have one other thing in common: Each of them lost. That’s a hell of a lot of work for a job that pays $60,000 a year.

Why would donors give a collective $14.34 million to the winners and losers of 99 Assembly seats? Why would those candidates spend almost $11.4 million? Because of the power the Legislature has in this state. You want to fix our culture? Take away Madison’s power. And while you’re at it, defang cities, villages, towns and cities as well.

The related thing Albom missed is Americans’ increasing inability to leave each other alone and increasing judgmentalism of others. Increasingly Americans appear to want to force others to do things the way they want, and of course run to government to attain their goals for others.

I would say that Democrats and liberals (but I repeat myself) are the worst offenders. The joke is that conservative atheists just don’t go to church, conservative vegetarians just don’t eat meat, and conservatives who don’t like guns don’t own gun; liberal atheists try to prove that God doesn’t exist and want to ban religion, liberal vegetarians want to prevent you from eating meat, and liberals try to ban guns.

One of the unfortunate trends of the Trump era has been conservatives acting like liberals, not in beliefs, but in, for instance, being as nasty as liberals after liberals lose elections. There is no question that four years of Donald Trump is the result of eight years of Barack Obama because curiously conservatives don’t like being called “bitter clingers” or “deplorables.” And while Trump may have lost the election, the GOP did better than anyone thought likely in large part, I believe, to liberals continuing to underestimate conservatives’ intelligence and belittle conservatives because conservatives don’t agree with liberals on political issues.


What went right Nov. 3

The Wall Street Journal:

Besides media pollsters, the biggest immediate election losers on Tuesday were Democratic Congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. Americans diminished Speaker Pelosi’s House majority and appear to have kept Republicans in control of the Senate as a brake on the left’s agenda.

The biggest news is that Mitch McConnell is likely to return as Senate Majority Leader to torment Democratic dreams for two more years. The GOP lost seats in Colorado and Arizona but gained one in Alabama. Republican Senators Joni Ernst in Iowa, Susan Collins in Maine and Steve Daines in Montana prevailed, and Thom Tillis is leading in North Carolina.

Democrats poured literally hundreds of millions of dollars into races against Lindsey Graham in South Carolina and in Kentucky against Mr. McConnell that they lost by double-digits. Democrats seem to believe their own progressive pieties that money is destiny in politics.

Democrat Gary Peters will likely hold onto his seat by a hair, but Iraq war veteran John James outperformed President Trump and made a Michigan Senate race competitive for the first time in many years. The two races in Georgia could head to runoffs in January, but Republicans will be favorites.

A GOP Senate would mean the end of the Biden-Bernie Sanders “unity” agenda. No death to the legislative filibuster, no new U.S. states, no Supreme Court packing, no confiscatory tax increases, no Green New Deal. If Mr. Biden wins and he wants to get something done, he would have to go through Mitch the Knife.

Mrs. Pelosi will keep her majority, but much reduced from 232-197. The GOP flipped two seats in South Florida amid a surge of Hispanic turnout and toppled 15-year Rep. Collin Peterson in western Minnesota. Republicans had picked up a net five seats by Wednesday afternoon and could gain as many as 12 or 13. They regained seats they’d lost in 2018 in Cedar Rapids, Charleston (S.C.), and Oklahoma City.

Democrats also seem headed for defeat in New York’s Staten Island and trail in districts in Long Island and upstate New York. Republicans were also leading in Virginia around Richmond, exurban Chicago and two districts in Pennsylvania that Democrats flipped in 2018 after the state Supreme Court redrew the map in their favor.

These GOP gains will reduce Mrs. Pelosi’s legislative running room and perhaps test her party control. Her strategy of refusing to compromise on a Covid-19 relief bill may have cost seats, and now she’ll have a harder time getting a blue-state and union bailout through the Senate. If Mr. Biden wins, the GOP will be better poised to retake the House in 2022.

One of Tuesday night’s big stories was how Republicans gained ground among minorities. One reason is they made more of an effort at outreach, especially at their August convention. The GOP message of economic opportunity resonated with minority entrepreneurs and workers as Democrats stood for government lockdowns and handouts. And who would have thought that immigrants who fled socialism in Venezuela and violence in Central America would oppose those scourges here?

Democrats have refashioned themselves into a party of coastal elites and government unions with a progressive agenda that many middle-class Americans dislike. This includes banishing fossil fuels, abolishing state right-to-work laws and a pointless partisan impeachment.

They may have saved a few seats by fear-mongering about pre-existing health conditions for the third election in a row, but even Republicans might eventually figure out they need a response to that one. Regardless of whether Joe Biden wins the White House, the Democratic left lost America.

Similar things can be written about Wisconsin, which retains its 5–3 GOP House split after state Sen. Scott Fitzgerald won to replace retiring U.S. Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner. After shuffling of a few seats, Republicans maintain comfortable control of both houses of the Legislature. This is despite, for instance, opponents of Rep. Travis Tranel (R–Cuba City) spending nearly $157,000 on his opponent’s behalf, succeeding in getting 41 percent of the vote. That cost those PACs $13.79 per vote to back the loser. Next door, in the 51st Assembly District, PAC spending against Rep. Todd Novak (R–Dodgeville) was so successful that Novak won by the largest margin he’s gotten in three successful runs for the Assembly.


Now that that’s over, never again

J.D. Tuccille:

My son’s school, located near a polling place, [hosted] online-only classes on Election Day and the day before. It’s doing so “out of an abundance of caution,” despite making a successful transition from a hybrid schedule to optional full-time in-person teaching, because supporters of America’s two political death cults can’t be trusted to behave themselves when encountering one another on the way to vote.

This, bluntly, is insane. Elections to government office shouldn’t matter so much that they pose threats to the safety of school kids. And the only way to make who wins government office matter less is to lower the stakes by making government itself less important.

Schools aren’t the only places worried about election fallout.

“We have seen some isolated civil unrest and as we have done on several occasions over the last few years, we have moved our firearms and ammunition off the sales floor as a precaution for the safety of our associates and customers,” a Walmart spokesman noted last week. (On Wednesday, I witnessed staff hurriedly removing guns from the sales floor of a Phoenix-area store.)

Amidst much pushback, the company reversed the decision two days later. But the fact remains that a major U.S. retailer fears its customers might riot and try to kill one another if they’re disappointed with the outcome of the vote.

Government officials are similarly worried. “Bracing for possible civil unrest on Election Day, the Justice Department is planning to station officials in a command center at FBI headquarters to coordinate the federal response to any disturbances or other problems with voting that may arise across the country,” reports The Washington Post. NPR has a similar piece on “How Police, National Guard And Military Are Preparing For Election Day Tensions.”

How did we get to the point that Americans might turn to violence if they don’t like the outcomes of elections?

“The key to peaceful transition is that politicians and their supporters must be able to lose an election,” writes Hoover Institution Senior Fellow John H. Cochrane. “Losers and their supporters understand that they may lose on policy issues, but they will have the chance to regroup and try again. They will not lose their jobs or their businesses. They will not be put in jail, dogged with investigations, prosecuted under vague laws, regulated out of business. Their assets will not be confiscated.”

“The vanishing ability to lose an election and not be crushed is the core reason for increased partisan vitriol and astounding violation of basic norms on both sides of our political divide,” Cochrane adds. He points to the growing use of regulations, legal interpretations, and criminal investigations by election winners to punish their enemies as making politics a game that nobody can afford to lose.

Chants of “lock her up!” aimed at Hillary Clinton by Donald Trump—or by any candidate at a political opponent—may rally the mob, but they raise the very real possibility that disappointment at the polls will have consequences far more dangerous than thwarted career aspirations. There are plenty of countries where coming out in the wrong end of a vote can land you behind bars.

Likewise, the weaponization of regulatory agencies by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his ilk to strong-arm banks and other firms into denying services to political opponents is a threat to “the First Amendment rights of all organizations to engage in political advocacy without fear that the state will use its regulatory authority to penalize them for doing so,” as the American Civil Liberties Union warns.

Yet these thuggish tactics have become regular features of our political life. Politicians thrill their supporters with promises to misuse the vast and dangerous power of the state to crush despised opponents. And then we’re supposed to wonder why our political seasons turn into societal pressure cookers with election outcomes treated as existential threats. Well, our political class and their rabid partisans are doing their best to make sure that losing a vote really is an existential threat.

The pandemic has certainly exacerbated the situation. People suffering from economic distress and social isolation enforced by government lockdowns are fodder for civil disorder.

“Economic growth and the unemployment rate are the two most important determinants of social unrest,” warns the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

“The domestic situation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic creates an environment that could accelerate some individuals’ mobilization to targeted violence or radicalization to terrorism,” cautions the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

But that’s fuel added to an already-smoldering fire. The political culture in the United States was sick long before anybody heard of COVID-19. All too many Americans already hated each other and plotted to destroy their political enemies. Responses to the virus just add a little more chaos to the mix.

So, how to lower the temperature so that school kids aren’t imperiled by their proximity to ballot-wielding Democrats and Republicans and retailers don’t feel compelled to strip their sporting goods departments prior to Election Day?

“If government ran less of your life, you wouldn’t have to spend so much time worrying about ‘election fraud’ this and ‘deadlines for counting ballots’ that, etc etc,” the Goldwater Institute’s Timothy Sandefur mused a few days before the latest Most Important Election Ever ™.

That’s true. Traditional philosophical arguments over the proper role of government and the balance of majority wishes with individual autonomy have been replaced by one important observation: the government we have now is so large, powerful, and dangerous that nobody can afford to lose control to their enemies. Politics is now an escalating struggle between death cults whose partisans realistically fear doom if vote totals don’t go their way.

I’ve suggested before that the most promising short-term path is for individuals and localities to follow in the footsteps of Sanctuary Cities and Second Amendment Sanctuaries in ignoring commandments from further up the governmental food chain. That’s relatively straightforward since it requires no agreements among factions. Better still would be formal decentralization that doesn’t rely on defiance.

But one way or another we have to make elections less consequential so that people can afford to lose them without fearing their treatment by the winners. Given that power is inevitably abused by those who wield it, that means reducing government’s authority over our lives so that ballot-box victors can’t so easily punish their enemies.

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