Category: Wisconsin politics

The media, a four-letter word

Becket Adams:

On the last Saturday in April, before a rapt crowd of cheering journalists and B-list celebrities, President Biden declared the American press an indispensable institution, necessary to the very survival of the republic.

Or answer them. My own object lesson at the state level was sitting in on Gov. Tony Evers’ COVID-era press conferences, to which non-daily media was first not invited until one of those non-daily media complained. The next tough question you hear asked of Evers from the Madison or Milwaukee media will be the first.



One reason Republicans lose

Jim Geraghty points to something endemic to Republicans, not just their presidential candidates:

Last week, Florida governor Ron DeSantis completed an overseas trade tour of Japan, South Korea, Israel, and the United Kingdom that was totally focused on increasing Florida’s exports to those countries, and purely coincidentally provided him some B-roll footage for future presidential-campaign commercials touting his relevant foreign-policy experience.

During a press conference in Israel, DeSantis had this exchange:

REPORTER: Would you like to comment on a report on NBC News that you are going to run, announce running next month?

DESANTIS: Was that sourced to anonymous sources? Let me guess, surprise, surprise. It would be nice to just do one article where you’re naming the people, instead of just doing the gossip.

We get it, Republican presidential candidates. You hate most or all of the mainstream media and think they ask stupid questions. The perceived high point of Newt Gingrich’s 2012 bid was when he slammed debate moderator Wolf Blitzer of CNN. Much of former president Donald Trump’s whole antagonistic, blustering, combative persona was built around “much of our news media is indeed the enemy of the people.” And as governor, DeSantis has had plenty of feisty interactions with both the state and national press.

And at the risk of picking on that reporter in Israel, it’s obvious DeSantis was not going to just blurt out, in the middle of a foreign trip, “Oh, yes, I’m going to formally announce my bid on May 22nd. You should get up early that day.”

But DeSantis is running second in the polls; he wrote a book about how what he’s done in Florida is a blueprint for the rest of the country; and Never Back Down, an independent Super PAC, is already running ads on his behalf and organizing support for him in key states. Everybody and their brother knows that DeSantis is either going to run for president, or he’s going to shock and disappoint a lot of people by choosing to not run at the last minute. When everybody knows you’re going to run for president, you’re going to get questions about when you’re going to formally announce your campaign! Those kinds of questions will stop when the prospective candidate makes it official. Then the reporters can move on to asking when the candidate will drop out of the race. (I kid, I kid.)

Can you run an effective campaign by only talking to a handful of preferred outlets? A few days ago, Politico laid out DeSantis’s close relationship with the Florida Standard, “an online conservative news outlet that instantly gained unprecedented access to DeSantis when it launched last summer”:

DeSantis has agreed to only a few interviews in the past year, usually with Fox News or established right-wing outlets. He’s made a show of turning down requests from places like “The View.” But the week the Florida Standard went live in August, Witt rolled out a 22-minute sit-down with DeSantis, a coincidence that suggested to many the outlet had ties to DeSantis supporters. In the interview, Witt openly praised DeSantis and allowed him to make multiple unchallenged claims about his record. Later, when DeSantis’ administration rejected an AP African American Studies course on the grounds that it was “woke indoctrination,” it was the Florida Standard that scored the first copy of the syllabus. National outlets like the New York Times and NBC cited the publication’s scoop in their articles.

Republican candidates, their campaigns, and many GOP presidential-primary voters are united in their contempt for those who ask questions during press conferences and debate moderators. But that attitude raises the question of what these groups want the news media to do during a Republican presidential primary. Do Republican primary voters have any questions they’d like to see their potential nominee asked? Do they just want to run this primary on autopilot, sitting back and watching a series of speeches and scripted applause lines, with no questions or off-the-cuff answers?

Or do some Republicans just want to skip the primary process entirely? A few days ago, Kari Lake — who still insists she won the 2022 Arizona gubernatorial election — declared, “This primary is over. It’s time to rally around Donald Trump. We must focus our energy on exposing that fool Joe Biden, registering voters, and funding ballot chasing operations in swing states. We should not be wasting time and money fighting ourselves.” Our old friend John Fund observed, “This is from the woman who didn’t trust the polls when she ran in 2022.”

Trump says he won’t participate in at least one of the debates, although this might be his usual drama-generating tactics.

A lot of people on the right justifiably slam President Biden for rarely doing interviews and holding press conferences. If Republicans think Biden should come out and subject himself to questions that he might not like, why is it not important for Republican officials and presidential candidates to do the same?

As I intermittently disclose, I really like South Carolina senator and potential GOP presidential option Tim Scott. But even the most charismatic and likeable figures can have bad days and fumble in the face of direct questions that pin them down on thorny issues.

In mid April, Scott had an exchange with CBS News political correspondent Caitlin Huey-Burns about abortion that was less than ideal:

Scott: There’s no question that we’re gonna have a lot of folks talk about legislation from a federal perspective, but what I’ve heard so far, and what I’ve seen in the Senate, aren’t proposals, but those from the left trying to figure out how to continue their campaign towards late-term abortions, even allowing abortions based on the gender of the child or the race of the child or the disabilities of the child.

Huey-Burns: As a president, if you were president, would you advocate for federal limits?

Scott: Yeah, so once again, I — once again, I’m 100 percent pro-life, and I do believe –

Huey-Burns: So, yes?

Scott: That’s — that’s not what I said. I do believe that we should have a robust conversation about what’s happening in the, on a very important topic there’s no doubt that when I’m sitting in a banking hearing having a conversation about financial issues, and you have the Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen talking about young poor African American women having abortions to increase their labor force participation rate. I was stunned into silence.

Some pro-lifers — not all — will sense a contradiction between declaring yourself “100 percent pro-life” and then punting on the question of whether there should be federal legislation restricting or banning abortions.

The following day, Scott was in New Hampshire, and offered another less-than-fully clear answer on a similar question:

Questioner: Would you support a federal ban on abortions?

Scott: I would simply say that the fact of the matter is, when you look at the issue of abortion, one of the challenges that we have we continue to go to the most restrictive conversations without broadening the scope. Taking a look at the fact that I’m 100 pro-life. I never walk away from that. But the truth of the matter is that when you look at the issues on abortion, I start with the very important conversation I had in a banking hearing, when I was sitting in my office and listening to Janet Yellen, the Secretary of the Treasury, talk about increasing the labor force participation rate for African-American women who are in poverty, by having abortions. I think we’re just having the wrong conversation. I ran down to the banking hearing to see if I heard her right. Are you actually saying that a mom like mine should have an abortion, so that we increase the labor force participation rate? That just seems ridiculous to me. And so, I’m going to continue to have a serious conversation about the issues that affect the American people. I won’t start by pointing out the absolute hypocrisy of the Left on the most one of the more important issues.

We can all agree that it’s rather ghoulish for Janet Yellen to argue that abortion should remain legal because Roe v. Wade “helped lead to increased labor force participation.” But that anecdote doesn’t really answer the question of whether a President Tim Scott would sign federal legislation restricting or banning abortion nationwide if Congress sent it to his desk in the Oval Office. If the answer is “yes,” say yes. If the answer is, “no,” say no. And if the answer is, “I’m not sure, I’m still thinking about it,” let the electorate know that, too.

The presidency is not an easy job, and a candidate doesn’t get prepared for the challenges of running the executive branch and being commander in chief by doing softball interviews.

Do the people who work for campaigns, and those who most ardently support a particular candidate, think the purpose of the people covering the campaign is to make the candidate look good? Because if that’s the expectation, everybody’s always going to be disappointed. If candidates, campaigns, and their fan bases envision every publication and channel covering the candidate as gushingly as Breitbart covers Trump, or MSNBC covers Biden, they’re envisioning a political system with no independent press, just different varieties of spokesmen and salesmen.

Can reporters cover Republicans campaigns unfairly? Absolutely and indisputably. DeSantis’s foreign trip got mostly critical coverage, reminiscent of the harsh coverage of Mitt Romney’s 2012 foreign trip. But that trip including an infamous incident: Romney was completing his visit to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw, Poland, as reporters shrieked, “WHAT ABOUT YOUR GAFFES? DO YOU FEEL THAT YOUR GAFFES HAVE OVERSHADOWED YOUR FOREIGN TRIP?

Let’s put aside that this is occurring just outside a national memorial tomb, the equivalent of shouting questions as a candidate is departing a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. Do you think that Romney thought his gaffes had overshadowed his foreign trip? Even in the astronomically unlikely scenario where he did think that, do you think he would ever say so to the reporters there?

There’s a middle ground between softballs and variations of, “Why do you suck so much?”

Notoriously bad campaign journalism stirs the ire of Republican primary voters, which makes press-bashing popular on the GOP campaign trail. But this also serves candidates’ purposes by delegitimizing any press coverage they don’t like, or any questions they would prefer not to answer. You, as a presidential-primary voter, shouldn’t just fall in love with some candidate. You should want to kick the tires and see how they do when they get asked tough questions — particularly when almost every presidential candidate just assumes they’ll have a cooperative Congress once they step into the Oval Office.

And if those who want to be commander in chief find interacting with the press too irritating and inconvenient, and if vast swaths of the candidates’ supporters find the expectation that a candidate interact with the press unreasonable . . . what is the point of this process?

Republicans and conservatives sound like whiny soyboy millennials every time they complain about the news media. i have to believe that Republican voters’ antipathy toward the media lost them the governor’s race because they voted for Tim Michels, who was a disaster in front of a microphone, instead of Rebecca Kleefisch, who as a former TV reporter was quite comfortable in front of the media and in front of crowds.

Ronald Reagan had no problem handling reporters, whether that was because of his comfort with cameras as a former actor or selective deafness when a question was shouted at him. Gpv. Scott Walker was obviously media-trained; I think his heart rate actually dropped when talking to reporters. Wisconsin’s newest Republican Congressman, Derrick Van Orden, has no problem with reporters from what I’ve witnessed either.

Yes, reporters are reflexively anti-Republican and anti-conservative. Yes, reporters ask stupid questions. Yes, reporters are the kind of people that normal people avoid like the plague. Anyone who wants to get elected has to deal with them. Whining abut unfairness accomplishes nothing. To quote Barry Goldwater, grow up, conservatives.


Contrary opinions not wanted

David Blaska formerly worked for the competitor of what now is Madison’s only daily newspaper:

We love opinion! The more sharper-edged the better! Sand for our oyster! Whets our blade. We subscribe to Buckley’s National Review AND The Nation (John Nichols’ day job) for their varied opinions. We read Ross Douthat AND Maureen Dowd in the New York Times. Look in on Tucker Carlson at Fox AND Joy Reid at MSNBC until (like Popeye the Sailor Man) we can’t stands it no more (usually about 10 minutes in)!

But local print opinion appears as endangered as someone with dirt on Hillary Clinton. Went looking for the editorial page at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel before reality slapped us upside the head with a wet, rolled-up newspaper They don’t have one! The once-great Journal Sentinel — itself a merged newspaper — began cutting back five years ago when it became one of 250 titles in the Gannett archipelago, we learned only today.

The great (and sorely missed) National Lampoon once issued a tabloid-sized news sheet it called the “Dacron Republican-Democrat.” “A cult classic of puerile genius,” it parodied the mergers of so many city dailies and the resultant attenuation of their editorial voices. A far cry from the early days of the Republic when Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson squared off in their own partisan sheets.

A big reason, we suspect, is that cash-strapped local news outlets fear alienating fickle readers in today’s uncompromising War of the Worlds political environment. Readers and viewers are choosing their own news silos, opinions from like-minded echo chambers. …

As a reporter and low-level editor, Blaska did his part to drive down the circulation of The Capital Times, one of the last remaining afternoon dailies until it went weekly and virtual 15 years ago on 04-26-08. We staffers rued the day when founder William T. Evjue relinquished the Sunday edition and, during merger negotiations in 1948, demanded that the Wisconsin State Journal take the morning slot. Both had been afternoon papers, with the CT leading the circulation war. Both competing newspapers were peppered with display ads for something called “television.”

The Capital Times still serves as the bullhorn of the progressive wing of the Democrat(ic) party. (Never a discouraging word about our Woke Madison school board. Everything is just hunky dory!) Editors Evjue, then Miles McMillin, demanded their opinionated and partisan columns start on page one. The WI State Journal was once reliably Republican. Even supported Joe McCarthy’s crusade against Communism. No more.

Blaska’s Bottom Line — Today, the last daily in the Emerald City of the Woke endorses abortion champion Janet Protasiewicz for supreme court, soft-on-crime Mandela Barnes for U.S. senator, and critical race theorists for school board. (And they say Fox News caters to its audience!) Any-who, that’s my opinion. If you do not agree, write yer own damned blogge, you pinko Commie!

The State Journal’s response might be that (1) it’s reflecting its readership, which is not how editorial pages are supposed to work, or (2) it runs nationally syndicated conservative columnists and letters to the editor from conservatives. But rare is the occasion when a national columnist cares about Madison or even Wisconsin politics, which gets to Blaska’s point.

This is a job that I would have killed to have once upon a time. (As for now, well, why wouldn’t I listen to an offer, especially if it was part-time?) One thing Blaska doesn’t point out is that independent of the no-intellectual-diversity opinion policy way too many newspaper opinion pages are toadies for the powers that be, and that certainly is the case with the State Journal. The State Journal has been too busy cheerleading for Madison to notice the crime rate affecting more people, to care about the negative effects of spiraling home prices (as in why would anyone move to the city when you pay far too much), or to suggest major reform is needed for what used to be some of the best schools in the state (when I was a student) but are now sinking toward Milwaukee quality. An op-ed columnist worth his or her paycheck would write authority-defying things, but not at the State Journal, and truth be told not at many newspapers.

This, by the way, does not require lockstep agreement with the GOP. A conservative Wisconsin columnist should, for instance, ask how conservative voters keep picking such losing candidates as Tim Michels and Dan Kelly, how Ron Johnson won when Michels did not, whether alleged RINOs (for instance Robin Vos) really are, how urban voters disenfranchise rural voters, the real goal of redistricting reform (subtracting the letter R), and whether conservatives should engage in the culture wars or stay in their own echo chambers (for instance, eschewing other news outlets for Fox News). Those three topics (which are probably multiple columns) took me as much time to think up as they took me to type.

A conservative columnist who correctly used facts, logic and reason instead of feelings would generate a lot of attention, and in today’s world a lot of negative attention, with canceled subscriptions, boycotts and threats thereof, and other harrumphs of outrage. (The solution to subscription cancellation is simple: Refuse — you paid for it, you get it until your subscription expires, and what you do with it is up to you.)

Politicizing the already politicized

Charlie Sykes starts by quoting Alexander Hamilton (boldface is Sykes’ doing):

If, then, the courts of justice are to be considered as the bulwarks of a limited Constitution against legislative encroachments, this consideration will afford a strong argument for the permanent tenure of judicial offices, since nothing will contribute so much as this to that independent spirit in the judges which must be essential to the faithful performance of so arduous a duty.

This independence of the judges is equally requisite to guard the Constitution and the rights of individuals from the effects of those ill humors, which the arts of designing men or the influence of particular conjunctures sometimes disseminate among the people themselves; and which, though they speedily give place to better information and more deliberate reflection, have a tendency, in the meantime, to occasion dangerous innovations in the government, and serious oppressions of the minor party in the community. — Alexander Hamilton, Federalist 78

… As you may have heard by now, in Wisconsin supreme court justices are neither appointed nor have lifetime tenure. We elect them, which increasingly seems like a very, very bad idea.

Hamilton emphasized the importance of the “independent spirit” of the judiciary in safeguarding the Constitution and the Republic, but as the most expensive, partisan (and incredibly bitter) judicial campaign in history goes into its final days, there is little of that independence in evidence.

Perhaps we ought to be concerned about that.

Let me stipulate that no one seems to care about this, because the stakes right now are so high in what has been described as “the most important election in America this year.”

Politico described it as “The most important election nobody’s ever heard of.”

The Wapo’s Greg Sargent called it the “sleeper race that could wreck MAGA’s 2024 dreams.”

The New York Times declared that the election “carries bigger policy stakes than any other contest in America in 2023.”

Here’s the Guardian: “‘Stakes are monstrous’: Wisconsin judicial race is 2023’s key election.”

None of this is hype.

With the state’s political establishment gridlocked (a Republican legislature and Democratic governor) the focus of nearly every major issue — from abortion to redistricting to voting rights and the 2024 election — now turns to the narrowly divided high court.

And everybody understands that, including the candidates who have made it clear how they would rule on a host of hot button issues that are likely to come before the court.

Technically the race is “non-partisan,” but the contest between conservative Dan Kelly and liberal Janet Protasiewicz (pronounced “pro-tuh-SAY-witz”) is anything but non-partisan. Both parties have fully mobilized. Outside money is pouring in.

Just yesterday, I got a fundraising mailing from Senator Ron Johnson, declaring this “the most important Wisconsin Supreme Court race in history.”

“Liberals are desperate to ‘flip’ the court,” Johnson wrote, urging me to write a check to Dan Kelly for $50, $100, $250, $500, $1,000, $2500, or more. “This is the moment of truth.”

Democrats are equally engaged. The chairman of the state Democratic Party, Ben Wikler, warns that the race “has implications that will affect national politics for years to come, really at every level of government.” …

There is nothing subtle about any of this.


In particular, there is nothing subtle about the partisan allegiances. State Democrats have transferred millions of dollars to Protasiewicz’s campaign. But that pales next to Kelly’s entanglement. Via the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: “Supreme Court candidate Daniel Kelly was paid $120,000 by Republicans to work on ‘election integrity,’ advise on fake electors.”

Former state Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly — who has been critical of his opponents for their partisanship — has been paid nearly $120,000 by the state Republican Party and the Republican National Committee over the past two years for his work on election issues.

In that role, Kelly was at the center of the discussion in December 2020 with top Wisconsin Republicans over their highly controversial plan to covertly convene a group of Republicans inside the state Capitol in the weeks following Donald Trump’s loss to Joe Biden to sign paperwork falsely claiming to be electors.

Former state Republican Party Chairman Andrew Hitt said in a deposition last year to the U.S. House committee that investigated the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol that he and Kelly had “pretty extensive conversations” about the fake elector scheme. Kelly was serving as the party’s “special counsel” at the time.


So far the race has been dominated by abortion. Wisconsin has an 1849 law on the books that bans nearly all abortions.

Kelley, who has the endorsement of all of the state’s right to life groups, insists that he has not prejudged the case.

But no one, and I mean literally no one, has any doubt that he would vote to uphold the law.

Nor does anyone have any doubt that Protasiewicz, who proclaims herself a “progressive,” would vote to overturn it. So, since the court now has a narrow 4-3 conservative majority, her election would effectively decide the issue.

The election might also decide the fate of the state’s gerrymandered legislative and congressional districts. At a candidate forum in January, Protasiewicz signaled how she would rule:

So let’s be clear here, the maps are rigged. Bottom line. Absolutely, positively rigged. They do not reflect the people in this state. They do not reflect accurately representation in either the State Assembly or the State Senate. They are rigged. Period. I’m coming right out and saying it. I don’t think you could sell to any reasonable person that the maps are fair.

This week, she suggested that she might also rule against Act 10, which restricted the collective bargaining rights of public employees, and that she would reverse the court’s previous rulings on voting policies like the use of drop boxes.

Her comments drew an ethics complaint from state Republicans, who accused her of prejudging cases. But Kelly is hardly less subtle. Bill Lueders reported in the Bulwark:

In 2012, before Walker appointed him to the court, Kelly was hired by Republican lawmakers to defend the redistricting plan that they had hashed out to maximize their political advantage. At a candidate forum in Madison last month, he gave his stamp of approval to the manipulation of political boundaries for political ends, saying: “A redistricting map is an entirely political act. It involves political calculation. It involves communities of interest. It involves give and take. It involves compromise. It involves the political process. It is political, from start to end.”

While he frequently talks about the “rule of law,” Kelly has leaned heavily on his right-wing ideological credentials.

In writings submitted to Walker in seeking appointment to the court, Kelly likened affirmative action to slavery, saying they “both spring from the same taproot,” and said allowing same-sex couples to wed, which the U.S. Supreme Court had not yet done, “will eventually rob the institution of marriage of any discernible meaning.” In blog posts he wrote between 2012 and 2015, Kelly described abortion as “a policy that has as its primary purpose harming children.” And he decried the 2012 re-election of President Barack Obama as a victory for “socialism[,] same-sex marriage, recreational marijuana, and tax increases.”

And there’s nothing subtle about this, either: “Dan Kelly appears at event headlined by pastor who advocated for killing abortion providers, compared COVID-19 policies to Holocaust.”


The race has also shaped up to be a crucial test for election denialism.

After Donald Trump narrowly lost Wisconsin in 2020, the state’s Supreme Court came perilously close to becoming the only court in the nation to side with Trump’s legal challenge of the results. The vote was 4-3, with one conservative, Brian Hagedorn, joining the court’s three liberals. He wrote for the majority that the Trump campaign had “waited until after the election to raise selective challenges that could have been raised long before the election.” It was a by-the-book call for which he drew outrage.

“You are an absolute disgrace and we the people of Wisconsin are completely embarrassed to have you on the court,” said one caller to his office line. “I will actively campaign against you and your next election, hoping to make you a one-term justice,” said another. Wisconsin Supreme Court justices serve ten-year terms. Hagedorn is not up for re-election until 2029.

Kelly has been vocally critical of Hagedorn, has apologized for supporting him, and made it clear that he would show no similar flashes of judicial independence.


Which brings us back to Hamilton.

In Federalist 78, Hamilton warned that the judiciary has “neither FORCE nor WILL, but merely judgment,” and that ―”[t]o avoid an arbitrary discretion in the courts, it is indispensable that they should be bound down by strict rules and precedents, which serve to define and point out their duty in every particular case that comes before them.”

This, argued Hamilton, is why judicial independence was so important. It was one of the “bulwarks of a limited Constitution against legislative encroachments.”

But judicial independence is also essential for the legitimacy of the courts and the rule of law.

If judges are merely partisan legislators then what, really, does the “rule of law” mean? If the law changes with every election, is it really the law, or simply politics by other means?

Why should the courts and their rulings deserve any more respect or deference than the utterings of any other hack politician who holds temporary office?

So while turning the courts into partisan weapons may have its appeal, the politicization of the judiciary also carries long term dangers, as we are about to discover when the former president escalates his attacks on the independence of the juries, judges, and prosecutors.

This is kind of rich given that Sykes was a full participant in the judiciary-politicization process back in his Milwaukee talk radio days, for instance, Supreme Court Justice Louis “Loophole Louie” Butler, appointed by Gov. James Doyle to fill a vacancy and then de-appointed by voters at their first opportunity.

Protasiewicz derided the anti-Butler campaign as racist (of course) instead of acknowledging the reality that Butler was a terrible judge who shouldn’t have been appointed to any court in the first place. That also applies to “No Jail Janet,” who has unsubtly announced how she would rule on the state’s most polarized issues.

Judges should not be creating law. The Supreme Court did just that in its Roe v. Wade ruling, which the Supreme Court then belatedly undid last year. Legislatures create laws, and it is the fault of Congressional and legislative Democrats for failing, when they had comfortable majorities, to codify Roe v. Wade into law.  As long as judges feel like acting like superlegislatures, there is no judicial independence because left-wing judges don’t believe in “a limited Constitution.”

Judges also should not be rubber stamps for those who appoint them. Perhaps Sykes forgot that that politicized Supreme Court undid Gov. Tony Evers’ attempt to lock down the entire state in his predictable overreaction to COVID-19. Had Protasiewicz been on the Supreme Court, we’d still be locked down today for whatever spurious reason Evers (or his handlers) came up with.

It is instructive that Sykes is now concerned about politicizing the judiciary because of what Trump may or may not do when he decides to run for president in 2024 (unless he doesn’t). Apparently Sykes cares more about Trump than about issues that predated Trump and will exist long after Trump disappears from the political scene, such as Second Amendment rights,  and the right to not have to pay for government employees’ Rolls–Royce benefits on taxpayers’ Chevrolet finances.

The reality is that the judiciary has been politicized well before Trump was anything beyond a celebrity New York developer. (Did Sykes forget Act 10? School choice?) Unfortunately government restraint can be found in neither party, but while Republicans and conservatives are not always right, Democrats and liberals are always wrong. (I was going to write “almost” but I cannot think of a single issue on which the Democratic position is preferable.) When that is the case, then the correct side better win.


On a “national divorce”

Kentucky State University Prof. Wilfreid Reilly:

Just a few days back, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia did something damned unusual for a Congress-critter: She called for the United States to break up into (at least) two countries. This is one of the worst and least logical ideas of all time, and should be called out as such.

Greene’s social-media post about the idea was simple and to the point. “We need a national divorce,” she said: “We need to separate by red states and blue states, and shrink the federal government.” Why? Out-of-control liberalism, basically: “Everyone I talk to says this. From the sick and disgusting woke culture issues shoved down our throats to the Democrat’s [sic] traitorous America Last policies, we are done.” Other popular right-wing figures quickly jumped in to support the Notorious MTG, with podcaster and radio host Jesse Kelly weighing in on “what’s so great about the national divorce talk. Not only is it spicy and makes people emotional, it’s also inevitable. It’s only a matter of dates at this point.”

Hold up. As a political scientist, I can point to massive structural problems with the idea of “national divorce” — which sounds a lot to me like a synonym for “civil war.” Perhaps most importantly, there is not actually any clear red/blue divide within the continental U.S. population. We talk a lot about “red” and “blue” states, but these are election-year terms of art arising from the dirty business of political consulting: In reality, almost no American state slants more than 60 percent in either direction, and the real division is between red and blue counties within each one. In the typical state — think Illinois or Kentucky — one or several big Democratic-voting cities are surrounded by an agricultural hinterland full of yeomen, and the two rely on one another for tax subsidies, agricultural products, and so forth.

So the archetypal macho red state of Texas boasts the giant and mostly blue bastions of Houston, Dallas, Austin, El Paso, “San Antone,” and so forth. In addition to sometimes Republican Jacksonville, Ron DeSantis’s Florida has Miami and Orlando. For that matter, Greene herself hails from a blue state: Rural Georgia is famously red, but Atlanta and Savannah are famously not, and the Peach State is currently represented in the U.S. Senate by card-carrying liberals Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. In reality, a hypothetical Blue America and Red America would each look very similar to the plain old United States of today, and division into these polities would raise distinct Yugoslavia-style questions about the limits of any right to secession. If all blue states voted to leave the Union, could Georgia then vote to secede from Blue America, and the ATL then hold a plebiscite on leaving Georgia? It’s all a dumb idea.

It also has to be noted that any neo-Confederates or others praising Greene’s idea online would likely end up a bit shocked by the ethnic composition of the two new countries. With Mississippi (37.94 percent) leading the way, and players like Alabama (29.80 percent) not far behind, the states with the largest African-American populations are generally deep-crimson ex-members of the Confederacy. And while Team Blue would no doubt pick up California, the Red Squad would also wind up with more than a few of the big purplish Latino-and-Native states of the great American Southwest. While this “rednecks, brothers, and Tejanos” composition wouldn’t bode at all poorly for Red America’s prospects on the battle- or ballfield, a cynic might note that the current U.S. of A. is already a hyper-diverse country full of tough people quarreling.

Banter aside — although I have said absolutely nothing remotely questionable so far — there is another and bigger objection to splitting up the country: At a time when we are fighting a proxy war with Russia, and China looms as a long-term rival or enemy, doing so would reduce America’s size and power by half. Immediately, the United States of America would go from a unified continental power with almost 350 million citizens to two fragmented states of about half that size — with one of these holding almost all of the navigable coastline and the other in possession of our agrarian heartland.

The most basic, heart-rending questions would immediately arise: Who gets the national anthem, the eagle symbol, and most especially the former United States flag, which so many have willingly died for? For that matter, who gets the nukes: Are these simply broken up on a state-by-state basis, with Montana and North Dakota immediately becoming world-stage power players? Xi Jinping would cut off his own right arm to see this happen.

It should not and will not. But there is a genuine and much less drastic solution to the very real issue — the sheer size and diversity of the modern United States — that underlies Greene’s ill-considered notion. That solution is a revitalized federalism. Almost no one on the political right would disagree that federal-government overreach into the traditional prerogatives of the states is a problem, or that at least some politicians — including President Biden, who recently signed an executive order promoting “equity” in virtually every arena of public life — seem poised to make this problem worse.

Yet there seems no real reason to let this trend continue — given the counterbalances of a Supreme Court that currently slants 5–4 or 6–3 to the right, a competently led GOP majority in at least the U.S. House, the statistically likely election of a conservative president in 2024, and plain citizen preference for greater state independence — instead of working hard to reverse it. Simply put, North Dakota does not want the same policies regarding gun ownership and “gender-affirming care” for teens as California — but it should not have to leave the country to get different ones. There’s a Constitution for that.

Wisconsin is a perfect example of what Reilly is talking about. The communists — I mean Democrats — in Milwaukee and Dane counties, and Democratic strongholds in UW System cities are surrounded by Republican-leaning voters, and that has been the case since basically statehood, decades before anyone knew what “gerrymandering” meant.

Nate Hochman follows up:

What Greene is actually talking aboutin terms of the way she describes her ideal outcome, isn’t national divorce — it is federalism, plain and simple. Here’s what she calls for, in her own words:

We need to shrink the federal government, allow state governments to chart their own course on important questions, and allow for a multiplicity of laws and models of governance to flourish in keeping with the diverse political cultures of the different states? Huh. You know, we used to have a word for that. In fact, it was a pretty important word, in the American political tradition, describing one of the key components of our political system‘’ and the republican way of life it engendered. Here’s a hint: It rhymes with “shmederalism.”

If Greene actually wants the outcome she describes, she’d have a much better chance with the principles of government that our Framers gave us than whatever new, disjointed red-state federation exists in her imagination. That she sees “less federal government, and more autonomy for red and blue states” as a destruction of the American constitutional order, rather than a renewal of it, raises serious questions about how much she really knows about said constitutional order in the first place.

If only either party believed in local control (federalism by another term) instead of forcing its views on its political opponents.

Tax cuts that won’t happen

Earlier this year, Wisconsin’s senate majority leader, Devin LeMahieu (R), introduced a flat-tax proposal to reduce the top personal state income-tax rate to 3.25 percent from 7.65 percent, marking one of the boldest tax plans ever put forth by state leadership. Assembly speaker Robin Vos (R), for his part, has gone on record acknowledging the reality that we must compete with states such as Florida for jobs and people. And senate president Chris Kapenga (R) has outlined a vision of fully eliminating the income tax, a concept supported by the Institute for Reforming Government (IRG), the state’s chamber of commerce, and industry groups across the state.

The momentum for transformational tax reform could not come soon enough. With the country’s ninth-highest top-income-tax rate, Wisconsin has an economy that is on the brink of decline in the wake of the pandemic, economic shutdowns, and inflation. Paired with an aging population and growing workforce shortages, economic projections do not paint a rosy picture for the future of our state, and small fixes at the margins have not reversed the trend of economic malaise. If state lawmakers want the next generation of Wisconsinites to have a shot at the American dream, they need to dramatically course-correct — and fast!

Fortunately, the political climate for transformational tax reform has never been — and possibly never will be — better in the Badger State. Thanks to the groundwork laid by Governor Scott Walker and his administration’s limited-government and pro-growth policies — which have already seen taxes cut by $22 billion — Wisconsin is sitting on an unprecedented $7 billion budget surplus just waiting to be returned to its rightful owners: the people of Wisconsin.

recent poll by the State Policy Network and Morning Consult showed that nearly six in ten Wisconsinites think state taxes are too high. A plurality of Wisconsin voters — across partisan lines — support eliminating the income tax entirely. Only 3 percent of respondents said state taxes are too low, compared to 59 percent who said they’re too high. In a hyperpolarized purple state such as Wisconsin, it’s remarkable that there is such strong support for tax reform.

Furthermore, in 2022, IRG staff members drove more than 5,200 miles across Wisconsin, hosting more than 40 listening sessions to hear directly from the people on the issues impacting them. Reducing the tax burden — and finding a way to eliminate the income tax — was discussed at nearly every single event. One manufacturer in northeast Wisconsin told us that merely simplifying the tax code in any meaningful way would save the company thousands of dollars per year in compliance costs.

The positive effects of Senator LeMahieu’s flat-tax proposal are clear. Nine out of ten small-business owners in Wisconsin pay the individual income tax, so a flat tax would help them by simplifying the tax code and therefore reducing compliance costs. It would also help the average taxpayer better understand his or her obligations, thus reducing the need for expensive tax-preparation services — a necessary burden for too many individuals and small businesses. This would be especially beneficial for middle-income individuals who would no longer have to bear the burden of this hidden tax.

Moreover, in an era of unprecedented competition between states for jobs, families, and capital, LeMahieu’s plan would reduce Wisconsin’s income-tax rate below that of our neighbors in Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, and Iowa.

Unfortunately, Governor Tony Evers (D) has already vowed to veto the LeMahieu flat-tax plan.  Nonetheless, it is a fight worth having. Wisconsin will either continue down the path of a progressive tax system, forcing businesses and workers to flee the state for greener pastures, or join the ranks of states across the country competing to slash their tax rates. If conservatives are ever going to govern again in Wisconsin, they need to offer a clear contrast.

Ultimately, state policy-makers shouldn’t stop at a flat tax. And Wisconsin should aim higher than simply competing with our neighbors — we should lead the Midwest. But a flat tax is a step in the right direction. That said, if Wisconsin is going to succeed in the hyper-competitive economy of the 21st century — and be on the same playing field as states such as Florida, Tennessee, and Texas — income-tax elimination cannot be a question of “if” but “when.”

Transformational tax reform is Wisconsin’s next Act 10. It’s how Wisconsin can compete for jobs nationally. It’s how we can keep retirees and children from leaving the state. And it’s how we can help solidify Wisconsin’s standing as the absolute best place in the Midwest to live, work, and raise a family.

We must take advantage of this once-in-a-generation opportunity. The time for transformational tax reform is now.

The reason this won’t happen is because Wisconsin voters stupidly reelected Evers, and the GOP doesn’t have a supermajority in the Legislature to override his veto. Evers’ sycophants in local government throughout this state also are banging the drums demanding more state money despite their unwillingness to consider serious proposals to reduce spending and combine services for more efficient use of our tax dollars.

There is also a difference between Wisconsinites believing their taxes are too high (and they are) and Wisconsinites believing their income taxes are too high. The perennial tax complaint since statehood has been about property taxes (especially every time a municipality reassesses its property). The income tax was created more than 100 years ago ostensibly as property tax relief (though sticking it to “rich” people has always been popular in Wisconsin). The sales tax was instituted at 3 percent, increased to 4 percent and then 5 percent, and expanded for a 0.5-percent county sales tax, all supposedly for property tax relief. That was the purpose of instituting shared revenue, too.

Irrespective of the unlikeliness of a flat tax until Wisconsinites get rid of Democratic governors, any tax cut remains at the mercy of legislators’ and governors’ fiscal restraint, because Wisconsin still lacks constitutionally mandated spending and tax limits.

Bill number 1 on Jan. 2

Dan Mitchell:

If Republicans do as well as expected in next Tuesday’s mid-term elections, especially with regard to gubernatorial and state legislative contests, I expect that more states will enact and expand on school choice in 2023.

That will be great news for families.

But I also want great new for taxpayers, and that’s why I’m hoping that we also will see progress on fiscal policy. To be more specific, I want to see more states copy Colorado’s very successful spending cap.

Known as the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), it basically limits the growth of annual tax revenue to the growth of population-plus-inflation. Any revenue above that amount automatically must be returned to taxpayers.

And since the state also has a balanced-budget requirement, that means spending can only increase as fast as population-plus-inflation as well. A very simple concept.

Has TABOR been successful? Has it produced better fiscal policy and more economic prosperity?

The answer is yes. In a column for National Review, Jonathan Williams and Nick Stark say it is the “gold standard” for state fiscal policy.

TABOR is a state constitutional amendment that limits the amount of revenue Colorado lawmakers can retain and spend to a reasonable formula of population plus inflation growth. If the state government collects more tax revenue than TABOR allows, the money is returned to taxpayers as a refund. Just this year, Colorado taxpayers will receive nearly $4 billion in TABOR refund checks. If any government in Colorado intends to spend surplus revenue, increase taxes or fees, or increase debt, it must submit the proposed measure to the ballot and win the approval of a majority of voters. …Following the low-tax-plus-limited-government formula, Colorado developed into one of the most competitive business climates in the nation in the years following TABOR’s adoption. During the past three decades, Colorado has been one of the most competitive and fastest-growing economies in the nation. …Even in the face of this tremendous economic-success story, the tax-and-spend crowd have spent a tremendous amount of resources trying to demonize TABOR, often attempting to find work-arounds or suing to have TABOR declared unconstitutional. Why? In short, because it is an effective limit on the growth of government, and it restricts the wild spending increases that fund their constituencies — who generally favor big government. …Other states trying to implement meaningful checks and balances on the inexorable government-growth machine…should follow Colorado’s example.

Courtesy of Jon Caldera, here’s some of Colorado’s fiscal history, which began with a flat tax in the 1980s and then culminated with TABOR in the 1990s.

Colorado used to have a progressive income tax where people and companies would pay a higher tax rate the more money they earned. Thanks to the Independence Institute…and…economist Barry Poulson, the legislature was convinced to switch from the progressive tax to a flat one in the mid-1980s. Poulson urged that the new tax rate be 4.5% so that it would bring in the same amount of revenue as the system it was replacing. …So, of course, the legislature set the new rate at 5% to create a fine windfall, which it did. Even so, the flat income tax did what it was predicted to do. It lit the engine of Colorado’s economy. When productive people and their companies are looking to locate, they are attracted to states with low and stable tax policy. The flat tax began the Colorado boom. That boom resulted in massive tax receipts to the state. So much so that the legislature quickly felt the growing pressure of a tax rebellion. …So, we then passed the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in 1992. The combination of our flat tax and TABOR attracted more and more businesses and jobs to Colorado. So much so that in the late 1990s the state had to refund some $3.2 billion of surplus tax revenue to taxpayers. …The combination of our flat-rate income tax and TABOR has made for a sustainable gold rush which has turned Colorado into one of the most economically vibrant states in the country with one of the lowest unemployment rates.

I’ll close by explaining why folks on the left also should support TABOR-style spending caps.

Part of the reason is that they should care about future generations.

Part of the reason is that they should care about economic growth.

But another reason is that it may be politically beneficial. Check out these excerpts from a column in the Denver Post by Scott Gessler.

TABOR requires a vote of the people to raise taxes, incur debt, or spend excess government funds. Practically, it makes all three much harder. So Democrats hate TABOR. …conservatives love TABOR. They rarely support tax increases or additional borrowing, and for them TABOR imposes fiscal discipline and forces government to live within its means. And Colorado has avoided the ongoing fiscal crises that have plagued other states like Illinois or California. Plus, it’s hard to argue against the public’s right to vote on taxes and debt. …But what about Republicans? They’re the ones who have paid the political price. …Today, voters can oppose Republicans and support Democrats, with little fear taxes will go up. …So expect the continued irony, as Democrats attack TABOR with a unified voice, while Republicans usually support it, yet lose political strength.

Since I care about policy rather than partisanship, I hope lots of Democrats read this article and then embrace spending caps. If they don’t want to copy Colorado, they can opt for the Swiss version of a spending cap. So long as they choose something real, it will work.

That would be bad for Republicans, but good for prosperity.

P.S. Colorado is now a blue-leaning state, but voters in 2019 rejected an effort by the pro-spending lobbies to eviscerate TABOR.

Democrats vs. students

William Otis:

Republicans want to talk about inflation and crime (and so, apparently, does most of the electorate). Democrats want to talk about anything else, and have settled on abortion (which any American who seriously wants one can get), and political violence (as long as the attempted murder of a mostly conservative Supreme Court Justice gets shoved behind the curtain).

But I wonder if something else is lurking out there. My curiosity was piqued this morning when I saw two things floating around the Internet. The first was from Emily Burns, a former neuroscience graduate student at Rockefeller University:

But despite being pro-choice, I have become a single issue voter. My vote this cycle is a vote for vengeance against the party that kept my kids masked for two years; that robbed me of my best friends, and strained every relationship I have; that caused us to move to an entirely different part of the country; that perverted a discipline that I love, and which I use to navigate my life (science); and that then lied about doing it, and called me a terrorist for being upset about it. After this cycle, my vote will always be for the party that represents the most decentralized power structure, and the greatest respect for individual rights and responsibility.

The second item, as if on cue, was this article in The Atlantic, “Let’s Declare a Pandemic Amnesty.” The title gives the gist of it:

I have been reflecting on this lack of knowledge [about COVID risks] thanks to a class I’m co-teaching at Brown University…..We’ve spent several lectures reliving the first year of the pandemic, discussing the many important choices we had to make under conditions of tremendous uncertainty.

Some of these choices turned out better than others.

Translation: “Some of those choices were unmitigated disasters, but, well, hey, look, don’t be so judgmental.”

To take an example close to my own work, there is an emerging (if not universal) consensus that schools in the U.S. were closed for too long: The health risks of in-school spread were relatively low, whereas the costs to students’ well-being and educational progress were high. The latest figures on learning loss are alarming.  But in spring and summer 2020, we had only glimmers of information. Reasonable people—people who cared about children and teachers—advocated on both sides of the reopening debate.

Actually, it was well known very early on that COVID posed a serious danger to old people, a moderate danger to middle-aged people, very little danger to young people, and next to no danger to school-aged children.

Given the amount of uncertainty, almost every position was taken on every topic. And on every topic, someone was eventually proved right, and someone else was proved wrong.

Hey look people, some were right, some were wrong, dada, dada, that’s how life is! (Left unsaid is that some were right because they thought seriously about costs and risks, and some were wrong because lining up with our culture’s manic addiction to risk aversion was the politically correct and far more popular choice).

The people who got it right, for whatever reason, may want to gloat. Those who got it wrong, for whatever reason, may feel defensive and retrench into a position that doesn’t accord with the facts. All of this gloating and defensiveness continues to gobble up a lot of social energy and to drive the culture wars, especially on the internet.

Translation: “It’s time to move on.”

Anyone heard that one before? And am I mistaken in thinking that when the more liberal side of the spectrum gets caught with its pants down, see, e.g., Bill Clinton and Monica, it’s “time to move on;” but that when pro-Trump rioters get caught in their January 6, 2021 violence, it is most certainly not time to move on — no matter how much time has passed?

These discussions are heated, unpleasant and, ultimately, unproductive. In the face of so much uncertainty, getting something right had a hefty element of luck. And, similarly, getting something wrong wasn’t a moral failing. Treating pandemic choices as a scorecard on which some people racked up more points than others is preventing us from moving forward.

Whenever you see words like “moving forward,” or its first cousin, “healing,” you know you’ve entered the same linguistic flim-flam territory that Harvard was arguing in the Supreme Court when it wanted to disguise its anti-white and anti-Asian bias as “holistic”, or the sentencing reform crowd wants to disguise its embrace of criminality as “restorative justice.” Still, as the author says, it’s true that getting something wrong isn’t a moral failing — as long as (1) you made a diligent, sober and honest attempt to get it right, and (2) you pay the costs of getting it wrong, rather than pushing them off on the people you bullied and injured. That would be almost the whole country, but most especially the millions of children whose social and educational development you were so self-righteous in crippling.

It’s well known that predominantly liberal political leaders (e.g., Gov. Whitmer) were the most persistent and belligerent in imposing school lockdowns, while more conservative ones (e.g., Gov. DeSantis) allowed more freedom.

I don’t know that this will be a sleeper issue in the elections next week. But I know it should be — and not just as a sleeper.

Remember that Gov. Tony Evers closed every school through university in the fourth quarter of the 2019–20 school year. And people wonder why public school enrollment is down and private-school enrollment, charter-school enrollment and home-schooling is up.


Crime and (the) race

Paul Mirengoff:

Next week, there’s a good chance that Democrats will face a reckoning for advocating, and in many cases implementing, policies that lead to crime. Naturally, the New York Times, which favors Democrats and their soft-on-crime policies, is not amused. Naturally, it cries “racism” and invokes Willie Horton.

Republicans have shied away from making crime a major issue ever since Democrats and their allies in the mainstream media created the myth that a 1988 ad holding Michael Dukakis accountable for giving a weekend pass to convicted murderer Willie Horton was unfair and racist. The pass enabled Horton to commit rape and assault. As I argued in this post, the pro-Bush ad pointing this out was neither unfair nor racist.

Nonetheless, the Dems succeeded in deterring ads holding them accountable for their soft-on-crime policies. They succeeded in part because of Republican cowardice, but mostly because crime receded dramatically thanks to tough-on-crime policies adopted after Dukakis’ defeat. Now that crime is again rampant — due in large part to the abandonment of tough-on-crime policies — invoking Willie Horton isn’t going to cut it.

Discussion of crime intersects with race because blacks commit a vastly disproportionate amount of crime in America. During election season, the intersection is more pronounced because black politicians tend to be leaders in the movement leniency for criminals movement.

But these realities aren’t the fault of Republicans, and there is no reason why Republicans should be deterred by them from talking candidly about the Democrats’ reckless positions on policing and the punishment of criminals. Nor is it racist for them to do so.

It’s possible, of course, for a given campaign to cross the line. If, for example, Willie Horton had been white, the pro-Bush ad that depicted him as black would be an obvious instance of racism. But Willie Horton was black.

The New York Times is desperate to show that pro-Republican ads have crossed the line this year. Thus, Times reporter Jonathan Weisman scoured the country for examples to use in his article. The examples he came up with fail to support his point.

Here’s Weisman’s lead example:

In Wisconsin, where Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who is Black, is the Democratic nominee for Senate, a National Republican Senatorial Committee ad targeting him ends by juxtaposing his face with those of three Democratic House members, all of them women of color, and the words “different” and “dangerous.”

But Barnes is different and, from a law-and-order perspective, dangerous. He has supported abolishing ICE (he wore a T-shirt with those words), cutting funding for police departments, and ending cash bail.

These are radical policies associated with the BLM movement. They put Barnes in the same camp as members of the radical left-wing House “Squad.”

And it turns out that the pictures of “three women of color” the Times complains about are all of Squad members. It’s not the Republicans’ fault that all four original members of that far-left, soft-on-crime group are ”women of color.” (Jamaal Bowman, a recent addition, is a black man.)

Here’s another example:

In North Carolina, an ad against Cheri Beasley, the Democratic candidate for Senate, who is Black, features the anguished brother of a white state trooper killed a quarter-century ago by a Black man whom Beasley, then a public defender, represented in court. The brother incredulously says that Beasley, pleading for the killer’s life, said “he was actually a good person.”

The Times doesn’t dispute the content of this ad, including the fact that the murdered state trooper was white; that the killer was black; and that Beasley called the killer a good person. Nor is there reason to doubt that the GOP would be attacking Beasley if she had called a white murderer a good man. It’s not the Republicans’ fault that her client, the killer, was black.

In my view, Beasley was just doing her job as public defender. I don’t fault her for it. In that sense, the ad is unfair (though not racist).

However, in an era when the left attacks prominent conservative figures for representing unpopular corporate clients, it’s too late for the Times to object to an attack on a liberal lawyer for praising the character of a murderer.

Here’s an example the Times presents that’s mildly disturbing, until one digs half an inch into the story:

In a mailer sent to several state House districts in New Mexico, the state Republican Party darkened the hands of a barber shown giving a white child a haircut, next to the question, “Do you want a sex offender cutting your child’s hair?”

Note first that we’re talking here about several races for the state legislature in New Mexico. Given the enormous number of election contests occurring throughout America, if this is the best example the Times can come up with of a racist ad, no one should be alarmed.

In fact, however, the ad isn’t racist at all.

The state GOP wanted a visual representation of the danger posed by the New Mexico Democrats’ support for removing “conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude” from a list of reasons to deny or revoke a professional license, including a license to be a barber. It found a stock photo of a barber cutting a child’s hair.

In the stock photo, the barber’s hands are white. Why not use it, unaltered, in the ad?

Because the barber whose hands are in the photo isn’t (as far as anyone knows) a child molester. To use his white hands would have assigned a race to a hypothetical barber who, it is implied, has molested or is likely to molest a child.

Making the barber’s hands black would have done the same thing. But notice that the Times doesn’t say the ad makes the barber’s hands black — only that it “darkened them.”

True. But even darkened, the hands don’t appear to be those of a black man. To me, one of the hands looks like that of someone who is probably white. The other one looks gray. You can examine the picture here and judge for yourself. (Scroll down to the second picture which presents a full view.)

In sum, the ad leaves the race of the barber ambiguous, which was probably the least racialist way to handle it.

The final set of examples does not come from anything the GOP used in a campaign ad. It consists of two comments made by two members of Congress on their own initiative during rallies:

This month, a Republican senator, Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, said Democrats favored reparations “for the people that do the crime,” suggesting the movement to compensate the descendants of slavery was about paying criminals. And Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., made explicit reference to “replacement theory,” the racist notion that nonwhite immigrants living in the country without legal permission are “replacing” white Americans, saying, “Joe Biden’s 5 million illegal aliens are on the verge of replacing you.”

Tuberville’s comment is idiotic. It’s true that, depending on how reparations legislation is drafted, some criminals could benefit financially. But some criminals benefit financially when taxes are cut.

However, one stray, dumb remark from a Senator doesn’t show that by emphasizing the issue of crime, Republicans are “injecting race” into the midterms.

As for Greene, whatever one thinks about “replacement theory,” in the comment at issue (which the Times truncates), she made no reference to anyone’s race. And her complaint wasn’t about “replacement” in general, but about illegal immigrants taking jobs from Americans, burdening schools, and changing the culture — all of which they do. Blacks are at least as likely as whites to experience the adverse effects of mass illegal immigration.

In any case, the Times cites no other instance of a GOP candidate invoking replacement theory in this cycle. It’s silly to conclude from the most extreme House Republican’s comment about the effect of illegal immigration on employment, schools, and culture that the GOP’s focus on crime in the midterms is racist.

Democrats are all about leniency for criminals. Now, they hope that by playing the race card, they will receive leniency from voters for having relentlessly backed ruinous policies that undermine public safety.

I don’t think they will get it. I think they will get a reckoning, instead.

Patriotic Democrats: Another oxymoron

David Blaska:

I believe in America,” are the first words spoken in The Godfather, by the immigrant undertaker Bonasera to Vito Corleone.

• “Morning in America” won Ronald Reagan the presidency. The smell of coffee brewing, the sound of bacon sizzling and roosters crowing! Reagan embodied sunny optimism and the promise of renewal.

• Democrats mocked Tommy Thompson as a cheerleader. They laughed when TGT predicted a Rose Bowl for the Badgers. Don Morton was coach back then. No political figure has ever loved Wisconsin more. His sourpuss opponent Chuck Chvala, Tommy would say, chewed lemons.

• “Happy Days are Here Again” serenaded FDR’s voters during the Great Depression.

Mandela Barnes could do well to cut a TV ad expressing his love of country and optimism — but he can’t redact his own recent history. If the Werkes seems fixated on the Lesser Mandela it is because Barnes is the cynosure of Woke, Blame-America-First identity politics. He is the 1619 Project’s candidate for U.S. Senate here in Wisconsin. Eager to wear the hair T-shirt of oppression if it promotes lawless borders and defunds law enforcement.

On the first day of 2015, Barnes applauded a Twitter post by the Iranian strongman Khamenei that slammed the U.S. government over slavery: “U.S. government oppression against blacks is a 100s year-old issue,” wrote Khamenei, adding the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.

Just last year, Wisconsin’s lieutenant governor scolded America’s founding, saying“things were bad. Things were terrible. The founding of this nation? Awful!”

According to a 2021 Gallup survey, only 34% of progressive activists say they are “proud to be American” compared to 62% of Asians, 70% of blacks, and 76% of Hispanics.’

The losing politics of resentment

“Progressives haven’t lost the argument on patriotism,” writes a progressive at the Tony Blair Institute for Change, “We have failed to make one.” Which is why the Left is losing minorities — hispanic immigrants, especially. We’ve quoted Ruy Teixeira before, he’s the guy trying to revive the Democrat(ic) party of JFK and Harry Truman:

Let’s face it: today’s Democrats have a bit of a problem with patriotism. It’s kind of hard to strike up the band on patriotism when you’ve been endorsing the view that America was born in slavery, marinated in racism and remains a white supremacist society, shot through with multiple, intersecting levels of injustice that make everybody either oppressed or oppressor on a daily basis.

— Ruy Teixeira, “Democrats should embrace patriotism.

Blaska’s Bottom Line: The Washington Post observed the passing of, at age 90, one of the last children of an American slave. “We could never talk negatively about America in front of my father. He did not have much but he really, really loved America. Isn’t that funny?”