Category: Wisconsin politics

Evers and the English language

Wisconsin Right Now:

Gov. Tony Evers has officially declared war on pronouns.

Despite all of the other crises facing the state (violent crime in Milwaukee, for example), Evers is spending his time ordering state agencies to use “gender-neutral terms and pronouns” and to write any documents in a way that eliminates “the need for pronouns.”

In an executive order issued June 1, 2021, the governor also ordered state agencies to avoid “making any reference to gendered family relations.” The governor also banned “superfluous gendered words” whenever “practicable.”

“Gov. Evers signed Executive Order #121 and directed Evers Administration cabinet agencies to use gender-neutral language whenever practicable in external documents, including but not limited to: using gender-neutral terms and pronouns, drafting to eliminate the need for pronouns, omitting superfluous gendered words, and making any reference to gendered family relations,” the press release from Evers says.

The executive order says “once-conventional use of gender-specific language is imprecise, anachronous, and contravenes Wisconsinites’ interests.” His order includes “administrative rules, guidance documents, manuals, websites, and similar documents.”

However, we caught Evers violating his own pronoun rule, admittedly before he issued the executive order. But his office hasn’t changed the references to put him in compliance with his own mandate. For example, his office referred to a military hero, Maj. Gen. James G. Blaney, with the words “he” and “his” in a recent press release. We’re guessing that would have been fine with Maj. Gen. Blaney, who “mobilized to federal service in 1961 with the 32nd Infantry Division during the Berlin Crisis, and served as the Adjutant General of the State of Wisconsin from 1997 to 2002.”

Evers’ new executive order is silent on which pronouns should be used to avoid gendered pronouns or avoid making “reference to gendered family relations.”

Not to mention, on his campaign website, Evers, referred to himself as a “he” and a “father.” In a letter on the State of Wisconsin website, he referred to his “wife.” He referred to himself as a he/his four times in his official bio on the state website.

It occurred to us that the state Department of Corrections, a state agency, has separate prisons for women and men. What are they going to do in the new gender-less Tony Evers’ administration?

The new GOP?

The Deseret News in Salt Lake City publishes this manifesto of anti-Trump Republicans (the signees are at the end):

These United States, born of noble convictions and aspiring to high purpose, have been an exemplar of self-government to humankind. Thus, when in our democratic republic, forces of conspiracy, division, and despotism arise, it is the patriotic duty of citizens to act collectively in defense of liberty and justice. We, therefore, declare our intent to catalyze an American renewal, and to either reimagine a party dedicated to our founding ideals or else hasten the creation of such an alternative. We call for a rebirth of the American cause and do so in partnership and loyal competition with others committed to the preservation of our Union. With abiding belief in the value and potential of every soul and with goodwill for all, we hereby dedicate ourselves to these principles and make common cause in the flourishing of this great nation and its diverse states, communities, and citizens.

Democracy. We seek the preservation and betterment of our democratic republic and the endurance of our self-government, free from interference and defended against all enemies, foreign and domestic. We support reforms that make our system more accessible, transparent, and competitive, oppose the disenfranchisement of voters, and reject populism and illiberalism, whether of the right or the left.

Founding Ideals. We reaffirm the self-evident truth that all persons are created equal and free, having the same inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and that it is the prerogative of all to make personal decisions in accordance with their free will. We, therefore, condemn all forms of bigotry such as racism, religious intolerance, sexism, and persecution based on sexual orientation.

I would argue the Democratic Party has been far worse on that “free will part,” but the GOP certainly has been lacking of late. Neither party is very libertarian.

Constitutional Order. We uphold the Constitution as the inviolable and collective contract protecting liberty and justice for all, and honor the essential separation and balance it establishes among coequal branches of the federal government and the states.

The only part of the Constitution that Democrats respect is the upholding of abortion rights.

Truth. We recognize truth and reason as essential to a free and just society, and expect our leaders, citizens, and press to seek and promote them. We oppose the employment of fear-mongering, conspiracism, and falsehoods and instead support evidence-based policymaking and honest discourse.

Rule of Law. We maintain that the impartial rule of law is essential to a free and just society to protect the rights and property of all people. No one is above the law, and our criminal justice system must treat everyone equally without discrimination based on race, status or other unrelated factors.

Ethical Government. We demand that public officials and aspiring leaders — regardless of party — act with integrity and honor, the absence of which is a harbinger for abuses of power that threaten the republic.

Pluralism. We are committed to a pluralistic society defined by its ideals and welcoming to all peoples rightfully seeking safety, opportunity, and a better life by becoming contributing members of our diverse nation. We reject the notion that America should be characterized by the races, birthplaces, religious affiliations, or partisan identities of its citizens.

Democrats also laugh at this notion and call anyone who criticizes the concept of the hyphenated American racist.

Civic Responsibility. We believe that all Americans share civic responsibility, which is essential for our self-government and national success. Thriving communities are built by faithfully engaged citizens working to overcome differences with mutual respect and the bonds of civil affection. The solutions to many of America’s greatest challenges can only be found in our diverse communities.

But not through government. Government at every level creates more problems than it solves, and the truth is that there are no pervasive problems within American society that can be fixed by government. People will stop shooting each other only when they decide that violence against someone solves nothing.

Opportunity. We recognize open, market-based economies as consistent with our natural liberty and the optimal means of ensuring economic mobility and the allocation of scarce resources. We support sensible and limited regulation, including to ensure equal opportunity, and affirm government’s vital role in assisting vulnerable citizens, while encouraging self-reliance and ingenuity without the impediments of cronyism and corruption.

Free Speech. We reaffirm the Constitution’s guarantee of free speech and freedom of the press as essential to accountable government and the American way of life. We sustain the rights of individuals and private entities to exercise this freedom, even to express unpopular views, and condemn efforts to erode press freedom and public support for its vital role.

You might be able to count the number of Americans who really support free speech — which really means the expression of views you oppose — on two hands.

Conservation. We consider vital our shared stewardship of America’s resources — natural, environmental, and financial. We accept responsibility to conserve for ourselves and future generations these public assets, and to protect them from both natural and man-made harms.

The historic abuses from the Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Natural Resources should make you what model of conservation they have in mind.

Common Defense & Welfare. We uphold that government is instituted by the people to secure those essential, collective goods that individuals cannot attain for themselves, particularly providing for the common defense and promoting the general welfare. We, therefore, support policies that further public safety, health, and defense as required for enduring national sovereignty and prosperity.

Leadership. Having thrived in the abundance of a choice land, we believe that these United States must work in conjunction with friends and allies to advance worthy interests abroad and to promote freedom by example and with the judicious application of power.

This is a worthwhile document for two reasons — first, Republicans ran on Trump principles and are no longer in charge in Washington; and there is little evidence that Trumpian principles (whatever those are) have much staying power beyond Trump.

But … appealing to our better angels is so 20th century, it seems. Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans continue to fail to grasp that one reason why Republicans supported Trump is that he took the fight to Democrats, unlike (in their opinion) other Republicans. If you felt that your values were being spat upon by Democrats and establishment Republicans were doing nothing about it, well, who would you support? Politics, remember, is a zero-sum game; one side wins, therefore the other side loses. (And taxpayers always lose.) The anti-Trump Republicans have done a horrible job of explaining why their way is better, and most Trump supporters see little difference between Democrats and “establishment” Republicans.

The reaction to this will be interesting to watch.

 

 

How to win elections from coast to coast

Jason Riley:

When is the Republican Party going to declare war on teachers unions?

Doing so would be smart politics as well as smart policy. There is no appreciable downside to the GOP taking on the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, which already give nearly all their money and political support to Democrats. And the nation’s pupils have everything to gain, especially if they happen to be low-income minorities.

The move is long overdue, and the pandemic offers Republicans the perfect opportunity to explain to voters how the unions’ ironclad control over public education does grave harm to children. We’ve known from the earliest days of the virus that youngsters are the least likely to catch it or spread it to others. We also know that many low-income parents struggle with home schooling and need to go back to work. Distance learning exacerbates racial and economic achievement gaps and takes a heavy psychological toll on kids. Union leaders couldn’t care less.

California, which is the most populous state and currently has the lowest per capita Covid rate in the country, also has the highest percentage of school districts that remain entirely virtual. Teachers unions have used the pandemic to demand more money and more-generous benefits. They know that millions of Americans can’t return to work if kids can’t return to schools. For parents it’s a dilemma, but unions see it as leverage. The United Teachers of Los Angeles requested free child care for its members as a condition for returning to the classroom. Union clout is the main reason that California’s percentage of all-virtual school districts is more than three times the national average.

An exposé published in Sunday’s New York Post shows how diligently teachers unions have been working to capitalize on our misery. “In the days before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released their much-anticipated school-reopening guidelines on Feb. 12, the American Federation of Teachers launched a full-court press to shape the final document and slow the full-reopening of schools,” the Post reported. “The lobbying paid off. In at least two instances, language ‘suggestions’ offered by the union were adopted nearly verbatim into the final text of the CDC document.”

The Biden administration isn’t “following the science.” It’s following orders. The nation’s largest teachers unions spent more than $40 million in the 2020 cycle to elect Democrats. And labor leaders are getting a fabulous return on that investment. The Covid-relief law President Biden signed in March allocates $123 billion for public schools, with no requirement that districts first reopen for in-person learning to receive the money.

Before the pandemic, the political landscape for teachers unions was improving. Recall that the Democrats had a strong 2018 midterm election. They not only regained control of the House but also picked up seven governorships and flipped more than 300 state legislative seats. In recent years, teacher walkouts in Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina, Washington state and West Virginia were largely successful in garnering bigger school budgets, higher pay and smaller class sizes (which translates into more union jobs). The question now is whether Covid will reverse this momentum.

What Americans have learned from the lockdowns is the degree to which unions control not only the public school systems but by extension the everyday lives of tens of millions of parents with school-age children. If Republicans are smart, they won’t let voters forget this lesson anytime soon. Education always ranks high among the concerns of the electorate, and the virus exposed the catastrophic consequences of having so few school alternatives for families of modest means. Private schools, religious schools and charter schools have all outperformed traditional public schools during the pandemic, and teachers unions labor to limit access to better alternatives.

GOP candidates in the 2022 midterms could campaign hard on the unions’ myriad Covid cop-outs. Voters should know all about how the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, along with thousands of state and local affiliates, consistently gave priority to their adult members instead of the children and families they are supposed to serve. Moreover, Republicans could take this message directly to the communities hit hardest by the unwillingness of educators to do their jobs.

Republican outreach should include running ads on radio and television and social-media outlets with large black and Latino audiences. It should include visiting churches and barbershops in low-income neighborhoods to explain how voucher programs and charter schools change the power dynamic by giving parents the ability to switch school systems if the educational needs of their children aren’t met. Remind these voters that the union-controlled schools Democrats support have an abysmal record when it comes to educating minorities. With apologies to a former president, what the hell do Republicans have to lose?

Gov. Scott Walker’s failure with Act 10 was that it didn’t go far enough. Act 10 didn’t wipe out teacher unions, and it should have..

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.”

Amen.

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.

 

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