Category: Wisconsin politics

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?”

Blue Democrats

Jim Geraghty wrote this Tuesday:

There are some little signs that the “red wave” of this election may be picking up speed.

In one of those “I feel like I’m taking crazy pills” moments, I continue to notice that the president and vice president are nowhere near the campaign trail with other Democratic candidates most days as the midterm campaign season approaches the final stretch — and almost all of Washington is acting like this is perfectly normal.

Today, President Biden — whose job-approval rating is around 42 percent — will be “participating in a virtual reception for Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester” this evening. Blunt Rochester represents Delaware’s at-large district in the U.S. House of Representatives. Delaware scores a D+6 on the Cook Partisan Voting Index. Blunt Rochester won with 56 percent of the vote in 2016, 64 percent of the vote in 2018, and 57 percent of the vote in 2020. In her last fundraising update, Blunt Rochester had raised more than $2.1 million; her GOP rival, Lee Murphy, had raised a bit more than $288,000.

In other words, with 27 days until Election Day, the president is appearing at a virtual event for a near-lock Democratic candidate in his home state, where the incumbent already enjoys a 7–1 fundraising advantage.

Here’s the public schedule for Vice President Kamala Harris for today: “At 3:00 p.m. eastern, the Vice President will ceremonially swear-in Travis LeBlanc to be a member of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. This ceremony in the Vice President’s Ceremonial Office will be pooled press.” Harris’s current approval rating is 37.6 percent.

Yesterday, Harris attended a DNC fundraiser in Princeton, N.J., and taped an appearance on Seth Meyers’s late-night television program. On Saturday, she traveled to Austin to give the keynote address at the Texas Democratic Party’s Johnson-Jordan Reception fundraiser. (The Texas Tribute noted that, “One topic noticeably absent from her visit was immigration.”) Texas Democratic Party chairman Gilberto Hinojosa boasted that, “[Harris’] trip shows that the nation’s eyes truly are upon Texas as we head into the midterm elections — and, critically, that from Beto’s race, to Mike’s and Rochelle’s races, to races up and down the ballot, Texas is a winnable state.”

Alas, gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke could not rearrange his schedule to meet with the vice president while she was in his state, with the election a month away. He did show up and stay for an entire Dixie Chicks concert at The Woodlands Saturday night.

Tomorrow, President Biden travels to Colorado to designate Camp Hale an official national monument, and Colorado senator Michael Bennet, currently comfortably leading in his reelection bid, is expected to join the president for the event. I guess if you’re an incumbent who’s ahead by about seven points, it is safe to appear with Biden.

You notice that, at least so far, Biden and Harris are not appearing alongside incumbents such as Mark Kelly in Arizona, Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada, and Raphael Warnock in Georgia. They’re not doing joint events with Tim Ryan in Ohio, or John Fetterman in Pennsylvania, or Mandela Barnes in Wisconsin. If Democrats thought Biden or Harris would do some good in those races, they would be there. (Meanwhile, Barack Obama is also limiting the number of campaign events he does this fall.)

Speaking of Tim Ryan, NBC News recently noticed that the Ohio Democrat is attempting to win his Senate race more or less “all by his lonesome,” with exceptionally little help from Democratic committees and allied groups:

Through Monday, Republicans had spent or reserved at least $37.9 million worth of advertising on the general election, according to AdImpact, an ad tracking firm. Only $3.7 million of that had come directly from Vance’s campaign, with another $1.6 million split between the campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee through coordinated advertising.

On the Democratic side, Ryan’s campaign had accounted for $24 million of the more than $29 million spent or reserved through Election Day and splitting another $835,000 with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Other outside Democratic groups had committed only $4.5 million to the race — about 14% of what the GOP groups are spending.

Polls have been fairly consistent in showing Republican candidate J. D. Vance with a lead, but it’s a small one. American Greatness — a group largely attuned with Vance’s philosophy — commissioned a poll and found the Republican Senate candidate ahead of Ryan by two percentage points. Meanwhile, the same survey found the allegedly boring, milquetoast GOP governor Mike DeWine ahead by 22 points. That is not a typo; the poll found a 20-point split between the performances of the GOP senatorial and gubernatorial nominees.

Democrats can read polls, too, and for whatever reason, they don’t see Ryan as a wise investment of limited resources this late in the campaign. If Democrats don’t think they can spare a couple million for a guy who’s only down by a few points in a key Senate race, they must be really worried about some other races.

Also notice that you don’t hear nearly as much Democratic excitement about Mandela Barnes’s bid in Wisconsin anymore, and don’t sleep on the governor’s race in that state either. Over in Nevada, Senate GOP candidate Adam Laxalt has very quietly built a consistent lead over Democratic incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto, and that state’s governor’s race is another one that has slowly shifted away from the Democrats, with Democratic governor Steve Sisolak, who once enjoyed a steady lead, now either tied with or narrowly ahead of Republican Joe Lombardo.

You don’t hear as much Democratic buzz about Cheri Beasley pulling off an upset in North Carolina’s Senate race, either. Republican Ted Budd rarely leads by much, but he hasn’t trailed in an independent poll since June; one poll by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling had Beasley up by one point in late August.

Wisconsin, Nevada, North Carolina — none of these Senate races look like GOP landslides, but none of them look like easy pickup opportunities for Democrats, either. And if Democrats are forced to prioritize to the point where they’re skimping on a once-promising prospect such as Tim Ryan, they probably can’t afford to prioritize these Senate races, either.

Meanwhile, over in the battle for control of the U.S. House of Representatives, there’s a poll showing a Republican leading a race in Rhode Island, which is something you almost never see:

A new poll has found Republican Allan Fung with a lead outside the margin of error for the first time in the race for Rhode Island’s 2nd Congressional District, buoying GOP hopes of picking up a the blue-state seat next month.

The new Boston Globe/Suffolk University survey of 422 likely voters in the 2nd District finds Fung at 45 percent and Democrat Seth Magaziner at 37 percent, with 13 percent undecided and 5 percent backing independent William Gilbert, who will appear on the ballot as “Moderate.”

The 8-point lead for Fung in the new survey confirms the findings of last week’s 12 News/Roger Williams University poll, which showed Fung leading Magaziner by a similar margin of 6 points. The results have increased the alarm among Democrats that they could lose a seat they’ve held for years, due to the retirement of 11-term incumbent Jim Langevin.

Finally, I feel like a lot of Democrat-aligned media voices are sort of sleepwalking into the usual midterm drubbing. Five days ago, CNN asked, “Could Republicans lose a Senate race in deep-red Utah?” Every time I make even the briefest reference to the Mike Lee–Evan McMullin Senate race in Utah, some enthusiastic McMullin supporter on Twitter crashes through the wall like the Kool-Aid Man and insists that McMullin is going to win. Lee’s lead isn’t as big as you might expect, but he’s led every pollEvery poll!

Joe Biden’s job-approval rating in Utah is 27 percent, according to the Civiqs polling firm. You think that’s the kind of environment where a two-term incumbent Republican loses?

Washington Post columnist Lizette Alvarez writes that Val Demings is ‘a law-and-order Democrat [who] could disrupt . . . reelection.’ But the only poll Demings has led this cycle was a poll of registered voters done back in early August. Biden’s approval rating in Florida is 37 percent. Ron DeSantis is on pace to crush Charlie Crist in the state’s governor’s race. None of those are factors that point to a big upset win for Demings.

When the now-traditional midterm wave hits the Democrats, why does it always seem worse than expected? Probably because so many media voices spend October telling Democrats that it won’t be that bad.

Barnes vs. the police

James B. Freeman:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Bice reported more of the disturbing history:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There have been 163 homicides in 2022.

This is 30 more than last year at this date.

The PBS Wisconsin report adds:

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


Three (at least) forms of conservatism

Daniel J. Mitchell:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mitchell wrote in August 2020:

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

Here’s what I prefer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The criminal-coddler in Maple Bluff

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

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

That was an insidious lie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today Shaw, 73, lives in Onalaska.

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

Evers’ administration paroled Barnes in September 2020.

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

We will be running one story each day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The GOP’s message for the next two months

William Otis:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So here’s the message in a nutshell:

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

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

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

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

An alternative to Michels?

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Governor I will:

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

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

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

  • Promote self-sufficiency.

  • Promote energy independence.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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