Coming to a Wisconsin community near you

Josh Kraushaar looks at the influence of Steve Bannon:

In the wide world of politics, there are two different types of campaign operatives: strategists and tacticians. The best-known figures in campaigns are big-picture strategists who come up with an overarching vision for a candidate. They’re complemented by the numerous tacticians who implement that strategy through messaging, targeting, and fundraising. David Axelrod was the forward-thinking strategist who branded Barack Obama as the candidate of hope and change, while David Plouffe was the tactician who executed that vision to perfection. Karl Rove was the engineer behind George W. Bush’s political juggernaut, while campaign manager Ken Mehlman played a critical nuts-and-bolts role in his winning reelection campaign.

The problem within the Trump White House is that too many people fancy themselves as mini-Machiavellis, and not enough people know how to get things done—whether it involves imposing a travel ban, passing health care legislation, or merely coordinating with appropriate agencies.

The threat by former Trump strategist Steve Bannon to go after sitting Republican senators with primary challenges is a textbook case of someone who holds a grand vision of politics but hasn’t demonstrated the ability to put tactical bite behind his bark.

To his credit, Bannon understands the grand contours of Republican politics these days better than many GOP insiders. President Trump has transformed the Republican Party into a more populist, nationalistic vehicle closer to Bannon’s worldview than to the prevailing sentiment at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Republicans are far more trusting of Trump than their congressional leadership. And anyone who’s tagged as being part of the Washington “swamp” will be on the defensive, forced to build back credibility with voters in an antiestablishment mood.

But Bannon has never shown any expertise in the nitty-gritty work of winning congressional campaigns. At Breitbart last year, he promoted numerous primary challenges to sitting members of Congress, none of which were victorious. The publication’s efforts to bruise House Speaker Paul Ryan were embarrassing; its preferred candidate lost by a whopping 68-point marginBreitbart challenged candidates endorsed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in three primaries (Alabama, Arizona, and Indiana) and lost badly in all three. Bannon opportunistically jumped into last month’s Alabama Senate race, taking credit for a victory in which his favored candidate (Roy Moore) had already been leading by double-digits.

Now Bannon is swinging wildly against every single Republican senator on a ballot (except Ted Cruz), even those who are popular back home and have been loyal Trump acolytes. He’s been furiously trying to recruit credible challengers, but the leading candidates he’s promoted—like Chris McDaniel in Mississippi and Erik Prince in Wyoming—have loads of personal baggage. All the money from the deep-pocketed Mercer family won’t be able to make up for tactical deficiencies in the emerging operation.

Bannon has only as much influence outside of the White House as Trump allows. His ability to generate momentum behind insurgent challengers rests on the premise that the president is behind their candidacies. So it was significant that Trump tweaked his former adviser in a show of solidarity with McConnell in the Rose Garden on Monday. “Some of the people that he may be looking at, I’m going to see if we talk him out of that, because frankly, they’re great people,” Trump said.

Trump went even further than that in private conversations with Republican congressional leaders, pledging to protect Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming and Deb Fischer of Nebraska from intraparty opposition, according to two GOP sources familiar with the discussions. Both senators were unusual targets for Bannon, given that they have been Trump loyalists and reliably conservative votes.

But both are on Bannon’s hit list: He is trying to recruit Prince, a former Blackwater chairman and the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos—to challenge Barrasso, one of the six GOP senators in party leadership. And he’s been in conversations with former Nebraska state Treasurer Shane Osborn about challenging Fischer, according to a source familiar with Bannon’s recruitment strategy, even though Osborn ran unsuccessfully as the establishment candidate in a hotly contested 2014 Senate primary.

The GOP senator at serious risk of losing a primary—Jeff Flake of Arizona—is in trouble because of his own self-inflicted war with the Republican base, not because Bannon has made a difference in the race. By writing a book slamming the president and the fecklessness of his party’s leadership, Flake’s standing immediately collapsed with GOP voters back home. He’s now in such precarious shape that Republican insiders expect him to mull retirement early next year if his numbers don’t rebound. The one thing keeping Flake afloat is that Bannon has failed to land a credible primary opponent against him. Bannon has now settled on supporting Kelli Ward, a hard-line former state senator whose personal baggage and underwhelming primary performance against Sen. John McCain make her a deeply flawed alternative.

Watching Bannon make threats against entrenched Republican senators is like watching an armchair fantasy-football player manage a professional football team. By riding shotgun during the final stretch of Trump’s campaign and serving as a White House adviser for seven months, Bannon clearly sees himself as the brains behind the Trump presidency. He’ll quickly find that beating Hillary Clinton may look like child’s play compared to toppling entrenched Republican senators with ample resources behind them.

Bannon endorsed former Democrat Kevin Nicholson against Sen. Leah Vukmir (R–Brookfield) in next year’s U.S. Senate race, with this result on Breitbart:

As conservative businessman and U.S. Marine veteran Kevin Nicholson sweeps up grassroots support from key organizations in Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate race, the candidate backed by the Washington establishment in Wisconsin is flailing when pressed on whether she will support Mitch McConnell for U.S. Senate Majority Leader.

State Sen. Leah Vukmir, at one time in her career a grassroots conservative who ended up aligning with the establishment over the past several years, dodged when the Associated Press asked her on Tuesday whether she would back McConnell for Majority Leader in the U.S. Senate.

According to the Associated Press—who interviewed her—“Vukmir would not say Tuesday whether she would support ousting McConnell, even though she believes ‘in some regards’ he is blocking President Donald Trump’s agenda.”

This revelation comes after Great America PAC, a key pro-Donald Trump Super PAC, has thrown its official endorsement and weight behind Nicholson in the race after Nicholson vowed to oppose McConnell continuing in his leadership position amid the Senate Majority Leader’s failure.

Stephen K. Bannon, the Executive Chairman of Breitbart News and former White House chief strategist who was the CEO of Donald Trump’s successful general election presidential campaign, met with both Nicholson and Vukmir recently. Nicholson, as his campaign confirmed to McClatchy wire service and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel among other outlets, pledged that he believes McConnell should no longer be the U.S. Senate Majority Leader. Vukmir has refused to oppose McConnell for Majority Leader.

I haven’t taken sides on the Senate race yet, but this makes me more inclined to support Vukmir, not a Breitbart-backed candidate. Vukmir is as Republican as it gets in this state, and this attack on Vukmir on an issue that not 1 in 1,000 Republicans care about demonstrates grotesque ignorance on Bannon’s part.

You may recall that Breitbart backed Paul Nehlen in the First Congressional District Republican primary last year. That got Nehlen all of 16 percent of the GOP vote against Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R–Janesville). As GOP strategist Brian Fraley put it on Facebook, “Kevin Nicholson needs to distance himself from this garbage in short order.”



Trump vs. the Senate GOP

Jim Geraghty:

Steve Bannon to Sean Hannity this week, discussing efforts to recruit primary challengers to incumbent Republican senators: “Nobody’s safe. We’re coming after all of them.”

If every Republican senator is going to get a primary challenger backed by Bannon, no matter what, then what’s the incentive to vote Bannon’s way between now and Election Day?

“It’s about sending a message!” Yes, it sends the message that there is no amount of loyalty to Trump that is sufficient to placate the Steve Bannons of the world, so you might as well vote the way you and your constituents prefer and let the chips fall where they may.

The problem for the Trump administration is not really one of insufficiently loyal or cooperative Republican senators. Peruse the tables over at Five-Thirty-Eight about how often GOP senators vote the way the Trump administration prefers. Fifteen Republican senators have voted with the White House 95.9 percent of the time. The least “loyal” Republican senator is Susan Collins of Maine, and even she has voted with the White House position 79 percent of the time. The most cooperative Democrat has been Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who votes with the White House position 55 percent of the time.

Apparently the angry populists can’t read a chart. If the Trump administration wants to get more legislation passed by the Senate, it doesn’t need different Republicans; it needs more Republicans. Replacing the most cooperative Democrat with the least cooperative Republican will still get a vote going your way an additional 24 percent of the time. A person who really wanted to see the Trump agenda become law would skip over the primary challenges and focus entirely on unseating the half-dozen or so vulnerable Democratic senators in 2018.

A real look in the mirror

John Kass:

The dead weren’t even finished dying in Las Vegas before the left swooped down to feed on gun control politics.

So rather than allow even one day to reflect and mourn, rather than allow us to consider the heroism of the survivors and first responders in that Las Vegas nightmare, politics saw an opportunity and took it immediately.

But the murderous retired accountant Stephen Paddock, 64, the lone gunman, wasn’t all that impulsive.

Paddock took days to plan. He was meticulous, arranging a 23-gun arsenal — some guns fully and illegally automatic — in his room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

He worked out his fields of fire, even set up cameras to alert him to police. He stocked up on thousands of rounds, and authorities said he also had components used to make bombs in his home and his car.

And then, when he was ready, he unleashed hell, shooting down on thousands of innocents at that Sunday night country music concert across the way.

At least 59 are dead now, more than 500 injured.

As of this writing — days after his killing spree —authorities could not offer a motive. This is especially odd, because in such cases motives are usually released within hours; the shooter was a madman, or he had political associations and resentments forming the latticework of motive.

But not with this one, not with Paddock.

Yet even when the preliminary count of the dead was still in the 20s, as loved ones desperately tried to find the missing, listening to the terrible sound of cellphones ringing with no answer, the politicians made their moves.

Hillary Clinton, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, pundits by the deplorable basketful and others seized the moment to press for advantage.

This includes you, Mark Pocan, scumbag.

The universal and hateful hot take came from Hayley Geftman-Gold, CBS vice president and legal counsel, on Facebook.

At least she was honest in her tribalism, upfront about it, using “Repugs” for Republicans and blaming them for not supporting blanket gun-control legislation.

What’s not legitimate was her lack of sympathy for the dead.

“I’m actually not even sympathetic bc [because] country music fans often are Republican gun toters,” Geftman-Gold wrote. Later, she was fired.

And in the morning following the massacre, even as victims lay dying in hospitals, Clinton was busy virtue-signaling on Twitter.

“The crowd fled at the sound of gunshots,” tweeted Hillary Clinton, still seeking relevancy. “Imagine the deaths if the shooter had a silencer, which the NRAwants to make it easier to get.”

She must have been thinking of a Jason Bourne movie, of silencers whispering death, a sound just a bit louder than the munching of popcorn.

But Hollywood isn’t reality. Jason Bourne movies are not proper foundation for policy.

There is Republican-backed legislation to make suppressors for long guns easier to obtain — still requiring governmental approval and fees.

A suppressor doesn’t make a gun silent like the weapon of a Hollywood assassin. The Washington Post reported a suppressor would reduce the sound of an AR-15 round to that of “a gunshot or jackhammer.” There’s nothing silent about a jackhammer.

Should we have more debate? Certainly. Let’s have it. There are more guns and more gun crimes in America than any other place in the world.

But let’s not forget that most killings aren’t committed by some lone sniper without apparent motive. The killings happen on the streets of big cities like Chicago, a city of strict gun control, where street gangs continue their slaughter and City Hall is powerless to stop them.

And America is numb to what happens in Chicago.

There are guns in the suburbs and in rural areas, and yet the suburbs aren’t killing fields. So if we’re going to have another gun debate, can’t we at least discuss culture, too?

And, can’t we wonder about what pathology drives so many mass shootings in the past few years?

Blaming the NRA is good politics for the left. It helps with fundraising, stokes outrage and helps herd voters into tribal camps. But is it possible that it’s incomplete, like blaming airplanes for the 9-11 terrorist attacks?

There may be something in our culture that is wrong and sick and festering. And recent mass shootings may be a symptom of larger cultural illness.

We know that we’re become increasingly nihilistic, and isolated from one another on our electronic devices. We know we’re divided into politically warring tribes, as the political center crumbles, as the Washington establishment holds desperately to power.

We know that attendance continues to drop at traditional centers of worship. And even so, the political/cultural elites who frame our gun and other debates often mock the remaining faithful as “religious fanatics.”

As America abandons religion for entertainment, we consume unprecedented amounts of pharmaceuticals, from opioids to mood altering drugs, to mask our emotional and mental pain.

Aren’t you curious as to how this impacts culture?

Even so, when the shooting began in the Mandalay Bay massacre, as the country music crowd stampeded in fear, as people died, Americans selflessly helped each other, comforted each other, risking and giving their own lives to save each other.

If only we’d been allowed a day or two to mourn, to reflect on the goodness even in the midst of the horror, before the politics swooped in.

Do nothing, or: Use your head, not another body part

Kevin D. Williamson‘s observations could apply to nearly any politician-created crisis:

In a podcast the day after the massacre in Las Vegas, Michael Graham asked me what supporters of the Second Amendment ought to do in reaction to such horrifying events. My answer at the time was: nothing. And nothing that has transpired since then has shown me cause to modify that position. It is in the nature of reactionaries to react, but very often the right course of action is inaction.

To my friend Michael, that’s cold-fish stuff. What’s needed, he argued, is passion: an emotional discharge in the service of a proactive agenda. While bookish types such as myself are mustering evidence and reason behind a dispassionate analysis of the facts, he argued, the gun-grabbers and other demagogues are getting the rubes all riled up (I am rephrasing) to do . . . something. “We have to do something!” he insisted.

Of course his argument is not without some merit, especially if you are running for office. (Consider who is president of these United States in anno Domini 2017.) Passion is helpful if you are trying to animate a crowd, either to vote for you or to tune in to your radio program or television show. Consider how fond Rush Limbaugh is of the word “passion,” which he describes as the essential key to success. He is not wrong about that: The love of the thing itself is necessary and irreplaceable for the development of any talent or enterprise. Who doubts that if Rush Limbaugh would give Winslow Homer a run for his money if his passion were watercolor instead of broadcasting, or that LeBron James would be a master cordwainer if his passion were making shoes instead of making shots?

But our passions can run away with us, especially in politics. Politics is not about policy: Politics is about tribe. Turn on Thom Hartmann’s radio program some time and, if you can stomach two minutes of it, you’ll understand what politics really is for many people: a license to hate. The indulgence of hatred is, for a certain kind of person — not an uncommon type, either — extraordinarily pleasurable, as is the expression of outrage, disgust, and indignation. You probably have seen this, in someone else or in yourself: In the course of detailing some outrage or act of buffoonery, one lists each detail, building up to a crescendo, and then — the smile. A big, wide smile of serene satisfaction announcing that the day’s outrage has been duly and deeply savored.

Politicians, and their media minions, have good reason to keep us stirred up, to keep our passions in a state of constant excitation. If we stopped and thought about things for a minute, we’d tar and feather the lot of them.

The exercise of the emotions is enjoyable in the same way as the exercise of the muscles, and probably for the same reason. That is what makes drama so engaging. To Aristotle we owe the idea of drama as catharsis, a word we use to mean a kind of transformative release. The Greek word was used to denote the pruning of trees or the clearing of land for cultivation, and hence was applied metaphorically in Aristotle’s time to a medical procedure: purgation, or therapeutic evacuation. As Aristotle understood catharsis, theater was a kind of emotional laxative. And there is a whiff of castor oil around Broadway. The idea survives into earthy modern English, in which a person who is having an emotional outburst is described as “losing his” — you know.

Passion is what drives us to “do something,” exclamation point implied. It is also what causes us to misunderstand politics as a contest between white hats and black hats: Think of how much of our political discourse is dedicated to explaining the other side as some sort of conspiracy, with the Right talking about “Alinskyites” and “Cloward-Piven,” the Left whispering darkly about the Koch brothers or, this week, NRA money lining the pockets of politicians.

The National Rifle Association is in fact barely among the top 500 political contributors (it is No. 460 at the moment) the organization and its affiliates having made barely $1 million in contributions in the 2016 cycle. Never mind the numbers — we have passion to express!

Passion makes you stupid.

It also makes you president. (Those are not mutually exclusive.)

We could do with a good deal less passion in our public life. The alt-right knuckleheads rallied behind Donald Trump not for reasons having to do with policy — they have no serious policy agenda at all — but because he gives voice to their passion, that passion being the desire to shock and annoy the politically correct busybodies and transnational economic elites by whom they feel condescended to. Trump was sworn in as president in January; it is October, and it already is obvious that he is as tired of the job as the country is of him and his schoolboy antics. “He fights!” they said. And, indeed, he has spent a great deal of time taking swings at cable-news figures, who enjoy the attention, and at Jeff Bezos, who doesn’t notice. By “He fights!” they mean he runs his mouth and tweets angry dopey things. And he does. Does he do anything else? Can he?

Do we really want to find out?

The NRA, which to its great discredit got into bed with Trump early and enthusiastically, ought to be concerned about his passion, which is a fickle thing. Trump was a gun-control advocate to the left of Hillary Rodham Clinton until shortly before he decided to run for president as a Republican. He was a supporter of a ban on so-called assault weapons, an advocate of waiting periods, and a critic of Republicans who “walk the NRA line.” Some of his associates already are worrying that Trump will revert to his old Manhattan Democrat ways on the question, because Trump’s passion is seeking the approval of crowds, especially the small crowd that edits the New York Times. Cutting a deal with his new best friends, Chuck and Nancy, in the aftermath of Las Vegas, might be appealing to that passion, especially if he could do so in some low-cost way such as opposing the NRA-supported Hearing Protection Act, which would make it easier to buy noise suppressors for firearms.

The passionate man is an unreliable man. Trump has been on both sides of gun control, abortion (he famously took five different positions on the question in three days), the Afghanistan war, Syria, the Electoral College, NATO, Beijing’s purported currency manipulation, tax reform, single-payer health care, the Export-Import Bank, and whether the president should play golf, among other things. (He finally got it right on golf.) Emotions are running high at the moment, and Trump is a captive of what Marcus Aurelius called “the animal soul,” writing in his Meditations:

To have sensible impressions exciting imaginations, is common to us with the cattle. To be moved, like puppets, by appetites and passions, is common to us with the wild beasts, with the most effeminate wretches, Phalaris, and Nero, with atheists, and with traitors to their country. If these things, then, are common to the lowest and most odious characters, this must remain as peculiar to the good man; to have the intellectual part governing and directing him in all the occurring offices of life.

… Passion is the enemy of good government — and the enemy of the civil peace, too. Good government is boring government: regular, orderly, predictable. To govern dispassionately requires a measure of mental serenity, which is hard to come by while Americans are still bleeding in Las Vegas. The easiest and surest way to equanimity is to let time pass. And, in the meantime, just do — nothing.

Why the Right “lost its mind”

From my few years of experience in public relations and marketing, I can say that promoting a person’s work is easier if that person can promote it himself or herself.

Charlie Sykes, fresh off the unlikely forum of Wisconsin Public Radio Thursday (to which you can listen here), now is the cover subject of Newsweek, for which he wrote:

For a quarter of a century, I was a major part of the conservative movement. But like many on the right, in the wake of Donald Trump’s victory I had to ask some uncomfortable questions. The 2016 presidential campaign was a brutal, disillusioning slog, and there came a moment when I realized that conservatives had created an alternate reality bubble—one that I had helped shape.

During the 2016 election, conservatives turned on the principles that had once animated them. Somehow a movement based on real ideas—such as economic freedom and limited government—had devolved into a tribe that valued neither principle nor truth; luminaries such as Edmund Burke and William F. Buckley Jr. had been replaced by media clowns such as Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos. Icons such as Ronald Reagan—with his optimism and geniality—had been supplanted by the dark, erratic narcissism of Donald Trump. Gradualism, expertise and prudence—the values that once were taken for granted among conservatives—were replaced by polls and ratings spikes, as the right allowed liberal overreach in the Obama era to blind them to the crackpots and bigots in their midst.

Some have argued that the election was a binary choice, that Hillary Clinton had to be defeated by any means. I share many of their concerns about Clinton, but the price was ruinous. The right’s electoral victory has not wiped away its sins. It has magnified them, and the problems that were exposed during the 2016 campaign haven’t disappeared. Success does not necessarily imply virtue or sanity. Kings can be both mad and bad, and the courtiers are usually loath to point out the obvious—just look at Caligula or Kim Jong Un.

Today, with Trump in office, the problems of the right are the problems of all Americans. And the worst part of it is that we—conservatives—did this to ourselves.

Donald Trump is the president we deserve.

Sykes’ book, out Oct. 3, is called How the Right Lost Its Mind. (Kudos to Sykes for using “its” instead of the more commonly used, but grammatically incorrect, “their.”) Based on listening to Sykes Thursday, I think I can answer the question that follows up from Sykes’ thesis, hence the headline (with British-style scare quotes that aren’t direct quotes).

And I can do that in two words: Political power.

One thing I’ve concluded from observing politics is that Americans believe the president’s party is in charge, regardless of which party is in charge in Congress, and whoever is in charge in Congress. Despite having a Republican House of Representatives for six years and a completely Republican Congress for the last two years, ask most disaffected voters before the 2016 election, and they would have blamed whatever they found blameworthy on Democrats and specifically Barack Obama, and for good reason.

Remember what candidate Obama said in 2008, as reported by the Huffington Post?

You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

The Washington Post tried to label that keen political analysis. The so-called “bitter clingers” saw that as pity, elitism and snobbery. And Obama proved their point right with eight years of ripping on Republicans, conservatives and those “bitter clingers” every chance he got. Never in this nation’s history have we had a president who hated millions and millions of Americans, until Barack Obama arrogantly strolled into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W.

Ironically given what happened later, Obama’s 2008 Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, also called that arrogant elitism. Eight years later, instead of channeling her supposed husband’s “I feel your pain” perspective from the 1992 presidential race, though, Hillary started to commit presidential campaign suicide when she said, as quoted by Time:

We are living in a volatile political environment. You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right?


The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people — now how 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks — they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America. But the other basket — and I know this because I see friends from all over America here — I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas — as well as, you know, New York and California — but that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from. They don’t buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroine, feel like they’re in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.

When your political opponents take your pejorative “Deplorables” label and proudly affix it to themselves, you screwed up. Everything Hillary said after those nine sentences disappeared into the ether, as condescending as they were. As I have written here before, every excerpt from What Happened proves that under no circumstances, regardless of, well, almost anything Donald Trump does as president, should Hillary Clinton ever be president. That may be a disagreement point between Sykes and myself, even though I didn’t vote for Trump.

The state of politics today is the direct and predictable result of government and politics having too large a role in our lives at every level, and because government isn’t getting smaller, politics is getting worse. Politics, remember, is a zero-sum game — one side wins, which means the other side loses.

Sykes described what he called the Faustian bargain of evangelicals voting for thrice-married Trump over sham-married Hillary because Trump might appoint an anti-abortion Supreme Court justice. And he did, Neil Gorsuch. If you are ardently opposed to abortion because you believe life begins at conception, every single abortion that takes place is a murder, and therefore anything that can legally be done to stop abortion is justifiable.

For those who think (opposite political side from yourself) has lost its mind, there’s one and only one way to fix that: Take power away from government at every level. That means slashing the administrative code and statute books, cutting government employment, eliminating pay and benefits for legislators, and whatever else is required to get government out of our lives. Nothing else will change the deplorable state of politics today. Nothing.


Irony Inc.

James Wigderson has some fun at a former daily newspaper’s expense:

“Profit? Fiscal year? Tsk! Tsk! Tsk! Beware, my dear Zilkov. The virus of capitalism is highly infectious. Soon you’ll be lending money out at interest!” – Dr. Yen Lo, The Manchurian Candidate

The Capital Times was founded because the Wisconsin State Journal wasn’t left-leaning enough. Yes, wee know, that’s hard to picture, but that’s The Capital Times story and they’re sticking with it.

The newspaper was born in 1917 after the business manager of the Wisconsin State Journal, William T. Evjue, resigned over the paper’s increasingly strident attacks against U.S. Sen. Robert “Fighting Bob” La Follette to create The Capital Times. As governor, later a senator and the founder of Wisconsin’s progressive movement, La Follette established a reputation as a champion of the underprivileged and an opponent of powerful business interests, but he came under attack like never before for his opposition to U.S. involvement in World War I.

Of course, The Capital Times supported the war anyway, as they remind us, but they were the good progressive newspaper. Just ask, Editor Emeritus Dave Zweifel,  wrote in his “Plain Talk” column in June:

As the founder of this paper, William T. Evjue, would often lament in his column years ago, “The trend toward the concentration of financial, economic, political and military power continues. Are we headed for a dictatorship of wealth?”

If Mr. Evjue only knew what’s going on today.

As readers of The Capital Times, we often ask the same question, “If Mr. Evjue only knew…”

We had some fun recently perusing The Capital Times’ 2015 IRS 990 form for the Evjue Charitable Trust. We were shocked, shocked to find capitalism going on there.

And we mean capitalism, starting with the granddaddy of them all, JP Morgan Chase & Co., founded by the great robber baron himself, JP Morgan. Old Evjue and Fighting Bob must be spinning in their graves faster than a high-speed Dremel Rotary Tool.

That was hardly the only investment that made us chuckle. The Capital Times may have been against war profiteers during World War I, but they’re investors in Halliburton, General Electric, and Raytheon now. And they love Big Oil, investing in Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell. They’re even invested in Phillip Morris and McDonalds for some healthy cash.

And for a relaxing Cap Times, they make it Suntory time.

There are also investments in drug companies, Amazon, Facebook, AT&T, Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Wal-Mart Stores, and even Union Pacific Corp. You know, all those small mom & pop companies struggling to make their way in a brutal capitalist society.

Our favorite investment is in Tiffany & Co. Nothing says progressive values like being the Tiffany news company in Madison.

Associate Editor John Nichols recently wrote a column saying how socialists are free to be socialists again. The proof was the popularity of Senator Bernie Sanders 2016 campaign.

“His presidential candidacy confirmed the appeal of such a politics in a 21st century that has been characterized by rampant inequality and the corrupt excesses of crony capitalism,” Nichols wrote, in a publication fueled by wealth inequality and the corrupt excesses of crony capitalism.

The Madison Capital Times, one of the loudest voices of liberalism in the country, sounds a little different these days.

Struck by mechanical and editorial employees five weeks ago, the Capital Times stunned this liberal-oriented community by bodly advertising for reporters and editors to replace its striking employees and welcoming back into is newsroom strikers who broke from the picket lines to return to work.

This is the newspaper that in its 60 years of existence has been a colorful and aggressive foe of conservatism, governmental corruption and pettiness and individuals such as Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

This is the newspaper that led numerous fights for civil rights, including a wrenching battle for an open housing ordinance in Madison, that strongly advanced the progressivism of Sen. Robert M. LaFollette and that vigorously opposed U.S. involvement in Vietnam, well before that position became popular.

This, embarrassed liberals in Madison have noted, is the newspaper that has staunchly lined up with union leaders to lift workers into better living and working conditions.

“It is a great disappointment to see our own newspaper not offering protection, as it has done so often in the past, but actually collaborating in abuses against workers who built the Capital Times up to what it is,” said Ron McCrea, a striking copy reader and vice president of the Madison Newspaper Guild.

Ironically, the strike was not originally aimed at the Capital Times’ management. The strike began when, on Oct. 1, a union representing editorial employees struck the Wisconsin State Journal, the city’s morning paper, and the International Typographical Union struck Madison Newspaper, Inc., which owns the Capital Times and also owns the plant that prints both papers under a joint operating agreement.

Capital Times guild members, along with pressmen and mailers, walked out in sympathy.

However, about 60 per cent of the State Journal Association, the guild’s equivalent at that paper, have gone back to work, and the morning paper is now operating with most of its staff back on the job. And the printing plant is sufficiently automated to get along without the ITU.

But with the strike still nominally on, most of the Capital Times workers remain out.

The future of the Capital Times had been in question even before the strike.

The afternoon paper’s circulation has declined to about 39,000 from a peak of about 50,000 a generation ago. The State Journal, by contrast, circulates about 79,000 daily and 126,000 on Sunday, and management says the Sunday figure is up 4,000 from a year ago. In addition, the Capital Times has sold its radio station and entered the joint operating agreement under which its parents prints the State Journal.

Thus, to some, the Capital Times’ stance is no surprise.

“The problem is, basically simple: regardless of editorial orientation or ideology, if you get into a problem of [newspaper] economizing, the ideology is likely to make a marginal difference,” says one veteran labor economist in Madison.

In a lengthy, biting reflection on the strike printed last week, executive editor Elliott Maraniss said McCrea and his fellow strikers should stop invoking the heritage and traditions of the Times and build their own.

He speculated that the strikers had a death wish, either for the paper or the union, and used as an analogy a person who commits suicide because he or she fears murder.

At the same time the liberal Madison community does not appear overly concerned about the strike and its impact on the future of the paper. Miles Capital Times editor and publisher, expressed surprise that there has been so little mail decrying the possible fatal impact of the strike on the paper.

There is little solid evidence that circulation has dropped off substantially – spokesmen for the two papers say it is less than 1 per cent – and there is no noticeable drop in advertising.

One reason, according to some observers, is that the paper has lost some of its feistiness in recent years.

The liberal community was outraged last year, for example, at the papers tactics in helping to defeat a popular Democratic state representative who was speaker of the state assembly.

Following that, the paper switched positions on Archie Simonson, the judge who was recalled after his statements on the bench linking rape to sexual permissiveness and provocative women’s clothing. The paper first attacked him editorially, then expressed sympathetic concern for his right to make such statements.

Mayor Paul Soglin, a product of the campus radical movement, became a villain to the paper when he leaked his 1978 budget proposal to the Madison Press Connection, a weekly being produced by the strikers, and said he would not grant interviews to reporters who replaced them.The general softening of the liberal tone perhaps has been inevitable, said a University of Wisconsin professor who has watched Madison, politcal and social changes for years. he noted that the heroes and adversaries in past Capital Times news and editorial columns have gone and it is getting more difficult for the paper to identify their successors.To replace those past causes and personalities in order to hold its traditional readers, the professor said, the Capital Times apparently felt it had to appeal to the liberal and radical causes of a younger generation.Because of that, he suggested, the newspaper bean hiring from a generation of reporters arising from the campus unrest of the late 1960s. For the most part, he noted, they were hired from strongly left-leaning college newspapers and the underground press.

This also has brought, in the view of a Madison labor expert, a clash between reporters and management. He notes that union members perceive management as being ideologically akin to them and thus “soft” bargainers during labor negotiations.

Readers unfamiliar with the Madison media scene will note that The Capital Times is described as a daily newspaper in the Post story. That was then, this is, well, later then, as Isthmus reported:

“It’s been no fun dying on the vine,” says Ron McCrea, senior news editor of The Capital Times.

McCrea, 65, knows something about dying. He presided over the death of the strike paper known as the Madison Press Connection in 1980 and then went to work for the Washington Star, which abruptly shut down in 1981 after 128 years. …

Buoyant wouldn’t be the right word, but he was definitely upbeat about the paper’s announcement that it will cease publication as a daily on April 26 and shift to onilne publication and two weekly print editions (one news, one arts) to be distributed free in the Madison area.

“We took practically every step imaginable to sell the paper [to new readers] in the last few years, and it didn’t work,’ he says. The Capital Times, which approached 50,000 circulation in its heyday, has dropped to less than 17,000 and had become, in practical terms, a boutique journalistic product sustained by its very profitable half-ownership of the Capital Newspapers publishing conglomerate.

Things were getting so bad, McCrea says, that sources were becoming reluctant to give story tips to Cap Times reporters because the paper’s readership was so small and the larger papers might ignore its scoops.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had the experience of talking to people about a great story we’ve had, and nobody has a clue that we published it,” he says.

Perhaps the low point was the paper’s failed attempt to woo new subscribers in Madison’s “blue” neighborhoods on the near-west and near-east sides.

The mass home delivery of free papers produced precious few subscriptions, despite these being strongholds of John Kerry and Ralph Nader voters who presumably share The Capital Times‘ liberal philosophy.

“We thought this would be a rich target for us to fill out our circulation, but people just weren’t buying,” he says. “Some people even complained that we were littering! They asked that we take the papers away.”

McCrea’s conclusion: “You can only do so much before you finally have to face reality.”

Reality is online publishing and those two weekly editions. The move will save Capital Newspapers a ton in newsprint costs and result in perhaps 15 of the paper’s 60 newsroom positions being eliminated, in addition to other job cuts in production and delivery.

“I do feel upbeat because I’ve been there when they’ve simply folded the paper and told people to go home,” he says. “This is war by other means. Online is clearly the future of journalism.”

McCrea says the paper is being “very, very humane” in handling the job cuts by offering a buyout package that includes from ten to 52 weeks of salary, depending on longevity, some health-insurance coverage and other benefits.

With a few exceptions, all employees will have to apply for newly posted jobs by Feb. 18, McCrea says. The new staff will be announced on March 10. Those who aren’t hired will receive the same severance package as the staffers who accepted the buyout.

McCrea’s endorsement of the impending changes carries weight, given his long history at The Capital Times. He was a strike leader in 1977, when five unions at what was then called Madison Newspapers Inc. walked out when management unilaterally introduced new printing technology in a particularly brutal fashion.

“Madison Newspapers laid off half off its printers in one blow, [regardless] of seniority, with women and the disabled first,” he recalls “Those who returned to work the next day were told that their pay was being cut by a third. They were just bleeding in total despair.”

The striking unions failed to shut down the two dailies, which doomed the strike from the beginning. McCrea became editor of the strike paper, the Madison Press Connection, whichnever rose higher than 12,000 in circulation and folded in 1980 after employees went payless for five months.

The strike formally ended in 1982 when the last two unions finally gave up. All five unions were decertified, though the strikers had the satisfaction of collecting $1.5 million from MNI as part of their settlements. The two papers remain union-free to this day.

McCrea went to work as press secretary for the newly elected Gov. Tony Earl in 1982, but when Earl lost his re-election bid in 1986, McCrea found himself unemployable in Madison. He left town to work at the New York edition of Newsday (since shuttered as well) before he made his peace with the Cap Times and returned to the paper in 1995.

There was no clearer sign than McCrea’s return that the extraordinary animosity of the strike had finally passed.

But the damage had been done. The strike had put the proudly progressive Capital Times on the same side with the then bluntly anti-union Lee Enterprises, which owns the other half of the publishing company. McCrea admits the strike cost the Cap Times readers it never regained.

The decision to cease daily publication was tightly compartmentalized within top management. The staff was kept in the dark until the announcement, and even senior news editor McCrea didn’t know it was coming. He says he had no role in drawing up the job descriptions for the new online paper and its weekly news and arts editions. …

A third-generation newsman, McCrea has the proverbial news ink in his veins. “I don’t have the warmth of feeling for Web readers that I do for newspaper readers,” he admits. “I tend to think that newspaper readers bring more worldliness and wider life experiences to their reading.”

The Cap Times has announced that the two weekly print editions, each with an expected circulation of 80,000, will be distributed free. Is the company’s goal to target Isthmus audience and advertisers?

McCrea says his bosses deny this. “We all love Isthmus,” he says. “We did focus groups a couple of years ago, when we were looking to refashion The Capital Times one more time. In the focus groups, everybody just loved Isthmus. Everything they wanted was already in Isthmus. We came away feeling a little dispirited.”

That doesn’t put such questions to rest. In the compartmentalized world of Capital Newspapers, advertising strategy wouldn’t be shared with editorial staffers like McCrea.

Yeah, well, every media outlet competes with every other media outlet for advertising and for eyeballs. That too is economic reality.

So is this: The aforementioned Madison Press Connection, according to the always-accurate (and never biased!) Wikipedia: …
… evolved from a strike paper to one of the few cooperatively organized and owned daily newspapers ever to exist in the United States. … The staff was initially made up entirely of striking employees of MNI, with the exception of cartoonist Pete Wagner, whose controversial work spurred his firing within two weeks of being hired, but who was rehired when the staff voted to keep him in spite of numerous cancellations by irate readers. Wagner left the paper after ten months and was later replaced by Mike Konopacki, who specialized in labor-related cartoons. The Press Connections cooperative structure was credited as the reason for numerous journalistic risks that corporate media avoided, including the publication in 1979 of an article purporting to provide the “secrets” of building an H-bomb.
… but, requoting from the Isthmus story …
… never rose higher than 12,000 in circulation and folded in 1980 after employees went payless for five months.
All of this, of course, is a demonstration that economic reality trumps (!) high-minded ideas about cooperative leadership, social justice, socially responsible investing, etc. The Press Connection died, and The Capital Times eliminated four of its editions, because as with any enterprise, for-profit or non-profit, if more money goes out than comes in, it’s not long for this world. As Margaret Thatcher was fond of saying, the facts of life are fundamentally conservative.

“Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together … mass hysteria!”

As recently as a couple of years ago, the next paragraph, from the (soon-to-be-defunct-because-she’s-retiring-at-the-end-of-September) Joy Cardin Show Facebook page, would not have been possible:

Why did conservatives support Donald Trump in the 2016 Election? Why don’t more conservatives reject his most controversial rhetoric today? What role did conservative media have in electing Trump? We’ll ask former WTMJ talk show host and author Charlie Sykes on Thursday from 8-9am. What questions do you have for him?
I posed this to someone with whom I’ve been on WPR before suggesting that this might be a sign of the end times (more on that in this space tomorrow), and he replied:
I doubt that. WPR has had YOU on and lived to tell.
I will have to listen at 8 a.m. As far as I know I might be the only, or at least the first, person on the planet who appeared on both “Sunday Insight with Charlie Sykes” …
The graphic appeared on a show after Marketplace Magazine ceased to exist. Oops.

Either because of sticking me at the end or because I was wearing lighter clothing than the others, this photo looks like a bad Photoshop job, where a larger photo of me was grafted to the photo of the other four.
Upon seeing me dressed like this frequent panelist Mikel Holt said that I had “dressed black.” No reason to take offense, though I wasn’t sure what of my clothing choices (olive?) fit his description.
I got the tie because of WFRV-TV anchor Tom Zalaski. I saw it and liked it, and sent an email to channel 5 asking where he got the tie. He called back, and I bought the tie.
This is actually my favorite Charlie Sykes photo. I had to take the boys with me for one show, and they watched off stage, then got to sit on the channel 4 news set.
… and Cardin’s show. (As well as the late Wisconsin Public Television show “WeekEnd,” which concluded with a pundit panel, on which I was the non-liberal non-Madisonian.) That’s unfortunate because increasingly liberals and conservatives listen only to views like their own, and don’t take on their ideological opponents, who might force them to question their own views.
Sykes, who during his varied print and broadcast career wrote a column for Isthmus, was recently profiled in Isthmus:

“Charlie ought to be going out in a wave of glory.”

So wrote fellow conservative Milwaukee radio host Mark Belling on the occasion of Charlie Sykes’ retirement from the airwaves last December. Belling noted that, as of Sykes’ final radio show, Republicans were about to take full control of both the federal and state governments for the first time since the 1950s. That fact should have made this moment the pinnacle of Sykes’ 23-year radio career.

Sykes’ final week of broadcasts on WTMJ-AM included tributes from virtually every Republican political star in Wisconsin. Ron Johnson jokingly blamed Sykes for his ascent to the U.S. Senate. And Gov. Scott Walker gushed, “You have had a tremendous impact … on the conservative movement, not just here in Milwaukee, but across the state.”

Despite the glorious send-off, the 62-year-old Sykes’ political identity was in a state of upheaval. Significant swaths of the once-cohesive Wisconsin conservative juggernaut, a group that he had both led and served for decades, were now ignoring him or, even, actively shunning him.

A bomb named Donald Trump had detonated within the GOP. And Sykes, who had believed for years that Trump would be an absolutely unacceptable leader of his party, was among its casualties.

The ideological and professional stability Sykes enjoyed through his decades on the air were a contrast to his peripatetic earlier life as a student and journalist. Before radio, he had bounced back and forth between liberalism and conservatism, and from publication to publication, working as a reporter, editor and columnist.

No one could have convinced me two years ago that, come 2017, Charlie Sykes and I would be on the same wavelength. But Donald Trump has left me politically homeless, too.

While I was not one of his listeners, Sykes loomed large within the Republican Party of Wisconsin, of which I was an active, but often malcontented, member. My fellow libertarian-leaning activists and I regarded him as an establishment shill, dedicated to the promotion and protection of an ossified party power structure. Belling’s overall assessment of Sykes’ career is positive, but he observes that Sykes “often seemed like a cheerleader rather than a commentator.”

If Scott Walker, Paul Ryan, Reince Priebus and Ron Johnson were the party capos, then Sykes was their muscle. “If you went against the grain,” recalls longtime Sykes adversary Michael Murphy of the Republican Liberty Caucus, “Charlie would call you out.”

I also assumed Sykes was, stylistically, a local version of Rush Limbaugh, his shtick exploiting the darker corners of his listeners’ psyches. Though presumptuous, my distant read of Sykes was not entirely off base. Sykes himself has spent a good deal of time lately reassessing his radio career, and acknowledging mistakes he made.

In early October, Sykes’ ninth book, How the Right Lost Its Mind, will be published by St. Martin’s Press. The book chronicles the bizarre transformation the conservative movement has undergone since Donald Trump declared his candidacy in June 2015. But it’s also a personal story. The conservative movement has been so central to Sykes’ life, and he so central to it, that the book could hardly not be personal.

While Sykes has come a long way toward making sense of what happened, he is still somewhat bewildered by Trump’s decisive capture of the movement. From Sykes’ perspective, it was a hostile takeover, constituting a “repudiation of the conservative mind.” As Sykes writes in the book, Trump had tapped into “something disturbing that we had ignored and perhaps nurtured — a shift from an emphasis on freedom to authoritarianism and from American ‘exceptionalism’ to nativism.”

When I met with Sykes late this summer, he recalled the strong sense of loss he felt as the conservative movement slid into derangement, and the decision it forced him to make. “If I break with the movement,” he had asked himself, “have I squandered everything that I’ve spent 20 years working on?” Sykes says he understands others’ reluctance to break. “This is who you are, this is your identity, these are your friends. And if you break with them, are you repudiating a real large chunk of your own life?”

Despite the high price, “There was not a single moment when I thought, ‘maybe I should go along.’” Today, he adds, “The infrastructure that I had is completely gone.”

From a distance, Sykes’ decision might not seem so self-sacrificial. He has, since Trump’s election, had multiple op-eds published in The New York Times. He co-hosted Indivisible, a WNYC radio series that explored the early Trump administration’s impact on American life. And, most notably, he is now an official contributor on MSNBC. Would any of these opportunities with big-time media have come his way had he not so publicly and vehemently refused to board the Trump Train?

At the time of his retirement, Sykes told The Cap Times that he had decided to end his radio show over a year earlier. So throughout 2016, as he relentlessly bashed Trump, he knew that he would be scouting for new opportunities.

“Charlie looks out for Charlie,” says the Republican Liberty Caucus’ Murphy. “This latest act is just him hoping to stay relevant, and maybe even go national.” Others, like Isthmus columnist and Urban Milwaukee editor Bruce Murphy, assert that Sykes’ political beliefs have often tracked with career opportunities. The reality, Murphy wrote earlier this year, “is that Charlie Sykes has been changing his views, over and over, throughout his life, and has always been rewarded for it.”

Sykes seems dumbfounded by accusations that his steadfast opposition to Trump is driven by expediency. While people with whom he was closely associated — like Paul Ryan and Reince Priebus — moved into positions of great influence, Sykes’ uncompromising stance against Trump kept him out in the cold. “An opportunist goes with the power, not into exile.”

Sykes does appreciate the “strange new respect” he is getting from corners of the media world that used to dismiss him. But he is still quick to criticize the “liberal media,” arguing that their shabby treatment of conservatives fueled the rise of the right-wing propaganda machine. Conservative news-seekers, he writes, “were drawn to safe places, but also pushed.”

At some point, conservative talk radio hosts discovered that traditional news sources make perfect foils. So the talkers pounced, and kept pouncing, until, Sykes writes, “We had succeeded in convincing our audiences to ignore and discount any information whatsoever from the mainstream media.” He regrets that this strategy of delegitimization served to “destroy much of the right’s immunity to false information.”

Sykes devotes a substantial section of How the Right Lost Its Mind to the ascendance of “Alt-Reality” propaganda, how it nurtured “Post-Truth” politics, and its role in Trump’s electoral triumph.

It’s a chilling read. A sizable chunk of the American electorate is astonishingly susceptible to fabrications, even patently absurd ones. In Sykes telling, things got so weird during last year’s campaign that a cottage industry of fake fake news sprung up. Pranksters began fashioning reports just to test the limits of credulity. One tweeted out a contrived Clinton Foundation expense report that showed payees like ‘Sharia Law Center’ and ‘Bill Ayers,’ to see if the Twitterverse would bite. (Spoiler alert: the pranksters were unable to detect any limit to credulity.)

President Trump has, in a stroke of propaganda genius, co-opted the term “fake news,” applying it to legitimate media outlets that he considers unfriendly. In our conversation, Sykes noted that for each of his op-eds, The New York Times assigned a fact-checker. When he hears the president call the Times a “fake news joke,” he remembers the extreme rigor the paper has subjected his work to.

Toward the end of his book, Sykes urges fellow conservatives to “confront the conservative media that boosted and enabled Trumpism and created a toxic alternative reality bubble.” I asked him what non-conservatives might do to help. Because false beliefs are protected by extremely stubborn psychological barriers, Sykes thinks only “still-trusted conservative voices” have the power to stop the madness. “The right’s going to have to clean up its own house.” He laments that, as of now, “We’re not seeing a lot of that.”

I find it silly that Sykes is now being called a non-conservative for daring to criticize Trump (as did, by the way, every major conservative talk-show host in this state before the Wisconsin Republican primary, which is a major reason why Trump lost the GOP primary) and his hard-core supporters, or for appearing on public radio or TV or MSNBC. He’s been quoted frequently on this blog, and other than his non-support of Trump I challenge you to find non-conservative positions he’s taken, beyond possibly support for the taxpayer-funded Miller Park. Sykes has been one of the biggest supporters of Gov. Scott Walker from Walker’s days as Milwaukee County executive. Sykes led on-air support for Act 10. Sykes was a target at the biggest act of attempted censorship of political speech in this state, the Milwaukee County John Doe investigation. Sykes spoke at at least one county Republican Party Lincoln–Reagan Day dinner, which I know because I was there.

Regular readers know the first and foremost answer to Cardin’s question is that if the alternative choice was Hillary Clinton, virtually any Republican would have voted for Trump. (I’m not a Republican, so I didn’t.) As it turned out, a lot of independents in swing states must have voted for Trump as well, because, again, he wasn’t Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton demonstrates daily that if the November choice was Hillary or Trump, Trump was the better choice.

Having said that, it’s clear that Trump is a situational conservative, in that sense the Republicans’ answer to Bill Clinton. Trump, author of The Art of the Deal, deals with whoever (he thinks) is in charge. So he cozies up to Sen. Charles Schumer (D–New York) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D–California) on “Dreamers,” which is as Republican a thing to do as donating money to Hillary Clinton’s U.S. Senate campaigns. If Republicans lose control of Congress in the 2018 election, the resemblance between Trump and Republicans will disappear.

The answer to Cardin’s second question is answered in part because Trump has done conservative things (Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, undoing Obama regulations and executive orders, Monday’s United Nations speech), and in part by one of her Facebook commenters …

Why do we continue to ask the same question, and not accept the only answer? The answer is that every single Trump supporter is some combination of ignorant, intellectually incapable, morally bankrupt and hateful. It’s simply not possible to be a decent human being and support Donald Trump.

That Madison jackass demonstrates that liberals love every kind of diversity except diversity of opinion. Every time Trump supporters get criticized for supporting Trump, particularly when they’re accused of racism, misogyny, xenophobia, etc. (by the definition of the accuser), they support Trump more. Liberals are either too stupid or too hate-filled to grasp that.

As for Cardin’s third question … that’s in large part what Sykes’ book is about.

Xenophobic Democrats

Jerry Bader brings up modern Democratic racism:

Here is how the Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines “xenophobe:”

one unduly fearful of what is foreign and especially of people of foreign origin.

Merriam-Webster may want to consider including the Democratic Party of Wisconsin logo with that definition. In response to Governor Scott Walker’s Monday signing of the Foxconn incentive package, a quartet of democratic legislative leadership issued a news release criticizing the deal. It appears the group didn’t want anyone to miss the fact that Foxconn is a “foreign corporation.” the phrase is used seven times in the release:

  • giveaway to a foreign corporation (par. 1)
  • $3 billion in cash payments to a foreign corporation (par. 2)
  • special loopholes for a foreign corporation (par. 2)
  • second fiddle to a foreign corporation (par. 3)
  • Giving $3 billion to a foreign corporation (par.4)
  • a foreign corporation ties the hands (par. 5)
  • offered to a foreign corporation (par. 6)

That’s one mention for each paragraph with a bonus second mention in paragraph two. You can read the release here: Senate Dem Leadership release – Statement on Foxconn Signing 9.18.17

Meanwhile, the liberal group One Wisconsin Now joined in on the fear of foreigners fest. While OWN’s statement includes a mere three uses of the word “foreign,” they also exhibit a fear of people from a strange and mysterious land to Wisconsin’s south:

There is nothing in the proposal that guarantees that workers in the new plant come from Wisconsin, meaning taxpayers will be subsidizing jobs for workers from Illinois and other states.

Of course, it’s entirely possible and indeed likely that out of state residents would relocate to Wisconsin to take Foxconn jobs; especially if they come from a state that doesn’t border Wisconsin. While an influx of residents to Wisconsin is and of itself a good thing, there is evidence that the Foxconn development will benefit the entire state. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that business leaders upstate, including the La Crosse and Wausau areas expect the ripple effect of Foxconn on the state economy to benefit residents in their region.

Perhaps Wisconsin Democrats will next take aim at restaurants that serve French wine and Russian caviar.

The left has used the “foreign corporation” “Taiwanese company” and “Chinese economics” narratives to argue against the state doing business with Foxconn. Democrats have argued the deal is a bad one for the state. But they also plan on running against Governor Scott Walker’s jobs record in 2018, which gives them an ulterior motive to oppose Foxconn.

Walker signed the $3 billion incentive package into law a Gateway Technical College in Racine County Monday, where the $10 billion Foxconn facility is expected to be located.

James Wigderson adds:

Since the deal with Foxconn was announced by Governor Scott Walker, Democrats have been running around complaining about a Chinese company getting a subsidy from the state of Wisconsin. (Actually, the company is Taiwanese.) They’re complaining about China more than President Donald Trump did during the 2016 campaign. …

We’ve already commented on the odd opposition to Asians by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers, the state Superintendent of Public Instruction. If the Democrats have a problem with foreigners, specifically Asians, perhaps they should just say so. Asian American voters would probably like to know if the Democrats are still the party of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his internment camps.

Because judging from the anti-foreigner rhetoric, Wisconsin Democrats would be thrilled to give $3 billion in incentives away to a corporation as long as it’s incorporated within the United States. It’s just the color of the skin of the executives at Foxconn that has the Democrats upset.

Oh wait, Democrats don’t like workers in Illinois, either. They’re suddenly concerned that large manufacturing facilities too close to the Illinois border might attract the wrong element. We’re not sure what that wrong element from Illinois might be, Cubs fans?

Have the Democrats been to Janesville lately, or Lake Geneva? There are Cubs fans wearing team jerseys everywhere. If we were going to build a wall on the state line, apparently something the Democrats now favor, it’s too late. Chicago-style hot dogs are now regular fare in most Wisconsin cities.

Perhaps would be happy if we created a 100-mile economic exclusion zone along the border with Illinois preventing any economic activity in the region so people from Illinois couldn’t get jobs in Wisconsin. Presumably 100 miles should be enough to deter all but the most die-hard commuters. While we’re at it, we can tear up the Amtrak tracks coming north from Chicago, too.

Of course, Democrats weren’t worried about those annoying people from Illinois invading our state when General Motors in Janesville was temporarily bailed out under President George Bush and President Barack Obama (the plant closed anyway). Nor did Democrats object to Illinois workers possibly benefitting when former Governor Jim Doyle, also a Democrat, offered General Motors $200 million in incentives to build a new factory in Janesville in 2009 (it didn’t work).

And when Amazon built in Kenosha, keeping out fans of the Chicago Bears wasn’t an issue then, either. But then, General Motors and Amazon are American companies. If Toyota or Hyundai wants to build another auto plant in Janesville or Kenosha, then the Democrats are ready to keep the foreigners out.

I also wonder how many Democrats opposed Gov. James Doyle’s incentive package for Marinette Marine, owned by an Italian company.

Hintz about Democratic character

James Wigderson:

Wisconsin’s Assembly Democrats chose a new leader Monday, and unfortunately the choice was not a surprise. State Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, is now the Assembly Minority Leader, replacing state Rep. Perter Barca, D-Kenosha. Hintz was unopposed.

Barca recently came under fire from his fellow Democrats after supporting the legislation to bring a $10 billion Foxconn manufacturing campus to the Racine-Kenosha area, but Democrats are claiming there are other factors as well. Barca presided over election loss after election loss resulting in the Republicans holding 64 seats in the 99 seat branch of the legislature.

Democrats were probably justified in kicking Barca to the curb, especially since every Democratic candidate for governor is opposed to Foxconn (until Andy Gronik changes his mind again). However, by picking Hintz by letting him run unopposed, Democrats are reminding voters that the party really does not believe good character is a prerequisite for public officials.

Hintz’s first round of trouble began when he was cited for solicitation in a prostitution sting in an Appleton massage parlor. Hintz later gained statewide notoriety after yelling, “You’re f—–g dead!” at former state Rep. Michelle Litjens, R-Oshkosh, following the completion of the Act 10 vote. Hintz did not apologize to Litjens until after the news of the threat went public.

Hintz had a chance to explain his ill behavior towards women on UpFront with Mike Gousha on Sunday. Gousha mentioned the massage parlor incident but did not ask Hintz about it, preferring instead to only ask Hintz about the incident with Litjens.

“The question is, is it about temperament?” Gousha asked. “For a leadership post, do you have the right temperament for that post?”

“Well, that’s the challenge that’s out there,” Hintz said. “It’s something that I’m self aware of. When I’m upset it’s usually because I’m upset. There’s good ways it comes out and bad ways it comes out. I’m self-aware enough to know what my strengths and weakness are. And I certainly had to make that assessment as I take something like this on.”

Hintz said there’s a positive side of his being upset because he’s upset. “I think the positive side of having energy and believing in what you do, is that I think I’m going to be able to do that,” Hintz said.

(Gousha, of course, didn’t ask if the massage parlor incident was a one-time occurrence. Nor did Gousha ask if Hintz will lack credibility as Wisconsin deals with a serious human trafficking problem. And Gousha didn’t ask Hintz what his female colleagues think of his public behavior towards women.)

Amazingly, no women candidates in the Assembly stepped up to challenge Hintz just to provide a more ethical contrast. Perhaps they would have been emboldened in their approach when Republican Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, asked that his Republican colleagues drop the criticisms of Hintz.

It’s doubtful Democrats will ever return the favor.

This is not the first time Assembly Democrats have been willing to overlook ethical lapses for political reasons. In 2010, Democrats refused to expel former state Rep. Jeff Woods, a former Republican who became an independent voting with the Democrats, after his third, fourth and fifth arrests for driving under the influence, the three arrests occurring within a matter of months. After the election during the lame duck session, Democrats attempted to push through contracts with the state employees, getting Woods out of rehab because they needed his vote.

Now they’re being led by someone who explains his behavior by saying he gets upset because he’s upset, so Hintz acts out. That’s not the character of a leader, but the impulse control and temperament of a child. Perhaps, then, he’s the Democrats’ best representative after all.

What do you expect from a party that thinks nothing of having an impeached, disbarred, serial sex offender give speeches at their national convention.
State Sen. Chuck Chvala (D–Madison) was the Senate Democratic leader when Democrats were mostly in the majority of the Senate in the 1990s. At the time it was said he had the job because no one else wanted it. That may be why Hintz has the job. It may also be that Democrats think an obscenity-firing morals-challenged “leader” will convince voters to vote for them. It worked for Slick Willie.

Selling Foxconn after the sale

Right Wisconsin reports:

Speaking to the Independent Business Association of Wisconsin (IBAW) Manufacturing Summit in Milwaukee on Friday, Department of Administration Secretary Scott Neitzel took the opportunity to address some of the concerns of the critics of the Foxconn legislation that recently passed the legislature.

Neitzel addressed the question of what happens if Foxconn does not follow through on its promise to create a $10 billion manufacturing facility in southeaster Wisconsin. “The state isn’t just going to issue them a check for $3 billion,” Neitzel said. “The way the $3 billion is given out, it’s over time, over a 15 year period.”

“Part of it is the capital investment, which is $1.35 billion,” Neitzel said. “$1.5 billion is based on employment, about $150 million is just a sales tax exemption for construction materials while they’re building it.”

The tax credits will only be given as Foxconn reaches the capital investment and employment targets in the agreement with Wisconsin.

“It grows as they grow,” Neitzel said.

The project is expected to create 10,000 construction jobs for the project and will create as many as 22,000 “induced jobs” from the economic activity statewide. The facility will hire 3,000 permanent employees to start, with growth of up to 13,000 permanent jobs. One estimate has the state receiving $3.90 for every $1 invested by the state. Once completed, the Foxconn development could have a $7 billion annual impact on Wisconsin’s economy.

Neitzel said from a personal perspective, the people that the Walker Administration dealt with were completely sincere in their dealings with Wisconsin. “They continue to work with the local communities,” Neitzel said. “They are talking to people about how they can integrate themselves into the community. They are making a commitment for the long term.”

In answer to the concern about how long it will take before the state “breaks even” on the investment, ” Neitzel said, “Government doesn’t usually spend money to make money.”

“Under the most, what I would call, conservative estimate, it breaks even the fiscal bureau said in 25 years,” Neitzel said. “What do we get for that from a society perspective?”

Neitzel said the Foxconn deal will create “high-paying, family-supporting jobs.”

“Another thing we want, is we want to give our best and brightest a reason to stay in Wisconsin,” Neitzel said. “We want to attract the best and brightest from around the United States and around the globe to come to Wisconsin.”

The new Foxconn manufacturing campus will also spur entrepreneurial activity and small business growth, according to Neitzel. It will also bring more venture capital to Wisconsin.

“With Foxconn here, the venture capital community now has Wisconsin at closer to the upper tier than we have ever been,” Neitzel said. “That’s a good public policy objective.”

Neitzel praised the legislature for improving the Foxconn bill before they passed it.

“It went to the Assembly. They made changes. They were all improvements,” Neitzel said. “That bill then went to the Senate. They made changes. They were all improvements. The bill that is before the governor, which he will sign soon, is a very, very good bill.”

“[The bill] allows us to accommodate Foxconn and to protect the environment and to make sure that the taxpayers of Wisconsin are protected,” Neitzel said.

Neitzel said that opponents of the Foxconn legislation are treating the development as just another manufacturing facility. “What it really is, is bringing a whole new industry to North America and planting it right here in Wisconsin,” Neitzel said. “So the whole supply chain has to come with Foxconn. They have to create a supply chain in North America and in Wisconsin.”

For example, Neitzel said, wherever the plant is built, there will have to be a glass plant right next door.


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