Category: Wisconsin politics

Happy (?) Tax Freedom Day

It is time for our annual observance (more like Roman Catholic martyred-saint days, certainly not a celebration) of Tax Freedom Day, described by the Tax Foundation as …

… the day when the nation as a whole has earned enough money to pay its total tax bill for the year. Tax Freedom Day takes all federal, state, and local taxes and divides them by the nation’s income. In 2016, Americans will pay $3.34 trillion in federal taxes and $1.64 trillion in state and local taxes, for a total tax bill of $4.99 trillion, or 31 percent of national income. This year, Tax Freedom Day falls on April 24th, or 114 days into the year (excluding Leap Day).

But it’s not April 24 for those of us in Wisconsin:

The total tax burden borne by residents of different states varies considerably due to differing state tax policies and the progressivity of the federal tax system. This means a combination of higher-income and higher-tax states celebrate Tax Freedom Day later: Connecticut (May 21), New Jersey (May 12), and New York (May 11). Residents of Mississippi will bear the lowest average tax burden in 2016, with Tax Freedom Day arriving for them on April 5. Also early are Tennessee (April 6) and Louisiana (April 7).

Of course, Wisconsin isn’t a “higher-income” state, though we certainly are a “higher-tax” state, and have always been, as the maps show:

It does make you wonder, however, why we must be sentenced to taxes in the highest quarter of U.S. states when (1) our government services are not to the level of our taxes and never have been, and (2) we are not a wealthy state and never have been, and given our punitive taxes never will be. (Remember: Every corrupt politician, every stupid idea coming from government, and every misstep by government, are all something you’re funding with your taxes.)

Measured another way, we’re still paying for government after today:

Since 2002, federal expenses have surpassed federal revenues, with the budget deficit exceeding $1 trillion annually from 2009 to 2012. In calendar year 2016, the deficit will grow significantly, from $592 billion to $698 billion. If we include this annual federal borrowing, which represents future taxes owed, Tax Freedom Day would occur on May 10, 16 days later. The latest ever deficit-inclusive Tax Freedom Day occurred during World War II on May 25, 1945.

Measured any way, this is ridiculous:

Proof that there is less difference than you might believe between Democrats and Republicans is that the state Legislature, controlled by Republicans as the result of the past three elections, has failed to push forward a Taxpayer Bill of Rights to enact strict constitutional controls on spending and taxes. This is despite the fact that state and local government is literally twice the size it should be, as measured by growth in population and inflation. TABOR is vital in order to prevent future legislators — and someday the Democrats will control the Legislature — from spending more money than we overburdened taxpayers have. We voters are supposed to vote for Republicans because they’re the fiscally responsible party, which is like voting for the GOP because it favors gun rights and Democrats don’t. “Rights,” properly defined, should not be up to one party to defend; rights are protection of citizens from government, which is why government must be permanently limited from spending taxpayer money.

We won’t even discuss a federal balanced budget here, since we’re not writing about fantasy.

 

After Trump (or so we hope)

Rick Esenberg:

The explanation for Donald Trump’s success is not simple, but let’s see what we can make of a simple statement. “I love the poorly educated,” Trump said, and both the left and the right chortled. That response is understandable. The idea of President Trump would be laughable had it not become a distinct possibility.

The response is also not wrong. The fact that the campaign for the most powerful position on Earth produces front-runners like Trump and Hillary Clinton is a wonderful argument for limited government. It is a stunning indictment of the notion that we should allow much in our lives to be directed by politics and elections. But there is also a trap in dismissing Trump’s supporters as fools or haters. To be sure, they are badly mistaken, and there is certainly a good measure of racial resentment, if not racism, in Trump’s appeal.

But things happen for a reason. Populism, however ugly and ignorant, needs some real grievance upon which to work.

Trump’s invocation of the “poorly educated” was neither the cynical admission of a con artist (although he is that) or simply a statement of solidarity with those who resent our elites. It was a dog whistle directed at those who believe that politics as usual has left them behind.

On the left, there are both sympathetic and unsympathetic explanations for Trump’s success. The unsympathetic explanation is that this is all conservatism come home to roost. In this view, the American right has always been about hate and Trump is simply serving it up in larger and undiluted doses.

There are two problems with this explanation. The first is that it assumes a large number of people are motivated by nothing other than hate and ignorance. This is almost always a mistake. The other is that the organized right — consisting of movement conservatives — regards Trump as antithetical to everything that they believe in: limited government, individual freedom, free markets.

The more sympathetic explanation sees Trump’s support as a conscious rejection of traditional conservative policies. Trump voters, according to this view, have decided that they don’t want lower taxes and smaller government. They want redistribution of income but are simply seeking it in the wrong place. Today’s Trumpkins could be tomorrow’s Sandernistas.

I don’t think so. Trump’s supporters may not be Randian libertarians, but they don’t seem interested in a handout. They may feel that the political establishment has little regard for the working class, but they see the Democrats as a coalition of people who are not like them: racial and sexual minorities, union members, government workers and limousine liberals.

I don’t pretend to fully understand what’s going on. Part of it may be no more sophisticated than the sad fact that you can fool some of the people for quite some time. But the misguided and tragic support for Trump might also be a response to the failings of politicians on the left and the right. The left has lost the white working class because of its unconcealed contempt for the great unwashed who cling to their God and their guns. It is beside itself because a football team is named the Redskins, while it regularly makes sport of rednecks. It has forgotten that the American working class is not a European proletariat. Joe and Jill Sixpack understand, at some level, that American exceptionalism has worked for them, even if all of their aspirations have not yet been achieved. Denmark doesn’t look good to them.

But, in the wake of the financial crisis and a perception (however unfair) that capitalism failed to deliver, some Republicans feel the GOP has been indifferent to them. Trump’s working-class voters believe that Republicans, like the Democrats, are also on “someone else’s side,” i.e., business and the wealthy. It would be easy — and not completely wrong — to say that politicians must accept where people are. But I’d like to believe that reason and evidence still have space to work. And that’s exactly what happened in Wisconsin. In theory, our Rust Belt state should have been, like Michigan and Illinois before us, Trump territory. But Trump lost here on April 5, and it was no accident. While his core supporters did not waiver, conservatives in Wisconsin were largely united behind a single candidate and motivated by a desire not only to choose a candidate, but to save a movement. No matter what happens nationally,

It would be easy — and not completely wrong — to say that politicians must accept where people are. But I’d like to believe that reason and evidence still have space to work. And that’s exactly what happened in Wisconsin.

In theory, our Rust Belt state should have been, like Michigan and Illinois before us, Trump territory. But Trump lost here on April 5, and it was no accident. While his core supporters did not waiver, conservatives in Wisconsin were largely united behind a single candidate and motivated by a desire not only to choose a candidate, but to save a movement.

No matter what happens nationally, Wisconsin may have shown the way forward for conservatives. Over the past five years, we have developed a fantastic conservative infrastructure made up of think tanks and advocacy groups that have explained conservative ideas, not just conservative resentment. The activity of these groups has been augmented by conservative talk radio hosts who are a cut above — actually several cuts above — those found elsewhere and nationally. Our conservative politicians have cared about policy, not just the polls.

Here in Wisconsin, we have shown that ideas and reasoned discourse matter. Nationally, I am afraid that conservatives may be facing a time in the wilderness. In Wisconsin, we have demonstrated the way out and have begun to move forward.

I suspect that we have a lot of work to do.

On the brink of being just about ready to …

The Wisconsin State Journal reported this about Wisconsin Democrats, who with the exceptions of one presidential race (in a state that hasn’t given its Electoral College votes to a Republican since 1984) and one U.S. Senate race are 0 for the 2010s:

Wisconsin Democrats, hobbled by losses over the past six years, see this November as a chance to start winning.
Since 2010, they’ve lost a U.S. Senate seat, three gubernatorial elections to Gov. Scott Walker, two attorney general elections, control of the Assembly and Senate (twice).

In the most recent election, they saw a three-time Walker appointee elected to the state Supreme Court, expanding its conservative majority. They’ve also seen their key ally — labor unions — atrophy after Republicans passed laws targeting them.

But Democrats smell opportunity this fall, starting with the rematch between GOP U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and Russ Feingold, the Democrat he displaced in 2010.

That, coupled with a presidential race in which Republicans face deep internal fissures, and stumbles at the state level by ruling Republicans, have Wisconsin Democrats hoping to turn the tide. …

History puts wind at the backs of Wisconsin Democrats in a presidential election year, state party chairwoman Martha Laning noted. Wisconsin has voted Democratic in every presidential election since 1984.

The flip-side of that opportunity, said UW-Madison political science professor Barry Burden, is that it puts Democrats in a must-win position. If they can’t capitalize on advantageous circumstances this fall — in the context of the last six years, and with a larger turnout that typically works to their benefit — the consequences would be disastrous, Burden said.

“If that were to happen, the Democratic Party would be not much more than a shell,” Burden said.

Former Democratic Party chairman Joe Wineke agreed that a Feingold loss in November would be “pretty devastating.” …

Democrats tell the Wisconsin State Journal they’re increasingly recognizing the value of backing candidates in local races for city councils and school boards.

They also recognize the 2018 election will be crucial. The winner of the gubernatorial election will have veto authority over the legislative district maps that get redrawn after 2020. Democrats frequently mention partisan redistricting that occurred after the 2010 election as part of the reason why they have been helpless to block the Republican legislative agenda.

Also in 2018, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, whose 2012 defeat of former Gov. Tommy Thompson remains the Democrats’ brightest victory of the past six years, will be up for re-election.

“If this was just the governor, it probably would be tougher for the Democrats,” Wineke said. “But Tammy Baldwin will excite the liberal base. If we can get a Democratic candidate who can get the right message and raise the resources you need, it’s very doable to win the governorship back.”

Still, the campaign challenges facing Democrats are significant. They include the likelihood they will be outspent, plummeting union membership and — to a far greater extent in Wisconsin than nationally — an energized and unified Republican establishment.

Brandon Scholz, a Republican strategist and former director of the state GOP, said Democrats’ weakened position in the state showed in their failure earlier this month to beat conservative incumbent Justice Rebecca Bradley.

“When you’re going up against a majority that has all the resources … it’s awfully hard to pull yourself out of the desert,” Scholz said.

The story goes on to mention something I brought up here last week:

But as the Supreme Court race demonstrated, relying on antipathy toward [Gov. Scott] Walker may not be enough to carry the day.

Republicans nationally and in Wisconsin have done a better job than Democrats in promoting a brand, said Mike McCabe, founder of Blue Jean Nation, a nonpartisan grassroots group that advocates for “citizen-centered, people-powered politics.”

McCabe said Republicans have conveyed to voters the principles in which their positions are rooted – less government, lower taxes and individual freedom – while Democrats struggled to do the same.

Interestingly, no one quoted after McCabe in the story had a response to McCabe.

Also interestingly, no one quoted the senior Democratic member of the Wisconsin Congressional delegation, U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D–La Crosse), who sent this news release separately:

U.S. Representative Ron Kind (WI-03), Chair of the New Democrat Coalition, will speak with hundreds of business leaders from across the country on a conference call Tuesday to discuss the Coalition’s American Prosperity Agenda. He will provide an overview of progress on the agenda and gather input from participating business leaders.

The New Democrat Coalition developed the American Prosperity Agenda as a set of guidelines to help America remain competitive in a changing economy. The agenda focuses on supporting U.S. small businesses by increasing access to capital, expanding export opportunities, and investing in innovation.

Congressman Kind will update business leaders on the Coalition’s legislative progress, and business leaders will provide feedback on how initiatives would help their companies.

Remember the New Democrats? Apparently they never got to Wisconsin.

Kind is successful enough as a politician in that he keeps getting reelected in a relatively swing district, and he comes across in public far better than, say, the previous Democratic chair, let alone people who are supposed to represent the Democratic Party in the media. Of course, the state Democratic Party has demonized business for so long that the concept of not being knee-jerk hostile to business must be a foreign concept at Dumocrat headquarters.

 

When the flyover media flies by

Ann Coulter started her column of Wednesday with …

Before we begin, can we stop referring to Wisconsin as “Midwestern nice”? That’s all we’ve heard since Ted Cruz beat Donald Trump there: Wisconsinites are just so nice, they couldn’t abide Trump’s rough style.

Does anyone remember the whole taking over the capitol thing? How they nearly recalled a sitting governor a few years ago? Remember the protesters fighting with cops, rounds of arrests in the rotunda, the drum circles and chanting? How about the midnight raids on citizens for supporting the “Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill”?

Wisconsin is a lot of things, but “nice” is not one of them. “Soviet” is more like it. It was always a bad state for Trump because there are virtually no immigrants in Wisconsin, and peevish Wisconsinites refused to believe the rest of the country about the cultural mores we’re bringing in.

… which prompted Andrew Turnbull to post on the Fans of Best of the Web Today Facebook page:

Who ARE you, and what have you done with the real Ann Coulter? …

Does anyone remember the whole taking over the capitol thing? How they nearly recalled a sitting governor a few years ago? Remember the protesters fighting with cops, rounds of arrests in the rotunda, the drum circles and chanting? How about the midnight raids on citizens for supporting the “Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill”?”

Um, Ann…do I really have to point out that the thugs who did the “whole taking over the capitol thing” were…Leftists and Libs? Leftists and Libs weren’t voting in the Wisconsin Republican primary.

And, Ann, do I really have to remind you that the recall effort against Scott Walker was a Democrat thing, not a Republican thing. Democrats didn’t give Cruz the Republican primary win. Oh, and that recall effort? Walker won by a slightly greater margin in the recall than he did in the previous general. Damn those mean-as-snakes Wisconsinites, huh?

About those protesters fighting with cops, arrests, drums, midnight raids – ALL Leftists and Liberals and Democrats, NOT the Republican voters who delivered Cruz’ Republican primary victory.

She used to be so spot-on and acerbic. Now she’s just vicious, and with credibility and intellectual honesty on a par with MSNBC and the mainstream media.

Rusty the phony maverick returns

Kevin Binversie writes about Senator for Life Russ Feingold:

What a difference six years makes.

Facing defeat squarely in the eye in 2010, Russ Feingold and “progressive” commentators did all they could to stave off political oblivion. One of the most curious, was embracing a narrative that the “Middleton Maverick” was as “Tea Party” as they come.

The most famous of these came from Ruth Conniff of “Progressive” magazine , who in August 2010, wrote:

Pro-gun, anti-bank, and a staunch defender of civil liberties, Russ Feingold should appeal to the Tea Party crowd.

Here’s a quick political quiz:

Which candidate running for U.S. Senate this year just released a radio ad attacking his opponent for being insufficiently vigilant about citizens’ Second Amendment rights?

Hint: This candidate frequently invokes the Constitution, and has taken lone-wolf positions opposing government wiretapping and other forms of Big Brother-like over-reaching. This candidate also opposed the Obama Administration’s recently passed financial reform legislation, saying it did doesn’t end “too big to fail” and won’t stop more bailouts of the banks.

Rand Paul?

Sharron Angle?

Nope. Make that Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin.

Feingold and his campaign would continue this narrative all the way through the debates*. At the Wisconsin Broadcasters’ Association debate , Feingold boasted that he knew the Constitution better than Ron Johnson.

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) used his first debate against self-funding Republican nominee Ron Johnson Friday night to extend an olive branch to the tea party movement that’s poised to rattle races across the midterm map.

Feingold, who is trailing Johnson by single digits in most public polls, first took a swipe at his GOP opponent for being a latecomer to embracing one of the tea party’s most cherished symbols: the U.S. Constitution.

[…]

“Even though he made some comments originally about how the Patriot Act maybe had some problems, he fell in line to the Republican view, says he’s for the Patriot Act,” Feingold said, pointing out that he was the only senator to vote against the post-Sept. 11 legislation. “And the tea party people agree with me.”

“Tea party people know that I stood against the Wall Street scam from Day One, that I voted against TARP, that I voted against repealing Glass-Steagall Act that kept these guys under some control,” he said, referring to the 1930s law that established the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

You can see the exchange for yourself here.

Fast-forward to the 2016 rematch between Johnson and Feingold, and things have changed. Much like his garage door pledge and insistence on liberal third party groups staying out of his race, Feingold’s apparent “love” for the Tea Party has gone overboard.

While in Green Bay, Feingold told a reporter for Gannett Wisconsin network he’s changed his tune, and sees them as a “mistake.”

“I think the Tea Party was a mistake,” he said of a recent wave of Republican lawmakers who won seats, including the Senate seat Feingold lost in 2010. “I think it’s going to turn around. I don’t think people like this whole obstructionist attitude.”

Why the sudden change of heart by Feingold?

Because he doesn’t need votes from so-called “Tea Partiers” anymore. With public polling in his favor and the public’s perception of the Tea Party much lower than it was in 2010, Feingold feels he can finally be honest about the Tea Party’s agenda. He also isn’t holding back about how he truly feels about things like Obamacare, getting the national debt under control, and other tenants of the Tea Party.

Among some in the Wisconsin Tea Party, it has become vogue to say Sen. Ron Johnson has “sold out” during his time in office. Honest people can have some disagreement over that belief, but Feingold’s statement confirms something that’s long been known – he tried to con them in 2010 and is showing that his return to the U.S. Senate would ensure he will grow government, grow debt, and rubberstamp a President Hillary Clinton.

There’s no mistake in that reasoning.

Feingold’s phoniness shows in his attempt at defining the tea party as merely obstructing Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats, instead of its original purpose to reduce the size and role of the federal government. Feingold also shows as much respect for the Second Amendment as Comrade Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

Feingold went around earlier this week claiming he was for the middle class because he supports keeping the home mortgage interest deduction. (Which certainly benefits the big banks, which purchase mortgages from smaller banks, doesn’t it?) But M.D. Kittle points out that Feingold’s tax record is not what he’s telling you:

In Wisconsin, taxes, spending and the $19.2 trillion national debt will be key issues in the closely watched contest between conservative U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, and liberal Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, the long-time former senator who Johnson beat in 2010.

As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel put it on Sunday, “Johnson and his Republican allies are expected to harp on Feingold’s record as a U.S. senator.”

There’s a reason for that.

As Johnson and his allies like to point out, Feingold supported more than 270 tax increases during his 18-year tenure in the Senate.

The justification for his tax-and-spend record, Feingold and his allies like to point out, is in part the former senator’s focus on combating the ever-growing national debt.

“The top of my agenda is the federal deficit, making sure that as we go forward to try to get the country moving again from an economic point of view that we don’t forget that part of that has to be a serious plan to reduce the federal deficit over the next four or five years,” then Sen.-elect Feingold said during a Nov. 9, 1992 press conference in Washington, D.C.

How’d that work out?

Well, U.S. debt climbed $10 trillion during Feingold’s tenure in the Senate.

The debt clocked in at $4.2 trillion when he arrived in January 1993, and stood at $14 trillion when he left in January 2011.

Debt has gotten no relief during Johnson’s first term in office, rising about $5 trillion over that time. But Johnson backers say at least the senator has attempted to rein in runaway spending and check soaring Obama administration spending plans.

Feingold on four separate occasions voted against a resolution proposing a balanced budget constitutional amendment. Most Democrats did in the mid-to-late 1990s.

Johnson co-sponsored a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget, as well as legislation demanding dollar-for-dollar spending reductions when a president asks for an increase in the debt ceiling.

The Republican-led “Cut, Cap and Balance” bill, which Johnson supported in 2011 and Democrats almost universally hated, identified more than $1 trillion in potential savings from wasteful government programs.

“This mountain of debt and the irresponsible spending that worsens it every year now threaten the hopes and dreams of future generations. This is immoral. We must stop,” Johnson notes in an issue statement on the debt and deficit.

Feingold and his supporters have billed the liberal as some kind of progressive fiscal hawk. He did, at times, draw a line in the sand on debt-raising proposals. In 2003, Feingold authored an amendment reducing by $100 million President George W. Bush’s $726 billion, 10-year tax cut.

“We are in a war, and the budget must reflect it,” Feingold said, referring to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But Feingold seemed to have a hard time saying yes to spending cuts and no to spending.

During President Barack Obama’s first years in office, Feingold was constantly ready with an affirmative vote for a litany of spending plans. He said yes to an additional $825 billion for the economic recovery package, massive spending that Feingold argued was critical in saving the U.S. economy from ruin. He was arguably one of the deciding votes for Obamacare, pegged to cost taxpayers about $1.2 trillion over 10 years.

And over his time in the Senate, Feingold supported hundreds of millions of dollars in increases for Medicaid and other social welfare programs.

“Senator Feingold hasn’t met a tax he didn’t want to raise, and he has a long record of choosing to raise taxes on hardworking Wisconsin families, rather than make the tough choices to keep government fiscally responsible,” said Pat Garrett spokesman for theRepublican Party of Wisconsin. …

In his first year alone, Feingold voted at least 25 times in support of higher taxes, according to a review of Congressional Quarterly vote tallies.

Feingold voted to kill an amendment to eliminate instructions to the Finance Committee for a $32 billion tax increase over five years on Social Security beneficiaries. The revenue increase was created by hiking from 50 percent to 85 percent the amount of benefits subject to tax for single recipients with incomes of more than $25,000 and couples with more than $32,000.  The amendment would have cut new spending by the same amount in order to meet the same deficit-reduction targets in the resolution.

A further review of the Congressional Quarterly records found that the senator also that year voted against exempting small businesses or family farms from increased taxes on income that is reinvested in the business. The costs would have been offset by cutting discretionary spending. Feingold backed a 1994 budget reconciliation bill that raised $241 billion in revenue through tax hikes.

In 2001, Feingold voted at least 30 times to raise taxes, including voting against the adoption of a concurrent resolution to implement a 10-year budget plan calling for $1.8 trillion in tax cuts over the period, according to CQ.

Again, Feingold argued in part that such tax cuts would only expand the deficit, even as he voted for spending increases that did just that.

Two years later, the senator voted for tax increases 41 times, the review found.

Between 2007 and 2008, Feingold supported hiking taxes at least 45 times, including voting against an amendment to provide an employee payroll tax holiday over a six-month period. That time, the senator went against Obama, who traded Congress a two-year extension on the Bush-era tax cuts for the payroll tax holiday.

“Senator Feingold spent 18 years in Washington supporting big government over Wisconsin families and small businesses, and his hundreds of votes in favor of higher taxes prove it,” said Brian Reisinger, Johnson campaign spokesman. “Wisconsinites fired Senator Feingold in 2010 because he voted for policies that raised taxes and grew the government instead of growing the economy.”

The post-Journal Communications world

What was left of Journal Communications died last week when regulators approved the purchase of Journal Media Group, the print arm of the late Journal Communications, by Gannett, the biggest newspaper owner in the country.

Two years ago the Journal “merger” with Scripps split Journal’s broadcast and print properties, and now Gannett’s purchase ends what was the largest media company in the state, and the media company Wisconsin journalists wanted to work for. The links go to my previous posts on how this is all bad for the state’s media consumers. (Those who read Gannett’s dailies in this state already know all of this. Those who have read this blog know that Journal’s going from employee-owned to publicly traded provided the pathway to its demise.)

Scripps, which owns the oldest commercial TV station in the state, the biggest commercial radio station (in terms of signal reach) in the state, and two TV stations in the state’s second largest media market, got with its Journal half Right Wisconsin, the conservative website tied to WTMJ’s Charlie Sykes.

Meanwhile, iHeart Media, the largest radio station owner in the U.S. (until its debt forces iHeart to divest itself of a lot of radio stations), owns radio stations in Milwaukee and Madison that carry conservative talkers Mark Belling and Vicki McKenna. Midwest Communications, now that rarest of things — a Wisconsin-based media company! — broadcasts Jerry Bader on Green Bay and Wausau radio stations.

(Media history aside: iHeart’s WISN, which carries Belling, McKenna and Rush Limbaugh, was owned by the Milwaukee Sentinel, the more conservative Journal Communications newspaper. Journal purchased the Sentinel in 1962 when Hearst, the Sentinel’s owner, threatened to close the Sentinel due to an employee strike. The Milwaukee Journal and the Sentinel had separate newsrooms but the same advertising, circulation and printing operations until the Journal and the Sentinel merged in 1995. More ironically, iHeart’s WIBA, which carries McKenna, was started by The Capital Times, the former left-wing Madison daily. William Evjue must be spinning in his grave.)

Bader discusses the state’s talk media environment:

Back in February Citizen Action of Wisconsin (CAW), a left-wing community organizing group based in Milwaukee declared war on conservative talk radio. For the most part, their declaration was greeted with the yawn it deserved; the left has tried to take out conservative hosts before, including with counter programming on radio stations of its own. The result? Conservative talk radio is alive and well.

I predicted on my show that the Badger state Left would go into meltdown mode after its efforts to smear Justice Rebecca Bradley off the Wisconsin Supreme Court failed. I certainly don’t want to take anything away from Bradley’s qualifications or the campaign she ran, but there is no doubt conservative talkers giving her a platform with which to fight back was a factor in her victory. CAW sees it that way as well, judging by a fundraising email they sent out Saturday morning:

I’m not going to sugarcoat it: Right-wing talk radio distorted our political process once again on Tuesday.

Using our public airwaves for what amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars in free advertising, Charlie Sykes, Jerry Bader and the rest of the reactionary talk radio circus delivered another election – this time for one of the most unqualified and bigoted Supreme Court Justice in Wisconsin history.

This is why we’re starting the Radio-Active campaign, because it’s more urgent than ever we fight back against the right-wing radio machine. Make a generous donation today to help raise the final $5,000 needed to launch the Radio-Active campaign and begin to break the conservative radio monopoly in Wisconsin.

Each day, conservative radio hosts in Milwaukee, Green Bay, and other Wisconsin cities use unfettered access to the public airwaves to blanket our state with racist, hateful content designed to divide and conquer our state.

Nothing new here; the left has always claimed talk radio is filled with racist, hateful content. Never mind that racism and hate are critical factors in my personal opposition to Donald Trump.

The email then goes on to ask for contributions to get the “final $5,000” needed for its “Radio-Active” campaign. Its goal?

Radio-Active will (1) monitor talk radio, hold media corporations accountable for supporting an extreme political agenda, and force them to provide balance; and (2) explore the possibility of purchasing radio stations that will air progressive talk radio programming.

About the only thing new in this pitch is that CAW discovered my show this election cycle. I’m sure Sykes and the other hosts in the state join me in quivering with fear at the notion of CAW paying some unemployed liberals to monitor our shows. And as for their intent to purchase stations to air progressive talk programming, anybody remember Air America? I didn’t think so.

Then there is this line:

Without the right-wing radio monopoly, there would be no Scott Walker or Rebecca Bradley!

It is true. Without conservative talk radio Governor Scott Walker likely doesn’t survive his recall and Justice Rebecca Bradley would have lost her election last week. But all of that is testimony to the need for conservative talk to counter the liberal media onslaught that would have felled both of them. It’s hardly an indictment against conservative talkers. And calling the influence we have “a monopoly” is laughable. We’re a sliver of the media compared to the control the “old media” still has in the state. That we seem to wield outsized influence is what exasperates and angers the left. There was a day when the left’s smear campaign against Bradley would have defeated her. How the left pines for “the good old days.”

And our shows succeed because we are entertaining and engaging. I spent an hour Friday taking calls on whether a smart phone app allowing you to keep your dog in a box on a city street is a good idea. Do you think CAW has any idea that we talk about things like that? If liberal talk sold you’d be hearing it all over the state, and the country. If our shows weren’t revenue generators you wouldn’t hear them on the air.

The Wisconsin presidential primary showed America that our state is blessed with some of the best local conservative talk radio in the country. If CAW thinks we all draw large audiences because we preach hate and racism every day, it’s not hard to understand why their side again finds itself on the losing end of another important statewide election. Final thought: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tried its damnedest to defeat Justice Rebecca Bradley and failed. Every conservative talk show host in Wisconsin harshly criticized them for that effort. Did any of us suggest the JS should be shut down?

George Mitchell doesn’t suggest the Journal Sentinel be shut down, but suggests the Journal Sentinel’s new owners need to make major changes, starting with employee attitude:

What’s certain is that Gannett wants revenue to exceed expenses. It will do what it regards as necessary to meet that goal.

A central question for conservatives is whether coverage of political and government news will be more balanced. Stated somewhat differently, will the Journal Sentinel stop poking a stick in our eyes?

From an economic sense, the answer for Gannett decision-makers should be a straightforward yes. Southeast Wisconsin residents who lean right are a key demographic to advertisers — the folks who pay the bills.

The high turnout of such residents in last week’s election highlights a rich target of customers. I contend that a growing number have been turned off by a biased narrative found in the paper’s political coverage.

It’s a narrative that for years has skewed coverage of such major stories as Act 10, the John Doe investigations, and most recently, the Supreme Court election. The result is that while the editors have proudly piled up journalism awards, they have alienated much of their reader base. It is hard to overstate the degree of disillusionment from many former readers, or the aggressive contempt that current editor George Stanley has shown to a major portion of his potential customer base.

From a journalistic point of view the result has been biased, one-sided reporting, and a long list of stories that the newspaper has missed or failed to report. It is not mere happenstance that the Journal-Sentinel managed to miss one of the biggest political stories of this year’s election cycle: the role of conservative talk radio in the GOP presidential race. It was story covered extensively by the New York Times, theWashington Post,Politico, and virtually every national media outlet.

But it was a story largely missed by the hometown paper. How to explain Craig Gilbert’s election wrap-up story on Sunday that omitted any mention of talk radio? Actually, it is not really surprising, when you realize that Stanley – the newspaper’s editor and a vocal champion of “transparency” – actually blocks one of the state’s most influential talk show hosts on his twitter account.

But Gannett needs to ask: does it make journalistic or economic sense to virtually ignore the existence and impact of conservative Wisconsin talk radio, a medium that reached hundreds of thousands of potential (and ex-) readers in their new market?

I will speculate further below on the whether real change is likely. First I offer an exercise for the Journal Sentinel newsroom based on my own experience as a reporter at a Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper, the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

When Mel Opotowsky arrived as the paper’s new managing editor (in 1972) he moved quickly to introduce some humility to a staff that thought it was pretty special because of the Pulitzer. No new awards would be sought, he explained, until he decided the paper had mastered coverage of basic day-to-day news beats. He took other steps that would be eye-openers if followed by today’s Journal Sentinel:

1. If reporters received reader complaints (in those pre-digital days that most often would be by phone) they were to document the complaint and explain to Mel whether a correction was warranted or how future coverage might be changed. He would vote up or down on the reporter’s input.
2. Reporters were assigned the task of listing five shortcomings in their news coverage over previous months. Those unfamiliar with newsroom cultures will not appreciate the numbing and humbling effect of this task. As illustrated perfectly by George Stanley’s Journal Sentinel, a circle-the-wagons dynamic is common at most papers. Substantive corrections are rare (when, in fact, was the last instance of the Journal Sentinel acknowledging that it got a story plain wrong?).

If the new powers-that-be at the Journal Sentinel actually pursued an internal self-assessment the benefits would be clear though perhaps not immediately tangible. A newsroom whose culture is driven by the chest-thumping of Stanley could not help but gain from such a process. Readers would begin to notice a difference.

I rate as low the chances that the Journal Sentinel will regard my suggestions as worthwhile. To even consider a serious internal critique would require a sea-change in Stanley’s approach (or his replacement). Stanley’s new superiors likely have already become accustomed to his rote explanations of the paper’s performance (“We report the news straight. We get an equal number of complaints from Republicans and Democrats. Oh, did I mention we have won awards?”)?

The forces at work, then and now, are national. In less than three decades newspaper circulation nationally has declined a full third, a trend matched in Milwaukee. Gannett’s executives should recognize that it’s bad business to be oblivious to the economic potential of Southeast Wisconsin conservatives and the discontent that George Stanley has sown among them.

Why do those radio stations carry Sykes, Belling, McKenna and Bader? Because they make money for their radio stations. Why do stations carry Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and other national right-wing talkers? Because they make money for their radio stations without having to pay talent salaries. (In media, local is better.) Unless you’re in public broadcasting or nonprofit media, the first objective is to make money. (And there is really no such thing as “nonprofit” given that every organization must have more money than it spends to continue existence.)

The Journal Sentinel now has one conservative columnist, Christian Schneider, who is not actually a Journal Sentinel employee. The Journal Sentinel also has a bunch of bloggers under the Purple Wisconsin, none of whom are employees either, but “purple” means more blue (liberal) than red. Given Mitchell’s observations about who has money in the Milwaukee market, the Journal Sentinel is doing it wrong at least on the opinion page.

 

Advice to Democrats from a liberal

The liberal is the founder of Blue Jean Nation:

Another election, another round of venting and fuming about stupid, unthinking people voting against their own interests. You ask for the umpteenth time how long will it take for them to wake up and see they are being sold down the river.

I have different questions on my mind: How many more elections will it take for you to figure out you cannot beat Wisconsin’s governor by hating him? And how many more seats will be filled on the state’s highest court before it becomes clear you cannot beat the governor’s favorite judges merely by tying them to him?

At some point, you are going to have to come to terms with the fact that you are defined by what or who you are against rather than what you are for. That’s on you. That’s how you’ve defined yourselves.

At some point, you need to drop the excuse that voters who don’t support your candidates are stupid and unthinking. They are not voting against their own interests. They are voting for their interests as they see their interests. Your job is to understand how they see their interests and make them a better offer.

That better offer can’t be a recitation of reasons why your opponents are despicable scoundrels. It has to be a vivid description of what you love and what you hope for and what you dream of.

In a Supreme Court race, that description can’t be a vague promise to be a fair, independent, nonpartisan judge when it is plainly obvious to just about everyone in our state that judicial elections have become intensely partisan and highly ideological and that seemingly every candidate nowadays has the backing of a major party and its constituent groups.

Another election, another attempt at beating opponents by hating them. Another election result, another round of venting and fuming. You do know what it’s called when you do the same thing over and over again but expect a different outcome, don’t you?

Related advice comes from Scott Wittkopf:

In a blog post the day before the Wisconsin Primary, I sought to raise serious questions about the conventional Dem strategy playing out in the State Supreme Court race. In addition, I pointed out that because of flawed establishment strategy, the result may not be a good one for Dems. Once again, the day after an important election, Dems are left scratching their heads and playing the same “blame game” we’ve been stuck with since 2010. On social media this morning, I’ve seen a lot of Wisconsin Dems blaming the media, big money, Bernie Sanders, “dumb” Wisconsin voters, Act 10, and more. All that being said, there is now more call for real change in our strategies than ever before. The question is, will there be courage to change?

Here’s a news flash – while money may be playing a big role (and we’ll get to that), it’s not the only factor. It’s a new political world. Yet there are people who would rather point fingers and make excuses, than try to change what they are doing to be more effective in changing the political status quo. Here’s a bit of a “post mortem” on the election based on late polls and results, followed by ideas for how progressives move forward from here and actually start making progress.

The March Marquette Law School Poll showed that Bradley had opened up a considerable lead on Kloppenburg (which panned out in the election). One of the points in my blog post on Monday, was that this shift was largely a function of how the attack ads against Bradley were solidifying conservative support around her. In addition, these attack ads were more of the same flawed Dem strategy of “unframed” negative attacks which only serve to reinforce the conservative message (read the blog). It is the continued absence of a well framed, positive, progressive vision and message that continues to hurt Dem candidates and campaigns. The absence of such a positive, progressive vision/message also serves to weaken progressive ideas and support, while strengthening conservative. This is a well documented cognitive effect on people.

While large sums of money provide a means to disseminate a VERY effective and well-framed conservative message (as well as implied quid pro quo acts once elected), it is the message itself that is motivating and inspiring people. THAT is why it’s so effective. As I have experienced firsthand, there are ways to overcome being outspent in a campaign, but you need to think and act outside the box. More on that in a little bit. First – what are some of the insights from polls and the election outcome?

The February and March Marquette Polls provide a great insight into the effectiveness of the conservative core message, and how ineffective Dem tactics are. Again, while the money provides the means, it is the core message itself that is moving people. Dems consistently ignore the systemic nature of this quandary – and therefore have no answer for it. In fact, I received a personal message from someone in the Kloppenburg Campaign after Monday’s blog post. They contended that I had ignored the $3+ million in third party attack ads against Kloppenburg, and that the Marquette Poll “oversampled” Republicans.

“Oversampled”? One day after the Kloppenburg email, 96,000 more Republicans then Democrats voted. Bradley got more votes than all of the Democratic presidential candidates combined.

The bottom line is that Republicans turned out nearly 100,000 more voters for their candidates than Democrats. This is actually an historic, emerging trend in Wisconsin – and it began BEFORE Citizens United. While more money into Republican coffers means that they are able to better disseminate their vision and message, make no mistake – they are motivating and inspiring (even through fear) more people to vote Republican. WKOW political reporter Greg Neumann pointed out today that in the 2008 Presidential Primary, Democrats attracted 700,000 more voters than Republicans. As of yesterday, that represents a shift of nearly 800,000 voters in favor of Republicans! Here’s a figure to show that trend – and note that 2012 is an outlier as Barack Obama ran unopposed, so Dem turnout is atypically low. By all accounts, Dem turnout peaked with Obama, and is waning …

Dems need to face the facts. They’ve squandered the energy and hope that came with the Obama Campaigns. The effectiveness of the conservative Republican messaging machine, and their core messages are simply motivating and inspiring more people to vote Republican than Democrat. A great deal of the problem is that many Dems are satisfied with the status quo; and fail to recognize that even though progressives will be outspent, there are ways to overcome it if you learn to THINK about your strategy differently.

To start, everyone talks about “messaging” and “progressive values,” but no one effectively communicates or evokes what those values are to the public at large. Worse yet, Dems are recently too busy being “not Scott Walker” than being FOR something that resonates across all issues. Next, there needs to be a recognition and solution to the “issue” problem that divides us within the Party and to the public at large. None of these ideas are new. And to tell the truth, Dems have had these ideas in front of them for a long time. They continually choose to keep playing in a 21st Century game with 19th Century ideas.

Remember Bill Clinton? Wisconsin Democrats have forgotten him. (And, by the way, Hillary Clinton is not Bill Clinton.)

Wisconsin’s dump of Trump

Christian Schneider on The Donald:

Up until this week, Trump had been a tsunami, gathering size and strength as he moved closer to the Republican nomination. A Trump nomination would drown the party’s chances of winning the presidency, keeping the U.S. Senate and could even put Republicans’ historic majority in the U.S. House in play. Clinton couldn’t have planned it better herself.

But then Wisconsin happened.

On Tuesday, like parents scolding a young child, Republican voters in Wisconsin sent Trump to sit in the corner to think about the damage he had done. Ted Cruz’s landslide victory in Tuesday’s primary deeply wounded Trump’s chances of earning enough delegates to win the nomination at the party’s convention in July and exposed Trump’s dreadful lack of judgment for voters in upcoming states. As New Yorker writer Ryan Lizza put it on Twitter, Wisconsinites are now the GOP’s “designated drivers.”

In the days leading up to Tuesday’s primary, pundits had been saying Trump imploded in Wisconsin, which drove his negatives higher and fueled his flaccid showing. But this is wrong. Trump, in fact, behaved in Wisconsin the same way he had in every other state. In the past two weeks, he was just as boorish, poorly informed and vulgar as he has been for the previous year, only this time, he ran up against two weeks of uninterrupted coverage in a state where conservatives can spot a phony.

Perhaps the worst sideshow in Trump’s parade of cluelessness through Wisconsin was attacking Gov. Scott Walker, for whom conservatives have spent five years walking over hot coals to defend. At one point, Trump even rapped Walker for not having raised taxes to give to schools and highways — which is a bit like strolling into a Weight Watchers meeting chowing down on a double Whopper with cheese. Often, Trump would use anti-Walker facts and figures provided by Wisconsin Democrats; when Republicans heard him blame Walker for phony state “deficits,” they likely had flashbacks to the union protests of 2011.

To his credit, Cruz took advantage of other candidates dropping out of the field, quickly gathering their support. But Cruz’s support is still milquetoast among state GOP voters; it remains to be seen how much of the Cruz vote was “stop Trump” and how much was real enthusiasm.

Cruz has a 58% approval rating among Wisconsin Republicans. Compare that to the 84% approval enjoyed by Scott Walker and Paul Ryan’s 75% approval. In fact, many Wisconsin voters may have simply voted for Cruz thinking it was the best way to get to an open convention where the wildly popular Paul Ryan could step in and become the party’s nominee.

But all those machinations are for another day. For now, Wisconsin can take pride in being the state that stood athwart the tide and yelled “Stop!”

On Tuesday, Wisconsin Republicans slapped Donald Trump with a restraining order — now it’s up to the remaining states to enforce it.

William F. Buckley Jr., perhaps the only person in American history to use “athwart” in a sentence, was no fan of Trump, as you know.

Trump’s bizarre on-the-stump behavior is apparently making an increasing number of people wonder how serious he really is in running. Stephanie Cegielski, formerly of the Make America Great super-PAC, wrote …

You can give Trump the biggest gift possible if you are a Trump supporter: stop supporting him.

He doesn’t want the White House. He just wants to be able to say that he could have run the White House. He’s achieved that already and then some. If there is any question, take it from someone who was recruited to help the candidate succeed, and initially very much wanted him to do so.

… which made Richard Zombeck conclude:

Donald Trump does not want to be president. In fact, he never wanted to be president. His entire campaign has been a long con and a ruse to strengthen his brand and feed his ego. ..

So let’s assume that all of that is true. Donald Trump can’t just quit. After all, he’s Donald Trump. The next logical step would be to take a fall — possibly losing the nomination by a small margin. But again, if you’re Donald Trump you don’t lose. If you’re Donald Trump and want to get out while still maintaining your brand and your dignity, you play the long game and come out looking like a victim. In a sense, you spin it so that your supporters think you’re so accurate in your assessment of the world that it frightens the establishment into shutting you down — you’re that powerful.

Over the course of the last week, Trump has made headlines and drawn attention by doing and saying things that are completely contrary to what anyone would consider sane.

Trump’s conversation with Chris Matthews on MSNBC about abortion was just the beginning. During the interview he told Matthews that women who seek abortion should be punished — a stance even the hardliners in the GOP think is preposterous. Not to mention, women are the largest demographic in this country. There is no path to nomination without their support. Why would anyone alienate them?

Speaking of women, Trump completely fumbled the issue of his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who was criminally charged for an altercation with a reporter. Rather than remain impartial or simply fire the staffer, Trump instead impugned the character of the reporter who was manhandled by Lewandowski.

Later that week while speaking at an event in Wisconsin, Trump told the audience that the Geneva Conventions hinder our efforts. The Geneva Conventions are made up of four treaties, most of which cover the humane treatment of enemy combatants and civilians.

“The problem,” Trump said, “is we have the Geneva Conventions, all sorts of rules and regulations, so the soldiers are afraid to fight. We can’t waterboard, but they can chop off heads. I think we’ve got to make some changes.” Trump also suggested that South Korea and Japan be allowed access to nuclear weapons, a suggestion that deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said would be “catastrophic.”

“The entire premise of American foreign policy as it relates to nuclear weapons for the past 70 years has been focused on preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons to additional states,” Rhodes said.

Trump also said he would not be opposed to using nuclear weapons in the Middle East or in Europe, during the above-mentioned interview with Chris Matthews. …

Adding whipped cream to this well-crafted sundae of incompetence and ignorance, Trump called in to a conservative Wisconsin radio show and blasted Gov. Scott Walker.

But you had a $2.2 billion budget deficit and the schools were going begging and everything was going begging because he [Walker] didn’t want to raise taxes because he was going to run for president. So instead of raising taxes he cut back on schools, he cut back on highways, cut back on a lot of things. And that’s why…Wisconsin has a problem.

The host of the show, Charlie Sykes, is probably one of the most influential voices in Wisconsin’s talk radio arena. Sykes is also so strongly opposed to Trump that he’s vowed never to support him in any election. This is clearly something Trump had to have known going into the interview. It’s hard to believe he didn’t.

The cherry on the aforementioned sundae? Wisconsin is home of 42 delegates. All of which are up for grabs and could potentially put Trump closer to the nomination. Rather than appear himself, he sent Sarah Palin. One more time: He sent Sarah Palin. The Huffington Post reported:

Palin’s speech at a Republican gathering in Milwaukee  fell flat and earned little applause from about 750 attendees, according to the Journal Times. The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker reported that Palin got some laughs when she said, “Trump talks rationally.”

And in that same speech—the one in which she claims that Trump talks rationally—she said this about Trump’s opponents:

What the heck are you thinking, candidates? What the heck are you thinking when you’re actually asking for more immigrants — even illegal immigrants, welcoming them in.  Even inducing and seducing them with gift baskets: “Come on over the border and here’s a gift basket of teddy bears and soccer balls.”

Trump is no dummy and is not known for making stupid mistakes. Yes, he’s brash, uncouth, and maybe even ignorant on many issues, but he is not stupid.

Trump started the layout’s role of victim on Fox News last week. On Friday during a phone interview, Donald Trump, when asked about his comments on MSNBC, said, “You really ought to hear the whole thing. I mean, this is a long convoluted question. This was a long discussion, and they just cut it out. And, frankly, it was extremely — it was really convoluted.”

MSNBC quickly responded with a statement, saying, “The town hall interview with Donald Trump was taped in advance and then aired in its entirety. Absolutely no part of the exchange between Trump and Chris Matthews was edited out.”

Even Chris Wallace, during a “Fox News Sunday“ interview, asked Trump, “Are you in the process of blowing your campaign for president?” …

Republican strategist Cheri Jacobus, who had met with Trump about becoming their communications director, confirms most of this, telling the National Review:

I believe Trump senses he is in over his head and doesn’t really want the nomination. He wanted to help his brand and have fun, but not to be savaged by the Clintons if he’s the candidate. He wouldn’t mind falling short of a delegate majority, losing the nomination, and then playing angry celebrity victim in the coming years.

What began as a con will end as a con. Trump will continue to make bombastic, ludicrous and inane comments, proving to the media—who are all too eager to give him all the attention he wants—that he is wholly unqualified for the job. Other republicans will chastise him for the things that he says, proving to his followers that he is being targeted by an establishment that is afraid of him. Trump will walk away unscathed, his brand strengthened and his dignity intact. He will be the guy who nearly became president, but was too much for people to take. In many ways and on many levels nothing could be more accurate.

The April 5 Demodisaster

On Friday, my opponent on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Joy Cardin (or substitute host) Week in Review predicted, among other things, that Hillary Clinton (for whom she apparently is an official representative, whatever that means) would win the Wisconsin Democratic presidential primary and Joanne Kloppenburg would be elected to the state Supreme Court, while claiming that the Republican Party is “in ruins.”

Her conclusions began with a false premise. I am not a Republican, but an objective observer who can count would notice that 31 states have Republican governors, and 23 states, including Wisconsin, have Republican governors and GOP control of both houses of their legislature. In contrast, there are 18 Democratic governors, and only seven states have complete Democratic control of their executive and legislative branches. All of that took place before Donald Trump decided to run for president as a “Republican.” Perhaps she meant “ruins” as an acronym, something like Republicans United In Neutralizing Socialists, or something.

So what happened in Wisconsin yesterday?

First: The anointed Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, lost, by 13 percent to Comrade Sanders.

I maintain that Hillary! will still get the Democratic nomination, because the fix is clearly in thanks to her support among Democratic superdelegates. It is not, however, a good sign for her that Sanders has won seven of the last eight Democratic votes, despite the fact that Democratic economists from the last two Democratic presidential administrations have nothing good to say about Sanders’ economic ideas.

Yesterday I got an email from someone from the Hillary! campaign suggesting I read the transcript of Sanders’ meeting with the New York Daily News editorial board. The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart summarizes:

The more I read the transcript, the more it became clear that the candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination doesn’t know much beyond his standard stump speech about breaking up the banks and how he had the good judgment to vote against the Iraq War in 2002. …

From his own plans for breaking up too-big-to-fail banks to how he would handle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to dealing with the Islamic State, the man giving homegirl Hillary Clinton a run for her money seemed surprisingly out of his depth. …

1. Breaking up the banks …

2. The legal implications of breaking up a financial institution …

3. Prosecuting Wall Street executives for the financial collapse of 2008 …

Considering this is the core of his campaign message, Sanders should know all of the points covered in 1, 2 and 3 inside and out. He should have been able to lecture his interrogators into a stupor with his detailed knowledge. Instead, Sanders sounded slightly better than a college student caught off-guard by a surprise test in his best class just before finals. …

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the most vexing and vital for the occupant of the Oval Office. It bedeviled Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. And as we learned from Jeffrey Goldberg’s excellent piece on “The Obama Doctrine,” our current president has given up. Solve that foreign policy Rubik’s Cube and you might unleash broader peace on the Middle East. But it requires being able to answer 4, 5 and 6 with finesse, which can’t be done if you “don’t quite think I’m qualified to make decisions.” …

Paris was attacked. Istanbul was attacked. Brussels was attacked and is basically a bedroom community for terrorists seeking to destabilize Europe. And several African nations have been terrorized by Islamic State affiliates. That Sanders “[doesn’t] know the answer” to whether the president has the right policy against the Islamic State is unacceptable. …

“Actually I haven’t thought about it a whole lot”?!  C’mon, man! What makes Sanders’s responses to all of these foreign policy questions even more troubling is that he spoke with more clarity and certainty on foreign policy during a speech on March 21.

That is who a majority of self-identified Democrats voted for yesterday. That proves that Sanders is indeed the Democrats’ answer to Trump, which brings us to …

Second: The Democrats’ preferred Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, lost, by 13 percent, to Ted Cruz.

As a Cruz non-supporter, I find this good news merely because it makes Trump’s path to the GOP nomination more difficult, and makes the bizarre specter of a brokered convention more likely. Like Sanders instead of Clinton, Cruz has the momentum and not Trump. Although the numbers people say Cruz cannot win the nomination on the first ballot, it’s starting to look as if, unless momentum swings differently in the coming weeks, Trump can’t either. It seems that Trump, who polls enormously negatively in November poll questions, can only get the support of about one-third of Republicans, and he’s been winning because the anti-Trump vote has been spread among too many candidates. Now it’s not.

Trump may never come to Wisconsin again given how his week went. He began with the smart move of going on conservative talk radio with four hosts who have made clear their opposition to Trump — Charlie Sykes, Jerry Bader, Vicki McKenna and Mark Belling. It was a smart move, until Trump opened his mouth and revealed himself to be unprepared (the biggest sin of all when appearing on talk radio) and basically making it up as he goes.

Trump then doubled down by going on Illinois talk radio to castigate Gov. Scott Walker, who earlier that day had endorsed Cruz. (Walker said when his presidential campaign ended that the GOP needed to unite behind a candidate not named Trump, so his endorsement was certainly not unexpected.) Trump attacked the Act 10 reforms that are only the most successful Republican policy objective in my lifetime in this state, and on which, following Recallarama, Walker and Republicans maintained control of the executive and legislative branches of state government. Then came his taking five different, and of course contradictory, positions within one day on abortion rights.

There are Trump supporters who are rightly angry with the state of things, political, economic and otherwise, in this country today. (The same applies to some Sanders supporters, even if their anger is focused on the wrong things and they have absolutely wrong policy solutions for those issues.) There are Trump supporters whose anger blinds them to political realities, such as the fact that Americans do not support stopping immigration of Muslims or anyone else, or deporting Muslims (both of which I think are Trump’s position, at least until he changes them again), and the fact that supposed Republicans In Name Only like Speaker of the House Paul Ryan are vastly preferable to the Democratic alternative. (Remember when Peter Barca represented Ryan’s House of Representatives district?)

How did Trump react? This is his campaign’s purported statement:

(Note to future non-establishment presidential candidates, regardless of party: Feel free to castigate the party establishment, or establishments, but for your campaign find someone who knows what the hell he or she is doing.)

The biggest non-politician winners of Tuesday, in fact, may well have been Sykes, Bader, McKenna and Belling, who were castigated by some people I mentioned one paragraph ago as establishment toadies, Republicans In Name Only, sellouts, etc. Those four dared to ask Trump questions and bring up issues that such national talk show hosts as Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Michael Savage and others failed to do in their Trump worship. I may well be biased in believing that Republicans need to do a better job in and with the news media, and politicians and candidates shouldn’t complain about being asked tough questions, but if Trump folds like a cheap folding chair against conservative talk show hosts, what do you think will happen when he faces the national media this fall?

Third: There were, according to current unofficial totals, 96,000 more votes cast in the Republican primary than in the Democratic primary.

My theory for several weeks has been that Trump has gotten a lot of votes from Democrats who either crossed over in open-primary states (of which Wisconsin is one), or even changed their party identification to vote for the GOP candidate easiest for Hillary! to beat in November. That could help explain why Trump suddenly is not so successful the past few weeks, in that he’s lost Democratic votes as the Democratic primary has gotten more competitive.

The bigger issue for Democrats is that the GOP would seem to have an advantage going into the fall vote, which is good news for U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R–Wisconsin) and whoever wins the Eighth Congressional District GOP primary, along with chances for the GOP to finally end the Democratic run of wins of Wisconsin’s Electoral College vote. As the financial types say, past performance does not necessarily predict future results, but any Democratic excuse for falling nearly 100,000 voters shy of Republicans when there was one big statewide race fails to hold water. And speaking of which …

Fourth: The Democrats’ preferred state Supreme Court candidate, Joanne Kloppenburg, lost to Rebecca Bradley, appointed last year by Walker after the death of Justice Patrick Crooks.

Kloppenburg wasn’t only the Democratic choice. My opponent Friday claimed that Milwaukee County lawyers had determined Bradley to be “not qualified.” Kloppenburg also got the endorsements of the liberals who run the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Wisconsin State Journal opinion pages. And yet, Kloppenburg has now equaled the state Supreme Court election success level of former Justice Louis “Loophole Louie” Butler. (Butler, however, still has the edge in being (1) the first sitting justice to be defeated for reelection since the mid-1960s, and (2) having been nominated and rejected by non-vote three times by the U.S. Senate for a federal judgeship.)

Republicans obviously need to not get a big head or exaggerate the state of things based on last night. (To quote the financial types, past performance does not necessarily lead to future results.) It is possible, though no better than a 50–50 chance, that Democrats could take over the Legislature by winning at least 11 of the 16 state Senate races this year. (There are eight Democrats and eight Republicans whose seats are up this year; for the Democrats to gain control of the Senate they have to hold all eight of their seats and flip three Republican seats. As of now two GOP incumbents, Sen. Rick Gudex (R–Fond du Lac) and Mary Lazich (R–New Berlin), are not running, but Democrats have little hope of winning Lazich’s seat, while Gudex won a narrow election against a Recallarama winner in a good Democratic year, but Gudex’s seat at least leans Republican. Sen. Duey Strobel (R–Saukville) was elected in a special election last year without Democratic opposition after winning a three-way GOP primary; that tells you how likely Democrats are to win that seat.) There is less chance than that for Democrats to win back control of the state Assembly. (Democrats would have to retain all 36 of their Assembly seats and win 14 seats now held by Republicans.)

Even if both of those events were to happen, a Republican with the strongest veto power in the U.S. — either Walker or, if a Republican president appoints Walker to a cabinet post (someone online suggested making Walker secretary of labor, which would make Wisconsin Democrats’ heads explode), Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch — will be governor, and five of the seven Supreme Court justices will be conservatives. Whether you like Republicans or not, the GOP is definitely in charge in Wisconsin politics even in statewide races, as proven yesterday.

 

Looney Tune La Follette

Actually, my headline is an insult to the art form known as Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons. A thousand apologies.

And Secretary of State Douglas La Follette owes Wisconsinites at least 1,000 apologies for what Media Trackers reports:

The current Wisconsin Secretary of State, Doug La Follette, has written a book titled Survival Handbook: A Strategy for Saving Planet Earth in which he calls for population control, saying parents should be sterilized after having a maximum of two kids.

The book is conspicuously placed outside of his office in the basement of the Wisconsin state Capitol.

Doug LaFollette is a self-proclaimed American academic and  environmental activist.

He ran in the 2012 Democratic primary during the special election to recall Governor Scott Walker.

For all of the attention liberals, Democrats and the mainstream media have given to old editorials penned by a Supreme Court candidate decades ago, they have for some reason managed to overlook applying that same scrutiny to the incumbent Secretary of State. Perhaps his party affiliation plays a role in that lack of scrutiny.

Besides promoting multiple weird ideas on how the world is being polluted by noise and how the automobile may be our “worst addiction” (pg 69), La Follette also devotes an entire chapter of his book to advocating for population control.

La Follette, who is elected to his office by voters across the state, claims in the beginning of the chapter on population control that the current population of the world is wantonly destroying the environment.

LaFollette argues for the increased support of, and funding for, all international organizations working to limit population growth. One strategy he suggests is for the federal government to increase financial incentives  for smaller families through changes in the tax code. He also claims the state should fund and support family planning programs.

LaFollette is third in line to be Governor under the succession of office sequence set up by the Wisconsin Constitution.

Think Media Matters is making this up? Read for yourself:

Your tax dollars at work, voters.