Category: Wisconsin politics

Trump vs. Wisconsin talk radio

Ted Cruz’s Wisconsin Republican primary win over Donald Trump was credited in large part to the united front of conservative radio hosts Charlie Sykes, Mark Belling, Vicki McKenna and Jerry Bader against Trump. (Because Trump is neither a Republican nor a conservative.)

So what now after Trump got the nomination anyway? Darren Hauck looks at Sykes:

Since last year, the most influential political talk show host in Wisconsin has found out just how hard it is to be a #NeverTrump conservative on right-wing radio. Ever since Sykes began denouncing Donald Trump on the air—which he does just about every time he talks about the presidential election—he’s strained his relationships with the listeners of his daily radio show.

Sykes’ many arguments with listeners over Donald Trump’s serial outrages have exposed in much of his audience a vein of thinking—racist, anti-constitutional, maybe even fascistic—that has shaken Sykes. It has left him questioning whether he and his colleagues in the conservative media played a role in paving the way for Trump’s surprising and unprecedented rise.

A few days before the Wisconsin congressional primary in early August, Sykes seized on remarks by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s opponent, Paul Nehlen, that raised the idea of deporting all Muslims, even American citizens. It’s the kind of inflammatory rhetoric that has become the norm during a presidential cycle that has featured Trump’s calls for immigration bans on Muslims, loyalty tests and mass deportations. A friendly and round-faced guy with glasses, Sykes, 61, doesn’t even try to conceal his disgust, but a large segment of his listeners, like Audrey from Oshkosh, are eager to defend ideas that Sykes believes violate fundamental conservative principles.

“Yeah! Let me make a comparison, and I don’t mean this in a bad way,” Audrey says. “They’re talking about phasing out breeding of pit bulls. Well, not all pit bulls are bad.”

“You’re comparing American citizens, Muslims, to rabid dogs,” Sykes responds.

“No, I’m saying, they’re talking about phasing out the breed because so many are bad. No one wants to phase out poodles! I mean, there’s no Lutherans doing this! We never know when one of these people are going to be radicalized.”

“One of these people,” says Sykes.

Sykes ends the call. He’s silent, broadcasting dead air. He looks upset, like he’s stopped breathing. He goes to a commercial break.

“OK, that doesn’t happen very often,” he says off-air. “I’m not usually absolutely speechless.” He says his listeners never talked like this until recently.

“Were these people that we actually thought were our allies?” he asks.

Sykes remains confident that Trump will lose badly in November, and he is equally fearful that Trump will drag longtime Republicans, like Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, down with him. This has Sykes thinking about the long-term future of the party and what might have precipitated its looming collapse. He wonders: Did “the faux outrage machine” of and other right-wing outlets foment the noxious opinions that Trump has stoked so effectively on the trail?

“When I would deny that there was a significant racist component in some of the politics on our side, it was because the people I hung out with were certainly not,” Sykes says. “When suddenly, this rock is turned over, there is this—‘Oh shit, did I not see that?’

“I kind of had that reaction this morning, with that woman: Did we ignore this? There’s got to be some serious introspection, because of the things that we either didn’t see, or that we ignored, or that we enabled.”


Few people outside Wisconsin had heard of Sykes until this spring, when his explosive interview with Trump became national news. In the 17-minute confrontation a week before the Badger State’s primary in April, Sykes exposed several flaws in Trump’s candidacy, including his lack of preparation and obsessive grudges. “Before you called into my show, did you know that I’m a #NeverTrump guy?” Sykes asked. “That I didn’t know,” Trump replied. Sykes gave Trump several chances to back off his feud with Ted Cruz over online insults about each other’s wives, but Trump couldn’t let it be. “He started it,” Trump kept saying. “We’re not on a playground,” Sykes replied. “We’re running for president of the United States.”

When Cruz beat Trump—the #NeverTrump forces’ last big win—many credited Sykes with a key role. “Midday with Charlie Sykes,” on 620 WTMJ-AM, where he’s been a host for 23 years, reaches 200,000 listeners a week in the Milwaukee area alone, and more beyond. Sykes is Wisconsin’s most prolific conservative media personality: He also hosts a weekly TV show and edits the website Right Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute’s magazine Wisconsin Interest. His support has boosted conservative candidates across the state, most notably Scott Walker. Sykes and the governor are close, often exchanging texts and emails. Sykes supported Walker throughout his rise to power, the fierce backlash to Wisconsin’s 2011 anti-union law, and the failed 2012 gubernatorial recall.

“[Sykes’] contributions to the conservative movement in Wisconsin cannot be overstated,” Walker said in a written statement. “I value his friendship.” Walker’s support for freezing tuition at Wisconsin’s state universities parallels the ideas in Sykes’ eighth book, published this month: Fail U.: The False Promise of Higher Education, a thoughtful critique of the spiraling cost of college and the “culture of victimization on campus.”

So on this Friday in August, Sykes is juggling his many conservative roles—radio host, thinker, translator of Wisconsin political mores for the outside world. Young reporters from Vice and Milwaukee Public Radiointerview him about his book’s argument that spiking student debt isn’t worth it. New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and NBC political reporters ask him about the Ryan-Nehlen race and whether Trump will endorse Ryan. Meanwhile, he’s wrestling with his listeners, from whom he is feeling increasingly estranged.

“I am dealing with the daily flood of emails on how we’re never going to listen to you anymore,” Sykes says. Longtime listeners write him to say conservative talk radio should criticize Hillary Clinton and not Trump.

“If I lose listeners, that’s a price I’ve just got to pay,” he says. He’d rather say what he really thinks than fall in line with other broadcasters’ embrace of Trump. “I feel dumber every time I listen to Sean Hannity. I don’t want to be that guy.”


Paul from D.C. is on the line.

“This is not the U.S. Constitution; this is not the Bill of Rights,” the speaker of the House responds after Sykes plays him Nehlen’s anti-Muslim comments. “This is not Wisconsin conservatives, Wisconsin Republicans. That kind of dark, grim, indefensible-thinking comment is going to be thoroughly rejected and repudiated Tuesday, I believe.”

Sykes sees an opening. “OK, so here’s my question: What would you say if Donald Trump is asked about this comment and refuses to disavow it? Would that be disqualifying for you?” Sykes’ face has turned red. He’s smiling.

“I’m not going to go into hypotheticals,” Ryan answers testily. “You and I have had these conversations. By the way, with any endorsement of anybody, there’s never a blank check. And you know that.”

This is how Sykes’ show has gone since Trump clinched the nomination: The biggest names in Wisconsin Republican politics call in—like Walker and Johnson—and the normally sympathetic host grills them about their support of Trump.

This time, Sykes reads from an especially punishing New York Times column, in which Ross Douthat claims Trump has “laid waste” to Ryan’s reputation for “moral and substantive authority.”

“I’m the speaker of the House,” Ryan replies. “With this job comes different responsibilities than, say, if I were just a congressman from Wisconsin. … This man won the votes fair and square. … As part of my responsibility for this job, I have the duty and obligation to honor this process.”

Sykes met Ryan when the speaker was first running for Congress, and he’s always been impressed with Ryan’s talent and intellect. They’ve matured together, Sykes says. For instance, they’ve both moved away from their earlier rhetoric about a country divided between “makers” and “takers.”

Wisconsin’s conservative talk-radio hosts are closer to Republican elected officials than radio populists elsewhere. They share pride in the successes of the state’s brand of conservatism: They brag about Ryan being the national Republican Party’s intellectual leader, and they celebrate Walker’s sharply conservative agenda. Decency is also a big part of the Wisconsin Republican self-concept, which clashes with Trump’s self-aggrandizing bombast.

“The elected officials in Wisconsin are all pretty much anti-Trump,” Sykes says. Nevertheless, nearly all of them endorsed Trump once he became the presumptive nominee. Sykes thinks none of them have their heart in it.

“Walker and Ryan have no illusions whatsoever about who Donald Trump is,” Sykes insists with the authority of a confidant. “They could have a conversation for an hour and a half with me, and everything [I] say about Donald Trump, there would be no disagreement. It’s just, at the end of the conversation, they would say, ‘Yes, but we can’t elect Hillary Clinton.’ I would say, ‘I can’t bring myself to vote for Donald Trump. I think he’s unfit to be president.’”

Sykes sympathizes with Ryan’s and Walker’s political quandary, but he’s unsparing in his critique of Reince Priebus, who, as the state GOP chairman, boosted Ryan and Walker’s careers before he ascended to the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee. After Priebus declared Trump the presumptive GOP nominee, Sykes stopped talking to him for a couple of months.

“I just didn’t want to hear about the Kool-Aid,” Sykes says after a long sigh. “Reince is a friend. Reince has no illusions about Donald Trump, but made this decision not just to support him, but to go all in. It was painful watching somebody who I knew knew better. That’s why I describe him as a tragic figure.”

Priebus, he notes, commissioned the famed post-2012 election “autopsy” that called on the GOP to become more inclusive. “To watch him bow and scrape before the Orange God King—it was difficult!”


The reluctant right’s most powerful argument for supporting Trump, the future of the U.S. Supreme Court, doesn’t persuade Sykes—even though it affects someone close to him. His ex-wife, Diane Sykes, is on Trump’s short list for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Since their 1999 divorce, Diane Sykes has risen from local judge to federal appeals court judge and has developed a national reputation as a respected conservative jurist. In a February debate, Trump offered her as an example of a judge he might appoint to the high court.

Sykes says he’s “very close” to his ex-wife. “She would be absolutely fantastic for the court,” he says. “That would be an outstanding choice.” There’s just one problem. “I don’t trust [Trump] that he will appoint the people he says. I don’t believe the promises he’s making aren’t negotiable. He’s backed off virtually everything.”

This does not mean he can contemplate voting for Trump’s opponent. (When pressed, he says he’s willing to consider voting for Libertarian Gary Johnson.) “Hillary is awful and potentially corrupt within historically understandable parameters,” says Sykes. He holds his hands about a foot and a half apart. “She’s awful like that.

Then Sykes throws his arms out wide. “Trump is potentially awful at thislevel,” he says.

In Sykes’ eyes, Trump is “a serial liar, a con man, a fraudster, a narcissist and authoritarian.” Clinton, meanwhile, is “a welfare-state liberal Democrat” and “big government” supporter with her own character problems.

“In any other scenario, Hillary Clinton’s lying about her emails, and her pay-for-play relationship with the Clinton Foundation would be disqualifying issues,” he argues. “The only reason they’re not disqualifying is because Donald Trump is a fundamentally more repellent, dishonest figure.” He predicts Trump will lose Wisconsin, take Ron Johnson’s Senate reelection bid down with him, and poison the Republican Party’s chances to ever make inroads with women, minorities and the young.

He predicts doom for the GOP ticket in Wisconsin in November. Trump, he says, is “uniquely unpopular in the biggest Republican areas of the state”—meaning the Milwaukee suburbs, where Sykes’ show has its deepest reach. Though Sykes thinks Johnson is an “outstanding” and “fantastic” U.S. senator, he thinks the Tea Party favorite will lose to liberal Russ Feingold, who’s running to take his old seat back. Trump’s unpopularity will trickle down the ballot and wound Johnson, Sykes thinks: “It’s not going to be pretty.”

Besides, Sykes notes, Wisconsin’s conservative revolution is based almost entirely on success in off-year elections. The Badger State hasn’t gone for a Republican presidential candidate since 1984. (George W. Bush lost Wisconsin by less than 1 percent in 2000 and 2004, but Barack Obama won it overwhelmingly in 2008 and 2012.)

“After November, the #NeverTrump conservatives will basically find themselves in the wilderness,” Sykes says. “Our role is going to be opposition to whatever is the ruling regime installed next year. I don’t want to be complicit in it one way or another.”

Instead, Sykes wants to help Ryan-style conservatives take the Republican Party back from Trump’s angry nationalists. “I hope to spend next year writing my next book,” Sykes says, “which will be titled Howthe Right Lost Its Mind.” He wants to figure out why, in his opinion, things went so wrong for the conservative movement. One problem, he thinks, is his fellow talk-radio hosts.

“Talk radio made itself relevant by beating up on other Republicans, vilifying other Republicans,” he says. “It fed this faux outrage machine that raised expectations unrealistically”—for instance, asking why Congress didn’t repeal Obamacare, though Obama’s veto pen made it mathematically impossible. Later, he would tell Business Insider’s Oliver Darcy that talk radio’s attack on mainstream-media bias has backfired, because its listeners now dismiss legitimate media fact-checking as untrustworthy.

Sykes warns his listeners to step outside the “alternative reality bubble” of and other right-wing websites. Part of his audience thinks he’s sold out, he complains, because he won’t parrot dubious claims they’ve read on such sites. “A lot of the conservative talk shows around the country embrace almost whatever comes over the transom,” he says.


Eight days after the Nehlen show, a Milwaukee policeman fatally shot an armed black man, 23-year-old Sylville Smith, after he fled from a traffic stop. Rioters burned down stores, injured police, threatened and even attacked reporters, fired gunshots, and shot an 18-year-old white man in the neck. On the following Monday, the first day back on the air, Sykes drops his coverage of the presidential race and devotes his entire show to the unrest, Milwaukee’s story of the year.

“A riot—not an uprising, a riot,” he says. Sykes sounds like a conventional conservative on this issue, blaming cultural and family breakdowns and criticizing a black Milwaukee alderman for rhetoric that he thinks excuses violence. But he also subtly challenges himself and his audience by bringing on Mikel Holt, a columnist for the Milwaukee Community Journal, the city’s black newspaper, and taking callers from the city, not the Republican-leaning suburbs. Holt pushes back against some of Sykes’ assertions that city politicians have provided poor leadership, and he argues for drawing clear distinctions between the rioters on one side and idealistic activists and law-abiding city residents on the other.

“This was a really important message for my audience to hear,” Sykes says the next day, “that some of stuff they’re seeing on TV is not representative of anything more than a small minority of the community.”

A week earlier, Sykes had said Milwaukee’s racial divisions would also be a part of his coming reevaluation of the conservative movement. He’s thinking again about a 2014 New Republic piece that depicted Scott Walker’s political base in the Milwaukee suburbs as a hostile racial environment and argued that conservative talk radio hosts such as Sykes play a role. Sykes calls the piece “ridiculous,” “tremendously overblown” and a “really, really negative hit job.” But he says he’s going to grapple with it when he writes his next book.

“I’m going to reread it and go, ‘OK, as much as I really seriously hated this story’—this is the nagging thing in the back of your head—‘Is there some grain of truth in the criticism that I spent 20 years denying?’”

Do you know anyone from the world of the liberal commentariat who would conduct a self-examination that might counter the liberal shibboleths? I bet you don’t. (Of course, liberal talk radio has been and continues to be a commercial flop with rare exceptions, because it doesn’t bring in enough listeners and therefore enough ad revenue.)

Sykes (with whom I appeared on his “Sunday Insight with Charlie Sykes” TV show back in my business magazine days) is the object, if that’s what you want to call it, of the “Sykes effect,” his ability to influence GOP legislators within the sound of WTMJ’s signal, but not beyond it (such as in western and northern Wisconsin). I doubt his influence on the state GOP is going to diminish regardless of this election’s bad results, because he’s had influence in the GOP long before Trump decided it would be yuuuuuuuge to run for president. (Friends in high places, as they say.)

Sykes gets to continue on radio because of his ability to bring in listeners and therefore ad revenue, and that is unlikely to change once Trump’s candidacy goes away. (Certainly four years of Hillary! the Corrupt will provide Sykes et al with more than enough material.) WTMJ’s former owner, Journal Communications, and current owner, Scripps, has devoted significant resources to the Right Wisconsin platform, and Sykes really has an unprecedented role within Wisconsin radio right now. As long as Sykes is making money for Scripps, Sykes will get to keep doing that.

Sykes is also correct, by the way, that Trump is and will be a disaster for the Republican Party, though the party in Wisconsin and at the state level elsewhere will survive Trump.

We’re number 27!

The Cato Institute released its latest Freedom in the 50 States study, which …

… presents a completely revised and updated ranking of the American states based on how their policies promote freedom in the fiscal, regulatory, and personal realms.

This edition again improves upon the methodology for weighting and combining state and local policies in order to create a comprehensive index. Authors William Ruger and Jason Sorens introduce many new policy variables suggested by readers. More than 230 policy variables and their sources are now available to the public on a new website for the study. Scholars, policymakers, and concerned citizens can assign new weights to every policy and create customized indices of freedom, or download the data for their own analyses.

In the 2016 edition, the authors have updated their findings to:

  • Improve estimates of the “freedom value” of each policy (the estimated dollar value of each freedom affected to those who enjoy it);
  • Provide the most up-to-date freedom index yet, including scores as of December 31, 2014;
  • Include citizen choice among local governments as an important factor modifying the freedom value of more locally based taxation;
  • Significantly expand policies affecting business and personal freedom, including new variables for occupational licensing, tort liability climate, land-use regulation, entry and price regulation, alcohol laws, and civil asset forfeiture;
  • Analyze how the policies driving income growth and interstate migration have changed pre– and post–Great Recession.

2016 Freedom in 50 States
And what can be said about Wisconsin, which is, you’ll note, 27th of the 50 states?

For all the talk about Scott Walker’s “radical reforms,” we find that economic freedom has been more or less constant since 2011, relative to other states, whereas personal freedom has grown substantially.

The Badger State has relatively high taxes, which have fallen only marginally since 2012. State taxes are projected to be 5.8 percent of personal income in FY 2015, while local taxes have risen since FY 2000 and now stand at 4.4 percent of income, above the national average. Wisconsinites have ample choice among local governments, with more than two and a half effective competing jurisdictions per 100 square miles. State and local debt has fallen somewhat since FY 2007, and government employment and subsidies are below average. Overall, Wisconsin has seen definite improvement on fiscal policy since 2010, but it hasn’t yet reached the national average.

On regulatory policy, we see little change in recent years, although our index does not yet take account of the 2015 right-to-work law. Land-use freedom is a bit better than average; local zoning has not gotten out of hand, though it has grown some. The state has a renewable portfolio standard, but it is not high. Apart from its right-to-work law, Wisconsin was already reasonably good on labor-market policy. Cable and telecommunications have been liberalized. Occupational licensing increased dramatically between 2000 and 2006; still, the state is about average overall on extent of licensure. Nurse practitioners enjoy no independent practice freedom. Insurance freedom is generally good, at least for property and casualty lines. The state has a price-gouging law, as well as controversial, strictly enforced minimum-markup laws for gasoline and general retailers. The civil liability system is above average and improved significantly since 2010, due to a punitive damages cap.

Wisconsin is below average on criminal justice policies, but it has improved substantially since 2010 because of local policing strategies. The incarceration rate has fallen, as have nondrug victimless crime arrest rates. The state’s asset forfeiture law is one of the stricter ones in the country, but equitable sharing revenues are a little higher than average, suggesting some evasion of the law. The state was required to legalize same-sex marriage in 2014. Tobacco freedom is extremely low, due to airtight smoking bans and high taxes. Educational freedom grew significantly in 2013–14 with the expansion of vouchers. However, private schools are relatively tightly regulated. There is almost no legal gambling, even for social purposes. Cannabis law is unreformed. Wisconsin is the best state for alcohol freedom, with no state role in distribution, no keg registration, low taxes (especially on beer—imagine that), no blue laws, legal happy hours, legal direct wine shipment, and both wine and spirits in grocery stores. The state is now about average on gun rights after the legislature passed a shall-issue concealed-carry license, one of the last states in the country to legalize concealed carry.

Next to last, to be precise. The only thing that could be said to be libertarian about this state is the aforementioned alcohol freedom. The existence of the minimum-markup law is an embarrassment to 21st-century commerce. Despite tax cuts, Wisconsin remains one of the highest taxed states in the U.S., in large part because Wisconsin doesn’t require an actually balanced budget, hasn’t really made actual state budget cuts and has no constitutional limits on spending and taxation.

Wisconsin in fact has never been remotely free, in large part because of, as you’ve previously read here, our toxic-to-freedom mix of “Yankee founders and northern European immigrants; combine Protestant reformers and a strong Roman Catholic presence; add the labor activism of the industrial era to agrarian roots; douse liberally with the “Social Gospel,” the Wisconsin Idea, and Progressive-era legislation,” which gave us the “moralistic” political tradition that “considers government ‘a positive instrument with a responsibility to promote the general welfare.’ This culture is predominant in 17 states that stretch from New England through the upper Midwest to the Pacific coast — what several observers of American history and politics have called ‘Greater New England.'” Including, unfortunately, this state, as well as Maine, Vermont, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Colorado, Utah and Oregon.

That is an interesting observation about “choice among local governments.” Wisconsin has 3,120 units of government, second highest in the U.S. behind Illinois. (That number will be decreasing by one in the next few years as the cities of Madison and Fitchburg swallow up what’s left of the Town of Madison.) “Choice among local governments” could be another way of saying “too many units of government,” given, for instance, the 15 separate municipalities between Neenah, Kaukauna and the Calumet County part of Appleton (the cities of Neenah, Menasha, Appleton and Kaukauna; the villages of Fox Crossing, Kimberly, Little Chute and Combined Locks; and the towns of Neenah, Menasha, Grand Chute, Greenville, Vandenbroek, Buchanan and Harrison), which could be said to be 14 too many, at least in police and fire and other governmental services. Merging municipalities should take out the salaries at the very top.

At least the trend is sort of going in the correct direction …

Wisconsin rankings 2000–2014

… though with no real speed. Wisconsin ranks worse than Indiana (fourth), Iowa (ninth) and Michigan (24th), but better than Minnesota (38th) and Illinois (44th) among our neighbors.

Mercatus suggests the state needs to …

  • Fiscal: Reduce the income tax burden while continuing to cut spending on employee retirement and government employment.
  • Regulatory: Abolish price controls.
  • Personal: Eliminate teacher licensing and mandatory state approval for private schools.

It’s pretty clear the political will to make our state more free even in those three areas is lacking. (The authors probably don’t know the widespread loathing of property taxes in this state.) Republicans refuse to do the work to get voters to approve constitutional limits on spending and taxes, and won’t even get rid of the minimum-markup law.

And yet, Democrats do nothing but (seek to, given their out-of-power status) raise taxes and expand government, persisting in the mistaken belief that government is anything beyond a necessary evil, perhaps because they think it’s the 1920s and Fighting Bob La Follette is still alive. It’s impossible to believe that the creator of the federal government Golden Fleece Award denoting ludicrously wasteful government spending, Sen. William Proxmire, was a Democrat. Think Sen. Tammy Baldwin or former and possibly future Sen. Russ Feingold want to cut your taxes? How about the would-be Democratic governors out there?



It’s a dirty job, but …

Editor & Publisher defends the news media in times in which the news media is (as usual) unpopular, and support for the First Amendment among presidential candidates is at a nadir:

When Donald Trump decided to revoke the Washington Post of press credentials in June due to its “dishonest” and “phony” coverage, the newspaper became the latest media organization to be blacklisted by the presidential candidate. The Post joined the likes of Politico, Univision, Huffington Post, Gawker, BuzzFeed, and the Des Moines Register—just to name a few.

Post executive editor Martin Baron responded in a statement: “Donald Trump’s decision to revoke the Washington Post’s press credentials in nothing less than a repudiation of the role of a free and independent press. When coverage doesn’t correspond to what the candidate wants it to be, then a news organization is banished.”

Organizations such as the Newspaper Association of America and the American Society of News Editors publicly condemned Trump’s decision to ban the Post.

“Candidate Trump’s move to sanction coverage of his drive to win the presidency is an unprecedented dismissal of the First Amendment freedoms essential to our democracy. The public is best served when a fearless, unfettered and independent press is present at all campaign events, speeches and political forums,” according to the statement from the ASNE.

NAA president and CEO David Chavern commented that Trump’s “treatment of journalists and the press isn’t just offensive or rude or political theater.  It is a danger to our Constitutional Rights.”

When Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan contacted Trump’s camp for further explanation of the ban, she didn’t receive a solid answer, but vowed she would keep trying to get Trump to answer her questions. She also noted that candidate Hillary Clinton has given no press conferences or very serious interviews during her presidential campaign.

“None of this bodes well for press access in 2017 and beyond,” Sullivan wrote.

And she’s right.

Press access is crucial, especially during a time where only 20 percent of Americans have confidence in newspapers ( This “all-time low,” according to the Gallup poll, “marks the tenth consecutive year that more Americans have expressed little or no, rather than high, confidence in the institution.”

The uproar that occurred when Trump banned the Post made sense, but what about the Hulk Hogan lawsuit that resulted in Gawker Media’s bankruptcy? Filed by former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan (whose legal name is Terry Bollea), the lawsuit stemmed from a sex tape that was published on Gawker. In March, a judge awarded Hogan $115 million for economic harm, emotional distress and invasion of privacy, according to a New York Times report.

“Gawker got what was coming in a karmic sense,” criminal defense attorney and civil litigator Ken White wrote in the Los Angeles Times. But he also pointed out, “From a legal and constitutional perspective, even Gawker haters should be troubled by its fate.”

“We don’t need the (First) Amendment to defend popular speech, we need it to protect unpopular speech,” White wrote.

As this election year continues, I’m certain more “unpopular speech” will continue to be said from all sides. We need the press to document it, and we need to defend it. After the Post was banned, the York (Pa.) Dispatch’s editorial board actually challenged Trump to ban them as well (

“We (believe) you’re acting like a spoiled-rotten child—the petty poster boy for why we need a strong Fourth Estate,” according to their editorial.  “A spoiled, foul-mouthed child, we might add. You’re so quick to insult other members of the media for doing their jobs—‘sleaze,’ ‘loser,’ ‘scum’ — yet never once have you singled out The York Dispatch. Let ‘er rip, Mr. Trump. We can take it.”

Now if that’s not unpopular speech, I don’t know what is.

Whom to vote for Tuesday

There is, believe it or don’t, a primary election Tuesday.

There are six races of note, three of which are Congressional races, and four of which are Democratic primaries. The race in both categories is in the Third Congressional District, where U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-La Crosse) is opposed by Myron Buchholz of Eau Claire, who aligns himself with Bernie Sanders (not really) Democrats. The winner will be unopposed because for some reason no Republican could be found to run against Kind.

Kind is a mainstream Democrat. Buchholz is as leftist as Comrade Bernie. In fact, Buchholz sent a news release about his pride in getting arrested at a protest. He opposes free trade. Unusually, Buchholz didn’t blame the Orlando shootings on guns, but he did blame the shootings on our being in the Middle East. (And yet he touted the endorsement of his daughter, an Army veteran.) I’m not exactly a fan of Kind, but the last thing we need anywhere in politics is leftists like Buchholz.

The biggest Congressional race, at least in terms of coverage, is the First Congressional District race between Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R–Janesville) and Donald Trump Republican Paul Nehlen.

Nehlen is running for his first office, and does it show. The Washington Post’s Amber Phillips reported:

It’s safe to say that until a few days ago, the average consumer of political news had no idea who Paul Nehlen was.

Actually, the average consumer of political news probably still has no idea who Paul Nehlen is. But Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) primary challenger is getting the kind of national media attention right now that long-shot primary challengers dream of — and that he may come to regret. …

On Tuesday, Trump suggested that he might back the conservative business executive, who’s a long shot to upset Ryan in Tuesday’s primary.

Trump’s comment set the political world ablaze. On Wednesday, Nehlen got the chance to introduce himself to the world — and Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District, of course — in an interview on CNN.

It didn’t go well. Over the course of the five or six minutes he was on air, Nehlen made several unfounded assertions about his opponent, stumbled in his talking points and came across as just generally unprepared for the spotlight.

First, the assertions:

“He has said he’s going to sue Mr. Trump.” (Fact check: taken out of context.)

“We wouldn’t even have borders if it were for Paul Ryan.” (Fact check: What? “I’m pretty sure he’s never said we should abolish borders,” CNN anchor John Berman said in response. “That would be a pretty extraordinary position for him to take.” )

When Berman and Kate Bolduan called him out on those statements, Nehlen stumbled, retreating to his talking points about Ryan’s record.

Even his talking points didn’t go over smoothly. At one point, Nehlen used his hands to draw a “circle of trust” on camera. “Here’s the circle of trust,” he said. “Paul Ryan’s out here.”

We get what he was trying to demonstrate — Ryan’s not a conservative, he’s too entrenched in Washington — but the moment came across as hokey. And a moment made for mocking on Twitter. …

At one point, Berman asked Nehlen if he felt he was being used as a pawn in the broader Trump vs. establishment battle. Nehlen answered it with a metaphor about sneezing, totally missing the symbolism of Trump’s comments to The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker.

“I wrote something that was well researched and put it out there, and Mr. Trump thanked me for that,” Nehlen said. ” … If somebody sneezes and I say ‘God bless you,’ was somebody used in that transaction?”

(The “something” he wrote was a lengthy statement defending Trump point by point for his response to the Khan family. Nehlen has embraced Trump this campaign, though Trump hasn’t endorsed him.)

Nehlen said Wednesday that he’d welcome Trump’s endorsement. “I am absolutely in lock step with Mr. Trump,” he said.

Then he threw in a caveat: “But the last thing I want is for him to screw up the presidential race.” Bolduan asked how Trump’s endorsement in Wisconsin’s first congressional primary would “screw up” the race for the White House, to which Nehlen appeared to have no answer: “Why are we even talking about this? Why are you asking me about that?”

The thing is, this could not have been more perfectly laid out for Nehlen if he had planned it himself. The national media spotlight is coming less than a week before the primary, just in time for Nehlen to ride the Trump wave — to the extent there is one. Let’s be clear that absolutely no one in political circles is predicting Nehlen to win. He is vastly underfunded and unknown.

If you vote for Nehlen, this is what you’re supporting, as reported by Right Wisconsin:

Paul Nehlen, who is challenging House Speaker Paul Ryan in Wisconsin’s first congressional district, said on “Chicago’s Morning Answer” that he wonders why we have any Muslims in the country.

He actually told the that there should be a discussion of throwing Muslims out of the country. All Muslims.

When he was asked whether he would support deporting every Muslim from the country, Nehlen told hosts Amy Jacobson and Dan Proft: “I’m suggesting we have a discussion about it. That’s for sure. I am absolutely suggesting we figure out how do we, we — here’s what we should be doing. We should be monitoring every mosque. We should be monitoring all social media.”

Here’s a partial transcript of his comments: Starts at about 5:40 min point.

Paul Nehlen: “So if the breakpoint is Sharia, and Islam is the only major religion that encourages lying. The Taqiyya says lie to the infidel. You lie to them if you have to. So if you look at a Muslim and say hey, are you lying, they go, no. Okay, you’re in, absolutely. Okay, you’re out. If they lie, how do you, how do you vet something like that?”

Dan Croft: “Then how do you implement, how do you implement the test that you want to implement?”

Paul Nehlen: “Well, then, the question is, why do we have Muslims in the country? How can you possibly vet somebody who lies?

Dan Croft: “Well, that said, are you suggesting that we deport all of the Muslims in this country?”

Paul Nehlen: “I’m suggesting that we have a discussion about it. That’s for sure. I am absolutely suggesting we figure out how do we, we, here’s what we should be doing. We should be monitoring every mosque. We should be monitoring all social media.”

Croft, of course, can’t believe what he’s hearing and actually challenges Nehlen again on whether he wants to throw out all Muslims.

Croft: “I think it’s clear that there is a threat. There’s no question. But, but I mean…”

Nehlen: “So let’s invite more into the country.”

Croft: “Well, well, that’s one issue. But what you’re talking about is people that are Americans that are here, and whether or not we should deport all of them. Do, do you see any Constitutional problems with the vetting, the kind that Newt Gingrich wanted to do and apparently you do as well. Much less deporting Americans who have done nothing wrong.”

Nehlen: “Well, if somebody supports Sharia that is doing something wrong. It is.”

Unlike apparently Nehlen, I know Muslim Americans, as well as Muslims from outside this country. None support what is purported here as sharia law. Sharia law as Nehlen apparently understands it is unenforceable in this country anyway under the U.S. Constitution. But if you vote for Nehlen, you are voting for a racial and religious bigot.

Nehlen’s campaign has resorted to this:

Democrats voting in Republican primaries got us Trump as the Republican presidential nominee. A vote for Nehlen therefore is a vote for the candidate working hard to destroy the Republican Party out of his own ego.

Ryan should not have endorsed Trump, though he seems to be doing everything he can to not actually help Trump’s candidacy. Ryan is in fact what more Republicans should be — optimistic and forward-looking. Those who oppose Ryan apparently don’t get the concept of separation of powers and who controls what in the federal government. Those who oppose Ryan also want the most influential Wisconsin House Republican — possibly the most influential Congressman in Wisconsin history — booted from office. That is stupid.

The other notable Congressional race is the Eighth Congressional District Republican primary. Terry McNulty lost a Senate Republican primary in 2014. Mike Gallagher is a Marine veteran who was a staffer for U.S. Sen. Bob Corker (R–Tennessee) and briefly the foreign policy advisor for the Walker for President campaign. Gallagher is spending, I am told, a lot of money.

Then there’s Sen. Frank Lasee (R–De Pere), who has had a colorful legislative career. I’m a fan of Lasee’s because he has consistently supported a Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which is sorely needed in this state. He also has supported arming teachers, which apparently contrasts to a federal law banning guns in schools (which strikes me as Congressional overreach), and he supported cutting funding for the UW Law School on the grounds we have too many lawyers as it is. There also appears to be some question as to whether Lasee lives in his Senate district, and if he doesn’t live in his Senate district he doesn’t live in the Congressional district he’s seeking to support.

Things like that ended Lasee’s Assembly career in 2008. But two years later, Lasee got elected to the state Senate. Usually when incumbents lose, that ends their political career, but not so with Lasee.

Whoever Eighth District voters choose to replace, sadly, Rep. Reid Ribble (R–Green Bay) should be chosen on the basis of his ability to defeat the Democratic candidate, Outagamie County executive Tom Nelson, a former Democratic representative from Kaukauna who represented everything bad about the late 2000s Democratic party under Gov. James Doyle.

There is an intriguing state Senate Democratic primary between Sen. Lena Taylor (D–Milwaukee) and Rep. Mandela Barnes (D–Milwaukee). Mikel Holt, with whom I appeared on WTMJ-TV’s “Sunday Insight with Charlie Sykes,” wrote this in the Milwaukee Community Journal, calling Barnes’ candidacy …

…an attempt by White interests to undermine, if not destroy, independent and resourceful Black leadership.Or to be more exact, this race–and several others–is part of a continuing effort by former legislative Democratic Party leader and current state Senator Chris Larson and the Wisconsin (White) Working Families Party to control Black legislative district representation through systematic replacement of pragmatic and independent Black incumbents with White ‘representatives’ and/or Black

Or to be more exact, this race–and several others–is part of a continuing effort by former legislative Democratic Party leader and current state Senator Chris Larson and the Wisconsin (White) Working Families Party to control Black legislative district representation through systematic replacement of pragmatic and independent Black incumbents with White ‘representatives’ and/or Black accomodationists. I first exposed this ‘conspiracy’ weeks before the recent county executive race.

I first exposed this ‘conspiracy’ weeks before the recent county executive race. Much to the embarrassment of the Wisconsin (aka White) Working Families (misrepresented as a political party) Party and its chief architect, Larson, talk show host Sherwin Hughes and I revealed the election to be part of a conspiracy to control Milwaukee urban politics.

Much to the embarrassment of the Wisconsin (aka White) Working Families (misrepresented as a political party) Party and its chief architect, Larson, talk show host Sherwin Hughes and I revealed the election to be part of a conspiracy to control Milwaukee urban politics. We provided a chronology that was carried out under the false flag of progressive politics (progressive in this case means ‘pimping the poor), including linking the campaign to a scheme to redirect poverty funds from Black controlled non-profits to White missionary organizations.

We provided a chronology that was carried out under the false flag of progressive politics (progressive in this case means ‘pimping the poor), including linking the campaign to a scheme to redirect poverty funds from Black controlled non-profits to White missionary organizations.That goal would be accomplished by subverting those who put their people before the party and embrace a philosophy grounded in Black empowerment, with political pawns.

That goal would be accomplished by subverting those who put their people before the party and embrace a philosophy grounded in Black empowerment, with political pawns.

Absent from the Journal Sentinel article is the certainty that the Taylor/Barnes race is at the very core of this conspiracy. There is no doubt in my mind that Barnes was ‘ordered’ to take on Taylor, who has been a thorn in the side of Larson for several years, refusing to bow down to the new plantation overseer’s dictates.

Obviously, a strong case can be made that Larson’s embarrassing defeat in the county executive race has prompted an acceleration of his plans. Larson didn’t count on the ‘Black-lash’ from African American leadership when he boldly threatened Lena in the heat of his campaign. Thus many assume that ordering Barnes to run against Lena could be grounded in revenge; a common motivator among politicians, particularly those who think they are (their) God’s chosen.

But I contend that regardless of the outcome for the county executive’s race, Lena Taylor had a target on her back. The Larson/White Working Family Party scheme started several years ago with the coordination of the campaign for Sandy Pasch to take over the seat of Black Nationalist Polly Williams.

Polly was at the vanguard of a movement that redefined our relationship with the Democratic Party, advocating a philosophy that we had no permanent friends and no permanent enemies. She boldly declared the Democratic Party was no more than a different wing on the same bird, and neither party had our best interest at heart.Her declarations angered party leadership, which took our vote for granted and provided nothing in return.

Her declarations angered party leadership, which took our vote for granted and provided nothing in return.Had she known that the Larson group would orchestrate the election of Pasch as her replacement, I’m sure Polly would not have retired. Polly made no bones about the need for Black representation of Black districts.

But by the time Black constituents woke up to what had happened, it was too late. Fortunately, pressure on Pasch from Black leadership and the Black

Fortunately, pressure on Pasch from Black leadership and the Black Press, made her a one- term incumbent. But that wasn’t the end of the story. The following election cycle Larson engineered the elections to defeat the only remaining independent Black voices, Beth Coggs and Jason Fields.

In a clever, and successful strategy, Coggs and Fields were made to appear as if they were in bed with Republicans who had taken over the assembly majority.The accusations were totally false and inflammatory. But you know what they say about a lie that is repeated often enough.

Their true crime? Being shrewd politicians, who put the interests of the community above that of the Democratic Party’s ‘Regressive’ wing. As Fields has repeatedly noted since his departure, “My crime was being able to deliver legislation to my district and our community.”

The only way you do that in a partisan, hostile environment, he explained to me recently, was through honest negotiation and political maneuvering. Politics is the art of compromise and arbitration, he explained. “They (Republicans) may not like me, but they respect me. It is on that basis that we can operate.”

The proof is in the pudding. Fields was the only Black assemblyman during his last term to get several important pieces of legislation through. And he did so without selling his soul.“You can spit in their eye, but how does that benefit our community?” he asked rhetorically.

“With all the problems we face as a community—crime, unemployment, poverty–it is ridiculous to do nothing but complain. “We need solutions, and can’t wait until the next decade. “

But that pragmatic philosophy was contrary to the Democratic Caucus policy under Larson. His mandate is to not work with the Republicans, even if it meant negative consequences for the Black community. In fact, Larson’s ordered his pawns to not even look at a Republican. Or walk on the same sidewalk with one. Or drink from the same water fountain.

At stake were not only a philosophical difference, but also the risk of Black people seeing through the insanity of spitting into a strong political wind. If other Black politicians subscribed to Taylor and Fields’ pragmatic philosophy, a link in the political chain could be broken. And who knows what could possibly happen next. An escape from the political plantation?

The solution, in Larson’s mind, was to get rid of Fields, and Coggs. Enter Barnes, who I first met several months before his campaign against Fields kicked into high gear. I had heard rumors of the Larson plot, with Barnes’ name being mentioned as a pawn in the political plot. I asked Barnes point blank if it were true. Without  blinking he proclaimed, ‘no.’ In fact, he went so far as to say he was a big admirer of Jason and considered him among the most effective Black lawmakers.

In fact, he went so far as to say he was a big admirer of Jason and considered him among the most effective Black lawmakers.A couple of weeks later I was shocked to see a Barnes’ campaign sign at Coffee Makes You Black.

A couple of weeks later I was shocked to see a Barnes’ campaign sign at Coffee Makes You Black. I’m used to politicians lying to me. But one named ‘Mandela?’ That’s sacrilegious.

What makes this entire scenario all the more interesting is that Barnes, aka Mandela, is now being cast in a similar role as an opponent against Lena, whose record of securing resources for the Black community and spearheading legislation is unprecedented. That’s why Barnes’ campaign against her is nonsensical; save for his being a pawn in the Larson/White Working Family Party scheme.

If you believe the Journal Sentinel article, Barnes is running because he believes the district needs fresh, new leadership. Say what?Lena has been the voice of the Black community for the last decade. She has championed Black causes and took a jackhammer to the wall of educational and economic apartheid. She has helped scores of businesses—Black and White—and a member of the powerful Joint Finance Committee (until Larson removed her) she made sure Milwaukee was never neglected in the allocation of funding.

Lena has been the voice of the Black community for the last decade. She has championed Black causes and took a jackhammer to the wall of educational and economic apartheid. She has helped scores of businesses—Black and White—and a member of the powerful Joint Finance Committee (until Larson removed her) she made sure Milwaukee was never neglected in the allocation of funding.Equally important, during her tenure, Lena has sponsored 103 pieces of legislation that have been signed into law.

Mandela Barnes? Zero! As in none. As in number of times I can beat LeBron James in our one-on-one basketball shoot out. As in the likelihood that Hillary Clinton will lose to Donald Trump, Barack Obama will follow Michael Jackson and Tiger Woods and declare he’s White, or that Black women will stop buying extensions.

New leadership? Interpret that to mean another step in the ‘New World Order’ takeover, and the further lost of Black empowerment.

Think I’m off base? Consider that the first Barnes’ priority after being elected was to seek an amendment of the Black and Hispanic Caucus bylaws to allow ‘White members!’ So who would represent Black interests? Paul Ryan?

That’s akin to the Black Congressional Caucus becoming the Black and White Caucus. So who would represent Black interests? Paul Ryan?After that idiotic attempt was scrutinized, Barnes effectively killed the caucus, which is no more, as was any hope of a coordinated attack on Black poverty, crime, and dysfunctional education.

Think back six weeks. Where did Barnes announce his campaign? In the suburbs, not the heart of the central city he supposedly loves so much! And where is he doing most of his campaigning? Not in the Black community, but in the suburban areas of the district, accompanied by Pasch, and the bossman, Chris Larson.

Conclude what you will about that race. I trust Holt more than I trust Larsen.

The Dane County District Attorney race features incumbent Ismael Ozanne against one of his assistants, former Kenosha County DA Robert Jambois. Ozanne is a race-baiting political hack who refuses to prosecute assailants of police officers. Nor does Ozanne prosecute sexual offenders, as a Facebook Friend recounts:

Tell me again how liberals care about women?

Two years ago, last May, [his wife] was sexually assaulted in our own home, while we slept. The man took video of the assault and we brought forth charges in Dane County.

Today, he walks free never spending a second in jail or paying a single dime in restitution (we had to move from Madison within days after he assaulted her because Jaclyn could no longer sleep in our house), and now he walks away without even anything on his official record because he was a “First-time offender”. Our liberal government, especially the DA’s office, in Dane County chose that route for us.

Today, Jaclyn can’t sleep with a fan on because it reminds her of that night. I can’t sleep near her, because of I touch her in the night, she wakes up freaking out, and our sex life still hasn’t returned to normal.

We received the letter this afternoon saying that he finished his program and will walk away free and clear.

And my wife is laying in bed crying.

This human sewage (who interestingly has a previous conviction for second-offense drunk driving, which means he’s not a first-time offender) was the criminal Ozanne let off with no consequences whatsoever. Applaud that, Madison liberals.

There is one other DA race, in Milwaukee County, where persecutor of conservatives and non-prosecutor of criminals with guns John Chisholm is up for reelection. Another Facebook Friend had this message for Milwaukee County police officers:

Your unions may have asked to vote for the incumbent and put up a yard sign.

Before you do, I ask you to please remember my good friend, the late Michael Lutz, a brother in blue.

You may recall Lutz was the whistleblower who exposed the political motivations of John Chisholm when he launched the John Doe investigations into Scott Walker and his associates.

Lutz made national headlines when he told the world Chisholm was motivated by his wife, a teacher and union steward, who the DA said would cry after talking about Governor Walker’s Act 10 proposal.

Lutz wasn’t just anybody. He was a highly decorated police officer who became disabled when shot in the line of duty by a drug dealer.

His one-time partner was Johnny O, another MPD veteran who lived in his brother-in-law’s basement. That brother-in-law is Milwaukee DA John Chisholm.

There was a time Lutz admired Chisholm, knew him well, and credited him with pushing him to go to law school.

After graduation he went to work in the DA’s office as an unpaid assistant.

It was through direct conversations with Chisholm and Johnny O that he learned just how partisan the DA’s office had become, and of the DA’s personal hatred of Walker.

In the fall of 2014, Lutz went to the media as an anonymous source and blew the whistle on the political corruption he witnessed within the DA’s office.

Lutz knew if it were ever exposed that he was the source of the story his legal career would be over.

And soon after the story broke, a media frenzy erupted and Lutz was identified. Chisholm quickly sought to discredit him, and as Lutz predicted, ruin his career. It’s sad that Chisholm used an episode when Lutz was concerned about Johnny O’s well being to destroy his reputation.

It demonstrated to everyone that John Chisholm will stop at nothing to advance his own political agenda. He does not have your back and never will.

In a deposition before his tragic death last July, Lutz described the John Doe investigation as a political weapon used by Chisholm to destroy Walker and his associates.

Michael Lutz could have been silent. But no, he risked his livelihood, reputation and future to tell the public the truth about Chisholm.

As expected, Lutz’s career was ruined, and he was on the verge of losing everything all because of his extraordinary actions; and for telling the truth.

Michael Lutz will always be remembered as a patriot, and fighter of freedom for political speech.

Michael Lutz supported Verona Swanigan, who he met weeks before his death. If Michael were alive today, he would ask you, beg you, to go the polls on August 9th and vote for Verona Swanigan.

Unfortunately, if the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is to be believed, Chisholm’s Democratic opponent may not be qualified to be DA. (However, consider the source.) Maybe someday justice will come to Wisconsin’s two largest cities, but probably not this year.


Actual state budget-cutting, as opposed to the past

I got into a Facebook argument last week (I know, you’re shocked — shocked! — to read that) about the reported $939 million transportation funding shortfall.

Supposed Republicans and conservatives have been advocating for either gas tax increases or vehicle registration fee increases on the grounds that the state supposedly is on the low end compared with other states on those taxes and fees. This is despite the fact state and local taxes remain among the highest in the U.S. despite almost six years of near-total Republican control of state government. (Not that Democrats know anything about cutting taxes or the size and scope of government.) This is also despite the fact that $939 million, an enormous amount of money to normal people, represents less than 3 percent of what state government spends in a year.

I am opposed to any tax increase that I would have to pay. I pay enough in taxes given the poor quality of government services in this state beyond emergency services. (Last week, for instance, one of those road projects we supposedly don’t have enough of in this state backed up sewer water into my basement. The contractor was, of course, the lowest bidder as chosen by city government where I live. A neighbor had her natural gas stop working after it was supposedly restored by the local monopoly energy provider. The local ambulance service has been driving its ambulances over Roads in Name Only, and guess who pays for EMS service?)

I also believe Republicans have not done nearly enough in this state to cut — not reduce the increase, but CUT — the size and scope of government in this state and all 3,120 units of it. Readers know that had state and local government been held in growth to inflation plus population growth since the late 1970s, state and local government would be half the size it is today. Republicans’ refusal to enact a constitutional Taxpayer Bill of Rights-like mechanism to restrict government growth continues to make you wonder if Republicans are really in favor of smaller government. The absence of constitutional controls in government arguably violates in spirit Article I, section 22 of the state Constitution:

The absence of constitutional controls in government arguably violates in spirit Article I, section 22 of the state Constitution:

The blessings of a free government can only be maintained by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality and virtue, and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.

One example of failure to cut government is in the biggest area of expense for any business — staffing. According to the Wisconsin Budget Project, Wisconsin has 72,000 state employees. During the Act 10 debate, the average cost (salary plus benefit costs) of a state employee to state government was $79,000. Assuming that number is roughly the same today, you could reach the $939 million threshold by eliminating fewer than 12,000 state employees.

(Side note: If you read my blog about Act 10 last week you may have read the accompanying whining comment about the result of Act 10 on public employees. Those would be the same people who still have much, much better benefits that still cost them much, much less than the benefits the people who pay their salaries receive. The complainer’s argument about the economic impact of government employees is overwhelmed by the economic impact of taxes. Government does not improve quality of life, in this state or anywhere else.)

Which positions should be cut, you ask? Every single position called “executive assistant” is a political appointee. There are also far too many positions called “communications officer” or the like, former journalists who do PR for their agency. I know some of them, but there are too many of them in state government. Start there. The higher salaries of the laid-off employees, the fewer you have to lay off.

I have also advocated, as readers know, combining the offices of lieutenant governor, secretary of state and state treasurer (and, more importantly, their staffs) into one position (to be voted on separately from governor), which would give lieutenant governors some actual executive responsibility beyond their own office. The fact that state legislators make almost $50,000 each is an abomination, and the fact they have staffers that make more money than that is even worse.

Beyond that, as readers know, I have advocated the end of spending tens of millions of dollars every year on buying land to take it off the property tax rolls and allow no one but acceptable users to use it (a list that does not include hunters, fishermen or motorized vehicle users). The Knowles–Nelson Stewardship Program is not merely an example of spending that should not take place, but spending that benefits very few people (that is, people who engage in “low-impact” recreation).

I also have advocated eliminating the State Patrol, which is not only redundant, but is not a state police force.I have had that position for a long time. (For those who think the State Patrol should be a state police force, ask yourself if you want state police run by attorney generals James Doyle or Peg Lautenschlager.) That may not be a popular position in these days of attacks on police by criminals, but other than run the weigh stations there is nothing the State Patrol does that county sheriff’s offices do not already do.

All of this would have to be accomplished through legislative heavy lifting and the constitutional amendment process. (Including a constitutional requirement that the state budget be balanced by Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, required of all other units of government other than state government.) I have a hard time believing, given the statewide sturm und drang of Act 10 and Recallarama, that actually cutting state government would have resulted in more tumult than Act 10 did.

The argument I have made here repeatedly is that you cannot rely on a politician or a party to do what you want it to do when their desire to maintain political power gets in the way. (Which is why reducing political salaries to zero and establishing a one-term limit might be worth doing.) That reality is why it is insufficient merely to vote for Republicans to legislative offices. If they don’t do what they should do — CUT GOVERNMENT — they should be replaced by someone who will. Need $939 million for roads? Cut $939 million elsewhere.


Act 10, five years and $5 billion later

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty contributes to the Wall Street Journal:

Five years ago this summer, Wisconsin’s budget-repair law, better known as Act 10, went into effect. The legislation, which significantly curtailed collective-bargaining rights for public employees, was a signature part of Gov. Scott Walker’s effort to close the state’s $3.6 billion budget deficit. It sparked chaos in Madison: Tens of thousands of protesters occupied the capital. Fourteen Democratic state senators fled across state lines in an effort to stop the bill from passing. When it became law anyway, opposition culminated in a failed effort to recall Gov. Walker in 2012.

Looking at the law’s results half a decade later, it is safe to say that it was worth the trouble. Wisconsin’s example ought to embolden reformers everywhere: It’s possible to reform spending on public employees without damaging the quality of services.

Act 10 has saved taxpayers $5 billion since June 2011, according to the John K. MacIver Institute, a free-market think tank in Madison. Local school districts, government agencies and municipalities have acquired more affordable health-care plans, allowing them to put money into classrooms and critical services. Even Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Gov. Walker’s opponent in the 2012 recall election, used Act 10 to save his city nearly $20 million.

Because the law’s financial benefits have always been indisputable, Democratic lawmakers and teachers unions instead claim that Act 10 has led to increased class sizes and teacher shortages. A 2011 attack ad from a union-funded group claimed, without evidence, that the law was “so devastating that students are without chairs and a government survey found 47 kids in a classroom.” This earned a “false” rating from an independent fact-checker, but similar arguments too often go unchallenged. The top Democrat in the state senate, Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, claimed only days ago that the “sun is setting on public education.”

A new study from our organization, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, disputes that conventional wisdom. The Institute’s Will Flanders, along with Marty Lueken of the Friedman Foundation, conducted a comprehensive survey of Act 10’s effect on teachers’ age, experience, salary and benefits, as well as classroom size. Using data from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and the U.S. Education Department, the authors found that dire claims about Act 10 are greatly exaggerated.

For instance, the report shows that the number of students per teacher in Wisconsin has kept pace with surrounding states. Between 2009 and 2013, the ratio in Wisconsin increased by only 0.4 students per teacher, compared with 0.6 in Michigan and Iowa. The average age of Wisconsin teachers dropped 1.7 years between 2011 and 2014, and their average experience declined by three-quarters of one year. Hardly a radical undermining of the Badger State’s public schools.

The average teacher’s base salary did decline by $2,095, or 3.8%, between 2009 and 2014. But Wisconsin teachers’ pay remains above the U.S. average. Besides, thanks to Act 10 school districts have plenty of tools beyond base salary to attract, retain and reward good teachers: signing and retention bonuses, performance-based stipends, and tuition reimbursement for master’s degrees or advanced certifications. When this other compensation is included, Act 10 had no discernible effect on pay when compared to surrounding states.

Opponents of Act 10 have been quick to assert that the law led to a decline in the number of teachers in the state. But Wisconsin was already losing teachers before it was implemented. Between 2008 and 2011, the number of fully licensed teachers in the state shrank by 2.2%. Since 2012 the figure has dropped only 0.1%. Over the years the decline in teachers has roughly tracked the decline in student enrollment caused by an aging population with fewer children.

Public unions will continue to use anecdotes to suggest that Act 10 represented a death knell for Wisconsin schools. But the evidence tells another story. The law’s critics, who blame it for every negative trend in Wisconsin education over the past five years, will have to explain why many of the same changes occurred in Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota and Iowa—neighboring states without similar laws.

The results validate Gov. Scott Walker, his allies in the legislature and the millions of conservatives who rallied to support their cause. Wisconsin’s story should encourage other governors who face increasing budget pressure to reform ballooning pensions and benefits for public employees. Many may have looked to the backlash in Wisconsin and decided the fight wasn’t worth it. But as time passes, it becomes more clear than ever that it was.

Breaking views: The alternative for #NeverTrump

Erick Erickson has an interesting suggestion should the Republican Party do the right thing and jettison The Donald:

Assuming there is enough support for the delegates to free themselves from the suicide pact that is a Trump nomination, they need a back up ticket. The chief concern I get from delegates is that if they free themselves, what do they do. I think the most obvious choice would be a Scott Walker – Ted Cruz ticket.

Let me explain why.

First, it goes without saying that many of the major players in the party already know that Donald Trump is heading the party to electoral defeat and a certain loss of the Senate. But these same people would rather strap themselves onto deck chairs on the Titanic than have Ted Cruz get the nomination. Cruz at the top of the ticket means they lose power and they will not let that happen.

At this point, it is far better for us to ditch Trump and beat Hillary than have the Mitch McConnells of the world and Washington lobbyists surrender for job protection.

Second, Cruz has the delegate clout to make this happen that no one else does. He also has a perception among even a lot of right-of-center pundits that he is in this for himself and is actually without principle. Those of us who know Ted know this is not true, but a lot of opinion leaders on the right will never be moved from their hatred of Ted.

In Ted’s favor is being the statesman these guys do not think he is capable of being. If Ted Cruz comes out, admits we need to avoid the suicide that a Trump nomination would be, and recognizes he cannot be at the top of the ticket, he can be the king maker and statesman, both saving the party from Trump and setting the party on a course toward beating Hillary. It also, frankly, puts him in a good position for 2020 and proves all the pundits who hate him to be wrong.

Ted deserves to be on the ticket. But I think it is a bridge too far for him to be the Presidential nominee at this point. That’s just the reality of the situation.

Third, we need someone who has shown leadership, can beat the left in states Obama won, and will win back college educated whites while holding on to blue collar voters. I think a Walker-Cruz ticket has the best chance of doing that.

Scott Walker is loved by the donors. In fact, many of the donors sitting on the sidelines now were backers of Walker early on. Walker showed real leadership by bowing out of the campaign early foreseeing that if the field did not consolidate, Trump would win. He gave up his ambitions for the good of the party. He also can win in Wisconsin.

Walker’s major mistake headed into his race was to put all his good people in his Super PAC then hire wildcards to run his campaign. He then could not communicate with the very people who had helped him win so many elections. It was a mistake not reversible once made and I don’t think he should be penalized.

A Walker-Cruz ticket could beat Hillary Clinton. It could be competitive in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, and North Carolina, which would give us the Electoral College win that Trump will not get. That ticket would take Arizona, Missouri, and Georgia off the table for the Democrats and settle the unrest in Utah. It could win Wisconsin and get 283 Electoral College votes.

For every Trump voter that ticket might lose, it would pick up both the Republicans Trump loses and the vast number of independents who are desperate for someone other than Hillary and Trump. The winning message writes itself: The GOP spared the nation Trump, but the Democrats won’t ditch Hillary.

Delegates at the convention need to free themselves. Then they need to back a Scott Walker–Ted Cruz ticket. We can beat Hillary. They can beat Hillary.. Donald Trump cannot.

One reason I wasn’t really a fan of Cruz as a presidential candidate is that governors, because they actually have to make decisions instead of making speeches and voting “present,” have to make decisions and manage. But it makes sense for someone who knows the Senate to be a vice presidential candidate. Neither Walker nor Cruz is very libertarian, but they are freedom-lovers in comparison to The Donald. (Among other things, to bring up an issue Walker has failed to bring up: Curtailing free trade would be an absolute disaster for Wisconsin’s agriculture industry, and would probably tank not just Wisconsin agriculture, but Wisconsin manufacturing as well. Wisconsin’s Trump supporters should think about that.)

I’m not a fan of everything Walker has done in Wisconsin. (Unlike some commentators on my side of the political spectrum, wherever that is.) I would, however, vote for Walker for any office as an alternative to hateful, hate-filled Hillary. Happily for Republicans not named Trump, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has their campaign plan, which unlike whatever pops in and out of Trump’s brain has some consistency to it.

I am skeptical that a Walker–Cruz ticket would beat Hillary. (It’s doubtful that ticket would win Wisconsin’s electoral votes, though Trump and anyone else is guaranteed to lose Wisconsin’s electoral votes since the last Republican presidential candidate to win in Wisconsin was Ronald Reagan.) It should be obvious, however, that a Walker–Cruz ticket would not alienate Republicans to the extent they stay home and deliver the Senate and maybe even the House of Representatives to Democrats. (For one thing, a smaller number of actual Republicans voted for Trump than Democrats who crossed over in open-primary states to try to torpedo the GOP by voting for Trump.) Walker–Cruz as electoral damage control might seem a weak strategy, but it’s better than watching Trump blow up the federal-level GOP.


GOP delegates: Dump Trump

Brian Fraley has a message for Republican National Convention delegates, starting with a clever graphic of a building I’m familiar with:

Having gained the most pledged delegates, Donald Trump wants you to now enter into a political suicide pact with him. Please do not oblige him.

My grievances with this repugnant, vulgar authoritarian, major donor to the Democrats are well known, but let’s take his personal shortcomings off the table.

His general election campaign is a disaster in the making.

  • Trump has the highest unfavorable rating of any candidate for a major party on record — 70% in the latest Washington Post-ABC poll. His unfavorables with Hispanics is 88%, with African Americans 87%.
  • Here in Wisconsin, voter enthusiasm among Republicans is plummeting. It’s down nine points since March according to the latest Marquette University Law School Poll.
  • Whereas the GOP had a 10 point advantage in voter enthusiasm four years ago, we’re presently suffering a six point deficit and trending in the wrong direction.
  • This enthusiasm gap puts the seat of our own Ron Johnson, the Senior US Senator and chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, in jeopardy.
  • Trump continually says he does not need you…does not need us…does not need the Republican Party. Rather than reach out and attempt to unify the party, he continues to push a divisive and dismissive tone, which damages the brand and hurts down-ticket candidates as they seek independent voters.
  • As of last month, Trump had only $2.4 million in the bank, raised a mere $14 million and refused to build a small-dollar or large donor operation. Instead, he floated his primary efforts through $44 million in personal loans.  In comparison, in 2012 Mitt Romney had already raised nearly $100 million by that time.
  • Trump’s cult of personality and earned media advantages got him this far, but have reached their limit. He now refuses to build a data operation that would help him and our fellow Republican candidates in November. In 2016, we Republicans were in a position to bridge the digital divide between the parties, but Trump refuses to invest in the nuts and bolts of data collection and analysis. As you know, data is the key to fundraising and get-out-the-vote efforts.
  • Still, it’s not just a data team Trump eschews. His campaign has less than three dozen paid staff working on its behalf across the country. That’s not a typo. He’s ‘estimated’ he has ‘about 30’ employees. Hillary Clinton has more than 730.
  • Trump proclaims he’s growing the party, that his record number of votes this Spring is evidence. Yes, he did bring more voters out this Spring, but have you seen an increase in donors on the county level? Do you see a surge in volunteers showing up for party activities in your area? Where are the Trump voters?
  • Despite the raw numbers, Trump’s 44.7 percent of the GOP Primary vote represents the lowest percentage for a presumptive nominee in more than three decades. Then, to make matters worse, he has done nothing to unify this party. Because it’s not HIS party. He doesn’t care about the GOP, but expects you to do his bidding nonetheless.

You’ve spent years, in many of your cases decades, working to advance the principles and electoral goals of the Republican Party. You’ve stuffed the envelopes, licked the stamps, walked the parades, knocked on the doors, made the phone calls, rallied your communities, proselytized on social media. You’ve earned the right to be an RNC delegate and the responsibility that goes with it.There is a reason our Party empowers delegates like you. The primaries and caucuses are not national semifinals where each division champion automatically advances to the finals. No, here in Wisconsin at County and District caucuses across the state, party activists like you campaign for the right to use their discretion in Cleveland. You cast the votes that determine the nomination process and the nominee.

The choices you have before you are not pro-forma, ceremonial votes. You’ve been empowered by the grassroots Republicans across the state to do what is best for the Republican Party of Wisconsin, the national Republican Party and indeed what is best for the United States of America.

Right now, the Trump Train has merely happened to you. But if your votes elevate him to become our party’s nominee, you’ve not only bought your ticket, you’ve become one of the engineers.

Do the right thing. Promote and advance rules that free the delegates in every state, and then vote your conscience on the first, and all subsequent ballots in Cleveland.

The Party of Lincoln was founded here in Wisconsin. Now, it’s Wisconsin’s turn to save it as well.

One would have thought Wisconsin had already saved the GOP by (1) a majority of self-identified Republicans not voting for Trump in the April primary and (2) a majority of self-identified Democrats not voting for Hillary!, but others apparently didn’t take the hint.

Jennifer Rubin reports that the delegates-dump-Trump movement is gaining momentum:

The RNC delegate revolt is reaching the boiling point. As unprecedented as it might be, and as far-fetched as it might have once sounded, it is becoming the logical solution to the Republicans’ conundrum.

Aside from Trump and his true believers, fewer and fewer Republican operatives, activists or donors think Trump can win. As CNN reports, “Interviews with more than a dozen donors, party, campaign and congressional officials make clear the concerns have moved beyond bruised feelings over personal slights — and even beyond the top donors who simply won’t give to the New York billionaire.” The report quotes a former Jeb Bush donor who intends to give to Trump as saying, “This isn’t a triage-type of situation. This is a massive, full body surgery type deal and we just don’t have much time for that.”

If there were a simple fix to the problem, a delegate revolt would not be needed. But that is not where things stand right now. Tim Miller, former communications director for Bush and for the Our Principles anti-Trump PAC, says, “My view is an extremely unqualified candidate calls for an unprecedented response.”

The Post reports on the Free the Delegates effort:

Having started with just a few dozen delegates, organizers also said Sunday that they now count several hundred delegates and alternates as part of their campaign. . . .

The group is led by delegates seeking to block Trump at the GOP convention next month in Cleveland by changing party rules so that they can vote however they want — instead of in line with the results of state caucuses and primaries. It is quickly emerging as the most organized effort to stop Trump and coincides with his declining poll numbers.

Concerned Republicans also are increasingly alarmed by Trump’s rhetoric, including his racial attacks on a federal judge, a fresh call made Sunday to begin profiling Muslim Americans, and his support for changing the nation’s gun laws in the aftermath of a mass shooting in Orlando.

The group is starting to organize and raise money. (“Chris Eckstrom, a Dallas-based businessman and founder of Courageous Conservative PAC, an organization that once supported Cruz’s campaign but is now backing the new movement. . . . Steve Lonegan, a Republican consultant from New Jersey who is advising the campaign on fundraising and media outreach.”)

Other groups involved in efforts to stop Trump and field a third candidate tell me they are now willing to help fund the delegate effort. However, it does not appear the original #NeverTrump groups are running the operation. The #NeverTrump groups may have made the case for getting rid of Trump, but the delegates now seem to be driving the train.

“I am delighted to see so many delegates insisting that they have a right to vote their consciences,” says conservative columnist and #NeverTrump advocate Quin Hillyer. “I think they may well succeed — and if the RNC tries to quash conscience, the blowback against the party will be enormous.”

On one hand, there is not much time to pull off such an effort. On the other, Trump is making their job infinitely easier. “My view is the worse the polls get, the more courage people will have to take this action,” Miller says. “Trump’s behavior has already met the threshold for preventing his nomination; it just takes the will and convincing delegates that his candidacy is not viable.” Trump’s serial missteps and his minuscule fundraising ($1.3 million cash on hand compared with Hillary Clinton’s $42 million) have shaken party regulars. More and more, Trump’s campaign looks like a Little League team trying to play in the Major League — or a garish Trump hotel with cheap fixtures trying to masquerade as a truly posh Four Seasons.

Moreover, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has, intentionally or not, assisted the delegate revolt in two ways. First, he declared that he wouldn’t tell anyone to violate their “conscience” — the magic word for delegate rebels — when deciding whether to support Trump. Second, his complete and reform-minded agenda gives a substitute nominee a ready-made platform on which to run. (“In the first four of the six policy papers, Ryan has released 137 pages of proposals on battling poverty, bolstering national security, easing regulations and scaling back executive power. Those have included new ideas on improving retirement plans, cybersecurity defense and offense, and imposing regulatory limits on each agency, and stepping up enforcement of congressional subpoenas of agencies.”)

There is no question that Hillary Clinton would be a disaster to this country generally, and conservatives specifically, as president. There is no question that Donald Trump would be a disaster to this country generally for different reasons as president. It is the GOP delegates’ patriotic duty as Americans to dump Trump and nominate a presidential candidate to defeat Hillary Clinton.


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.