Mander Wins Big!

Gerald Mander (R-WI) was the big winner in Wisconsin politics in Tuesday’s election. Wisconsin is so heavily gerrymandered that nearly ⅓ of Republican candidates for the State Senate ran unopposed. Republicans won 12 of 17 seats up for election to retain a ⅔ majority.

In the State Assembly, 22 of 99 seats were one horse races (not counting a few write-ins or third party candidates). Republicans won 64 of 99 races to hold a nearly ⅔ majority.

The state is so effectively gerrymandered that Democrats, representing about 50% of the population, are crammed into ⅓ of districts, ensuring Republican control of both houses of the state legislature and ¾ of the Congressional seats. A Marquette Law School researcher calculated that if the overall vote were split 50/50, Republicans would hold just under ⅔ of the State Assembly and just over ⅔ of the State Senate. Surprise! Surprise! 64:35 and 22:11 are the current ratios. Ya can’t get much closer than that prediction.

This may not seem odd if this were a red state, but Wisconsin also elected a Democratic Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, and a Republican State Treasurer.

Ron Johnson, best known for marrying into great wealth, which he has parlayed into even greater wealth since his election to the US Senate 12 years ago, won a third term despite his prior promise not to run. Attack ads called his challenger, Mandela Barnes, “dangerous” for Wisconsin. That’s code for “he’s a young Black man. If he’s not a criminal, his friends probably are.” When, at the end of a debate, each candidate was asked to name one thing he finds admirable about his opponent, Johnson said nice things about Barnes’ parents and then added, “with that upbringing, why has he turned against America?” Johnson is also an election denier, coup supporter, and backer of spurious and dangerous treatments for COVID-19. His Chief of Staff attempted to deliver a slate of fake electors to Vice President Pence’s Chief of Staff on January 6. He was told to stay away. Since Pence refused to accept the fake electors, and Johnson had his chief handle it instead of doing it himself, Johnson claimed the famous “Five Second Rule” to play down his involvement in the coup.

At least I didn’t have to publish what I previously wrote about gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels. We’ll settle for a photo of his $17 million Connecticut mansion. We’re not sure if he planned to run the state from there, or move back to Wisconsin. Now he doesn’t have to decide.

Tim Michels’ Connecticut home, photo downloaded from “Wisconsin Right Now” which obtained it from realtor.com

Up in the air

After a valiant effort, Republicans were not able to propel Herschel Walker to victory and he will face a runoff election next month. Walker is best known as a football player. He campaigned as vehemently anti-choice despite allegations from two exes that he demanded that they abort the fetuses for which he was responsible. Both alleged that he paid for said abortions. In one of those cases, he was married to someone else at the time.

In his own defense, he said, “Everywhere I go, people say, ‘Did you pay for this abortion, did you pay for that abortion?’ How are you supposed to remember every single abortion? This is why people no longer trust the media.” To clarify, he added, “Let’s say you paid for ten abortions, or twenty, thirty, forty. You mean to tell me you’d remember every last one, clear as day? The answer is no, you wouldn’t. There’s no way a man could remember every single solitary abortion unless he kept an abortion journal, and I don’t know anyone who does that.” (The New Yorker 10/27/22. Emphasis added.)

Lauren Boebert’s race is still too close to call on Wednesday night, as is the Arizona gubernatorial contest featuring a former TV talking head turned follower of orange julius.

Stolen?!

Of course the Republicans were right. There was massive fraud and the election was stolen. How else can one explain the elections of Ron DeSantis, Ron Johnson, Marjorie Taylor-Greene, JD Vance, Rand Paul, et al?

This makes much more sense than the allegations of fraud in 2020, when the Democratic party allegedly stole the presidential election but didn’t bother to steal any others.

It makes more sense than to think that we, as the American people, would be stupid enough to vote against our own interests to elect these clowns and charlatans.

Climate change, or weather?

For the first time in my long life, I ended a November bike ride with ice cream. It is not supposed to be 70º (21 C) in November around here. The first place I planned to stop was closed for the season so I had to hold that ice cream jones for another 4 miles.

I rode out to the marsh the other day with my real camera and big lens for some wildlife photography. The only wildlife around was of the human variety. I did get to try the lens out to capture an oak leaf in flight (since the hawk was too far away even for a 500 mm lens). The oak leaf was at 330 mm (f5.6, 1/1000 sec, ISO 100, for those keeping score at home). At least now we know I can track an object in flight, so stay tuned for bird pix in the future.

Embarrassment

I’m embarrassed to be from Wisconsin.

I was once proud of my home state. Wisconsin, admitted to the union in 1848, abolished the death penalty in 1853. Milwaukee was run by the “Sewer Socialists” virtually from 1910 to 1960, and was one of the most well-run cities in the US as a result. Infrastructure was built and the city was maintained. The Progressive Party rose to prominence under the leadership of Robert M “Fighting Bob” LaFollette, who founded The Progressive magazine in 1910. That magazine is still published in Madison to this day. Superior WI was, arguably, the center of the Consumer Co-operative movement in the 1920s and we have long been a center for farming cooperatives and banking cooperatives (credit unions), housing the world headquarters of the credit union movement; AFSCME (The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees) was founded here in 1932.

Senator Gaylord Nelson was the driving force behind Earth Day in 1970. Russ Feingold was the only US Senator with the sense and the courage to vote against the USA PATRIOT Act, recognizing its dangerous attack on civil liberties. (Among other things, it required libraries to turn over the borrowing records of patrons, and then lie if asked if they did so. As a result, our mayor ordered our library system to destroy all records as soon as books were returned, so if the FBI came looking, there would be no records to turn over.)

But we are now the laughingstock of the nation, if not the world. In 2010 we elected one of the least-qualified governors ever to serve. In 2011, he pushed through Wisconsin Act 10, which effectively ended collective bargaining for most public employees (and explicitly ended it for employees of the state’s largest hospital). Had the Democratic State Senators not left the state, the law would have been passed less than a week after its introduction, before anyone knew what it contained, and with no debate.

He survived a recall election and established the blueprint for the least-qualified president the US has ever seen, a man who similarly survived impeachment. I will simply call them “They Who Must Not Be Named”.

And now we have become the only state stupid enough to hold an election at the height of this pandemic; the only state to hold an April election. A special session of the state legislature to consider delaying the election was gaveled in and out of session within seconds. While we are under a “safer at home” order, in which all but the most essential activities are actively discouraged, we held an election.

Granted, one can (and should) consider an election an essential activity, though time was not of the essence in the way that it is while securing food. An attempt to change the election to all-absentee was quickly shot down. The US Supreme Court intervened to prevent an extension of the deadline to mail in ballots. Mind you, many who requested ballots before the deadline did not receive them by Election Day and were therefore disenfranchised unless they chose to risk infection by going to the polls after requesting absentee ballots (the requesting of which was strongly encouraged by local governments). Absentee ballots require a witness’ signature. An Executive Order waived that requirement, as the governor recognized that a person living alone and sheltering in place can’t get a witness. After ballots were submitted, the Sate Supreme Court struck down that ruling, nullifying those ballots – but since the ballots had been cast, it was illegal for those voters to vote again in person, even if they were willing to risk going out.

The city of Milwaukee was so short of poll workers that they opened 5 of 180 polling places. Lines extended for blocks. A chart was published by NPR noting the anticipated peak of COVID-19 deaths in each state. At the time, Wisconsin’s peak was expected to be April 15. Will we now have to plan for a second surge from the community spread resulting from the election? We won’t know for a week if we set a record for low turnout

Voter suppression is well-known to help Republicans. Donald Trump has even warned that Democrats want so many people to vote that, if they prevail, we’ll never elect a Republican again. Think about that. He says his party’s only hope to stay in power is voter suppression. Democracy is to be avoided at all costs. We knew that, based on the ALEC-written voter suppression legislation passed in state after state, but he said it out loud.

Regardless of the outcome, there are bound to be lawsuits. One of the statewide measures was the election of a Supreme Court justice. The incumbent was appointed by He Who Must Not Be Named. His judicial philosophy could be summed up in his opinion that slavery and affirmative action are morally the same. If the conservative justice is elected and the election contested, will the Supreme Court step in to uphold the result to save its own? Will he recuse himself, or vote to uphold his own election? There are no recusal rules nor written code of ethics to guide the State Supreme Court. There is such a code for all other judges in Wisconsin, but the Supreme Court justices are allowed to decide for themselves. They are above all that, apparently.

So now you see why my pride has changed to embarrassment.

Here’s what the cool kids are wearing these days; at least those who work in hospitals. Shopping for groceries after work today was a lot like work – gloves and mask, just no face shield. Awareness of where your hands have been is paramount. Driving to work (so I could use the car to shop) I found myself reacting emotionally to the various COVID-19 stories on the news. Preparing for “the surge” is stressful, but others are actually facing death. It took another shot of John Prine to make me realize…

I don’t have it so bad.