Bill Kaplan: Change in the air for Wisconsin and elsewhere

Photo by Michelle Stocker, The Capital Times

The column below reflects the views of the author, and these opinions are neither endorsed nor supported by WisOpinion.com.

Former Wisconsin GOP Governor Tommy Thompson (1987 — 2001) had some blunt truth for Trump, state GOP Governor Scott Walker and other Republicans. Thompson said: “He’s (Trump) a bully, and the president should not be a bully.” And, Wisconsin Public Radio reported: “Thompson predicted the Republican Party and … Walker could face historic losses in November’s elections.” Thompson also contrasted his electoral and governing style to Trump’s and Walker’s: “The philosophy now is … 50 percent plus one vote. … don’t have to worry about those other people. I (Thompson) wanted every vote.” Small-town Wisconsin wisdom.

Thompson had foreseen last week’s electoral debacle for Walker and the state GOP. Rebecca Dallet crushed Walker-backed Michael Screnock for a seat on the state Supreme Court. Dallet won across the board, including the Fox Valley and western Wisconsin. Moreover, she triumphed despite the National Rifle Association endorsement of Screnock. Limited, sensible gun control is no longer the third rail of state politics. And, Walker and the GOP-led legislature lost big in a vote to abolish the state treasurer’s office. Voters want checks and balances.

Earlier, Walker was rebuked by three state judges, including a Walker appointee, for disregarding the law by refusing to hold special elections for two vacant state legislative seats. Walker had stunningly miscalculated with his Nixonian “dirty tricks”. Part of a pattern. Walker has attempted to suppress voting with burdensome, unnecessary voter ID requirements, severe restriction of early voting and now removing thousands from voting rolls (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). Meanwhile, Trump “repeated his false claim that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election” (Washington Post). Voters are not amused.

Back in January, Democrat Patty Schachtner blew away her GOP opponent for a vacant state Senate seat. The GOP had held it for seventeen years. Moreover, Trump won the district big in 2016. Schachtner’s victory is part of a blue wave nationally. Since 2016, Democrats have flipped a net 35 state legislative seats from GOP to Democrat in special elections (Boston Globe). Then there’s Virginia.

Virginia Democratic Governor Ralph Northam won by nine percentage points last November. He had coattails – Democrats (mostly women) picked up fifteen state legislative seats. Now the GOP-led Virginia legislature is on the verge of passing Medicaid expansion. The blue wave also hit Alabama and Pennsylvania.

In December, Alabama Democrat Doug Jones beat Republican Roy Moore for a vacant U.S. Senate seat. Moore was strongly supported by Trump despite “accusations of sexual abuse and child molestation” against Moore (New York Times). In March, Pennsylvania Democrat Conor Lamb won a vacant U.S. House seat in the middle of Trump country on a message of economic fairness. The GOP spent more than $14 million. Big money lost. Change in the air for Wisconsin and elsewhere.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report said: Favorable polls, Democratic enthusiasm and GOP retirements are “aiding House Democrats’ path to a majority”. Cook also downgraded Wisconsin’s Seventh Congressional District, held by GOP Representative Sean Duffy, from solid to likely. Checks and balances.

— Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C. for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 – 2009.

 

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