I proudly endorse ironworker, U.S. Army veteran, and cancer survivor Randy Bryce for the Democratic nomination in the 1st Congressional District of Wisconsin, which is currently held by U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan. Normally, when I endorse a political candidate, I mention the candidate’s background and/or political ideology, as well as criticize his or her political opponents. However, I’m simply going to share this web video from the Bryce campaign instead, since it’s one of the best web videos I’ve ever seen a campaign for public office in the United States produce:
Category: Wisconsin Politics
It’s another odd-numbered year, so there’s another state budget debate in Wisconsin. However, this time, the Republicans aren’t just pulling out the “Madison liberal!!!” card to attack Democratic legislators who are from the Madison area; they’re using Wisconsin’s second-largest city to attack Democrats who live far from Madison:
Wisconsin State Sen. Tom Tiffany, a Republican, accused Wisconsin State Rep. Katrina Shankland, a Democrat, of using “Madison math” in regards to her opposition to a University of Wisconsin budget measure. There’s two problems with that.
First, Shankland’s opposition to the measure is based on the fact that the GOP is trying to enact a budget measure that would leave Wisconsin’s public university system in a budget mess:
I might be a lifelong Illinoisan, but I know that Stevens Point is pretty far away from Madison. As a matter of fact, I’m going to coin a new word to describe what Tiffany did to Shankland: Isthmuswashing. Isthmuswashing is the act of claiming or implying that someone is from Madison, Wisconsin, when he or she is actually not from Madison, Wisconsin.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This blog post contains a description of sexual assault. Reader discretion is advised.
I fully understand that this story isn’t going to get a ton of attention anywhere because of the U.S. House vote on taking health insurance away from millions of Americans earlier today, but, as reported by the Madison-based Wisconsin State Journal’s Molly Beck, a Democratic member of the Wisconsin State Assembly has proposed legislation that would criminalize nonconsentual condom removal during sexual intercourse, which is also known as “stealthing”, in the State of Wisconsin:
As far as I know, no state has a law on the books explicitly defining stealthing as rape or explicitly criminalizing stealthing, and there’s not a lot of statistics about stealthing available. That doesn’t change the fact that stealthing is rape. If one sexual partner requests that another sexual partner use a condom during sexual intercourse between the two sexual partners, and then one sexual partner removes the condom and continues intercourse without using the condom without the other sexual partner consenting to sexual intercourse without use of the condom, that is rape.
Melissa Sargent, the Wisconsin legislator who proposed the anti-stealthing bill in her state, is one of the best advocates for women holding elected office anywhere in the country. Even though Sargent is a very progressive Democrat in a state whose government is controlled by very conservative Republicans, Sargent has had success when it comes to getting legislation designed to protect women enacted. A notable example of Sargent’s work when it comes to protecting women is Sargent’s successful 2015 push to make upskirting a felony in Wisconsin.
I encourage elected officials in all U.S. jurisdictions to criminalize stealthing, because stealthing is rape.
The Canadian news program The National, which airs on Canada’s public broadcaster CBC in Canada, recently did a feature story about the dairy crisis in Wisconsin, which President Donald Trump is trying to falsely blame on Canada and their policies regarding trade of ultra-filtered milk from the United States to Canada.
The CBC featured a pair of Wisconsin dairy farm families, the Sauer family of the Waterloo, Wisconsin area and the family of Sarah Lloyd and Nels Nelson of Columbia County. Having watched the video on the CBC website more than once, it’s inherently clear to me that overproduction, not international trade policies, are responsible for Wisconsin’s dairy crisis. Despite the real problems facing Wisconsin dairy, Trump has tried to blame Canada for the struggles that Wisconsin dairy farmers have faced, and it’s clear to me that Trump has no real understanding of how the dairy industry works.
Additionally, as farmer and Wisconsin Farmers Union (WFU) regional director Chris Holman stated on the WFU website, state government policies in Wisconsin have only made the overproduction problem in the Wisconsin dairy industry even worse, and have also led to fewer dairy farms producing more of Wisconsin’s milk:
Here in Wisconsin, state programs like the Grow Wisconsin Dairy 30×20 Initiative have made the situation even worse. Beyond pushing Wisconsin dairy farmers to reach 30 billion pounds of milk production by 2020, the initiative—with no sense of irony—provides grants “to improve the long-term viability of Wisconsin’s Dairy Industry.” If you dive into data from USDA and the Wisconsin Agricultural Statistic Service, we’ve lost 2,411 dairy farms since March 2012 when the 30 x 20 initiative was announced. That’s an average of almost 500 dairy farms per year. We are growing our production but it is being done by fewer and fewer, larger farms.
The Wisconsin Farmers Union is an organization that seeks to improve the quality of life of family farmers and rural communities in Wisconsin.
Trump can blame Canada and sing the Green Acres theme song all he wants, but it’s not going to change the fact that he doesn’t understand the real problems facing Wisconsin’s dairy farm families.
It has become inherently clear that the Republican majorities in both houses of Congress have zero concept of how insurance is supposed to work. Broadly speaking, insurance is a method of protecting one’s self from financial loss, and insurance can be an individual policy (such as a car insurance policy through a private-sector entity like State Farm, GEICO, or one of their competitors), a group policy (such as group health insurance plans provided by employers through a private-sector health insurance firm to the employers’ employees), or a government policy (such as the federal Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance program commonly called Social Security). Likewise, health insurance is a method of protecting one’s self from financial loss associated with medical expenses, and can be an individual policy, a group policy, or a government policy. In order for insurance policies to be financially sustainable, those who do not need the benefits of the insurance policy in question must, by buying into the policy (which can be by paying premiums, taxes, and/or other means), effectively subsidize those who do need the benefits of the insurance policy in question.
The problem is, Republicans, who want to repeal most of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), don’t understand how a financially-sustainable health insurance policy works.
At a recent press conference, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin bizarrely claimed that health insurance doesn’t work if healthy people have to effectively subsidize people people who are ill and/or injured:
…He even lost the suit coat and broke out the PowerPoint on Thursday. It was like watching something on cable access late at night, or a flop-sweaty rookie substitute teacher, and it was hilarious—except for the parts where people will lose their health insurance and die, of course. And this is what he said and, peace be unto Dave Barry, I am not making it up, either:
Paul Ryan said that insurance cannot work if healthy people have to pay more to subsidize the sick.
As if Ryan wasn’t far enough out of touch with reality, the person who legally represents me and several hundred thousand other people in downstate Illinois in the U.S. House of Representatives, John Shimkus, made the sexist motivation behind repealing the ACA publicly known in committee:
But Republican Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois took the cake on Thursday night when he questioned why men aren’t exempt from paying into insurance plans that cover prenatal care. “What about men having to purchase prenatal care?” the congressman said. “Is that not correct? And should they?”
Let me ask a similar question: Why should women have to purchase health insurance for prostrate cancer treatments? Clearly, men never need prenatal care, and women never need prostate cancer treatments. However, if only women had to pay for health insurance covering prenatal care, such a system, regardless of whether the public sector or the private sector were to administer it, would be financially unsustainable. The same problem would be the result if only men had to pay for health insurance covering prostate cancer treatments. This is because a large percentage of women will need prenatal care for at least several months of their lives, so it would be only women who never get pregnant effectively subsidizing those who get pregnant any number of times in their lives. Health insurance covering gender-specific health illnesses/procedures can only be financially sustainable if both men and women pay into a health plan covering prenatal care, prostate cancer treatments, etc..
While I’d never run for public office myself, John Shimkus may legally represent all people in the 15th Congressional District of Illinois, but a significant minority of voters in the 15th district, including me, understand that Shimkus doesn’t understand how health insurance works.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: The author of this blog post is not an attorney and is not a Wisconsin resident.
Yesterday, a three-judge federal appellate court panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals of the 7th Circuit ordered the Wisconsin State Legislature redraw the Wisconsin State Assembly map because the current state assembly map is deemed by the 7th Circuit panel to be such an extreme partisan gerrymander that it violates the U.S. Constitution. It’s not immediately clear if the Wisconsin State Senate map will have to be redrawn as well, although Article IV, Section 5 of the Wisconsin Constitution states, in part, “…no assembly district shall be divided in the formation of a senate district….”, although Katelyn Ferral of the Madison-based newspaper The Cap Times has interpreted the ruling as meaning that the state senate map would have to be redrawn as well:
The order is specific to Wisconsin’s Assembly map but essentially invalidates both the Assembly and Senate district maps because the Senate district map is based on the Assembly’s map. In November 2016, the court ruled that the state’s Assembly district maps were an unconstitutional gerrymander, a ruling that has gotten national attention. Wisconsin’s case is the first gerrymandering case of its kind to go to trial in 30 years, according to the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group that has worked with the plaintiffs.
For the purposes of this blog post, I’m going to consider the possibility of state senate maps being redrawn as uncertain until and unless there is some kind of specific ruling from a federal court regarding that matter.
With the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature about to redraw Wisconsin’s state legislative maps, you may be asking yourself…what happens next?
One thing is for certain…the Republicans are going to try to get the U.S. Supreme Court, with or without a Donald Trump appointee on the bench, to overturn the federal appellate court’s ruling, which would result in the current maps being upheld and used for the 2018 and 2020 Wisconsin State Legislature elections.
Possibility #1: Legislature takes redistricting out of its own control and puts it in the hands of an independent process
While a number of Wisconsin Democrats have publicly called for making the redistricting process independent of the state legislature (see here and here for examples), and I think that it would be an awesome idea, I seriously doubt that Republicans would support this for two reasons. One, the court order directs the state legislature, not a governmental entity that has not (yet) been created, to redraw Wisconsin’s state legislative maps, and it’s not clear if a court would allow an independent redistricting body to redraw Wisconsin’s state legislative maps between federal Censuses instead of the state legislature. Two, the Republicans don’t want to draw any more Democratic-leaning districts than what currently exist, and they are probably going to completely disregard the rationale for the court ruling altogether.
Possibility #2: Legislature tries to draw an even stronger GOP gerrymander
As I stated above, I fear that the Republicans that control the state legislature are going to completely disregard the rationale for the court ruling altogether and attempt to draw an even stronger gerrymander. Regardless of whether or not the state senate map has to be redrawn, State Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point) is one state assembly member that could have her district, Assembly District 71, redrawn in such a manner to make it more favorable for a Republican challenger. Daily Kos Elections (DKE), the election analysis arm of the progressive website DailyKos, calculated that Hillary Clinton got a narrow majority of the vote in the presidential race in Shankland’s district (Shankland was unopposed in her state assembly race last year). It would not be unthinkable for the GOP to try to redraw Shankland’s district in such a manner that it becomes a Republican-leaning district, making it harder for Shankland to win re-election. State Reps. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh), who represents Assembly District 54, and Amanda Stuck (D-Appleton), who represents Assembly District 57, could also find their districts redrawn to include more Republican-leaning areas, and a few other Assembly Democrats could find themselves in Republican-leaning districts as well if the GOP tries to draw an even stronger gerrymander. Of course, doing that would be completely against the rationale of the court ruling.
If the state senate map is redrawn as well, the GOP could decide to…you guessed it, completely disregard the rationale for the court ruling altogether and try to draw multiple districts that are currently held by Democrats and make them Republican-leaning. State Senate districts 25 (held by State Sen. Janet Bewley (D-Ashland)), 30 (held by State Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay)), 31 (held by State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma)), and 32 (held by State Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse)) could all be drawn to be made more Republican-leaning, and redrawing the state senate map to make it a stronger GOP gerrymander could open up Republican opportunities to draw even more Assembly Democrats into Republican-leaning districts.
Any attempt by the GOP to draw an even stronger gerrymander would probably be struck down by federal courts since they struck down the current state legislative districts, which are strongly gerrymandered.
Possibility #3: Legislature tries to reduce the size of the State Senate
There is a big wild card that the Republicans who control the Wisconsin Legislature could attempt to play, and that would be in the form of reduction of the size of the state senate. Article IV, Section 2 of the Wisconsin Constitution governs what sizes of each house of the state legislature are permissible:
The number of the members of the assembly shall never be less than fifty-four nor more than one hundred. The senate shall consist of a number not more than one-third nor less than one-fourth of the number of the members of the assembly.
Given the requirement that assembly districts be nested within senate districts (this is the part of Article IV, Section 5 of the Wisconsin Constitution that I mentioned earlier), it would be permissible for the Republicans to reduce the currently 33-seat state senate (with a 99-seat state assembly) to as low as 14 seats (with a state assembly of 56 seats), although the Republicans could end up with a higher percentage of state senate seats with a 25-seat state senate (with a state assembly of either 75 seats or 100 seats). With a 25-seat state senate, it would not be unthinkable for Republicans to draw a map in such a manner that Republicans could have the same number of seats they currently hold in the state senate, 20, while reducing Democratic-leaning seats to only five: a district in the most densely-populated parts of Dane County, a Rock County/southern Dane County district, and three districts including the most Democratic-leaning parts of Milwaukee County. This would give Republicans 80% of the state senate seats in a state that gave Donald Trump a plurality of the vote.
However, there is a multitude of reasons of why the Republicans may not try such a plan. First off, it’s possible that federal courts may not permit the number of seats in either house of the legislature to be changed between federal Censuses. Secondly, federal courts are probably not going to permit anything resembling a stronger Republican gerrymander. Additionally, it’s not clear if federal courts would approve of a state senate redraw of any kind. Furthermore, Republican legislators don’t want their own district eliminated: for example, if the Republicans were to attempt a 25-seat state senate gerrymander, State Sens. Stephen Nass and Van Wanggaard, both Republicans from the southeastern part of Wisconsin, would probably be drawn into the same district in order to make the district of State Sen. Janet Bewley, a Democrat from the opposite end of the state, more favorable to a Republican opponent. This is because Southeastern Wisconsin would probably lose two or three state senate districts if the state senate is reduced from 33 seats to 25 seats.
Possibility #4: Legislature’s GOP majority actually abides by the rationale of the federal court ruling
Of course, it’s possible, although probably wishful thinking on my part, that the Republicans who control the state legislature actually decide to abide by the rationale of the federal court ruling and draws a state assembly map that is less gerrymandered than the current state assembly map. If the state senate map is not redrawn, one district that would likely be made more favorable to Democrats is the 26th Assembly District, which could be redrawn to include all of the City of Sheboygan and as many of the voting wards of Sheboygan County where, in the 2014 Wisconsin gubernatorial election, Mary Burke got at least 35% of the vote as possible. Currently, the district includes the southern five-eighths or so of the City of Sheboygan and heavily-Republican areas south of the city. Another district that could be redrawn to be made more favorable to Democrats is the Wausau-based 85th Assembly District, which currently extends from Wausau to the heavily-Republican eastern end of Marathon County. The district could be redrawn to make the district more compact and replace the areas along the eastern border of Marathon County with parts of north-central Marathon County, making the district slightly more Democratic-leaning. If the state senate map has to be redrawn as well, then there’s going to be at least 2 or 3 state senate districts that would be made more favorable to Democrats and several, if not a dozen or more, state assembly districts which would be drawn to make it more favorable to Democrats.
Possibility #5: A federal court redraws the map(s)
There is one scenario in which the feds would step in and redraw Wisconsin’s state assembly map, and, if a federal court deems it to be necessary, state senate map. If the state legislature and Republican Governor Scott Walker cannot agree on a new map or new maps by November 1, 2017, then it would be likely that a federal court would take over redrawing the map(s). Of course, there’s one last possibility.
Possibility #6: The U.S. Supreme Court overturns the 7th Circuit’s ruling and upholds the existing GOP gerrymander
The Republicans that control Wisconsin’s state government are currently trying to get the three-judge federal panel’s ruling overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS), which will be either with or without a Donald Trump appointee on the bench by the time SCOTUS hears the Wisconsin redistricting case, along with a similar case regarding North Carolina’s Republican-gerrymandered state legislative maps. If SCOTUS overturns the lower court’s ruling in the Wisconsin case, the current, Republican-gerrymandered state legislative districts in Wisconsin would be upheld. If there’s still a single vacancy on the SCOTUS bench, and the justices split 4-4 in regards to the Wisconsin case, then the lower court’s ruling is upheld, meaning that the state assembly, and possibly the state senate, maps would have to be redrawn, although no major precedent would be set. However, the four liberal justices and one of the conservative justices (probably Anthony Kennedy or, much less likely, a Donald Trump appointee to the bench who turns out to be less conservative than originally thought to be) could rule 5-4 or 5-3 in favor of the lower court’s ruling, which would require a new Wisconsin State Assembly, and possibly a new Wisconsin State Senate, map to be drawn with precedent set for future redistricting cases before the federal judiciary.
A few hours ago, President Donald Trump took to Twitter and hinted at possibly declaring martial law in Chicago over the city’s high murder rate:
I really don’t know of any presidential powers at Trump’s disposal that could be used in regards to a city having a high murder rate outside of two presidential powers: one would be to declare a state of emergency in Chicago, and the other would be declaring martial law in Chicago. Unlike a state National Guard or a state militia, the President cannot take over a city police force.
States United, part of the Mike Bloomberg-aligned pro-gun control political network that has been known to support far-right Republicans, has a couple of infographics about the actual state of the Chicago murder crisis:
As you can see, guns originally purchased in states like Indiana, and, to a lesser extent, Wisconsin and Mississippi, all three of which have weaker gun safety laws than Illinois does, have played a large role in Chicago’s murder crisis, and seven U.S. cities (St. Louis, Baltimore, Detroit, New Orleans, Cleveland, Newark, and Memphis) all have higher murder rates than Chicago does. Despite the facts, Trump and his Republican allies haven’t hinted at martial law in cities with a higher murder rate than that of Chicago, and Trump and his Republican allies want to make it easier, not harder, for people to take guns across state lines.
While murder is a serious problem in this country, declaring martial law is going to do absolutely nothing to solve the murder crisis of Chicago or any other city.
Ladies and gentlemen, the opposition to President Donald Trump is officially here!
Earlier today, millions of people across the United States and on all seven continents around the world (including Antarctica!) participated in Women’s Marches in Washington, D.C. and numerous other locales. The Women’s Marches are the single largest action by the women’s rights movement that I have witnessed in my lifetime by far.
Although I was unable to attend any of the Women’s Marches, here are some observations from the Women’s Marches (all of these are courtesy of either social media of participants or news sources with an online operation of some kind):
- In some cities, there were so many participants, the marchers were literally too numerous to march. The flagship march in Washington, D.C., as well as the march in Chicago, were both turned into rallies due to extremely large crowd sizes.
- In Champaign, Illinois, good attendance was reported for the march there. The Champaign march is the top story on The News-Gazette website; it is extremely rare for a political protest of any kind to get considerable media attention in east-central Illinois.
- The northernmost city in the world that I know of where a march was held was Utqiagvik, Alaska (if you know of a march held in a more northerly city than Utqiagvik, feel free to reply to this blog post with information), and a women’s march was held in Antartica by researchers stationed there.
- In some heavily-conservative U.S. states, very large turnout was reported for marches there. In Mentone, Alabama (population: 360), “about 50” people participated in a women’s march, which is nearly 14% of the heavily-Republican town’s population. The Mentone precinct, which includes a larger area than Mentone’s municipal borders, had 170 people vote for Hillary Clinton in the November 2016 election.
The opposition to Donald Trump is not going to be led by a single person. It’s going to be led by a large segment of the American people.
A while back, Chris Walker, a progressive political blogger from Madison, Wisconsin who is obviously not related, either by party affiliation or familial relationship, to Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), stated that he thought that Wisconsin State Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) sounded “gubernatorial.”
Let me preface this by saying that I am not a Wisconsin resident. However, having read several of Sargent’s op-eds on the website of the Madison-based newspaper The Cap Times, I believe that Sargent would be an awesome governor for Wisconsin if she were to run for governor and win.
As a state legislator, Sargent has advocated for marijuana legalization, a higher minimum wage, abolishment of sales taxes on tampons, and other progressive ideas designed to improve the lives of her constituents and the people of Wisconsin. However, few of Sargent’s ideas have been seriously considered by the Republicans who control the Wisconsin State Legislature. That hasn’t stopped Sargent from successfully leading the fight to make upskirting, a crime in which a pervert photographs or films up a woman’s skirt without her consent, a felony in Wisconsin.
Sargent believes that Democrats shouldn’t have to give up support for equality in order to support policies designed to empower the poor and the working poor. Sargent also believes that political resistance against the Republicans is only half of the battle; Sargent believes that fighting for progressive ideas is just as important as opposing the opposition.
Conventional wisdom suggests that Democrats should run a center-left candidate from a rural region of Wisconsin for governor. If Sargent were to run for governor, she would be running into a conventional wisdom headwind, to put it mildly. Sargent is a lifelong Madison resident and is one of the most progressive state legislators in the entire country. However, if Barack Obama could defy conventional wisdom in the 2008 race for the Democratic presidential nomination, then it would be very much possible for Sargent to defy conventional wisdom in Wisconsin in 2018.
I seriously doubt that Melissa Sargent would seriously consider the idea of running for Wisconsin’s highest office. That hasn’t stopped the Republicans from attacking her online; specifically, Sargent has been attacked in a sexist manner over the fact that her husband works for Wisconsin State Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) (Sargent response to attacks here). Anyone who has even the slightest familiarity with Sargent knows that she can think for herself without any difficulty. However, if she does run for Governor of Wisconsin, I believe that she would be an awesome candidate.
Because of the competitive Democratic gubernatorial primary in my home state of Illinois, I’m going to considerably scale back my blogging about Wisconsin politics to some degree.
For a number of years, Kathy Cramer, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has been studying rural resentment towards Democrats and political elites, and seems to be one of only a handful of people who understand why Democrats are so awful at winning over rural voters in Wisconsin.
Recently, Cramer studied Donald Trump’s appeal to rural voters in Wisconsin, and you can read her findings at the end of this article by Jessie Opoien (last name pronounced oh-POY-en) of the Madison-based newspaper The Cap Times. Another thing that I enjoyed reading about in the article is Cramer’s epic response to a person who volunteered for the failed Hillary Clinton presidential campaign:
After Cramer presented her findings, a woman in the audience who said she had volunteered in Madison on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign asked Cramer what advice she would give Democrats on how to talk to the people in rural areas who voted for Trump.
“It’s not speaking to people,” Cramer said. “It will require just spending time with people and asking them, ‘What’s on your mind?’ for months — then trying to deliver a message.”
If winning over rural voters was a simple as talking to a few rural voters here and there, we’d still have Pat Quinn as governor here in Illinois. Obviously, that’s not the case. For Democrats to win over rural voters across the country, Democrats are going to start needing to emphasize agricultural policy proposals designed to give farmers a fair price for their crops and find other ways to connect with rural voters without alienating the progressive urban base of the party. Even better, Democrats should try to use rural resentment to their advantage by trying to paint Republicans as the party of urban and suburban political elites.
While there are several candidates that political insiders have floated as potential Democratic candidates for Governor of Wisconsin in 2018 (such as State Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, State Senator Kathleen Vinehout, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi, Former State Senator Tim Cullen, U.S. Representative Ron Kind, State Representative Dana Wachs, and Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ, just to name a few), I’ve wondered for some time whether or not Kathy Cramer would be a good candidate for a statewide race in Wisconsin, such as governor or lieutenant governor. Given that she seems to know how Democrats can win over rural voters (or at least enough rural voters to win a statewide race in states like Wisconsin), I think that she could be a great candidate for a statewide race in Wisconsin. However, I highly doubt that Cramer would even consider the idea of running for public office.