Monday, July 19, 2021

SANITY NOT ENOUGH FOR WISCONSIN DEMOCRATS TO WIN IN 2022

By Dominique Paul Noth

There are more voters in Wisconsin who lean toward Democratic policies than lean to the current weird makeup of the Republican Party. And it may make no difference.

Yes, theoretically there are more state votes backing Democratic candidates -- in total.  Yet the GOP dominates the legislature and the state’s highest and now highly partisan court, whose decisions constantly disturb my piece of mind.

So tilted by the last decade are the political scales that Democrats will have to work extra hard not to fall down in 2022 or even not to fall below what they achieved in the past, despite what looks like an advantage in numbers and actual success by the Democratic platform.

Is there still time or
interest in Tom Nelson
for US Senate race?
They must also resist those circular firing squads the Democrats tend to create.   That’s when good friends and people with similar viewpoints have to criticize each other to fight for a US Senate seat and even for a successful governorship and for what will now be a new lieutenant governor (this a race that has not yet taken final form but faces an August 2022 Democratic primary).

Progressives, liberals and moderates snipe at each other though they all in the end are pulling in the same direction.

Hopes for fair redistricting of the Assembly and state Senate have been shattered by the Republicans’ favorite toy – a biased Wisconsin Supreme Court that relies on money and philosophy from the bowels of the Republican apparatus.

Reversing lower court rulings in a case not yet decided (but clearly stating that Republicans are likely to win) the four conservatives on the high court who have relied on GOP money and power to get elected will let the Republican legislature hire private gerrymander-friendly lawyers at taxpayer expense to pursue its vision of redistricting maps, allowing thousands of dollars of taxpayer money to work against the taxpayers’  hope for fairer maps that reflect the state’s independent and  Democratic power!

State Republicans are trotting out the clout they have developed in changing the rules of elections since 2010.  At a time when Democratic policies are clearly gaining national popularity under Biden the Wisconsin GOP is relying on its aging structure to impose a grip on voters.  They may prove feeble in the future, but for now they are throwing down the gauntlet to Democrats who more blithely want to debate issues or weigh candidates -- as should be the custom in a democracy.  The Republicans are hoping to make these sorts of internal argument look like signs of weakness.

The Democrats do enjoy such dithering, and the media enjoys any fight among friends. The Republicans are simply happy to put a meaty thumb on the scale. They expect the Democrats to give up to their superior nastiness, polished over a decade.  As a new progressive action committee, Law Forward, points out, Wisconsin has the most partisan gerrymandering of state districts in the nation.

Even Marquette University, in poll watching sometimes criticized as too conservative, concedes the partisan nature of Wisconsin gerrymandering, though it often takes an “on the other hand” analysis to the complexities of developing fairer maps.  Rather typically of the “on the other hand” analysis, research fellow John Johnson flatly says: “There is no serious question that the State Assembly districts drawn in 2011 are an extreme Republican gerrymander. However, that fact does not establish how much better Democrats could have done under a fairer map.”

But that statement is also a succinct summary of the Democrats’ problem in motivating sympathizers. Few doubt that the obstinacy of the Republicans in the state legislature has slowed important gains for K-12 education, for COVID relief, for Medicaid expansion, for better transit solutions and on and on – all vital issues to the voters paying attention.  But in rural Wisconsin the GOP can still wave abortion issues, tax and spend myths and general generational beliefs about Republicans, as if the party hadn’t gone through a frightening  devolution into silliness in the age of Trump. 

The only hope is that the GOP underestimates the way Democrats wait till the last minute and don’t jump into lock step behind the candidate with the most money the way the Republicans do.  There may be later strength in the current tendency of Democrats, liberals and progressives to argue among themselves – and sometimes choose the candidate with the less funds and brighter personality!

For instance, in the race to take the US Senate seat away from Ron Johnson, the candidates don’t even know if it will be Rojo one of them will face! He is making noise and raising money as if he will run as the most Trumpian Republican in captivity, but if he doesn’t gain more than his current 25% in state polls, he may run for the hills, leaving the field to other candidates while almost all the Democrats are beating up on the eminently outrageous Rojo.  They may have to switch in midstream to a more coherent Republican presence.

The Democratic field for the Senate has become enormous but only one of the relative unknowns, physician Gillian Battino – she’s a Wausau radiologist – has made such an articulate presence in Q and A sessions that she is clearly steps ahead of such other newcomers as Steven Olikara, Adam Murphy and Peter Peckarsky, all of whom I expect to drop out.

The most experienced candidate is Tom Nelson, a former leader of the Assembly when it was in Democratic hands and two-term Outagamie County executive, an interesting combination of Russ Feingold style points and Bernie Sanders politics.  He also is a progressive who has won in rural territory, but his main chance is to creep up from the outside and be seen as  more in the vein of such former Democratic US senators as Bill Proxmire, Gaylord Nelson and Feingold.

Mandela expects to jump in
and change the
dynamics in US Senate race

There are two other experienced progressives in the race – state Sen. Chris Larson and state treasurer Sarah Godlewski, the former drawing heavily from Milwaukee, the latter heavily from Madison.  Both have reason to be miffed at Mandela Barnes, the current lieutenant governor who, if not announced at this writing, will soon leap into the race (he has such announcement events scheduled for July 20) – and both these candidates were in it in part because they thought he wasn’t.

Wisdom suggests they will not publicly say anything negative about Barnes, though both have  gently raised the criticism of  “lacking experience” against the little known candidate they, Nelson and Barnes have the most to worry about, Alex Lasry.

Do good vibes for Bucks
translate for Lasry?

Aside from genuine progressive credentials Lasry has the Bucks aura to wave about.  A Bucks vice president on leave of absence, son of hedge fund part-owner Marc Lasry – and hence the best heeled candidate in the race – he has the money and campaign team to speak out on every issue, plus the perception that he has something to do with the positive feeling the state has about the Bucks and their new home.   Your email box reflects the frequency of his messaging.  In fact, this is the strangest race because only by innuendo should the candidates criticize each other based on similar platforms.

History suggests that none of them should get into a spitting contest.

Recalling Doyle blunder

Back in the Gov. Jim Doyle era, that Democrat made his preferences clear for both attorney general and lieutenant governor (the choice voters have in a primary). His preferences were not chosen by the voters.  They went, rightly in my view, with the late Peg Lautenschlager for AG (she later ran into legal trouble that Doyle seized on to discredit her; her son, Josh Kaul, now holds the same office and deserves re-election) and the engaging Barbara Lawton as lieutenant governor.

They were both strong progressives that Doyle should have made more use of. Instead he wasted months stewing about losing his choices. 

Evers will now face a similar political situation and may be well advised to let the voters choose his LG running mate in an August primary.  He and Barnes were an effective one-two punch, with Barnes more nimble on social media and Evers more Biden-dogged in sticking to his guns against ridiculously negative  GOP legislation. Few in the public realized Evers and Barnes were not close personally and just checked in every week or so to orchestrate ideas.  Politics encourage convenient bedfellows.

Barnes has an independent streak – some would say stubborn – that make him an attractive progressive politician willing to take chances, but it’s a style that peeves some people. Many believe he thinks he is the automatic front-runner for US Senate, but I think he has to overcome the fiction that he is abandoning Evers.  Nor is it clear that he  can outlast Lasry’s money.  Clearly some African American politicians who have come out for Lasry are now in an awkward position given Barnes’ good image in the black community (he was an organizer and worked for Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope.)

Should Godlewski
switch races?

Actually, it might prove smart politics if Godlewski switched to running for lieutenant governor.

She would automatically be the hottest candidate with statewide drawing power, a contrast in styles but not in politics with Evers and well heeled in her own right (so known  that her Madison contingent may think she can win the Senate race, though I think the field is too tough).

Personalities are important in these state races and the final maps are unknown at this point for Assembly and state senate races (quite different than statewide contests for AG, treasurer, LG and governor).  In 2018 the Democrats contested more legislative seats and seem to intend the same energy in 2022 even if the maps don’t tilt their way.

But they have yet to recognize how hard-nosed they are going to have to be to make any gains. The GOP is even more desperate and nasty this time around. The Republicans  hope their better organized lesser numbers and hardened geography will make the difference.



About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its original Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with archives at milwaukeelabor.org.  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his DomsDomain dual culture and politics outlets.  A member of the American Theatre Critics Association at its inception, he also reviews theater for Urban Milwaukee. 


Wednesday, May 19, 2021

WHAT POSSESSED THE CDC TO TREAT AMERICANS THIS WAY?

 By Dominique Paul Noth 

How dare the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention!  What could those bureaucrats at the CDC been thinking of! They are treating the American public as rational sentient human beings rather than bovine herds that need to be rounded up like cattle and shipped to waiting corrals. 

The main herd is the obedient one, willing to follow orders from people in authority, though they have some confusion about whether those people are politicians or medical experts. 

The smaller more boisterous herd is the stiff-necked one, interpreting any rule as a blow to their personal freedom, whether it be motorcycle helmets, seat belts, carrying guns into retail shops, smoking in restaurants or wearing a mask when mingling in public. What could be clearer as an attack on personal freedom than a government mandate to care for your neighbors, wash your hands and maintain some social distancing?

Into this stampede of competing herds steps the CDC, sticking with the dictates of science and a rash belief that people can think for themselves. 

The CDC has landed on the side of common sense -- not insisting on 100% protection from this strange pandemic that has frozen the US for over a year.  But more than enough protection in a new America under Joe Biden that has already vaccinated 61% of us and has ordered so much vaccine that everyone over 12 could be vaccinated by the summer.

In the interim the science confirms a general safety for the fully vaccinated. Broader information about protective antibodies in the nose are far outweighing new concerns that COVID can be slightly more airborne than thought.  The result is a parody of the “The Karate Kid” -- wax on, wax off, VAC on, VAC off.

Parents and private businesses, while generally heeding the rules of the road, can decide for themselves how to behave in a freer environment.  The media, when not hysterical about the exceptions (we all wish for perfect clarity), offers valuable avenues of help, recognizing that families can match their circumstances, not rely on one size fits all.

It’s uncomfortable in rich America to think of us as the self-congratulatory privileged, but there is a whiff of vaccine apartheid when we remember India is still a pandemic graveyard while America looks ahead a few more weeks for full normal.

Once a real president got going, though, he reinforced the value of our democracy. And while we all should still feel guilty that we have not grieved sufficiently for a half million dead, we at least now have a president who understands the responsibility of grieving.  

How free the CDC made you feel still depends on location and circumstances.  If you are union nurses in California, where statewide mask mandates have been extended into June and COVID stubbornly keeps surging, or if you work in a school or are crowding extra work hours into a slaughterhouse, darn right you want to take your time. 

Let’s also be honest with each other.  Children statistically are relatively safe from serious COVID illness, but “relatively safe” is not a phrase that will convince all moms and dads.

Dr. Fauci rightly warns not to shame people without masks or those with them.  Shaming is a self-defeating social tool, mainly because we can’t know enough to pass judgment on other people’s concern. I know parents who don’t want to go back to work till their children are fully protected.  Their definition of “fully” may differ from yours.

Nor do I endorse an honor system of trusting your unknown neighbors.  Knowing how many patients tell their doctors they are following the diet or exercise ordered – when they’re not – I’m keeping my mask close at hand. Which seems to me fully compatible with the CDC guidelines.

But then we stumble into the worst behavior of the unruly herd.  These are the people, once the CDC issued new advisories, who whipped off their masks gleefully to say “See? We were right all along! No reason to ever wear them!”

They are not persuaded by the facts, such as how -- long before vaccinations became commonplace -- the US death toll dropped 81%, largely because we were careful around each other.

This is the dumbest of the dumb herd not worth the saliva we are tempted to spit on them.  Just be thankful the CDC is finally out of his clutches.



About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its original Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with archives at milwaukeelabor.org.  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his DomsDomain dual culture and politics outlets.  A member of the American Theatre Critics Association at its inception, he also reviews theater for Urban Milwaukee. 


Sunday, May 16, 2021

HOW ISRAEL OVER 7 DECADES LOST ITS GRIP ON US THINKING

 By Dominique Paul Noth

I was born the same year as Joe Biden (how nice to have a hero old enough for the World War II generation) but I suspect my awareness of the demand for a Jewish state was even earlier than his.

My parents, after all, were known anti-Hitler activists who had to flee from Germany to France in 1933 and then to the United States in 1941.  She was a secular Jew who converted to Catholicism in France, partly through the influence of such intelligentsia as Darius Milhaud, Paul Claudel and Gabriel Marcel (she was a successful opera singer influenced by their work). He was even better known as an anti-Nazi editorialist and language scholar whose lack of religious leanings was pronounced, as was his love of alcohol, poetic excess and self-pity as the self-proclaimed forgotten John the Baptist of Germany’s descent into Hitler.

Gregory Peck and Anne Revere as his mother in "Genlemen's Agreement" (1947), a powerful expose of anti-Semitism, slightly romanticized in its lighter US form than Jews had seen practiced against them in Europe.


Out of that mix, as the first US born of their children, ferocity for a Jewish homeland was inevitable -- as was facing the genteeler form of anti-Semitism in the America of “Gentleman’s Agreement” (1947), genteel compared to the open hatred so many Jews had experienced in Europe and still conveyed in America by Middle Eastern college students my parents encountered.

My earliest memories (I must have been 4 or 5) were of the refugees from the war flooding into our home apartment on Manhattan’s 89th St., wanderers with broken limbs, scarred  faces and   gaunt skin seeking a friendly greeting, many of whom found US refuge teaching around the country.  In a strange echo of today’s Dreamers, many found homes through an underground network of sympathetic Americans who pretended to be relatives and knew how to maneuver around the US brand of anti-Semitism.

From such an upbringing, even a child who didn’t comprehend or care about politics was moved, as so much of America was in 1948, by the creation of Israel, the so-called Palestinian Mandate immediately supported by President Truman. 

My, how those childhood beliefs have soured.

Recent polls confirm the drop in allegiance, even among American Jews, where two-thirds of those over 65 still admit an emotional attachment to Israel while it drops to under 50% for younger generations of American Jews.

Israeli’s early success in armed conflict was easily transformed in the minds of children to brave righteousness over population might.  The world may seem different today but for decades after 1948, there was swelling pride as Israel beat off wave after wave of Arab attacks, mightier forces that in our minds were routed by heroic determination to never again succumb to the Holocaust mentality.

I suspect that same sense of loyalty to the Israeli cause explained the hefty military buildup supported by US policy. The belief in Israel ruled Biden’s early years in the Senate in the 1970s.  He said then, I have read, that if Israel hadn’t been created by the United Nations, the US should have done it. That sense that Jews needed protection from their zealot Arab neighbors dominated US thinking.

The thinking continued even when Arab nations subdued their attacks. It was pushed to the front of American headlines by how cowed and fearful the region was when Hamas used rockets and terrorist methods against nearby domestic Israeli citizens. It was a scenario viewed by many, somewhat uncomfortably, as more unconscionable on the Palestine side than the Jewish right-wing settlers side,  seizing Arab land in Jerusalem and other locales despite generations of legal claims and actual occupation by Palestinians. 

The history is complicated. Israel’s claims to this land are not anywhere near as pure as its American allies have suggested.  Nor can anyone clearly explain to me what belief in the Rapture or the Messiah’s second coming has to do with Christian support for Israel against its enemies.  This sidelight of selling Christianity on the basis of keeping the Jewish state is one of the craziest dogmas out there, but it sure has been exploited by pastors and politicians raising money.

The once enthusiastic support of earlier generations has clearly faded, mainly thanks to Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu and Israel’s move to the hard right (while understandable given the dangers they live under). Many people I know question the simplified vision they long maintained.  They are asking serious questions.

 Much of the change of heart is the tragic circumstances of the Palestinian people – poverty, always present occupation, fear of movement, instant death from the skies whether you fight or not, ineffective foreign pressure.  The same violation of basic human rights that brought so much empathy to Jews after WWII has now been transferred to unsettling visions of the Jews as the new blitzkrieg. 

Americas are now going through this uncertainty.  The strongest argument for Israel is the right to protect their families from enemy hatred. The current reality is that Bibi, not able to form a new government on his own and remain as prime minister, has some unnatural incentives to make war with the Palestinians.

When Trump was president and so clearly in Bibi’s pocket, Hamas leaders knew that violent reaction was not going to help them one bit, so they held off.  With Trump gone, Bibi knows that pushing Hamas to its extremist tendencies would draw in the Biden administration and put the US lifelong support of Israel to a new test.  That new test is now underway.

Israel has something else going for it – the blind hatred against it. More than seven decades after its creation, the Arab rhetorical virulence toward Jews seems to have inflated, not diminished.  No imam worth his salt from Saudi Arabia to Syria, from Iran to the Emirates, can raise money or followers without vindictive quotes against Israel.  Amazingly they are even more virulent than Israeli quotes against Iran, which are plenty bad on their own.

Ehud Barak, the famous former Israeli prime minister born in 1942, the same year as Biden, once remarked rather sadly that if he were a Palestinian of a certain young age he would probably join a militant group.  But Barak also said rather more famously:  “The Middle East is a region where predictions go to die.”


About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its original Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with archives at milwaukeelabor.org.  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his DomsDomain dual culture and politics outlets.  A member of the American Theatre Critics Association at its inception, he also reviews theater for Urban Milwaukee.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

DEMOCRATS LINING UP TO RESCUE WISCONSIN FROM RON JOHNSON

[Editor's Note: Since I wrote this story, Steven Olikara is exploring a run and Chris Larson has entered the race.  But my speculation about Mandela Barnes and my remarks about Rojo remain intact.]

By Dominique Paul Noth

We are a quarter of the way into 2021 and still not rid of the pandemic (though too many people are pretending that it’s gone). Yet an election that doesn’t take place for 19 more months (!) – November 2022 – is intruding on Wisconsin political thinking. It’s too early for the public to make decisions but what an interesting cast of hopefuls are vying for the Senate seat now held in ruthless anti-intellectualism by Ron Johnson.

The poll numbers say Rojo should not run again, as he firmly promised he wouldn’t in 2016.  But he is clearly determined to test the Wisconsin waters. Promises be damned.

That is why he has spent the last months trying to behave even stupider than Trump by claiming Jan. 6 was not a threatening event to anyone in Congress, that Trump despite facts and his oath to defend the US Constitution had every reason to fight illegally against Biden’s election, that Johnson is the national answer for the confusion roiling the nation’s Republicans and that all this hubbub about getting vaccinated is stupid even if your neighbors aren’t yet protected.

He’s even deliberately positioned himself to appear at a GOP event with a speaker who is so far up Trump’s behind that he can’t see the daylight of common sense. 

Pundit after pundit points out that all Johnson’s shaking the tree has not budged the roots an inch.  In fact, he looks far more devious than when first elected in 2010, posing as a “responsible” back bencher who would quietly slip in as a citizen businessman.  He squatted in the Senate for nearly 12 years doing nothing.  Now he blathers almost daily but no one is listening.

Clearly he hopes that acting more and more like Trump will elevate his Wisconsin poll numbers – and you can see his thinking. It’s not totally crazy, given how bad he’s doing

The GOP can’t seem to shake Trump’s grip on the party’s most extreme base.  Johnson doesn’t want to shake the grip he wants the extreme base to wrap him in their arms.  We’re not talking about the 73 million people who voted for Trump. But even if only 30 million are left (as seems most likely), thousands may be from Wisconsin and they are vicious toward RINOs (Republicans in Name Only, which these days are anyone who speaks against Trump). Rojo wants their votes even as this brand of Republicans may be fading fast.

Other elected Republicans are trying to ignore how popular Biden policies are even among moderate Republicans.  The real base is moving further away from GOP elected officials, with Johnson pleading for the extremist members to stop moving away and look at him.

The Democrats lost a few seats in the House in November 2020 while tying in the Senate, but much of that loss was before they took office and people weren’t sure if they could do any of the things they promised. The country was still splitting its voters among the two parties unsure, despite four years of disappointment under Trump, which would really deliver. 

Now the vaccination effort and the economy are bouncing and support grows for broad infrastructure relief and basic voting and gun rights. The new administration has proved to be doers even with thin margins, and 63% of the country is impressed. The House and the Senate look even more like areas for Democratic gains in the near future, and the GOP knows it.

This is Johnson’s situation. His answer is out-Trump Trump despite what voters thought about him in the past.  He can always withdraw from the race at the end of 2021 if his hysteria produces no results.  The likely replacements waiting patiently in the wings include Reince Priebus and Mike Gallagher.  They won’t make a move until he signals them. 

A galaxy of Democrats forming in
this race include a veteran state
lawmaker, Tom Nelson.
Meanwhile a storm of interesting progressives are mounting on the Democratic side, making the primary on August 9, 2022, the real election.

Leaving aside the unknown radiologist Gillian Battino (she is big on health care and the environment), the announced Democratic field includes the most successful progressive lawmaker in recent state history (he led the Assembly when the Democrats had control), the combative dynamic  lone woman progressive who won statewide office in 2018 and the richest if unknown progressive newcomer in the race who has already wrapped the aura of the Milwaukee Bucks around himself and hopes the voters will confuse him with the former owner of the Bucks, who for years was  rich enough and known enough for his community beneficence to advertise himself as “nobody’s senator but yours,” Herb Kohl.


Alex Lasry ain’t Herb Kohl. But so powerful is the atmosphere of unlimited campaign money that the unknown Lasry is already placed in the lead pole position. A senior vice president of the Bucks whose father is the billionaire hedge fund operator and part owner of the Bucks, Alex Lasry has a winning PR way at age 33. His wife is a leader in Planned Parenthood and he has already made the right noises, email ads and commercials to attract Democratic names.  But it bothers some that he has leaped into large recognition on the aura of the Bucks community benefits agreement, of which he was just a part, and is heavily advertising those accomplishments on email (“We need someone who knows how to get things done”) while two of his opponents on the Democratic side have proven experience in getting things done in public office.

No wonder voters are asking “Who is this guy?” But there is an expectation of powerful family financial connections getting attention – in Milwaukee the tradition of rich scion rising in local politics was Chris Abele, elected twice as county executive.

The appeal of big money initially overshadowed the two names who should be getting more attention – and I expect soon will.

Tom Nelson has served two applauded terms as Outagamie County Executive. Still youthful in appearance, he was majority leader in the Assembly when Democrats had control under Gov. Jim Doyle, and is the prime example of a pro-union progressive thinker who has proven again and again his appeal outside Milwaukee and Madison (though Milwaukee and Madison votes are emerging as his main problem).  He also ran as lieutenant governor candidate on Tom Barrett’s first 2010 ticket against Scott Walker.


I was sent an advance copy of Nelson’s first book:  “One Day Stronger: How One Union Local Saved a Mill and Changed an Industry -- and What It Means for American Manufacturing” (2021, Rivertowns Books), now available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon and local Milwaukee independent Boswell Books.  The title is an echo of a famous union slogan and once a USW motto:  “One day longer, one day stronger.”

It is a compelling story if, like me, you like the sometimes wonkish blow by blow legal details of how the union at Appleton Coated paper mill talked the new owners into another path than closing the plant and dumping the jobs and the union. 

The union, using all its resources, offered a way to fight in the courts and got a noted Republican state judge (Greg  Gill, who in April used right wing campaign money to win an appeals court seat) to agree that if there was a way to keep the plant and the jobs that should be explored.  It was and the union in effect won.  Nelson at most was coaching from the sidelines.

Known as a strong union ally throughout his career, Nelson’s   point is that all sides can be convinced if good jobs and good community revenue stem from such efforts.  Judge Gill may not be his partisan cup of tea but he helped the union take a chance to save more than 600 jobs.  Nelson offers this story as a guide to how progress can be made in a state as partisan-split as Wisconsin. 

I expect as the campaign unfolds, the book and his theme will become a large part of the Nelson campaign, but he is flying in the face of voters’ demands for instant action, not the slower steadier approach his career has demonstrated. 

Sarah Godlewski
To my mind, he will be fighting for progressive voters mainly against Sarah  Godlewski, the elected state treasurer who has proven feisty in the face of a ferocious Republican legislature and already has come out of the gate with ads taking chunks out of Ron Johnson’s hide. Godlewski is already a heroine on the progressive side, with a reportedly well-to-do family than can support her campaign – and she is worth hearing.

Whether she and Nelson can be heard above the din that Lasry money can create is another issue.

There is actually another name that appears in all the media coverage on this race – but as of this writing is unannounced, though the media sure seems eager for him to jump in.  Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes has the right to pick his own time for any announcement and he has to be aware that if he jumps into the Senate race, he is a.) automatically the biggest name on the Democratic side and b.) the monkey wrench in the governor’s race, forcing Tony Evers to pick a new running mate for the same November election while fighting pressure tactics from the Republican legislature anxious to wrest back control of the governor’s mansion (and legitimately worried about losing their legislative power base if the Democrats get busy up and down the ballot).

Right now, Evers is the only veto proof the state has against some heavy-handed right wing proposals on the economy, voting rights, justice reform, the environment and more.  Barnes has been a key proponent and salesman in many aspects of the Evers campaign, a more relaxed and appealing politician.   Many pundits feel Lasry went out of his way to lock up noted African Americans in Milwaukee politics and government to keep Barnes at bay.

Barnes has long had an independent streak,  part of his appeal and partly the danger of anyone anticipating which way he will jump. He proved that in 2016 when he abandoned what would have been a shoo-in Assembly race to take on Lena Taylor for a state senate seat, knowing he was a distinct underdog. He rebounded from that into winning the statewide race with Evers.

I can’t imagine he is happy with how his name is being thrown about in this race – unless he announces. Even without his presence, there is a formidable lineup against Rojo that is stirring a lot of discussion.


About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its original Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with archives at milwaukeelabor.org.  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his DomsDomain dual culture and politics outlets.  A member of the American Theatre Critics Association at its inception, he also reviews theater for Urban Milwaukee. 


 

Friday, March 19, 2021

POLITICS PUTTING WISCONSIN IN RACIST SPOTLIGHT

 By Dominique Paul Noth

Standing out from the hundreds of political email solicitations I receive each week was one March 18 from A Better Wisconsin Together (a new  research and communication conduit for progressives) bluntly stating “It’s racist!-- Wisconsin is better than Ron Johnson,” and then asking for funding to oust him in 2022.

I applaud the sentiment – but I’m a political realist and I have to ask why Johnson is turning more Trump than Trump, defending the “good people” who brutalized police and the US Capitol Jan. 6, painting the Black Lives Matter people as akin to pagan devil worshippers and, I fully expect in the next few days, coloring Asian women as sex traffickers – all the old tired saws of bigoted white supremacists. Does he hope the voters in Wisconsin will rejoice in such racism?

Yes he does. He’s gambling that this sudden harsh extremism – from a Senate back-bencher who has been more relied on for keeping his mouth shut and his voting geared to the rich business world he came from – is just what will raise his shaky poll numbers.  And cunning Ron, he has an escape hatch.  If his numbers don’t go up, but instead go down because Wisconsin is not as racist as he hopes, he can always pull the plug on running for a third term, as he once vaguely promised.

The horror for Wisconsin is that we will be attracting some of the most outrageous Republican attacks in the next year and live with the confident GOP expectation of victory because of how extreme the GOP gerrymandering of districts in 2011.  Statewide elections like governor or senator are one thing the Democrats can win though apparently only by small margins, but when you dip down into US House districts and state legislature districts, the GOP imbalance defies the real majority vote. In 2018 Democrats may have received 205,000 more votes than Republicans, but the GOP has a  27-person advantage in the Assembly.  All this has caused a newspaper that has eschewed editorials to actually run one!

The split in the state is more than rural versus urban, more than white versus black and brown. Compare the House district maps, so understandably blockish before 2010. Then compare with the map used since 2010.  A  lot of communities will weep, but note the  impact on minority isolation,    particularly in the Milwaukee area

The Republican Party has happily made itself the ugliest side of  the creature it was 50 years ago, elevating the racism that was a smaller but effective part of its message. That  was the time the GOP attracted many Wisconsin families as it encouraged white flight from the big cities and warned the working folks that the Democrats would tax them to death. 


Under the new GOP and the new map, the controlling taxing party is the GOP  and  the hostility has gotten worse, slandering gentler politicians like Gov. Tony Evers and US President Joe Biden as if this was still Walker's Wisconsin.   The basic humanity of the Democrats in charge make the GOP even more excessive in their barrages because the party is finding it harder to convince voters.

Turns out the Wisconsin Republicans  can still rely on gerrymandering to continue these attacks without much fear of losing.  So they are attacking unions, attacking worker incomes, attacking immigration, attacking the mail-in ballots they once relied on  and promoting tax cuts for the rich (their vision of the people responsible for creating jobs). 

Meanwhile the Democrats tried to make headway with a big-tent approach, a sincerely meant but difficult to believe reaching out to GOP politicians. That sort of comity made the Democrats look weak and now many in their camp are demanding a harsher willingness to fight.

Once thing is for sure. The Republicans won’t give them any power. By the thinnest of margins, the Democrats did get power – led in the state offices by Evers and now led in the nation by Biden.  Frankly, I knew Biden would win Nov. 3, 2020,  though the networks had to wait painfully for the numbers to unfold over days. I believed, despite many doubting Democrats, that the Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Osoff would survive in Georgia, giving the Democrats the tiniest of margins in the Senate to go with the House.

But I also knew Mitch McConnell would begin immediately plotting to turn the Senate back in 2022.  State legislatures controlled by Republicans would be the key – and they have introduced some 250 bills across the nation to make voting by minorities harder.

The Wisconsin bills to cut down on minority voters will be vetoed by Evers, but the gerrymander will be hard to change in the next year.  The fate of the entire country hangs on a thread and Wisconsin already is showing frays.

Biden’s $1.9 trillion rescue bill is actually astonishing out of the gate, collecting eight bills within it, any one of which would be a headline. But it didn’t get a single Republican vote, and the maneuvering is hot and heavy to bend the senate filibuster rules to see if anything else gets passed, since there is only one more time for anything else under the senate resolution rules of 50-50.  Otherwise it has to be 60-40 under the sort of bills Biden wants.  There may be more intelligent GOP senators around than Ron Johnson – there may be several who believe in voting rights and background checks and other issues the majority of America supports. The Democrats are hoping, perhaps in vain, that they can inch up on the filibuster rules.

But Johnson is testing the Trump hold on the American voters in Wisconsin. Progressive feelings about that November election are still partly glum because while seven million more voters went for Biden, Trump did get 73 million voters.  Think about that.  I suspect those supporters have shrunk in half, but 30 million is still a big deal that the GOP must deal with and coattails are a weird thing.

In states that Trump carried in the electoral college in November, there were better Democratic candidates running for the Senate for both incumbencies and open seats.  Several even led in the polling.  But every state whose electoral votes went to Trump picked the Republican senate candidate, just like every state that went for Biden picked the Democrat (Mark Kelly and John Hickenlooper).

When you put names to the losses, the pain magnifies, as I wrote about in October. Wasn’t Teresa Greenfield a better liked candidate in Iowa than Joni Ernst?  Polls said so, but Trump carried the state and so did Ernst.

In 2022 Chuck Grassley will be 89 but he is thinking of running as he has since 1980 – who will take the field against him in a state that actually longs for Biden-like agriculture gains, more wind turbine business and climate change realities? 

In Kansas it was Barbara Bollier,  a former Republican physician supporting health care who led the polls against an Obamcare-hating doctor – and yet he won because Trump had the state wrapped up.  Again and again this was the story – the Carolinas, Maine where the electoral college split, Texas where the female candidate against John Cronyn was less known but polled strongly, indicating where Texas might like to go.

This time Biden squeaked by with Senate control even as he dominated in the popular vote.  But if the Republicans are no longer a national party, they still are a state party and they are going to use those levers for all they can, forcing the Democrats to contemplate  a level of combat that the personality of their new leader has avoided.

All this current political tempest may be forcing change on a tried and true American voting pattern.  Almost unconsciously voters have split control among the two main parties – still do even in an era where the ranks of Independent are growing, many of them fleeing according to polls from Republican ranks. But from fearing one party would run away with the process, the voters may be wishing the country would run rather than lamely waddle.

We may be reaching the point – contrasting Biden’s successes with Trump’s shenanigans – that the voters may be jumping more to the progressive side, forcing the Republicans to count even harder  on their state controls to keep them in the game.

On March 16, New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez broke a Senate custom on the floor to not use derogatory terms to describe a colleague, but he did and I applaud him.  He called Johnson a racist.

Explained Menendez: “Look, I get no one likes to be called racist, but sometimes there's just no other way to describe the use of bigoted tropes that for generations have threatened black lives . . .  I don't think the senator is ignorant of the fact that for centuries in this country white supremacy has thrived on using fear to justify oppression, discrimination and violence against people of color.”

Yet Johnson is depending on this approach as appealing to Wisconsin voters. Are we really the people he thinks?


About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its original Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with archives at milwaukeelabor.org.  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his DomsDomain dual culture and politics outlets.  A member of the American Theatre Critics Association at its inception, he also reviews theater for Urban Milwaukee. 


Tuesday, October 13, 2020

STATEHOUSE ELECTIONS ALSO IN NATIONAL SPOTLIGHT

 By Dominique Paul Noth

In Wisconsin, we don’t have a statewide election on Nov. 3, just a series of littler ones, county by county and district by district.  Sen.  Ron Johnson should go to bed every night thanking his corporate gods that he is not on the ballot this year. Imagine how quickly he would be gone.  

I know there are still national worries that the state won’t go for Biden. I'm beyond that.  I’m even holding out hope that the Democrats may pick up a seat in the US House, knowing I’m mainly alone on that one. 

There’s a simple reason.  I know many who live in Wisconsin District 5.  They’re sort of neighbors if you live in Milwaukee County.  Many families moved into that district 40 or 50 years ago out of white flight from the city! Horrible reason. 

But some  families have grown up beyond that.  Certainly their children, some of them, have set bigotry aside.   I know many today who worry about their own children, about the environment, about basic fair treatment.

I just can’t believe in this age of covid-19 and a moderate Democratic governor, Tony Evers, trying to do  a few basic things to protect the people,  that ANYONE SANE would be voting for Scott Fitzgerald! Yes, even in a district that clung stubbornly to Jim Sensenbrenner, but he at least  could cough  up a few hairballs now and then  about civic rights. He was not quite the one-man blockade on the state social highway that Fitzgerald has become. 

Fitz is also a coward, hoping others will do his dirty work. He runs half of the GOP legislature as senate majority leader and has openly defied Evers, but he also knows that health care and pandemic protection are important to voters.  So rather than openly oppose Evers’ 60-day emergency mask mandate, which the governor can renew, he tried to get a right wing legal stalking horse to strike it down.  A state judge in October saw through the deception.

Tom Palzewicz
But common wisdom says the Fitz will beat Tom Palzewicz, a moderate Democrat and business guy with true empathy for residents. I just can’t understand how a 5th District voter can put Tom and Scott side by side and not leap into Palzewicz’s camp . . . but in a hyper partisan age, it takes all kinds to doom their district for the next two years!

I digress. What I wanted to emphasize was how,  despite Biden and Trump on the top, Wisconsin voters need to work down the Wisconsin ballot as well as look at other state races, too, and there are national movements to help do that.

It’s among the aspects of  Internet freedom at everyone’s fingertips. No race is too far away to get financial, computer and telephone help.

One such group is openly dedicated  to underwrite  Biden by changing the nature of the state legislative chambers lined up against him, looking at the local issues as well as the national ones and weighing  who will approach those intelligently.  Few people know the names or abilities of people running for the statehouses in Michigan, Florida or states far and wide.

In fact, few people in one Wisconsin district know the name or the issues of those running next door or a few county highways down the road.  Everyone needs help to figure out those races.

Now meet EveryDistrict. It has set out to vet state legislative candidates around the nation, the ones that don’t have the money or the reach of US House and Senate candidates.  It’s blunt about what it does: “We have tabulated the latest competitiveness, demographic, polling, and fundraising data to chart out which of our candidates would most benefit from your hard-earned dollars in these final weeks. These candidates don’t represent everyone we would like to win – that’s all of them – nor do they represent the people most likely to win. These are the on the bubble candidates where that next dollar will make the most difference.”

EveryDistrict offers direct links for choices to Act Blue.  It is one-step fund-raising.

Not every state and not every race, though, as would be expected from the Democratic Party’s own activist groups.  EveryDistrict remains cautious that their choices also have the active  grassroots campaigns to succeed.  They don’t dump the book of state houses on visitors but select out the chambers they believe that voters can impact.  Right now they’re big on Kansas.

Wisconsin is likely to emerge as a state that goes whole hog for Biden in the electoral college but remain in Republican hands in the state legislature, causing more migraines for Evers. Our state’s difficult situation also causes headaches for the folks behind EveryDistrict (who include some well known government experts in the state).

One reason the GOP expects to remain in state control is the lopsided gerrymandered GOP majority in the Assembly, 63-36, built up over years of jiggling the demarcation lines.  EveryDistrict reminds voters they have to flip 14 (!) seats to take  back the Assembly but they identify every Democrat running  and pick the most likely  in the Assembly (using yellow Endorsed and pink codes) and ways to contribute to everyone, always emphasizing those they think have a chance.  Even lowering the margin of GOP control could pay enormous dividends, restoring the power of the Democratic vote throughout the state.

On working through the website, I noted of the 16 in the Assembly they had endorsed I agreed with every one – and had actually written about several. EveryDistrict is also hosting online sessions with Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley and city of Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

Individuals can also use the site to directly donate to the Wisconsin Fund on Act Blue, which will split donations evenly among 7 different Democratic campaigns whose data and polling shows they can win, but are candidates who need resources in the final weeks of the campaign. As usual, 100% of proceeds will benefit campaigns.

EveryDistrict is not optimistic about the Wisconsin Senate, though the Democrats are much closer, needing only to flip three seats. But only half the Senate is up for election in 2020 and  EveryDistrict has just two senate seats high in its likely flippable list.  The Wisconsin Democrats have more.  But EveryDistrict admits bluntly that “the Wisconsin Senate is not a target chamber in 2020,” while “the Wisconsin Assembly is one of EveryDistrict’s priority chambers.” One reason is that the organization wants to see action on the ground and if more senate districts get organized that  could change.  

Certainly the mood of the state is changing, largely as positive covid-19 tests climb to epidemic proportions. Many in northern, western and rural communities that thought they would be untouched are being touched harshly – grandparents, kids, money earners, essential workers. After going blithely along and allowing politics to intrude on safety precautions, they and their children are facing some ugly droppings.  Yet  the Republicans in the state legislature continue to attack the Democratic governor’s health-based instructions to wear masks and follow social distance protocols. 

The GOP legislature out of vicious politics is resisting common sense, it seems to me, and more and more rural voters and educators I contact feel the same way. It’s even producing stories throughout Wisconsin like this one in the Journal Sentinel. That disappointment and anger are  filtering  through communities that once never thought of voting Democrat.

I don’t know how that will affect the final vote, but one thing is clear. The lingering pandemic has changed the bloc voting expectations of the political parties.


About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its original Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with archives at milwaukeelabor.org.  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his DomsDomain dual culture and politics outlets.  A member of the American Theatre Critics Association at its inception, he also reviews theater for Urban Milwaukee. 


Saturday, October 10, 2020

ELECTION COMES DOWN TO WHO BIDEN CARRIES WITH HIM

 By Dominique Paul Noth

Trump turns down a virtual debate because he can’t throw his arms around a computer screen and slobber his voters to death.   Biden says he’ll debate anywhere anytime as long as he is not locked in a room with a slob shedding virus.  And so the debate to debate goes, canceling the second and leaving the third in limbo. But it won’t matter because we will count the votes Nov. 3 (and maybe a few days longer) and realize the real results are not just a Biden victory, which seems assured.

But who will he carry with him across the finish line, particularly in the Senate? 

Suddenly national media is starting to explore those other names, even offering profiles here and there.  These largely are names unknown to most national voters – and more names than ever   because of a staggeringly expanded map unlike anything the pollsters guessed a few weeks ago.

If Biden does hold town halls with voters, despite the push of his advisers to make all such appearances about national issues, he would be well advised to indicate his hopes state by state. With seven million already having voted, it  is high time to start introducing to the public the Senate hopefuls he is counting on, and thus encourage voters back in their home states to fill in more than his name on the ballot:

Barbara Bollier
Barbara Bollier  of Kansas, a former Republican and respected doctor who is running ahead of her senate opponent in the weeks before the finish line, a closing kick that is scaring Republican money to death in a state long put in the GOP column.

Sara Gideon, a Maine legislative leader who is several poll points ahead of  Susan (“maybe I will be independent , or maybe not”) Collins. I  have described Collins as so wishy-washy she is likely to test both positive and negative in the covid sweepstakes.  She surely is in  peril of surviving.

Mark Kelly, former astronaut and well known spouse of Gabrielle Giffords, a national spokesman on sensible gun control who in Arizona polls is destroying an existing GOP senator appointed by her own party.  This is another win the Democrats long to lock up.

Theresa Greenfield

Theresa Greenfield, now slightly ahead in Iowa polls against Joni Ernst – in a state that no longer seems happy that it went for Trump after twice supporting Obama. Greenfield is a fascinating life story, a farm kid who went to college, was widowed young and now is in a second marriage with grown children and a progressive agenda. She’s got a deeper broader home-spun appeal than Ernst ever had.

Cal Cunningham, a retired military officer and state politician who is beating Trump enabler Thom Tillis in North Carolina. He ran into some headwinds with some sex banter he had long distance but  even with that cross – exploitable in the South – he is out-raising and out-arguing Tillis.

John Hickenlooper, a former Democratic presidential candidate and popular Colorado governor noted for posing with a beer and a banjo.  He is slightly ahead in a tight race against incumbent Cory Gardner.

Steve Bullock, again a former presidential candidate and popular governor who may turn the usually red Montana blue in his seesaw race against incumbent GOP unknown backbencher Steve Daines.

Jaime Harrison
Jaime Harrison of South Carolina, a veteran Democratic leader who is tied or  ahead of GOP’s Lindsey Graham (depending on which poll you credit). It’s  a turnaround in a state that many thought would remain red.  But thanks to Graham’s constant flip-flops he is in deep trouble in a flurry of ads using his own words to confirm his foolishness!

Amy McGrath, running tight against Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky. No one fully believes a former military pilot with scant political experience can beat the canny Mitch, but she has raised considerable money on the Internet and has shown experience in campaigning while he struggles to hold his troops together.  Will his  push for a new conservative justice please voters or stir the opposition?  How long can his turtle-like conservativism keep him in the game?  Or is his likely loss of the majority a growing factor  driving voters to McGrath?

Jon Ossoff, a former investigative journalist and security analyst is leading GOP’s David Perdue, a sitting senator fighting corruption accusations in Georgia polls.  Georgia! A once Trump state where there is also another senate race the Democrats eye:

The Rev. Raphael Warnock, the senior pastor at Atlanta’s famed Ebenezer Church,  is ahead in a special Nov. 3 election against both  appointed senator Kelly Loeffler (another corruption accused) and her internal GOP challenger, fast-talking Rep. Doug Collins (they are both trying to cling to Trump’s backside).  The top two finishers face off in January if neither gets 50% on Nov. 3, and did I mention Warnock has the edge? In Georgia?

MJ Heger
And now Texas, too!  MJ Heger, another retired female military pilot,  is making muscular inroads  against Sen. John Cornyn who has been flailing trying to explain his negative health care votes and allegiance to Trump.  It’s another race that no one had on their charts until the last few weeks.

These are the most likely victories or close contests in an expanded election map, but Trump’s continuing failure and weakening threats have actually raised hopes even in  the states the Democrats didn’t consider.  The list keeps growing. Among the Democratic Senate candidates behind but charging hard are:

Alaska!  Yes, commercial fisherman and physician Al Gross (not the best name for a candidate but easy to remember) is creeping within percentage points of his Republican opposition for Senate.

Al Gross
Mississippi!  A state once assured for Republicans sees former Clinton cabinet member Mike Espy, an African American, making inroads against Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith who has wrapped herself in Confederate glory at the same time as the state is trying to shed the mantle of its past. If Mississippi starts asking itself what power will their senator have if Biden is the president, Espy could jump higher and faster by Election Day.

Idaho!  Guaranteed Trump territory where noted tribal activist Paulette Jordan is fighting for attention from way behind and has been helped mightily by the health care issue and Emily’s List, an influential organization devoted to encouraging progressive Democratic women.

Adrian Perkins
Louisiana!  There are special election rules Nov. 3 putting GOP Sen. Bill Cassidy against a slew of Democrats, the two top vote-getters advancing to a January face-off if neither gets 50%.  But now the Democrats seem to have coalesced behind Adrian Perkins, the independent and forward looking mayor of Shreveport who is turning the Louisiana race into something worth noting. Fifty percent seems too high for any candidate, which means Perkins may face off against Cassidy in 2021 when a Democratic senator will be even more appealing.

Even West Virginia! It’s the longest of long shots. But Paula Jean Swearengin, the coal miner’s daughter and environmental activist who did poorly in the 2018 primary against very moderate Democrat  Joe Manchin, now is trying to make inroads against very right wing  GOP incumbent Shelley Moore Caputo.  She acts undaunted by Caputo’s 17% advantage as of Oct. 8.

One reason for optimism among the unlikely as well as the quite possible is the clear Biden surge. Campaign money flows toward the winning side.  Even a hundred to one shot like Swearingen is like a Las Vegas betting pool  – someone will buy a ticket! And Alaska, Louisiana and Mississippi are locations of fast moving change that confound traditional expectations.

Even most  Democrats trying to preserve their seats – Dick Durbin of Illinois, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Chris Coons of Delaware – seem in solid shape.  Mitch McConnell and Betsy DeVos are raising big money against Gary Peters of Michigan. Tina Smith of Minnesota and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire are also facing deep pockets but I think voters in those states won’t be fooled by the ad blitz.  Far more threatened is Doug Jones of Alabama given the enthusiasm but political ignorance surrounding the former football coach he faces.

The size of the Democratic senate takeover chances is  impressive and explains why third party GOP money, voting lawsuits and dirty tricks are on the climb.  So are Republicans trying to embarrass Biden by  ignoring their own insistence on packing the court system to demand Biden tell them now what he will do if Amy Coney Barrett makes it to high court (which would make her the third justice packed in  under the worst president in US history).

Trump and the GOP won’t climb down from the suicide ledge before the election, but progressives shouldn’t join them out there. They should welcome Biden holding his tongue, even making noises that he is not interested in expanding the supreme court.

There are practical and logical reasons to hold his fire.  He not only has to win the Senate but he has to look at – and talk to—those he wins the Senate with. Democrats are not the stoic  monolith party the Republicans have proven to be.

Look at the field! All in a general sense are progressive and support Democratic initiatives.  But they range from moderate to left, from former military officers to physicians, from commercial fisherman and other businesses  to community activists. Biden will need some time to hear what they want and will vote for. There are already some 400 bills Mitch has bottled up and a lot of clamoring voices to outline the important solutions.

Mitch and his fading sources may enjoy a few months of self-congratulations but it will be followed by a slate of new laws that could protect and expand the Affordable Care Act and other issues not directly on the SCOTUS calendar, like Roe v Wade.

And that ACA lawsuit only gets oral arguments November 10 and the right wing could itself be surprised since the Supreme Court may simply section off one part of the law and keep the rest even before Biden steps in with new expansion.

So let Trump enjoy his act of sounding deliberately  crazy – claiming  he  won’t leave office whatever the voters say.  He will fume and fuss (and the dutiful press will cover every tantrum) because he wants America to forget how  correctable are the levers of government he presumes to control and how entrenched are the forces that will make even Donald behave.

To give Biden the forces he needs to bring changes and corrections, voters around the nation, particularly those who don’t live in the states in question, had better charge up their phones and open their wallets. Even during a pandemic, the influence can reach across long distances to impact the results in other states.

And the future of the US Supreme Court? The election may remind SCOTUS of the danger of being far out of step with the public. For Biden to commit to what he will do before he knows what he can do would be foolish.


About the author: Noth has been  a professional journalist since the 1960s, first as national, international and local news copy editor at The Milwaukee Journal, then as an editor for its original Green Sheet, also  for almost two decades the paper’s film and drama critic. He became the newspaper’s senior feature editor. He was tapped by the publishers of the combining Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for special projects and as first online news producer before voluntarily departing in the mid-1990s to run online news seminars and write on public affairs. From 2002 to 2013 he ran the Milwaukee Labor Press as editor. It served as the Midwest’s largest home-delivered labor newspaper, with archives at milwaukeelabor.org.  In that role he won top awards yearly until the paper stopped publishing in 2013. His investigative pieces and extensive commentaries are now published by several news outlets as well as his DomsDomain dual culture and politics outlets.  A member of the American Theatre Critics Association at its inception, he also reviews theater for Urban Milwaukee.