Sunday, December 2, 2018


By Dominique Paul Noth

“We have scotched the snake, not killed it!”  So worried Macbeth that his foes had not been destroyed but driven into secret nests, or wherever snakes come from.  This was Shakespeare on an evil man’s overriding fear – that the powers to defeat him were just lurking, ready to strike.

Today we flip the bard on his head.  The fear should be from the good guys, the heroes, the progressive forces who thought they had killed the snake in the election of 2018.  They had barely scotched (scorched) it. In Wisconsin, the snake is alive and more than lurking among the Republicans because of their own special serpent, gerrymandering.

A chart  created for Internet use that clarifies
 how  many more votes Wisconsin Democrats
got with poorer results.
This snake left the state legislature intact Republican despite what the electorate clearly wanted.  The charts breaking down 2018 voting truths reveal a majority of state legislative voters wanted change. It is these voters now being denied by blatant GOP manipulation.

The lame duck GOP includes members defeated handily for larger office like Leah Vukmir.  But they are scrambling to do massive damage to the incoming Democrats who swept the state offices.  They fully trust one of the defeated, Scott Walker, will go along with their duplicity.

Rep. Chris Taylor
The short time before January 7, 2019, is their shrinking window to do huge damage in an extraordinary legislative session that Democratic Rep. Chris Taylor rightly describes as “only extraordinary in the sense it reveals the depths Republican leaders are willing to sink to expand their own political power in direct violation of the will of the voters.”

Study the bills. There may be some red herrings in there so blatantly political and unconstitutional that they can’t survive previous court opinions on early voting hours or moving an election in 2020 to favor a conservative pet for the Wisconsin Supreme Court.   But maybe the GOP is hoping to deflect the outrage with obviously extreme bills it actually won’t pursue – fooling the angry public into thinking it was victorious while the real horrors are hidden in the legalese sausage-making of bills on boards, waivers and taxing powers. 

The main thrust of those bills besides elevating the GOP legislature is to limit the powers of the incoming governor and attorney general in ways that border on constitutional abuse but are much harder to take to court.

The Democrats are both angry and a bit mystified about which ways to counterattack. Legal niceties don’t seem to much bother this Republican crew. They expect to be saved by the tilted Republican judicial system that has ignored constitutional realities in the past.  

If the legislators themselves don’t stop this,  only public outrage can – rallies and phone calls, particularly by citizens reaching both inside and outside their own districts to shake up the pliant Republican legislators.  

I and other members of the media have actually made this point to many Republican legislators who are not what you would normally call blind Trump people. But out of fear of losing power or speaking out in defiance of their leaders, they seem to have amnesia about how representative democracy is supposed to function.

This lost-memory behavior by once responsible Republicans has perplexed Democrats, independent and even many traditional Republican voters. What is happening to these people?  In conversation these officials seem to understand there are problems with Trump’s circular firing squad of an administration and with never saying you’re wrong.  But they justify going along because of the few things he does they like, such as supreme court nominations.  But sell your soul to this kind of refusal to accept a changing world? Lose an election and refuse to concede? There is no nobility of belief here, just malice.

Optimistically, I look at the national polls  suggesting  38% approval of Trump as president  (a bad number to begin with) as boiling  down to 18% diehard support of anything he says or does and 20% who like his general policy direction but not his personality.  I also think there is a subset that so embraces respectful treatment of any president that they take the opposition to him as more un-American than his own behavior. And the Trump diehard group may well include people so dismayed by our slow checks and balances democracy that they see Trump as the agent to blow the whole thing up whether they like his policies or not.

But still with all that,   there clearly ought to be a good percentage who can be talked to.  Democrats and social scientists sure keep trying.

It’s hard to throw cold water on the Democrats who are luxuriating in the most sizeable House victory since Watergate -- and likely bigger than 60 years before that. The party has flipped some 40 seats and is re-electing the most proficient Speaker of the House in modern political history, Nancy Pelosi. But the Republicans sit there like stone reminding us why that is not enough, particularly in Wisconsin.

In the US Senate the GOP picked up one seat, a lot less than they hoped for but still retaining a majority. The GOP House losses were massive, but only for two year terms and the clock has already started on the flippers and whether they will maintain and expand in once red districts. How many Democrats of the 40 gained can be reassured re-election in 2020? Is Wisconsin an indication of how ugly the fight will be elsewhere?  

There are special circumstances in Wisconsin that led to this deformed legislative effort to reduce or reverse the results of the 2018 election. But perhaps we are a prelude – and a warning – of what the GOP really intends everywhere beneath the surface. Rather than looking for ways to get things done for this country, too many are seeking to retain control or force their opinions about poverty and wealthy income on the unsuspecting public.

It would be remarkable if the citizens of Wisconsin can stop them. It would be fierce resolution at the end of one backwards year for a productive two years ahead. If fact, this ugly partisan behavior should lead the Democrats to more forcible actions to empower a new governor, Tony Evers, than they originally intended.

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 and Internet and consumer news. 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  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 culture and politics outlets known as Dom's Domain.  He also reviews theater for Urban Milwaukee.  

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