Wednesday, September 14, 2022

A TINGE OF RACISM PLAYS WELL IN JOHNSON’S TV ADS AGAINST BARNES

 By Dominique Paul Noth

As national surveys keep showing, citizens absorbed by commercial television’s endless crime shows tend to have a more negative view of their own personal safety, particularly in urban communities.  The images they believe in are rife with dark alley gangs often portrayed as black thugs threatening those nice white citizens who are the clean-cut center of our democracy – at least in this corner of TV land.

I think the stereotypes are even worse in Wisconsin – at least judging by the millions of dollars in TV ads on cable and on the Internet funded by Ron Johnson and Tim Michels, Republican candidates who have a lot more personal wealth and PACs to throw around than their opponents.

Judging by recent polls – Johnson has climbed eight points to nip ahead of Mandela Barnes where a month ago he was seven points behind – the slimy crime ads succeed in something more than reminding us, as polls often do, how fickle are the public’s opinions.  These ugly ads appeal to the darkest regions of the human brain by emphasizing shadows and subtly dimmer lighting. They may obviously be as they have been identified for years as “political advertisements that blatantly stoke racial fears and stereotypes,” but they work.

They did for the first President Bush in that still notorious “Willie Horton” ad that tied Democratic opponent Michael Dukakis to a convicted black rapist.  They worked most prominently in Wisconsin in 2008 when buffoon Michael Gableman beat the only black elected to the state’s highest court by juxtaposing Louis Butler’s image with a black rapist that Justice Louis Butler had nothing to do with the release of.

(Gableman was a laughingstock for 10 years on the high court, but he returned and even doubled down on his buffoonery – so extreme about Biden’s election win that his fellow Republicans have been busy trying to disown him and justify the million dollars taxpayers spent on his “investigation.”)

There was always a subliminal visual appeal to these ads that stay just slightly to one side of legal consequences.  Gableman was actually brought up on legal charges of exploitation, but since he was one of the votes in the high court monitoring role, he escaped judgment by a 3-3 tie among the other members.

In Johnson’s ads against Barnes – unavoidable even on MSNBC and YouTube, so heavy is the ad expenditure – they feature every ugly image of Barnes’ longer beard as opposed to the well-trimmed one he has today.

They blur the lighting and the facial images as if they have discovered someone lurking in doorways surrounded by graffiti, whose head moves in a jerky motion as misshapen headlines and phrases are painted behind him. They pull every misleading quote by Barnes about defunding the police or how he supports (as well he should) the progressive side of the Democratic Party -- despite every clear Barnes in-context explanation of what he said.

Now, progressive though I may be, I did worry last year of how many Democrats were caught up in the understandable George Floyd protests and hung out with the “defund the police” crowd.  There was an understandable repulsion at how many black citizens has been shot by police.

That anger caught up many moderates including Republicans – until cooler heads better defined the movement as ”refund the police” to better recognize mental illness and social needs, which I really can’t find anyone opposing.  But those damned images and isolated old quotes still flourish on TV as if black skin is still affiliated with dark streets, as if muggings and nightclub shootings by every race take place in the daylight.

Tim Michels, running against Gov. Tony Evers, has tried similar crime ads but Evers has such a mild-mannered image and sensible policies that these ads backfire.  He tries to blame Evers for taking money away from police forces while Evers actually proposed an increase that was shot down by a GOP legislature!

But Wisconsin voters are still so weird on this issue that Michels poll numbers have also gone up slightly, basically meaning that the Democrats cannot relax the pressure in the last months, and we really won’t know what will happen until Nov. 8.

Meanwhile we have to recognize that in terms of political ads TV is still segregated, thanks to how local ads are inserted into what we think are national programs or national Internet services.

Folks in other states do not see the repellent GOP ads we get in Wisconsin just as we don’t see the senate and gubernatorial ads from other states where the Democrats are now gaining in terms of the Senate particularly and the House in general. 

You could argue that this is because the big GOP money is more scattered or hasn’t yet landed full bore in Ohio and Pennsylvania (where Democratic senate candidates Tim Ryan and John Fettermen are ahead).  But it could also be that Wisconsin’s more extremely split citizenry are more vulnerable to the TV commercials and the generalities about crime, punishment and blackness than their national counterparts.

Personal Note: Maybe the visitors are mainly law students fascinated as I am by what Wisconsin lost in 2008 – and may be restored again in 2023 if Janet Protasiewicz, is elected to the high court – but I am still getting visitors to a 2015 article I wrote (rare for an old political piece to still get traffic) about Louis Butler.



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 Doms Domain dual culture and politics outlets. A member of the American Theatre Critics Association at its inception, he also reviews theater for Urban Milwaukee. 


Tuesday, September 6, 2022

NOVEMBER VOTERS ARE REAL TARGET OF THAT TRUMP SPECIAL MASTER RULING

 By Dominique Paul Noth

John Roberts (hardly having a liberal bone in his body) has lost any semblance of control of the conservative court he is chief justice of. He’s been pushed aside not just by Trump’s ability in four years to make three appointments. Old buddies like Sam Alito are shoving him into the toilet.

For three years in speeches and reports, Roberts has been urging his colleagues to move more slowly through past decisions and insisting the federal court system is nonpartisan.  There are not Obama judges or Trump judges, he has proclaimed, but judges doing the best they can to protect democracy and the Constitution.

Guess what, John?  For any who doubted there are Trump judges willing to put politics above the law, it’s not just Alito. Welcome to the special master decision by a Trump appointed novice district judge in Florida.

She has invented a special deference for former presidents (or just one of them) when facing criminal investigation, forcing a special master to be appointed before the Department of Justice can use the documents seized in August at Mar-a-Lago.  That seems to mean that even forensic evidence about who handled what has to be deferred until a special master decides what is in bounds and what it not.

Legal experts respond with
rage and sadness to
Aileen Cannon

Constitutional lawyers on all sides are frankly aghast.  Aileen M. Cannon based in Florida -- and only appointed by the disappearing GOP Senate majority in the days after Trump lost the election – has basically invented standards beyond the attorney-client privilege a special master is supposed to protect.  She has imagined a standard for ex-presidents (those named Trump not Obama) and ordered the DOJ not to use any of the material seized in August for criminal prosecution, though the DOJ knows full well (while we don’t) what it found.

The DOJ, the national archives and the FBI found a lot more at Mar-a-Lago before August, none of which is hampered by the Cannon fodder.  (Though the August haul is more clearly stuff Trump was hiding.)  Plus, there are arrays of grand juries and legislative hearings probing Trump that will not slow down.  It does mean that several of these impending charges are about money and influence, though some want to find him guilty of Jan. 6.

Trump may wind up an Al Capone echo, forced into prison by tax stuff though we knew his mob behavior killed people.

TV’s usual array of talking heads – right, left and supposedly middle – seem equally muddled. Some see a victory for Trump, others expect it is activating his opposition and speeding his doom (sort of like Russia buying missiles from North Korea, which can be seen as a sign of Putin’s deterioration).

All acknowledge its main gain is a delaying tactic forcing the DOJ into a difficult decision as it lays grounds for what it will accept or oppose by Sept. 9 in the choice of special master. In a rare display of judicial balance, Trump’s former attorney general, Bill Barr, likened the special master ruling to a baseball game “rain delay of a couple of innings.”

Traditionalists, recognizing how this novice judge has created new rules just for Trump, want the DOJ to go the formal appeal route to a higher court, the 11th Circuit where 5 of the 11 judges were appointed by Trump.  But all are probably more restrained by their judicial temperament than she was.  The appeal route could force intermittent delays, briefs, a trial-level presentation, even an appeals panel that can be appealed to a full court, causing even more months.

Meanwhile simply choosing a special master – who is supposed to have judicial experience – may also be a delay but far quicker.  Hovering over all is the public and legal anger that the Cannon novice has written new rules of the road, and these must be forced away by judicial sensibility.

But honestly, how do these delay tactics benefit Trump? The public is clearly impatient to see him penalized or absolved. His tactics do suggest he still holds some power.  Yet the tactics give the various branches of the law more time and clout in pursuing him. Meanwhile the public is getting sick of the game and disinterested, which may work to Trump’s advantage. People are asking themselves if the full force of the government can’t lock him up, maybe the public should just let him be.

And that’s the only way the delays will work – IF in November the Republicans gain power at the polls. IF the Republicans take enough seats in the House to stop the Jan. 6 hearings. IF the GOP gains enough leverage in the Senate to block the range of good things the 50-50 split (with VP Kamala Harris as tiebreaker) have put in place. IF enough states gain enough GOP voters to revive abortion laws passed in the 19th century when women didn’t have a vote.  IF such antiquity and GOP gerrymandering (under the inane false equivalency that “we’d better do it to the Democrats before they do it to us”) gain even an inch of ground.

That Trump judge in Florida has actually clarified how real are the worries about our democracy being in danger.  The extremes of the SCOTUS abortion ruling gave voters, even those who didn’t like Roe v Wade, more reason than ever before to roll away from the extreme right wing. 

 Biden’s successful infrastructure and inflation reduction bills are also making inroads, as are his speech efforts to separate responsible Republicans from MAGA ones.

For the public that refused to worry about the future of our democracy, the special master decision should have a very specific meaning.  The danger warnings no longer feel like the left side of right-wing conspiracy paranoia. More of the public is now activated by concern for one person, one vote, for the basic standards of democracy. 

These voters realize the danger is real – if a judge in Florida can violate all expectations to rule somewhat in his favor, if he can still draw several hundreds to his rallies almost two years after leaving office, if states continue to try to elevate false electors,  if  state GOP legislators try to override the votes against them in an election. 

If these attacks and more succeed, it will only be because voters didn’t pay attention and organize to shoot them down.



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, August 28, 2022

CAMPAIGN TACTICS HAVE GOP PEDDLING HATE AND DEMOCRATS CAUGHT IN THE SWITCHES

 By Dominique Paul Noth

If you’re on the Internet or watching TV looking ahead to the November election, you know the GOP is offering you resentment and the Democrats, judging by their emails, are still in the throes of desperation.

The Republicans are all about hating those who are benefitting from Biden’s moderate but progressive approach, which actually is getting astounding things done on the climate change front, combatting inflation and deepening the benefits of Obamacare, to name the top of my list. 

Now added in is student loan debt relief for the lower incomes in particular.   But the GOP ads dominate in encouraging people who paid their student debt to resent any giveaway to students carrying the debt, even though the government aid back then (state and federal) was vastly superior and even high-priced private universities didn’t cost that much (I went to Marquette University in the 1960s and remember $500 a semester,).

Mandela Barnes made to look
lousy in GOP TV ads.

The sense of hatred expands into the techniques of advertising, though I am sure some Democrats are also guilty of similar devices.  But they sure dominate in GOP ads in Wisconsin. 

The  commercials reduced to slow-motion shadowy images every bad moment Mandela Barnes has ever had in campaigning  -- trying to make him look like a cartoon or puppet, while  also  trying to tie him into what they regard as the extreme vision of the  Squad (their term for Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and her allies) – who in the case the GOP cite also have allies in most Democrats and even some Republicans in trying to get rid of cash bail as  the prime way to control  lawbreakers. The dominance of cash bail has long harmed lower income workers rather than the criminals who exist in all rungs of society. The GOP is reverting to the 1950s and trying to make opposition to extreme cash bail a sign of law-and-order weakness.

 The GOP approach -- demonizing all those seeking better roads to social justice as weaklings at law and order -- comes even as the party supports the insurrection of Jan. 6, 2020, most of whom were white Trump supporters.

Speaking of the Johnson race against Barnes, his ads are particularly weak-kneed for any who know his actual history.  There are those ads in which a trucker (or actor) and a young mother (or actress) praise Rojo for defending the working family. The trucker ad even has him doing great things like supporting domestic gas production and the Keystone Pipeline (which is only a conduit through the US for Canadian tar gas heading to Gulf ports, proving again that the GOP treats Wisconsin voters as know-nothings about Rojo’s tax policies and actual behavior.

The resentment politics – hate these liberals! –  are most evident locally in Tim Michels race for governor.  Most people realize that Gov. Tony Evers is hardly a professional long-term politician, more the milquetoast-looking detail man who spent most of his career in education.  But Michels, who owns homes in many states and whose construction company has benefitted mightily from Evers’ spending on roads ignored by the previous GOP administration, has been filling the airwaves and campaign rallies urging people to hate those in government who want to spend more money on schools and higher education.

What I’ve personally enjoyed is looking back in time at which presidents’ tax and social policies most helped my family (I can start with LBJ, then skip to Clinton slightly, then Obama a lot and then Biden, literally unable to think of anything Reagan, the Bushes and Trump did to help my struggles to raise nine children; Nixon, my amazed memory records, actually did some things). 

I find the most mature Americans are not resentful of Biden’s help to those with student debt but wish it had happened in their time, are glad they spent the money to improve family income despite the tight belts it caused and doubly glad that it looks like their children will suffer less if prices of education can come down. They remember how different government attitudes toward schools and higher education were then.

I think the GOP approach is going to backfire – and already has, as the Biden team takes some delight in fighting back.

Some Democrats I like who are running in more moderate states are trying to achieve a balance in the wrong way (such Michael Bennet seeking re-election in Colorado and Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada, plus Senate wannabe Tim Ryan the Ohio Democratic candidate who is heads and shoulders above his opposition).  They are going to regret their hands-off Biden approach because he may have mediocre poll numbers now, but those numbers are likely to climb as people weigh his accomplishments. 

My emails from Democrats amuse me in their strident demands for money because they are clearly based on poll numbers in early summer that have swung to the Democrat side in August, giving them much better odds in the Senate and even better chances in the House. 

I don’t blindly trust the vagaries of the polls (and the public that responds to polling) but the rise in Democrat fortunes reflects my anecdotal take (in a community of mixed partisan beliefs). These are highly paid campaign workers putting out the email blitzes, and they may be based on the time-tested belief that negative ads bring in more money.

But from where they started the blasts a few months ago the conversation has shifted under their email fists. Incumbent Mark Kelly’s email team tells me they’re packing their bags and leaving Arizona, so upset are they by the GOP dark money pouring in against him.  Val Demmings team in Florida cries “game over” and Maggie Hassan’s emails from New Hampshire chronicle how much mysterious GOP money is lining up against her.  When they composed those emails, the polls didn’t show Kelly leading little-known venture capitalist Blake Masters, nor Demmings in a tie or ahead or Marc Rubio, not Hassan pulling ahead.

Similar “end of the road” emails stem from throughout the Democratic nation, even down to House races.   Bennet in Colorado is trying to establish a more positive image, but his campaign hires are still engaging in the doomsday approach. From Nevada (or the Internet portals being used), Catherine Cortez Masto’s emails are equally bleak, reflecting what was a difficult fund-raising period for them and the tons of dark money the GOP has poured into these contests.

John Fettermen winning in Pennsylvania
Perhaps because the poll numbers have been building in John Fetterman’s favor for months in Pennsylvania and for Barnes in Wisconsin, their campaigns have mixed the pleas for money with a more optimistic view of America’s future.

The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC) has also expanded its aims.  Aside from the traditional defense of threatened incumbents (Kelly, Hassan, Bennet, Cortez Mastro with less attention to Patty Murray in Oregon and Tammy Duckworth in Illinois who seem in better shape) the DSCC has expanded its money-raising activity to encompass some new polling favorites – Fettermen, Ryan, Cheri Beasley in North Carolina and Demmings in Florida.

Sen. Gary Peters
I almost feel sorry for the nice guy, new DSCC chairman Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan, a low-key and quite successful public servant who fought off a big money attack to win re-election. He at first refused calls to head the DSCCC (main job is setting goals and raising money for the Senate) and finally gave in to pleas from fellow Democrats who admired his quiet way of working. 

Now he is being pestered to add more attention (meaning money) to Democratic newcomers who are making unexpected inroads in come from behind campaigns – particularly Charlie Booker in Kentucky and even Trudy Busch Valentine who lags further behind in a tradition red state like Missouri yet is gaining ground because of her roots as an Anheuser Busch heir and her own personal record as a nurse and social activist.

My emails are clogged by the new ability of American voters to give money over the Internet to any state they wish (even if they can’t vote there) while the nature of cable and cut-in network ads tend to only tell Wisconsin voters about their own state contests.

The GOP can find nothing more to do than to push the resentment, basically reminding voters their currently constricted party hasn’t done much of anything for Americans except to gripe about inflation and immigration. The Democrats are doing better though they still seem to be looking for problems in the headlines to worry about. We certainly are not framing the future as a positive place, are we?



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. 


Thursday, August 18, 2022

NATIONALLY AND LOCALLY, POLLS SHOW DEMOCRATS’ POWER SURGING

By Dominique Paul Noth

I have my problems with the Marquette University law school poll though it is one of the most scrupulously done in Wisconsin.  I fear a little bit that poll expert Charles Franklin sometimes overreaches trying to balance the rural and urban vagaries of this curious   state and thus the poll, like the university, tends to reflect more conservative concerns than a good Jesuit institution should. But that may be mainly about me and my experiences as a long-ago MU student and teacher who liked to push the institution’s buttons.

Still I noticed with interest the week of August 16 how the Senate poll put Mandela Barnes seven points ahead of incumbent ass Ron Johnson (now you know my political leanings) while suggesting that the governor’s race between Tony Evers and  unknown (before his endless TV ads) GOP billionaire Tim Michels (whose construction business has been rewarded with projects from  Evers’ tireless effort to fix Wisconsin roads, led into disrepair by GOP policies) is a contest several points closer, though Evers is still two points ahead.

Mandela Barnes (left) gained his
statewide moxie as lieutenant 
governor to Tony Evers in 2018.

That pleases me in one sense because Barnes’ reputation throughout the state as Evers’ lieutenant governor is clearly dominating any concern about his skin color (in a state not recently famous for avoiding racist concerns) and to this point Rojo hasn’t played the race card as I suspect he eventually will.

But here’s why it also worries me. The Evers race is more important and it’s tighter.

I consider the state in total to lean toward progressive policies, but it is also the classic example in the nation of how a GOP dominated legislature, even with a Democratic governor, is unhealthily self-naval focused on winning elections and keeping ordinary folks from voting. 

Forget the stupidity people feel looking at Wyoming whose voters plug away in blind support of Trump even in the face of one-time conservative darling Liz Cheney.  Sometimes Wisconsin voters behave no better. 

How else can you explain the tolerance for gerrymandering and the tendency of GOP legislators to do so little for their constituents and so much for their biggest donors? -- and keep getting elected by the folks they openly call their sheep? As election expert David Pepper recently told New Yorker magazine in a thoughtful article: “No one knows anything about statehouses. They can’t even name their state representatives. And it’s getting worse every year, since the local media’s dying and the statehouse bureaus are being hollowed out.”

To be blunt, the only thing standing between the GOP’s worst tendency and Wisconsin’s chance of improving things for its citizens is Tony Evers, the governor whose presence thwarts the GOP – and next April Democrats could thwart them even deeper when the election of Janet Protasawiecz to the state’s highest court will literally flip the balance on the high court and block the GOP from expecting favorable rulings.

Dare I say it out loud. As much as I like Barnes and dislike Rojo, re-electing Evers as governor is the most important task facing the voters in November. If along the way they can weaken the GOP hold on the legislature – even though the Democrats didn’t universally field candidates in rural GOP strongholds, misreading how much the fever for change was operating – that would be great as well.

Nationwide, in fact, history may be standing on its head thanks to constant right-wing overreach.  Only the GOP rumbles about inflation are keeping the party in the election game and it may well be the most powerful, if misapplied, issue the GOP has. 

Recent polls suggest that Biden’s calm manner as well as his sneaky progressive commitment are starting to gain traction.   Of course, young voters would rather have someone who doesn’t look like their grandpa, but so far no one in their generation has proven as politically nimble.  Politics is a different kind of marathon.

Biden is taking victory laps for the Inflation Reduction Act, which has many elements.  But its common name doesn’t reflect the climate change reality -- it’s the largest climate rescue investment in human history. 

The Democrats’ standings in national ratings are beginning to reflect this, even before Labor Day when traditionally most citizens don’t look very much at politics.  I think the abortion decision and Trump’s flirtations with prison are changing that – in fact, I am most distressed that in America there are still 20% of Americans who cling to Trump and don’t believe in the realities in front of them. They stubbornly vote for people who aren’t doing them any good.  I’m not sure Trump alone is responsible.   There has been a curious willful me-ism streak in American society for centuries.

History records that, in our two-party system, the party out of White House power does well in the mid-terms, and it is hard for pundits to recognize why this year may change that.  In the past voters almost unconsciously tried to keep the nation in balance by helping both parties.   Few believe that today’s Republicans have any ideas how to solve the issues and they are starting to give the Democrats credit for intelligently trying. 

Reality is sinking in, putting the inflation issue in balance. The country has come through COVID-19 and other diseases, a crazy Putin, aggressive China, supply problem issues, a Supreme Court attack on women and more problems that would stymie the best economy and the best administration. Yet all the GOP can think to do in their TV commercials is blame Biden – and then try to say he is too old and senile to be effective.  They can’t have it both ways as he passes the most progressive legislation in decades.

It is starting to make a difference though everything is still in doubt with November a few months away.  But look at recent polls.  I am not much enamored of how Americans keep changing their minds in polls, but only a few months ago, the pollsters were doubting the Democrats could keep the Senate and pretty much stated they would lose the House. Not today.

In August, many polls are saying the Democrats have a chance to expand the Senate and that the House could flip either way.  The Inflation Reduction Act that Biden and Congress passed is only part of the difference, but this is the part that should keep growing in the voters’ minds until November.  By then, it is hoped, more of the nation will be clear on where their brightest political future resides.

In Pennsylvania, John Fetterman's 
everyman image is a winner.

Democrats still engage in desperation email campaigns, each claiming that giving money to just this one candidate (be it Mark Kelly in Arizona or Michael Bennet in Colorado or Warnock in Georgia) was essential to keep the Democratic majority,  The Democrat PR folks haven’t caught up with the national thinking that gives the Democrats a better chance – not  only  to Kelly, Warnock  and Bennet (who are now polled as leading)  but also to Catherine Cortez Masto now leading  in Nevada, Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire and even added targets – Democrat Tim Ryan in Ohio, John Fetterman in Pennsylvania, Cheri Beasley in North Carolina  and amazingly Val Demmings in Florida. All are also leading or gaining in polls.

The hopes for these Democrats are even bringing tsunami dreams to some Democratic insiders.  They are chastising party leaders for not giving more money to Charlie Booker in Kentucky (running against the schizophrenic – even to Republicans – Rand Paul). Booker has rightly pointed out that what the abortion issue did in Kansas it may do again in Kentucky.

Also looking stronger are retired admiral Mike Franken who has made inroads against Chuck (“am I really going to pretend I can run again?) Grassley in Iowa at age 88, and even Budweiser heir Taylor Busch Valentine trying for the Blunt seat in  normally red Missouri (she loves to point out she would add a much-needed nurse to the Senate).    Along with those Democrats who look totally safe in their seats (Patty Murray, Richard Blumenthal and Tammy Duckworth) the odds are looking better for a broad swath of Democrats.

Recent polls suggest they may even hang on in the House. Sure, if you look at gerrymandering, we may see more of extreme Republicans like Jim Jordan and Kevin McCarthy, but not as once thought in majority positions. If progressive voters hit the polls. And the new political reality of our Internet times is that progressives in other states can send money and call their friends.



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, August 3, 2022

NO MORE DAWDLING – DEMOCRACY NEEDS TROOPS NOW

Reminder news about this illustration thanks to one in a long line of noted
political cartoonists for the old Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Gary Markstein is timely as ever in national syndication.

 

By Dominique Paul Noth

For 18 months I have suffered a selective writer’s block, a sort of drip-by-drip Chinese water torture caused by disgust with America’s politics.  While consumed by the ins and outs of the Jan. 6 events and hearings, I haven’t written about them for over a year, while staying busy as a writer on all other fronts

My theater reviews continue apace, even busier now that COVID-19 fears have subsided. 

Over at my original blog I continue to plug away at Oscar time on movie reviews, which Urban Milwaukee has often picked up. 


But thousands of my regular readers have noticed my absence at my political blog, where I used to post every few weeks.

An interesting story there. I bubbled with ideas and commentary throughout the Jan. 6 events, as my family and friends will tell you in painful detail.  But every week events changed so quickly. Unresolved questions were answered. Or some enterprising journalist somewhere else took up the insights I saw.  I was more frustrated than usual in trying to be cogent about my disgust. I wanted to be clear and fresh in a world of gridlock and felt frustrated that most of my (largely accurate) predictions were actually late to the table because of all the commentary around me.

So DomsDomainPolitics has been absent since before Jan. 6, 2021, but not now. Not with the vital November election only three months away, and reality imposing clarity as the Biden forces thankfully gain ground. The public is beginning to absorb the consequences of Trump’s reign and the time for dillydallying has passed.

Like many Americans, I long thought Jan. 6 was an aberration led by a small contingent of rabid Trump believers who, in misplaced passion and mob violence, were frightened that America – particularly white America – was losing its grip on democracy. After all, the president had told them to be there.

I had misjudged the smallness. It was less about Trump than the negativity and fear existing in our society. You don’t even have to believe the hearings’ careful case dissecting Trump’s methods.  It’s clear to everyone except him that his diehard support is shrinking.

And yet many Republicans don’t want to be told so bluntly that they were duped. So maybe now his support has shrunk to less than 20% of Republicans. But that’s a hell of a lot of people who don’t understand our democratic system! There are still those who say they were proud of their vote for him!  How is that possible?  It’s still enough to cause trauma in primary season.

Some supporters who now say they know better became involved in an uprising of thousands orchestrated by right-wing extremists and goosed by Trump himself, though the courts will have to weigh in on placing blame.  The public at large no longer doubts that his refusal to accept that he lost the election was the engine of revolt, but what can be proved to a criminal jury of citizens remains to be seen.

During my time of watching, rumbling with anger and thinking, I admit a violent distaste came over me for local as well as national Republicans. They were pushing bills that got in the way, both nationally and locally, or fought for no good reason against long needed efforts on climate change and gun control. Coteries of fall-away Republicans warranted more positive attention, and yet their own party blocked their efforts at course correction. 

All this left many Democrats with a strange taste in their mouths, such as admiring a hawk with a hated last name, Liz Cheney, for clinging to reality in the face of threats that turned the other leaders of her party into wimps.

I did blame the entire party for going along with all this -- and then realized I was condemning families I once liked. I was forced by memory to recall how many decent Republicans (or people who voted Republican) I had known over the decades, even the many who lived in those bizarre WOW counties that surround Milwaukee and keep voting topsy-turvy. Frankly, the Madison legislature cannot allow this to continue.

What is amazing is how long the Trump horror has lingered and how long those so-called decent Republicans have let it go on. A full 18 months after losing office, Trump conducts rallies and horrible endorsements, hosts a Saudi funded golf tournament and pretends he was a force in world affairs, while his absence is assuredly welcome across the globe.

Consider how strong the American economy was to survive him. It didn’t totally succumb to all his bizarre tariffs and authoritarian machinations, though such violent tics left the nation four years behind on several issues it is late in tackling.

Now, finally, we can move on climate change, strengthening NATO, fixing the health system, address gun violence, accept the ups and now downs of inflation. The worry for Democrats is that the November election will be determined by the price of chicken! Just have to hope the American voter is not that shallow.

Biden’s pace may be too slow for some, but evidence suggests he knew what a dark place the country was heading toward, and he believes optimism and slow and steady progress are the way out. The contrast with Trump is amazing – he wanted the dark place to rise up and he tried to rush the nation there.

One of my realizations during this time – and I wish more journalists had shared it – is that the US  is undergoing a basic change in its two-party system.  For years and almost by chance, American voters had divided power between Democrats and Republicans, one party atop the other and then vice versa – for fear that one philosophy would dominate.  It was almost a magic wand, looking at the final voting totals, resulting in a 50-50 split in the Senate, while Biden needs a few more to get big things done.  Now November worries center on the House.

For families who voted Republican, Trump is not the problem.  History is. It is hard despite common sense to jump over to support a Democrat after generations of going the other way. Now Democrats are hoping – certainly in Wisconsin legislative races – that the current GOP voter is not as stuck in an alternate universe as suggested by the warped Madison legislative priorities of those its party continues to elect. 

A lot of people don’t pay much attention to politics until after Labor Day, so there are some intensive months ahead.  Even those who put the economy first have to note the sharp drop in gasoline prices at the pump, the recovery in the goods shipping market, the escalation of repair in the chips and semiconductor field -- even the awareness by many Democrats chafing for faster action that Biden’s methods are actually getting things done.

There is another factor that may change the almost accidental balance created by the two-party system. First, it is hard for anyone to regard the two parties as equally working for America, resulting in a massive growth of Independents.

Mainly, the game of US politics has been Internetted.  No longer do people only play in their statewide elections but in every other state’s races down to the House and Senate seats – and sometimes plunging even deeper than that, judging by my emails.

Money is solicited from everywhere though you can only vote in your district or state these midterms. The sheer power of speaking up everywhere in November politics extends beyond money. I know people who have friends and families in other states and are busy soliciting their votes and activism. 

It's a big enough deal to put many Democratic candidates in many locales on a surprisingly strong funding base to tackle Republicans, who used to dominate with money.  Moreover, the enthusiasm among Republican voters may be waning, while issues like abortion rights, gun control and the climate breathe fresh activism into Democratic possibilities.

So, I’m back, hoping that a sensible America is also coming back, too, and that my columns can help.


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