Sunday, August 28, 2022


 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 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. 

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