By Dominique Paul Noth
I wonder how many other voters are caught in a seesaw about Nov. 8. Sometimes, absorbing interviews and speeches from President Biden and other leading Democrats, I agree that optimism is in order, that America has toyed with running on fear before and generally corrected itself when the voters see an administration getting things done – or look around the corner at things that one side will do more than the other side.
That makes me want to preach Nov. 8 as salvation, a nation correcting and protecting itself.And then come the strident dark clouds of teetering poll numbers and GOP voices saying the big fear should be migrants and crime. Part of me doesn’t want to believe Wisconsin voters would tolerate another six years of Ron Johnson. But those ads are everywhere!
(Illustration text: Newspapers are having fun contrasting the filtered image of Barnes in Johnson home mailers to the actual lighter skin photo at right.)
In states like Wisconsin, the GOP also has gerrymandering on its side. Even publications like the New York Times have noticed, quoting Democratic Party organizer Tammy Wood in Wisconsin: “It is daunting to convince fellow Democrats their votes matter. That is the purpose of the gerrymander — to make us fall into that feeling of defeat.”
In Wisconsin crime is being linked bigtime to Mandela Barnes (as mis-portrayed in endless dark money GOP TV ads that colorize Mandela in shadows. make his movements herky-jerky and blame him for all the children abducted into a van). The crime issues raised may be state ones not federal, dating back to a bill he supported in the Assembly as did many Republicans, prosecutors and judges wanting a better cash bail law for Wisconsin.
More mildly, maybe because Tony Evers isn’t black and as governor has tried to increase funding for police departments but was blocked by GOP legislators, the leaking faucet of drip-drip Michels commercials plays similar themes. Fair is fair, I guess, since the anti-Michels home mailers make him look almost as grainy and villainous as Barnes does in the TV ads.
These crime ads are cited as the main cause of Barnes shrinking in the polls from a lead to a few points behind. On the other hand, the polls show fluidity, and his counterattack seems to be having success. We keep seesawing back and forth, don’t we?
In Pennsylvania, where Democrat John Fettermen once had a clear lead over TV doctor Oz, crime ads are also blamed for the polls tightening. Ditto Colorado of all states, ditto Nevada, ditto Ohio, ditto North Carolina where Democrat Cheri Beasley once actually had the lead in polls that are now tied.
The GOP-supporting dark money involved is close to obscene – and the anger of Democrats is growing that their own party doesn’t have or won’t spend their own dark money (don’t we have that?). Or maybe the complaint is that the Democrats’ legitimate funding outlets aren’t spending more money to support these candidates plus some long shots as Charles Booker in Kentucky, Mike Franken in Iowa and even Trudy Busch Valentine in Missouri (who is having success as well as laughs reminding Missouri voters that the US Senate needs a nurse, which she is).
Look beyond the games of who has money and how it is spent. The ability of voters to blame Democrats for crime statistics, which are actually sinking in some places, is ridiculous. Especially, as cooler heads point out, statistics show Republicans are not better than Democrats in this regard -- in fact, right now crime is statistically worse in states considered red not blue. So much for GOP leadership!
The other Republican selling point is equally ridiculous according to facts – inflation. My main reaction might be amusement at the voters who think like that, followed by anger at their naval gazing. But the immediate issues at the supermarket seem to be trumping common sense about the future.
Sure, we are in inflation, but what did you expect? Think what we just went through. In the first year of COVID, we are more and more learning, Trump responded poorly. Biden did much better. If there was ever a time for the federal government to give money over to people suffering from the pandemic, both parties agreed and the Democrats’ aid strategy once Trump lost has worked much better.
Other consequences that led to inflation) were disruption in the supply system, which had a lot to do with how many goods were manufactured in foreign hands – such as computer chips, which Biden is addressing with big money for US manufacturing. Time will cure the problems, but which party’s hands do you want in charge?
Does the American voter also want to suspend aid to Ukraine to make the supermarket prices lower? That was another costly commitment that the Biden administration has taken on, which the Republicans are making negative noises about despite the applause of most American shoppers.
You can more rightly blame the cost of fossil fuels on Russia and the Saudis. Biden is the one who has cut the national budget deficit in half, freed oil from national reserves, worked to keep pushing on climate change while dealing with the interim need for increased oil production (an interim I expect to last for decades). Trump’s big selling point was his tax cuts for the richest, snarling at our NATO allies and saying climate change was no big deal.
But the polls keep suggesting a close election and that voters don’t take seriously enough the threat to democracy and basic voting rights the Democrats keep talking about.
Wisconsin particularly suffers because in statewide elections we lean toward Democrats, but through gerrymandering we have a Republican dominated legislature that resists sensible changes in voting policy, gun policy, medical policy and so forth.
Ohio and Georgia worry me, because I feel that both are states once thought red in balance but o are now on the bubble, and you can almost feel those local pockets of GOP voters getting angry about that. It’s also hard to apply any logic to how hard it has been for Warnock to shake off Walker in Georgia despite the Republican’s constant idiocy– or for that matter in Ohio for Tim Ryan to shake off the personality loops and dodges of J.D. Vance.
And then Georgia and Florida worry me because their state leadership continues to push the voter suppression buttons in heavily organized campaigns and state laws that aim to keep the poor and disenfranchised at home.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, food and gasoline costs are going down and are precisely the transitory wounds of our society that neither party can solve. Crime flows up and down in a society that still hasn’t sensibly addressed its gun problem and the issues of equity. Right now, though, the GOP is telling us to fear, fear, fear.
Except for FOX talking heads, the media has been sounding the alarm about an imminent loss of US Democracy, a rise in antisemitism, a rise in foreigner hatred (if you regard the immigrant community that has been our nation’s backbone as foreigners) and attempts to turn the power of voting over to Republican legislatures. But are the voters listening? And to whom are they listening?
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.