GOP Mid-Term Hopes: “Tsunami To A Puddle”

Following the 2020 elections, too many Republicans wanted to keep their arms around Donald Trump, further undermine democracy, and thwart the will of women to make their own health care choices. Well, the nation has been watching and is about to send a message this fall. I contend the majority of the nation simply does not want Trump 24/7 in their living rooms or being the non-stop topic of discussion going forward. That will need to be tempered, of course, with the law and order process which must continue as Trump and others are held responsible for their actions. Democracy absolutely demands a response to what he and his followers did in the weeks following the last presidential election.

Rational voters do not want the crazy and utterly absurd candidates Trump is pushing from Arizona to Georgia, those nominees his cult followers voted for in primaries. The steam is building for a strong blowback in state after state concerning the Trump-fueled antics this year, just as the results proved in 2020. Ron Brownstein writes where the nation is heading and what the GOP must reckon with come November.

It was a referendum. Now it’s a choice.

For political professionals in both parties, that’s the capsule explanation for why the Democratic position in the midterm elections appears to have improved so much since summer began.

When the election looked to be primarily a referendum on the performance of the Democrats who control the White House and Congress, Republicans were optimistic that a towering ‘red wave’ would carry them to sweeping gains in November.

But with evidence suggesting more voters are treating the election as a comparative choice between the two parties, operatives on both sides are bracing for a closely contested outcome that could include an unusual divergence in results for the House and those in Senate and governor races.

The political evidence of what faces Republicans can be best viewed in how some are now changing their tune and tone about abortion. But if conservative men who were doing everything in an effort to undermine the ability of women to decide their own health care decisions think they can now whistle a different tune at the mid-term elections—well, voters will have something to say about that waffling.

Republican candidates are shifting their message on abortion after several recent elections have shown the issue energizing Democrats.

Some candidates for House, Senate and governor have either reworked sections on their websites or released ads that have sought to downplay, reverse or clarify some of their anti-abortion stances.

The shift started over the summer following the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, but the change has become increasingly noticeable as more and more signs have emerged showing abortion can be a galvanizing issue for Democratic voters in key states.

“I think the concept that for decades, you know, a Supreme Court fight energized the conservative base because they wanted to overturn Roe, right?” Republican strategist Barrett Marson, who previously worked on Arizona Republican Senate nominee Blake Masters’s campaign, said.

“I think you’re gonna see a flip on that, that the liberal base will get more energized about this issue because they got it taken away from them,” he added.

Voters in the red state of Kansas earlier this month resoundingly rejected a ballot measure that would have given the legislature more authority to restrict the procedure. And last week, Democrat Pat Ryan won a New York special election seen as a bellwether after focusing his campaign on abortion rights.

In three other special elections since the Supreme Court struck down federal abortion protections, Democrats outpaced expectations even though they ultimately lost. And states such as Pennsylvania, Idaho and Wisconsin are seeing larger gaps open up between new female and male voter registrations since the Supreme Court decision, according to TargetSmart, the Democratic data services firm.

Taken together, the developments have seemingly pushed Republicans to reassess how they approach an issue that has already shown it can help swing elections and for some to step back from support for outright abortion bans.

Between Trump carping and storming about how unfair it is to need to abide by laws and due process in the nation while the harshest elements in the GOP strike out at abortion rights means that politicos can now start to gauge the efficacy of the strategy being employed by the Republican Party in the mid-term elections. With about nine weeks to go the cake is getting baked.

My New Doty Land Podcast: Elvis, Thunderstorms, Dan Rather, And Local Radio

Fond memories of Gregory Humphrey’s first day on WDOR radio with Elvis’ music, recollections of Dan Rather one Sunday morning on a Texas radio station, and a severe thunderstorm in Sturgeon Bay when a Brewer baseball game is knocked off the air as callers light up the phone lines!  Funny memories with another Doty Land professional-sounding podcast.

Doty Land is not the biggest or the best podcast, but it is mine and it makes for lots of smiles and hours well-spent on the Madison isthmus.

Madison Police Must Have Right To Use Chemical Tactics To Stem Riots, City Council May Vote To Curb Their Use

Once again, the tail wishes to wag the dog in Madison. The latest example is a short-sighted and dangerous attempt by the City Council to limit the range of tools Madison Police have available to them in times of crisis and danger to the public.

Longtime readers know I view a legitimate protest march being vastly different from a riot.  In 2020, when national concern was registered about the death of George Floyd many local people marched and demonstrated peacefully. Madison Police used the resources of their department to make sure marches were safe by closing streets and routing traffic away from the crowds. Local police are not averse to assisting the right to free speech in the public square, in fact, they help enhance it.

But as the daylight would give way to darkness, however, the marches were taken over by a violent element that was not driven by any consideration for policy changes through a due process of governing. There was no higher calling about social justice or honoring Floyd.  Instead, the looting and mindless ransacking of businesses on State Street and around the State Capitol continued night after night.  What was as disturbing to me as the destruction itself was the attempt by some social ‘advocates’ who tried to morph the two—trying to rationalize the wanton criminal behavior as some extension of anger about policing in general.  The absurdity of such a dialogue was mind-numbing.

Trying to find kinship between a protest march and a full-blown riot is like trying to align a tomato with a suspension bridge.  It simply can not be done.  While police work to make sure protesters are safe when pressing their message, we should also want law enforcement to be most determined to quell and stop the smashing of windows, the tearing down of statuary at the statehouse (!) and to stem the undermining of basic law and order.

As such, I fully support the police using tactics that will meet the mission as needed. It then comes as no surprise that I am very much opposed to 8th District Alderperson Juliana Bennett’s proposal to enact a ban on MPD and all other mutual aid agencies using tear gas, mace, all chemical irritants, and impact projectiles for use in crowd/riot control.  Living on the Madison Isthmus I can attest to the great alarm homeowners and fellow residents felt as the live news reports showed the destruction occurring while we stood on our balcony and looked out towards the statehouse dome wondering what morning light would show for damage. As we know the damage was widespread and extremely costly.

The reason we should care about the allowance for such chemical tactics to stop a riot was perhaps best summed up by Bonnie Roe a local concerned citizen. “What if tear gas could not have been used by MPD to help an MFD firetruck get through an unruly crowd, during a night of civil unrest in August of 2020, to put out a fire before many gallons of gasoline were ignited, causing a massive explosion and endangering many lives?”

This resolution from Bennett was referred to Madison’s Public Safety Review Committee where on August 10th it passed on a 4-1 vote. All three of the Alders on this committee favored the ban, so there is much concern from those who favor law and order about the passage of this matter. The next city council meeting on September 20th will deal with this resolution where an expected vote will be held. The matter only requires a simple majority (11 out of 20) votes to pass.

The implications of its passage should not be lost on Madison residents.  That was spelled out by James L. Palmer, II, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association. He stated, “Drastically impairing MPD’s ability to resort to de-escalation tools – especially when it has done so on a very limited basis – would be a regressive policy change that would only serve to compromise the safety of the community and the police. Furthermore, it would likely undermine the city’s ability to rely upon the mutual aid of its neighbors who are unlikely to risk these serious public safety implications

I would ask, for the sake of sanity and sound policing for the benefit of the vast majority of law-abiding in our city that you contact your alder and demand a NO vote on the resolution to undermine Madison Police.

So why do I care about this issue?  I wish to conclude this post with a personal explanation.  As a boy growing up in Waushara County, there was one thing that could be counted on each summer with certainty.  There would be at least one major thunderstorm that would be so dramatic as to produce straight-line winds that would snap large trees and rip a roof off a barn or old shed and carry it into a nearby field.  Following the weather reports on the radio and the tracking of clouds at home, we could figure out where some storm damage might be viewed.   Dad was a 40-year elected member of the Hancock Town Board and so needed to know what road cleanup was required after a storm.

I am much aware of those drives in the country as Dad assessed the storm damage. I also recall the first time I parked at a ramp following the 2020 State Street rioting. There had been scores of newspaper photos and television coverage, but seeing for myself the enormity of the damage to every single store, block after block, was hard to fathom. This past week I caved to one of my weaknesses—gyro sandwiches—and after devouring one walked State to again pass empty storefront after empty storefront.  Yes, some are the result of a pandemic.  Too many, however, are the result of a riot.  A needless series of violent and outlandish actions. Our city must have the tools at our disposal to stem riots in the future.

I again urge my readers to contact your alder and demand a NO vote on the resolution to disallow the use of tear gas, mace, all chemical irritants, and impact projectiles for use in crowd/riot control by Madison Police. 

President Biden Keeps Promise About Student Loan Forgiveness

Finally, after years and years of pressing the issue in election after election, action has now been taken on student loan forgiveness. College and university loans now account for more than 40% of outstanding consumer debt in the U.S., outpacing the amounts owed on motor vehicle loans, for example, by more than $477 billion. Ponder that fact for a moment.

I have argued since (what year is this?) that our economy is hampered by the millions of people redirecting income towards student loan payments rather than doing what works best in a consumer-driven economy. The fact is if someone is struggling to pay off their student loans, they are not buying things that workers are making in factories or assembly lines. The tax revenue from such transactions is lost.

We know education is a great investment for the future of the nation, and it should be viewed as a most valued commodity. I very much disagreed with shackling the ones who have the ability to learn and then turn their knowledge into ideas for the betterment of society, with lifetime financial burdens.

So I very much applaud President Biden for directing the Education Department to forgive $10,000 in federal student loan debt for nearly all U.S. borrowers, an unprecedented decision that will affect millions of borrowers with immediate financial relief. This action will now forgive $10,000 for every federal student loan borrower who earns less than $125,000 annually. The administration is also canceling up to $20,000 for those student borrowers who received Pell Grants, applying the same income cap.

Here’s what the plan includes.

$10,000 in debt forgiveness for all federal borrowers…Federal borrowers who earn less than $125,000 and did not receive a Pell Grant will be eligible to have $10,000 of their student loan balances forgiven. This will likely eliminate the balances of at least 15 million borrowers.

$20,000 debt reduction for Pell Grant recipients…Millions of borrowers who received Pell Grants during college and meet the administration’s income requirements will see 20,000 removed from their balances. Data shows around 7 million students receive Pell Grants each year.

Extends pandemic-related pause on student loan payments…The administration is also extending the federal moratorium on student loan payments for a sixth and final time. Payments will resume in January 2023, concluding the pause which has spanned more than two years and two administrations.

While I advocated for the move taken by the Biden White House for a portion of loans to be canceled, I still hold very much to the realization that incentivizing education by having students pay a share of the burden makes sense. When personal effort is required to gain an education a more strict adherence to the books results.

When some voters feel a resume is to be snickered at and expertise is not something to be valued we need to be reminded of what took Americans to the moon. It was not just rocket thrust, but the science and technology that allowed our flag to be placed on the moon. That effort was made possible by students first sitting in a classroom and learning.

In late 2021 a shocking amount of money was spent on our national defense. The House passed an authorization bill costing $768 billion. Certainly then, a person in middle America should feel the federal government can lessen the student loan burden by $10,000. It can be correctly argued that a keen mind and skills learned are as valuable to a democracy as a missile.

Thanks go to President Biden and his administration for this outcome today.

Campaign For Wisconsin Governor Must Address Labor Shortage, Need For Immigrant Labor

With the campaign for Wisconsin governor moving in full steam towards the November election voters are being offered an array of pretty much the same fare as past fall races.  This year there is alpha-male posing from Republican nominee Tim Michels while Tony Evers unveils a cheesy tax cut. Voters know aggressive masculinity does not equate to good governance, and that our transportation budget needs state funds far more than individuals do with an extra couple hundred bucks in their wallet.

Yes, we are now in that time when candidates will say and do anything for a point bump in the polls or a series of favorable headlines.  I understand the need to press all the buttons and make every effort to prevail at the polls, but there must also be a real conversation with the electorate about issues that matter.  One of those topics is something I have talked about for at least 20 years.  Count the number of graduates leaving high school in May and then count the new faces entering kindergarten in September.  We have a genuine worker shortage, in every business sector and in every region around the Badger State.

On Sunday Tom Still, who I believe should be in the kitchen cabinet for whoever wins the governorship, stated most clearly why there is a need to focus on our state’s worker shortage.

Economists and demographers in Wisconsin have been warning for decades that a shortage of workforce-age people was inevitable. The St. Louis-based research arm of the Federal Reserve reports Wisconsin’s “labor force participation” rate declined from 74.5% in late 1997 to 66.4% in June 2022. That rate reflects the number of all employed and unemployed workers divided against the state’s civilian population.

Stills also noted a sobering fact about the dismal rate of growth from those moving here from another state.

At a time when much of the United States is on the move, Wisconsin isn’t a leading destination. About 1.1 million people moved from one U.S. state to another in 2021, the conference was told, yet only 3,400 or so wound up in Wisconsin.

Among the various factors Still connected to the worker shortage, was the fact our state will need to view immigration in a different light if we are to meet the economic needs we face. Nine years ago, in 2013, he wrote a column about immigrant workers in the Badger State.

Immigration reform can help the Wisconsin economy at a time when the demographics of an aging society are chipping away at the state’s workforce, from its kitchens, farms and resorts to its research laboratories and tech companies.

In a global economy, Wisconsin looks much less international than even its neighbors. Compared to Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan, Wisconsin has a smaller share of foreign-born population and total labor force, as well as fewer foreign-born business owners.

During the primary season, there were countless television ads by Michels where “illegals” were mentioned. We learned that he aligned with Donald Trump concerning a wall at the Southern border. He ground down with campaign rhetoric about “no drivers’ licenses, no benefits, and no tuition” for immigrants.

We too often hear conservative pols use dehumanizing language regarding immigrants.  Over the past years, we have had too many truly sad examples of political discourse that was xenophobic and racist. The facts are of course that immigrants are human beings in search of a better life, fair wages, safety, and security.  Additionally, we know that Wisconsin requires their labor and skills.

While the usual theatrics of a campaign season is upon us it appears that once again the long-term problem of a shortage of workers in our state will be left behind.  Slogans and heavy rhetoric about red meat topics will not address the shortage of workers businesses confront year after year in the construction trades, farms, or on the manufacturing floors. Voters should be provided ideas by the candidates for governor about how our state deals with this pressing problem.

Build 6-Story Dane County Jail, As Too Many Wish To Reside There

The local conversation has not been as elongated as that which surrounded the downtown Judge Doyle Square development, but the numerous ideas and dialogue about the new Dane County jail seem akin to it.  Last week, the County Board was unable to pass any of its three options for moving forward with the jail consolidation project.  On the chopping block was a plan that lacked credibility as it scaled back the structure by one floor and reduced bed space for inmates. Data proves more space, not less space will be required.

As the news was reported in the Wisconsin State Journal about the lack of securing the needed votes on the Board for any new jail plan, came another sad example of why this ongoing planning must be pushed forward. Three 18-year-olds were charged in Madison with attempted first-degree intentional homicide.  Two of the adults got out of a car driven by the third man and started shooting at another man who was walking and then running away from the vehicle. The victim had broken bones in his pelvis.

As we know from data, Black men are arrested and charged for crimes at a far higher rate than their white counterparts. Reform-minded advocates have stated their belief that inequities in housing, education, social services, and other factors are the reasons for crimes. It can also be documented that Blacks face inequalities in the sentencing they receive for crimes.  While all that can be proven so can the abundant programming and ever-growing funding from the City of Madison, Dane County, the State of Wisconsin, and Congress at the federal level to combat the reasons for arrests. 

Clearly, something is not working.

Whatever propels young adults to pursue someone, shoot numerous rounds, and then when their home is searched a handgun and large extended magazine in a freezer are found does cause the average citizen to ask what part of the social system is broken.  Is the cause the taxpayer who does pay for social programming and truly desires for it to show results in the communities where it is used and needed?  Is the cause due to family structures that are so fragmented and dysfunctional that basic concepts of right and wrong are as foreign as metaphysics?  Whatever the cause may be the result is that those who can not or will not conduct themselves in accordance with societal norms must pay a price for their actions.

Would I like to see all the money needed for a new jail appropriated somewhere else?  Of course.  But that is not our reality. As long as there are so many among us who wish to reside in the Dane County jail based on the absurdity of their actions then we will need to house them, keeping them separate from the ones who do live between the guard rails of law and order.

I am not sure how the current impasse will resolve itself in deliberations over the jail among Board members.  But I am certain the end result will be a needed 6-floor development project.  Sadly, almost every edition of the newspaper underscores its necessity.

Julaine Appling Carps On Madison LGBTQ+ Church Event, TV News Erred Using Her Reaction

UPDATED with reaction from WKOW-27.

Thursday night WKOW-TV reported in their late news broadcast how the faith community united for a focused message of inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community.  It was a remarkable and truly uplifting event where 22 different faith organizations gathered for an interfaith assembly.

The need for bridge-building by various faiths along with their places of worship is due to the long history of bigotry against the gay community. The denial of basic humanity from many religious organizations has caused much harm to families and communities. As a result, it comes as no surprise that many people in the LGBTQ+ community feel estranged from houses of worship along with finding it difficult to locate friendly faith options in their community.

So, taking concrete steps to help remedy that longtime problem an assembly of faiths hosted an event at the First Baptist Church of Madison.  The optics were most wonderful for a television news crew to capture the mood and tone of the interfaith pride event.

But then 27 news reporter Grace Ulch included Julaine Appling, President of Wisconsin Family Action, into the segment. The reporter noted that Appling “says this event veers from thousands of years of tradition”. The lobbyist stated that the faiths involved in the gathering “are not faithful to the teaching of the word of God”.  Well, that certainly underscores precisely what the church event was aiming at overcoming.  Was Appling making the case for the interfaith gathering, or trying to score one more quip for her side?

While getting contrasting views can certainly make a news story more insightful, using Appling, the source of too many years of hard-edged comments against gay people, was just not good journalism. It looked like a reporter was seeking the usual low-hanging-ever-ready-to-talk-in-front-of-a microphone possibility for this news story. Would it not have been more germane to the report to speak with a minister who feels compelled to hold onto more fundamentalist views? Or seek out a UW professor of religion about how institutions of faith adapt to changing times in society? 

I certainly understand news reporting deadlines and packaging a segment for air that has more than one perspective.  But placing the usual scold in the report looked like the ‘rolodex’ of contacts for news stories at Channel 27 needs updating.  Appling again proved she has never turned down a chance before a microphone to be dismissive of gay people or that being mean-spirited, for the sake of such, is still her card of choice to play. News operations have an obligation to report the news and then add useful perspectives to better inform viewers, listeners, and readers.  That was not fully achieved with the report on the interfaith pride event.

I reached out to the news director of Channel 27, Dani Maxwell, and expressed my concerns. She responded with brevity, but as I had hoped understood the issue that needs addressing. “Hi Gregory, I agree and have already addressed that with Grace. Thank you.”

Memory Of Elvis Presley As We Honor His Life On August 16th

Each year on this day Caffeinated Politics posts about the life and times of Elvis Presley. I try to do something different each August 16th, as with today’s song from his Promised Land album. It was spinning on the stereo system yesterday as I did some projects around the home. I noted, again, to James that Mr. Songman was a 45-rpm record I always tried to grab when I pulled several for my ‘on-air’ shift in broadcasting school. I liked the melody but loved the lyrics, as I knew them to be true from my years of listening to disc jockeys as a boy growing up in rural Waushara County.

Elvis died on this day in 1977 at Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee.

Promised Land was the twenty-first album by Elvis released by RCA on his birthday, January 8, 1975, when he turned 40 years old. In the US the album reached number 47 on Billboard‘s Top 200 chart and number 1 on Billboard’s Top Country LPs chart, as well as the Cashbox Country albums chart. In the UK the album reached #21.