There are those times when what might be considered a strong and resolute position, instead winds up looking rather sluggishly anemic. Such is the result of Wisconsin Speaker Robin Vos firing Michael Gableman a mere 72 hours after the Racine County Republican squeaked out a primary election night win after Donald Trump urged voters to elect his opponent.
It was only after the votes were counted that Vos found his voice, even his backbone, along with a microphone into which he could utter his feelings about the former Supreme Court justice. “He’s an embarrassment to the state.” But only last week the former justice was a needed investigator for Republicans! Catching up with the sentiments held by the majority of state residents for the past year does not make Vos a prophet or even slightly principled, but simply underscored why many people think Republican politicians are playing to the most gullible within the GOP.
Vos’ comment, however, is about the length and breadth that leadership and a commitment to facts are allowed to be displayed within the current Republican Party. It is due to elected officials, such as Vos, who have continually played to the right-wing conspiracy theories from the base of the party, and in so doing have allowed for oxygen to be given to the nonsense. That has resulted in much harm being done to the home of such political giants as Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan.
Speaker Vos authorized and funded Gableman’s actions which resulted in a wild, unhinged, and legally impossible notion, such as decertifying the 2020 election. There was no evidence of widespread election chicanery to unearth, though that did not stop state tax dollars from being used by Gableman to foment lies for the less educated in the state. Nor did it stop Vos from continuing the spigot of money into Gabelman’s efforts which even included his attending a seminar in South Dakota hosted by luminaries such as Mike Lindell, the MyPillow facts denier.
The time to cut ties with Gableman would have been after the first sit-down the Speaker had with someone who claimed in 2008 that Justice Ann Walsh Bradley rapped him on the head during a meeting. At the time many in the state snickered at the event, but in hindsight, it might be appropriate to ask exactly how much damage was inflicted!
The Michael Gableman we have watched over the past year is the same person who ran a sleazy and racist campaign in 2008 against the Supreme Court’s only African-American, Louis Butler. A major state newspaper wrote in 2012 that Gableman, as a justice, “opened the door to accusations of unethical behavior”. The years have changed, but the character of Gableman sadly has not. I wrote on Caffeinated Politics in 2011 that Michael Gableman was the least intelligent and probing mind on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. After this past year, that may be the kindest thing one can say about the man.
Why Speaker Vos was not able, or willing, to provide leadership and honesty to the ones within his party spreading the Big Lie remains a troubling question that historians will need to address. After all, firing Gableman was only about 365 days too late.