Plainfield Tri-County High School Choir Got Lesson In Democracy At Wisconsin State Capitol

I should state at the outset I am a graduate of Tri-County High School in Plainfield, Wisconsin.  For many rural schools in the state it is a thrill indeed to have a reason to travel to Madison, and even more so when the trip involves the Wisconsin State Capitol.  So I can totally grasp the joy of the school choir being selected to sing at the Capitol tree-lightning ceremony on Tuesday.   After all, this year’s statehouse tree was from Plainfield. 

While holiday festiveness in the rotunda had every right to be front and center there was something more pressing taking place under the statehouse dome.  Republican lawmakers were in preparation to vote on lame-duck session measures to weaken powers of the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general.  One of the most preposterous and dangerous examples yet of a power grab in Wisconsin was taking place just a short distance from the Christmas tree.

The grand design of government presented in civics books–which these students in the choir have spent time learning–was being turned on its head just a short distance from where they stood to sing.  A deliberate process designed to respect voters wishes was being turned upside down, and inside out.  Republicans, in the mid-terms, had lost all five statewide elected offices, a U.S. Senate seat, and in legislative offices were swamped when Democratic votes totaled 190,000 more that the Republicans.  The GOP, with the partisan maps they designed, still controlled the assembly with 63/99 seats. But what they had not been able to win in elections was what they had every intention of stealing in the session.

Needless to say there were many very concerned citizens at the capitol who were mindful that the future of our state is in play.  So when Scott Walker took to the podium to address the tree-lighting crowd he was met with what should have been no surprise to anyone.  He was faced with boos and very loud howls of protest.  As a result the high school choir singing Christmas carols was largely drowned out.  A large group of protesters were stationed outside the Senate chamber loudly singing their own music–anti-Walker tunes.

It might seem unfair to some that the students were sidelined by the actions of other citizens who were trying to stop anti-democratic actions in the legislature.  But that is the frothy side of our political process in action.  One does not often get to see such a thing among the corn rows of Waushara County.  Needless to say the dynamics at play must have made for some interesting insights for these young people.

I sincerely believe that the lesson for taking a stand, and raising a voice for the future of the state will well serve these students.  To think that the rural place they call home will not be undermined by the slick moves and partisan machinations of the GOP in this lame-duck session is folly.  The school they now attend, and the future education many will seek are all tied to the bizarre and corrupt behavior of the ones being yelled at Tuesday.

The bus trip may not have developed as the students had thought, but they are wiser and more schooled today in democracy as a result of being at the Wisconsin Capitol.

Brazen Affront By Wisconsin GOP

The machinations now underway by the Republican majority in the Wisconsin State Legislature are more in line with what one might imagine from a third-rate power which does not quite yet grasp the meaning of a working republic.

In a truly embarrassing and shameful demonstration, with the reversal of lessons from childhood, the Republicans in the statehouse are following up on their looses in the mid-term elections by making a mockery of our political process.   What the GOP was not able to attain at the ballot box they are determined to take in a lame-duck session in Madison.

With no signs of contrition majority party leaders are hell-bent on taking away powers from both the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general.  The proposals ginned up include preventing the incoming governor from withdrawing Wisconsin from a legal challenge to the federal Affordable Care Act, sidestepping the attorney general’s power to represent the state in litigation, and rescheduling a 2020 election with a costly measure to boost the chances of a Republican state Supreme Court Justice.

These actions are stunning.  Breath-taking.

What makes these efforts so contemptible comes from the very pages of civics books which conservatives love to embrace when preaching the need for law order.  But now they are eager to undermine those democratic values.   They are willing to change the rules of the game after being found wanting by the voters of this state.

This attempt to hi-jack the process of governing is an affront to the folks who proudly call themselves Wisconsinites.   While parents know there are times the rules of board games need to be relaxed when small children play there is also the realization that a time comes when all play by the established rules.  It is remarkable that such a simplified way of putting our current mess in context is even required.  But here we are. I simply can not fathom we are this point in our politics!

Citizens of this state must stand their ground and not allow for the childish ways of the ones who lost the elections to now change the rules.  Being hesitant or reticent in the face of such obvious disregard by Republicans concerning the power of the ballot box is not something we can allow.  What has been presented by the Republicans is a challenge we simply can not, and must not, walk away from.

What is being attempted at the statehouse is an affront to the basic ideals of who we are as citizens and voters.

Young Voters Had Tremendous Impact On Wisconsin’s Win For Tony Evers

This is the type of data that shows the power of informed and energetic voting.

According to turnout estimates analyzed by Tufts University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, under-30 voters supported Evers by a 23-point margin on Nov. 6. That’s a significant expansion from 2014, when under-30 voters supported Democratic candidate Mary Burke by just four points more than Republican Gov. Scott Walker. 

Evers defeated Walker by 1.1 percentage points in an election with record voter turnout: about 59 percent of the state’s voting-age population, or more than 2.6 million people, cast ballots. In its early analysis, CIRCLE estimated that 31 percent of eligible young voters (ages 18-29) voted nationwide. In five states with competitive gubernatorial races combined — Wisconsin included — youth turnout was 35 percent this year, according to the CIRCLE estimates.

Yes, It Was A Very Good Mid-Term Election For Democrats

I follow state governments both in terms of policy ideas—-and there are some good ones–and the politics, too. That is why this election was so exciting to me.

Democrats made significant advances on the state level. They took control of seven legislative chambers: the state Senates in Colorado, Maine, and New York; the House in Minnesota; and both chambers in New Hampshire. The state Senate in Connecticut used to be evenly split; it’s now in the hands of Democrats. The GOP lost its supermajorities in the Michigan and Pennsylvania Senates and in both chambers in North Carolina.

Democrats also flipped seven governorships, and now control all three statehouse branches in 13 states as well as the mayor’s office and council in Washington, D.C., compared to seven before the election.

So when you hear Republicans try to counter with their rhetoric, which is mixed with crying jags and gin, you can counter with the facts.

Election Turnout History

The last time midterm election turnout was this high, US senators had just become directly elected & women did not have a universal right to vote.

2018 Mid-Term Elections Made For A Very Big Wave

Republicans will try to down play it.  But in my world facts matter.

Votes are still being counted in several House races. But the AP today has called yet another race–this one in New Jersey, where they have named Democratic candidate Andy Kim the winner in the suburban Philadelphia 3rd Congressional District.  The Republican loser is incumbent Republican Tom MacArthur.

Make that one more pick up for the Democratic Party.

That means, more than a week after Election Day, Democrats have increased their House gains to a net of 34 seats — and, when all the vote is counted, that number may increase to 39.

Make no mistake: That is a very big wave.

Those are the facts.   They should matter to Republicans, too, as there is a lesson to be learned about how the rank and file voters view their leader.  The one they caved in to, the one who they allowed to hijack their party.  The one many of them cultivated years before there was even a Trump announcement.  The GOP played to the racist words about President Obama.

The GOP sowed their seeds over the years.

Reaping day last week proved that smart voters are very good at pulling the dangerous weeds out of the soil.

Tony Evers And Needed Dialogue With Wisconsin

The most telling moment of Election Night in Wisconsin was not when the final votes were tallied in Dane and Milwaukee Counties.  Those ballots showed an overwhelming turnout of opposition to the Republican leadership.  No, the most telling moment was when it became clear that Scott Walker would not make an appearance in front of cameras or his supporters.

There is something graceful, and needed for the entire electorate, when candidates who do not prevail still show an inner resolve to greet campaign workers and thank the voters.  Many of those people had worked so very hard for him over the past many months.  Even if Walker did not feel it was time to concede–based on whatever voting models they were considering–he still should have taken the stage and said thanks.  To stay in private rooms and watch the returns be reported was not what Wisconsinites expected from this politician.

While I was really displeased over the way he handled his loss I also must say it was not surprising.  After all, every action Walker has taken over the years has always been motivated by what best serves him, not the people he was elected to govern.  It would have been a defining moment for Walker to step up to the podium, even at one of his lowest moments in life.  That is what shows true character for a politician.

In the last days of the campaign Walker was not able to honestly address the topic of men, women, and children who are walking northwards through Mexico.  He deflected reporter’s questions by saying it was a federal issue, and not one he would weigh in on.  Forget that elected people should also be leaders and set moral tones.  He knew by answering such a question with compassion it would surely cost him votes from his base.  His internal polls must have shown there was not a lot of wiggle room for candor at that stage in the election.

And is that not a sad thing to ponder?

There is plenty of room in our statewide dialogue to have robust differences about school funding, transportation needs, or the composition of the WEDC Board.  The complexities of these, and a raft of other issues, are readily talked about by members of both parties.  Sometimes the amount of talking issues to death can be most frustrating.  But there also must be another level of conversation state leaders have with citizens.

Every response that is scripted and aimed at not making waves means honesty and authenticity is replaced by a consultant-driven approach to governing. That was very much the case when Walker was unable to respond to the immigrants fleeing violence and upheaval.  He could have responded as a father or man of faith.  Instead, he chose not to respond at all.

I realize one can argue Trump is providing gut-level responses to countless issues.  But clearly, expectations of decency and maturity need to always guide the words of elected officials.  As such, I am trusting Tony Evers can again put into practice a level of conversation with honest appraisal about matters which, as a state, we care about.

Our politics can again be high-toned and honest.  We can again have leadership that shows people a path forward as opposed to always a mere reflection of where we are presently.  We have not had that in our state for many years.

Tony Evers can do that by talking honestly to the people he will now lead.  I am hopeful.

Arizona Vote Count Is Proper, Following Rules

Only because Donald Trump is in a snit over a very unsettling mid-term election does the way Arizona count ballots need to be a news story.  But like with everything else facts show the lighted way.

So here are the facts about counting votes in Arizona.

Facts matter at Caffeinated Politics.

Every election, it takes weeks for Arizona to count its ballots. This cycle the difference is that everyone is paying attention. Note that there is zero evidence of anything unusual going on in the Arizona vote-counting – and no elected Republican officials in the state have cried foul. It is only Trump doing that. Blame the fact that Arizonans like to vote early, by mail. That sounds like a contradiction, but a mailed-in ballot requires more work for Arizona elections officials.

That’s because state law requires the envelope to be sealed and signed, and for elections officials to match each signature to the one on file with the voter’s registration before even opening the envelope. In this election, that’s about 1.7 million individual signatures that had to be confirmed, one-by-one. A total of about 2.3 million votes were cast in Arizona.

The problem comes in the final days when the ballots flood election offices. Voters can also drop off sealed mail ballots on Election Day, adding to the pile. Those ballots can’t be counted that day because the elections office is busy setting up and administering in-person voting.