Wisconsin Embarrassed Over Senator Ron Johnson’s Election Stealing Plot

In 1787 Ben Franklin was leaving Independence Hall upon the conclusion of work at the Constitutional Convention when someone asked what had resulted from the months of work.

History records Franklin responding with “A republic, if you can keep it.”

That quip from what we all most certainly learned in our middle school years came to mind when hearing that Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson sought an avenue to undermine our electoral process and endanger our republic.

A top aide to Sen. Ron Johnson attempted to arrange a handoff of false, pro-Trump electors from the senator to Mike Pence just minutes before the then-vice president began to count electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2021.

The aide, Sean Riley, told Pence’s legislative director Chris Hodgson that Johnson wanted to hand Pence lists of the fake electors from Michigan and Wisconsin for Pence to introduce during the counting of electoral votes that certified Joe Biden’s win. The attempt was revealed in text messages obtained by the Jan. 6 select committee during its fourth public hearing on Tuesday.

As Huffington Post strongly inferred in their reporting there is no way to not hold your nose when reading what was attempted when Donald Trump used every means possible to deny Joe Biden his duly elected office.

Trump’s team asked supporters to falsely claim that they were the electors who represented the states’ voters ― and to sign phony slates purportedly delivering Electoral College votes to Trump. The strategy sought to prevent Pence’s certification of the real Electoral College result on Jan. 6, 2021.

During its third hearing, the House committee investigating Trump supporters’ attack on the U.S. Capitol that day unveiled the text messages between Riley and Hodgson and an additional message from a top Republican official.

In a Jan. 4 text, Wisconsin Republican Party Executive Director Mark Jefferson wrote: “Freaking trump idiots want someone to fly original elector papers to the senate President.”

The revelation that Johnson tried to give Pence false ballots creates a clear link between the senator and the campaign to overturn the 2020 election. And it underscores the range of public and private ways that prominent Republicans supported Trump’s bid to defy voters and hold on to power while fueling the outrage that drove the assault on the Capitol.

Trump was rejecting the vote counts and also impugning the integrity of the process that our nation relies on for the peaceful transfer of power. Those actions were not only outlandish, but exceedingly un-democratic, and dangerous.

Johnson was aiding and abetting that absurd behavior by also working to subvert an election and seeking to undermine faith in the electoral process.

Throughout life many of us have political opinions, some of them strongly held. As history proves repeatedly such varying views and perspectives are what democracy requires to grow and strengthen. But what has been added in a larger dose to that mix over the past several years is out-and-out liars and demagogues in elected offices.

The platforms they are able to act from allowing for their distorted and harmful rhetoric to reach more people; some being unable to reason that everything a failed president or a headline-seeking senator says may not be true.

Johnson’s dangerous actions and continuing themes to the Republican base, which has proven to be easily deluded, have aided in creating a climate where a final and decisive outcome to the 2020 election in the minds of the GOP base is not possible. That is tremendously dangerous for our nation going forward.

To attempt at undermining a legally, and unambiguous victory for the winner of the election, is THY most damaging action of Trump’s term in office. It is the darkest skid mark of his presidency.

I understand that so much has occurred in the nation since summer 2015, but even so, try to take a step back and consider the audacity that was pointed out in the Jan. 6 hearing today. A sitting senator went out of his way to step on the rule of law, our political institutions, and the election processes of our nation.

To have the nation learn that a Wisconsin senator was involved in a plot that even James Patterson could not concoct with a straight face is more than we should have to endure. I am tired of being embarrassed repeatedly by the actions and words of Ron Johnson. I strongly suspect many of my fellow state residents concur.

The Jan. 6th House Committee is proving what happens when using the poorly informed citizenry for hyper-partisan purposes. The dagger that was placed at the heart of our republic was real and remains a continuing threat. That is why I remain so concerned about the overt messaging of continued lies and the undermining of our institutions which has become a theme among national Republicans.

The attempted subversion of our electoral system to meet Trump’s own twisted and deranged personal ends is precisely what dictators do when the voters say ENOUGH! This is what autocrats do when they feel they have nowhere to hide in the light of day or are unable to play by the rules and laws of normal society.

We do not, however, expect a Wisconsin senator to be a part of such diabolic plots. We simply must have both Wisconsin senators mindful of Franklin’s words from the 18th century.

One-Time Assistant To Sen. Bill Proxmire, Columnist Mark Shields Dead At 85

There was no way not to love the look of Mark Shields, who seemed to have arrived for a television appearance donning his coat and finishing with his tie just as the camera eye blinked for the show to start. He looked very much the part of a newspaper columnist who had too many thoughts rushing about in his head to be concerned if his attire was perfectly adjusted.

When he started to opine on the issues of the day in politics, or the personalities that made for the latest headlines, whatever rumpled look he might have brought to the set was forgotten as his perspective and institutional memory held the audience at attention.

With that being said it is clear how I felt about Mark Shields who died at the age of 85 this weekend. I thought him not only a bright writer and commentator on our times but also fitting that image of an intrepid newspaper columnist and witty conversationalist who would be a perfect dinner guest.

His columns were a must-read for the way he blended current themes within the larger context of how our nation could be and should be. His political views were sharp and clear-eyed. He had, after all, worked in the political cauldron to see the process of politics up close.

His first job in the world of politics was in the office of Wisconsin Senator Bill Proxmire, where he had a desk as a legislative assistant. He branched out as a consultant for the Robert Kennedy presidential campaign, and later among other contenders for a variety of offices.

What he was not able to do with success as a political operative he made up for with a pithy knack for writing columns with verve and style and analyzing politics on television shows such as PBS’ NewsHour.

As we know with each turn Shields knew humor was the best way to connect facts with persuasion concerning the events under discussion.

Of President Donald J. Trump, Mr. Shields said dismissively that “the toughest thing he’s ever done was to ask Republicans to vote for a tax cut.” The House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy was “an invertebrate”; Senator Lindsey Graham made Tonto, the Lone Ranger’s loyal sidekick, “look like an independent spirit.” In both major parties, he said, too many are afflicted with “the Rolex gene” — making them money-hungry caterers to the wealthy.

Asked in a 2013 C-SPAN interview which presidents he admired, he cited Gerald R. Ford, a Republican who took office in 1974 in the wake of the Watergate scandal. Ford, he said, was “the most emotionally healthy.”

“Not that the others were basket cases,” he said, but “they get that bug, and as the late and very great Mo Udall, who sought that office, once put it, the only known cure for the presidential virus is embalming fluid.”

With the passing of Shields, we have lost not only someone who was bright and talented but also a link to the times when those in government actually wanted to make the trains run on time. A time when, though politics was frothy, it was not all cut and burn and curse your opponents with every term imaginable.

I know people from all points on the political compass feel a loss this weekend. But we also know it was a joy to have had him being part of our political culture.

Godspeed, Mark.

Inflation Is A Problem, But Not Caused By White House

Anytime there are economic pains felt across the nation the attempt to pin the blame on the occupant of the White House is the first action taken by the party out of power. Politically, I totally understand that phenomenon. Except in a few cases, however, that is not a logical way to view the factors that move the economy.

One instance of cause and effect between a president being reckless and the economic downturn which followed was in the 19th century. In 1832, Andrew Jackson ordered the withdrawal of federal government funds from the Bank of the United States, an institution he railed about and carped on endlessly. His actions are noted for what resulted during the Panic of 1837.

The consequences of the international implosion of so many aspects of numerous economies due to the pandemic were always going to be followed by some degree of inflation. Just based on the struggle to align all the parts of the supply and demand sectors would doubtless prove problematic. Regardless of who ruled in China, Germany, or Washington.

In the newspaper today a few solid paragraphs written by Josh Boak of Associated Press put some logic to the larger issue of inflation angst.

Consumers account for most U.S. economic activity, meaning they steer much of what happens with their collective choices. Their role tends to get overlooked in political speeches, which generally reduce the economy to talk about jobs, factories and other forms of production. Biden has gone so far as to say that his policies to promote port upgrades and domestic manufacturing will lower costs by improving production, a long-term fix to an immediate problem that can be reduced, simply, to demand exceeding supply.

“Fundamentally, the problem right now is the opposite of stagflation — it’s regular inflation driven by an economy operating at or even above its potential, with consumer demand outstripping the capacity of the economy,” Stevenson said. “I’m hoping that people stop digging into their savings and cut spending a little — not enough to slow the economy, but enough to slow the price increases.”

Stevenson also acknowledged that gas prices in particular might be driving the broader dissatisfaction, such that overall inflation could fall and do little to calm public anxieties so long as prices at the pump are high.

“Cars seem to be important to people’s sense of control and high gas prices for some might feel like losing your ability to just hop in your car and go where you want,” she said.

Despite the spike in prices, consumer spending increased faster than inflation during the first four months of this year. Whether consumers can maintain such robust spending will largely determine how the economy fares in the coming months.

I do not expect anything other than the continued political heat about inflation right through the midterm elections. Yes, if the GOP were in power the Democratic pols would be singing the tune the GOP now is using in races nationwide. None of that is shocking.

But it does underscore what I preach with frequency. Along with civics and history, our nation needs more time spent on economics education, too.

Religious Dialogue Needed During Political Bombast, International Bloodshed

This weekend the world’s major faiths observed sacred and meaningful holidays. Passover, Easter, and Ramadan are all underway and there are many faithful people worldwide who undertake certain rites and services to meet their spiritual needs. That is all to be much applauded.

At the same time as the world seemingly slows a bit and many people are more contemplative and inner-seeking the chaos and carnage continues, either in violent outbursts or verbal bombast.

Israeli forces carried out a widespread campaign of raids into towns and cities across the West Bank, in a response to a wave of recent Palestinian attacks inside Israel that have killed 14 people. The Israeli authorities then also imposed temporary economic sanctions.

A mass shooting Saturday at a busy shopping mall in South Carolina’s capital on Saturday left 14 people injured. The mall was filled with kids and others on this holiday weekend.

In Ukraine, bombs fell, families continue to flee, and bodies are buried wherever the ground space can be found nearby to lower a loved one down into the earth.

In Ohio, Republican senate candidate Josh Mandel continued his primary campaign with an agenda of division against those who aren’t white, patriarchal, and Christian.

I bring this all to the fore as it is Easter Sunday in our home, a day of hope. For many years Sunday was also the day when Tim Russert would hold forth on Meet The Press. Many an Easter weekend I recall Russert having a special look at faith in the nation and how it intersected with all the headlines of the day.

I looked up one of those transcripts online and wish to take you back to Sunday, March 27, 2005.

(Videotape, January 20, 1961, inaugural address):

PRES. JOHN F. KENNEDY:  Let us go forth to lead the land that we love, asking his blessing and his help, but knowing that here on Earth, God’s work must truly be our own.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  “Here on Earth, God’s work must truly be our own,” Father. That’s politics and religion together in a very clearly stated way.

REV. DRINAN:  And I think that it–we all agree with that.  The problem is when some religions say that you have to impose in the law our particular beliefs.  Certain fundamentalists think that gays should be discriminated against, and that’s not in the common tradition.  There’s a common core of moral and religious beliefs, and frankly, we are in total violation of that. We are supposed to be good to the poor; we have more poor children in America than in any other industrialized nation.  We’re supposed to love prisoners and help them; we have 2.1 million people in prison, the largest of any country of the Earth.  We also allow eleven children to be killed by guns every day.  All of the religions are opposed to that.  That’s violence.  Why don’t we organize on that?

MR. RUSSERT:  What’s the answer?

REV. DRINAN:  The answer is that there is a core, as President Kennedy said, and that we had that core when we finally abolished abolition and segregation. We had that core when finally we entered the war in Vietnam.  We had that core when we passed the Americans With Disabilities Act, the best law for the disabled in the whole world.  That core is there, and you have to look back and say that President Roosevelt orchestrated it and LBJ was fantastic getting through the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.  That’s the type of religious unity that exists if we can pull it together.

Many people will observe the surface traditions and customs around the world for the holidays of which they are a part, but the larger conversations, of the type Russert engaged in and we need to hear, are far less a part of our dialogue. That lack of connection around the world between what we profess to be, and what we do, or what governments do in our name, remains a great gulf.

And so it goes.

Whose Point Was Scott Walker Making At UW-Madison’s Grainger Hall?

SOPHIA SCOLMAN/The Badger Herald

It is a sad state of affairs when we have come to expect that certain politicians will say just about anything to somehow remain, at least in their minds, relevant. While we know that it is hard for aging rock stars and movie icons to gracefully walk off the stage when the voice goes and the fire in the belly dims, we also know how hard it is for the least impressive former elected officials to gracefully exit stage right.

Such as with Scott Walker, former governor of Wisconsin.

For all the needless column inches about whether conservative voices are heard on university campuses in the state comes news that Walker spoke this month at UW-Madison’s Grainger Hall. And to underscore that the messages from the right are not squelched we even have news stories about what was said while they were on campus.

For instance, we know that Walker labeled UW-Madison, the flagship school in the state, as a place of Marxist indoctrination. He added that when COVID-19 caused the cancelation of in-person learning it slowed the spread of communism.

“Some might say going to college here at Madison tells you a lot about Marxism,” Walker said. “I’ve often said during COVID when we shut down colleges and universities, we did more to stop the spread of communism than prevent the spread of COVID along the way because of a bunch of the influences. Not just because of the faculty and staff, but oftentimes from fellow students and bad actors.”

But what struck me the most was what Walker stated in an interview about how people on campus are “more left-leaning than the ones you see sort out in the general population here in Wisconsin and across the nation”.

It should not come as a surprise to Walker, or any other conservative who likes to beat up on higher education, that most higher-educated Americans have grown increasingly liberal over the last couple of decades. To connect all the dots it has long been demonstrated in polling data that education does make a person more liberal. More focused reading and making contact with people around the world can not but aid in making for far more cosmopolitan citizens, where social diversity is the norm. (So of course they will be, as Walker notes in his own way, different than the ones who never had such an educational background.) With many years of research to back up the findings, it is clear that from climate change to issues of tolerance those with higher education see the world in more enlightened ways.

Then, given where educated people live and work, along with their combined political muscle, it appears that they are ‘ganging up’ on conservatives. This is why there is so much rhetoric from Republicans about ‘elite professors’ and a lack of conservative speakers on campuses. Conversely, it needs to be noted rural conservatives have embraced the exact opposite of the higher-education-related pattern of liberals.

So one does have to wonder what elevated discourse Walker thought he brought to Grainger, and more importantly if he thought he worked to refute why many students smirk over those who buy into such conservative ideologies? If Walker was hoping to achieve anything other than a headline for himself, he failed.

And I find that truly a bad outcome.

I say that because conservative voices are absolutely needed to be heard on college campuses. If I could have brought Congressman Jack Kemp, as an example to UW-Madison, I would have done so. His enterprise zones idea was solid thinking and needed more light given to it. I was thrilled–truly– when Robert Novak was on campus and I had the chance to slowly walk alongside him due to his recovery from a hip operation–and talk about his way of writing a column.

People of substance and ideas from the right require a conversation and intelligent discussion whereas the rhetorically driven create the very type of harsh atmosphere which makes it harder for the serious-minded to get an invite.

So what were the intentions of Scott Walker when he stepped in front of his recent audience?

And so it goes.

What About Increasing Crime In Red States, Counties?

If you turned into the Masters Tournament during the first three days of play it was possible to believe that only Tiger Woods was playing golf. Fawning over a player took new heights with every step taken made out to be akin to stepping onto the moon.

And if you happen to be following the news about crime nationwide you might believe that increases in a range of illegal behavior are taking place in only blue states and blue counties. Republicans are hot on the rhetoric about crime and how it is coming your way due to liberals. But crime statistics are up and running wild in Trump country, too, where conservatives hold the power of state governments.

For example, Jacksonville, a city with a Republican mayor, had 128 more murders in 2020 than San Francisco, a city with a Democrat mayor, despite their comparable populations. In fact, the homicide rate in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco was half that of House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy’s Bakersfield, a city with a Republican mayor that overwhelmingly voted for Trump. Yet there is barely a whisper, let alone an outcry, over the stunning levels of murders in these and other places.

We found that murder rates are, on average, 40% higher in the 25 states Donald Trump won in the last presidential election compared to those that voted for Joe Biden. In addition, murder rates in many of these red states dwarf those in blue states like New York, California, and Massachusetts. And finally, many of the states with the worst murder rates—like Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama, South Carolina, and Arkansas—are ones that few would describe as urban. Only 2 of America’s top 100 cities in population are located in these high murder rate states. And not a single one of the top 10 murder states registers in the top 15 for population density.

No one wants crime to increase and there is no joy to be found in stats that show red states are facing the same dilemma as elsewhere in the country. But to continually read and hear midterm electioneering from the GOP about murder rates and efforts at police defunding—which was modest in the few larger cities where such efforts were entertained–undercuts the larger need to understand exactly why there are increases in homicides. In both blue and red states and counties.

I am no expert on the criminal mind but think the level of abusive behavior that was unleashed in the past two years on local roads with excessive speeds, running lights, and disregard for others is a small part of the larger narrative about crime. I have considered that some of the nitwits on Madison streets feel that the only place they have any power is behind the wheel. So they act out.

The pandemic and economic angst are surely no reason to commit a murder, yet we know that sociologists and those schooled in criminal psychology can demonstrate how fluctuations in crime rates occur due to such large events.

Pushing fear concerning crime, which is at the heart of congressional Republican efforts to take back the house, is, of course, par for the course. Which segues this post back to the beginning.

Making white voters in suburbs and rural areas feel like the crime wave is taking over the nation and it is all due to the undermining of police is not only cheap politics but lacks the needed concern to address what is really at the cause of the increases. If that effort is all partisan-based, then the GOP is doing a fine job.

If, however, we are intent on better understanding the upswing in crime and truly wishing to impede it from continuing we need to have a fact-based conversation with others than just the GOP base.

And so it goes.

Our Politics Smolder, Democracy Suffers

There is much to be alarmed about when reading the newspapers from day-to-day. Eastern Europe is ablaze, war crimes mount, and a madman is still alive in Moscow. But closer to home we have issues that tear at the fabric of our democracy, with the latest example coming from Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.

This week he stated Republicans would not have held hearings on Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court if they held a majority in the Senate.

“If we get back the Senate, and we’re in charge of this body, and there’s judicial openings, we will talk to our colleagues on the other side,” Graham said at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for Jackson’s nomination. “But if we were in charge, she would not have been before this committee.”

Such is our politics in 2022. As a decades-long politico, I am embarrassed about the condition in which we now find ourselves. We can track the history of how we arrived at this place, and while there is plenty of specifics that can be placed on each party, that does not take away the fact that the above statement from Graham was reprehensible.

By the end of this week, the Senate could very well confirm the first Black woman to the Supreme Court. That is a significant stride for a nation that long had only white men holding those seats. Rather than honoring that moment or understanding a president has the right to his appointments, barring some egregious or illegal behavior on the part of the nominee, we instead are witnessing a very low moment in our politics.

(For the record, I have still not figured out what took place upon the death of Senator John McCain, a long-time friend of the South Carolina Senator, which unleashed a continual series of outrageous comments and behavior.)

I have long enjoyed the court nominees over the decades facing the Judiciary Committee and having views shared concerning how the law should be reasoned, probing into if and how the Constitution was a living document, and how precedent weighs into guiding authority for deciding subsequent cases. But the hearings for Ketanji Brown Jackson were not what the public deserved, as they were not able to learn anything of substance over the four days.

What we were presented with, all too often, was base low-ball behavior.

I get it that the minority wants to be anything other than the minority. I get it that political points need to scored at some level, but the disrespectful questions, and then in some cases, the lack of a Republican listening to Jackson’s full response showcased what is currently wrong with our politics.

Not for the first time does this blog desire our conversations with each other to be more elevated. This blog has called out Madison radio personalities for low-brow on-air behavior, a president for cursing in public, and now the display our nation witnessed in the Judiciary Committee.

What strikes me, and I suspect a wide swath of the nation when it comes to Senate votes for court nominees, is the bipartisan nature we once enjoyed when placing new people on the bench. Here’s how our politics looked with those votes for court nominees going back to Antonin Scalia’s confirmation in 1986.

TAKE NOTE: Scalia had been the most celebrated justice on the right. He got 98 votes in his 1986 confirmation. The most celebrated justice on the left, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, got 96 votes in 1993.

What Graham said about the future of our political process in Washington is truly disturbing. How many judges nominated by President Biden will then-Majority Leader McConnell allow to be confirmed in a GOP majority chamber? Well, apparently the answer is zero. And that is simply destructive to democracy.

Our Founding Fathers envisioned several examples of possible dangerous behavior to democracy and placed solutions to them within the Constitution. But they simply could not have fathomed the degree of partisanship currently running through the Republican Party. Partisanship so deep and corrosive it would harm the nation itself.

We really do need to find some more ‘John McCains’ within the Republican Party to keep the ‘Lindsey Grahams’ tethered to democracy. Our nation demands it.

And so it goes.

‘Don’t Say Gay’ Law: Laura Ingraham Sounds Like Frank Shakespeare From 1968 Nixon Campaign

It continually amuses me, on the one hand, how Republicans champion free enterprise, applauds the entrepreneurial spirit, and advocate for fewer regulations on capitalism, but then on the other hand bore down like bullies when a company exerts its opinions.

The latest example of this odd duality can be seen and heard on FOX News regarding Disney and the culture war designed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to propel his name among the base of the Republican Party.

The issue, is, of course, the Parental Rights in Education law, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law. Taking effect July 1, the law prohibits all classroom discussion of sexual orientation in grades K-3 and enables parents to sue teachers over the issue.

Talk about a slap to the gay and transgender population in Flordia in the 21st century.

In response, Robert Iger, the former CEO of Disney, spoke out on the issue and made it most clear that this is simply about “right and wrong.” Earlier he had not minced words when writing that this law would “put vulnerable, young LGBTQ people in jeopardy.”

Fox News, it will not surprise anyone, has claimed Disney is ‘grooming’ and ‘sexualizing children’ in order to push a ‘progressive LGBT agenda.’

Recall many years ago the joke that one received a toaster oven for each new gay recruit! I believe that humor started on the Ellen television show. As such, I can see the semi loads of those kitchen gadgets arriving in the theme park as I write.

The fuming from conservatives, however, reached the lowest depths on that network when there came a warning from Laura Ingraham, the easily irritated scold.

“When Republicans get back into power, Apple and Disney have to understand one thing: Everything will be on the table, your copyright/trademark protection, your special status in certain states, and even your corporate structure itself.”

Well, that sure is a grand definition of the Republican Party heading into the mid-terms. A band of vendetta-crazed legislators who really are not interested in the freedom for businesses to conduct their own affairs, or lower regulations upon them.

‘Do my bidding or else’!

This leads me to the dark example from the 1968 presidential election when Frank Shakespeare, a prime mover and shaper of the image of Richard Nixon, who after 18 years at CBS, had most troubling thoughts, too. From The $elling Of The President by Joe McGinniss, page 60.

McGinniss at the time was a 26-year-old former Philadelphia Inquirer reporter who functioned as part of the Nixon campaign team. What he witnessed in that campaign and the strategy for winning national support was illuminating at the time his book was published.

How Nixon was so able to attract people into his orbit with open desires for abusing power is a topic for another post.

For now, the continuing attempt by the right to make gay people dangerous or somehow apart from morality is stunning, given the number of gay people in conservative families. In 2021 it would be laughable, if it were not so appalling, to know that Desantis and Fox think that children are somehow ‘groomed’ into sexual identity. That is patently absurd.

I know it takes time for everyone in society to operate from the same page. From women wearing pants, no restrictions on where to sit on a bus, or what gender one can marry, one thing is abundantly clear.

Arcing towards greater tolerance is the correct path to be taking.

Disney is correct on that score.

And so it goes.