Kevin Nicholson Enters Wisconsin Governor’s Race, With Touch Of Bi-Partisanship

Last week this liberal blogger who lives on the Madison isthmus urged very conservative Kevin Nicholson to splash into the Republican race for governor. I did so after a top state Republican told the business owner to ‘stay in his lane’ and forgo entering the campaign.

The words made publically by Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos were not the most well-crafted by one who aims to show his skills in the political arena.

“If Kevin Nicholson is listening — you need to not run for governor,” Vos said during an interview at a Wednesday event hosted by Wispolitics.com in downtown Madison. 

I found those words so demeaning towards Nicholson that I had actual empathy for a politician that I could never vote for or support in any meaningful way other than urging him to run.

I suspect everyone clearly understands how it would feel to be told by another person within your profession or industry to just stay low and do not get any big ideas. Stay at the kid’s table and just be content with where you are now.

Regardless of which political party one calls home, there was a degree of understanding across Wisconsin about how Nicholson felt being instructed by the Speaker to stem any notion of seeking the Republican nomination for governor this August.

Nicholson has created a conservative set of beliefs for his political appeal and proved in his bid for the Senate nomination not to shy away from being an aggressive contender. Though he did not prevail there was no doubt he knows how to force issues and swing political rhetoric. His punches over the years at political insiders and leaders have landed on receptive ears within the Republican Party. These days that accepting audience is larger than ever.

On Thursday, Nicholson threw his hat into the ring as a “conservative outsider,” and will use it as a line of attack on his opponents who wished to restrain his voice in the campaign and limit the choices on the ballot for voters come August. Without a doubt, this campaign will create not only an expensive contest worthy of headlines but also a real race for the heart and soul of Wisconsin Republicans.

There is no way to discern if Vos honestly believes that former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch is the best candidate for the November election or would prove to be an effective governor if elected. It seems more probable that conversations within the power circles over the recent months centered on how not to fracture the base and unwind the spool of thread they consider all that is required to defeat Tony Evers this fall.

But Nicholson felt that conversation about policy and the election ran far short of what is needed to win and govern. And he is rightly smarting over the words and tone from Vos.

While we all can differ about politics I suspect across the state today there is a ‘good for you’ feeling among residents about Nicholson entering the race.

Is this what bipartisanship feels like?

And so it goes.

Did Robin Vos Give Kevin Nicholson A Political Gift?

I suspect everyone clearly understands how it would feel to be told by another person within your profession or industry to just stay low and do not get any big ideas. Stay at the kid’s table and just be content with where you are now.

I bet that regardless of which political party one calls home there was a degree of understanding across Wisconsin about how Kevin Nicholson felt being instructed by the Assembly Speaker to stem any notion of seeking the Republican nomination for governor this August.

What has generated some drama within the GOP ranks is the comment made this week by Speaker Robin Vos.

“If Kevin Nicholson is listening — you need to not run for governor,” Vos said during an interview at a Wednesday event hosted by Wispolitics.com in downtown Madison. 

In other words, stay in your lane.

Mincing no words the would-be candidate offered a pithy reply.

“Thanks, @repvos, for the political advice,” Nicholson tweeted. “Our elections are a mess, law & order is eroding, schools are failing. How about you focus on doing your job?”

Nicholson has created a conservative set of beliefs for his political appeal and proved in his bid for the Senate nomination not to shy away from being an aggressive contender. His rhetorical punches over the years at political insiders and leaders have landed on receptive ears within the Republican Party. These days that accepting audience is larger than ever.

So one has to ask, then, did the Speaker give Waukesha County business owner and Marine veteran a leg up for entering the race for governor? Does Nicholson now have a line of attack handed to him about how Madison political powerhouses wish to restrain the voice and power of the Republican primary voter by limiting their choices on the ballot?

There is no way to discern if Vos honestly believes that former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch is the best candidate for the November election or would prove to be an effective governor if elected. It seems more probable that conversations within the power circles are how not to fracture the base and unwind the spool of thread they consider all that is required to defeat Tony Evers this fall.

But Nicholson surely feels that the current conversation about policy and the election runs short of what is needed to win and govern. And he is rightly simmering about being instructed in public about what he should do regarding his political ambitions.

As a liberal Democrat, I differ from most positions taken by Nicholson. But to be most candid I would relish his standing up and stating he makes his own decisions and as such throws his hat into the race for governor.

Wisconsinites of all political stripes could respect that action.

And so it goes.

Staff Member For Wisconsin Republican Representative Timothy Ramthun Should Have Acted Honestly

My eye always hits the upper fold of any newspaper to see what lands in the best location for the edition. Friday my scan of the Wisconsin State Journal met with concern about a staffer at the state assembly who appears to be in the middle of a political fight.

Even lost the job over the matter.

And yet the staffer is part of the reason for the mess.

So should we feel any sense of concern about the staffer losing a job when discipline was handed down to the lawmaker?

The episode has at its genesis yet another conservative Republican who has ginned up lies and conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos on Thursday disciplined a lawmaker who falsely claimed that former President Donald Trump won the battleground state and that he wanted to award the state’s electoral votes to him, even though that is not possible.

Vos, R-Rochester, removed the lone staff member assigned to Rep. Timothy Ramthun, R-Campbellsport, but it appears the reason was not his comments about who won the election. The move was first reported by WisPolitics.com and confirmed Thursday by Vos’ office.

The move to discipline Ramthun, who has vocally advocated election conspiracy theories, came after he falsely accused Vos of signing a deal with attorneys for former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to authorize absentee ballot drop boxes, Vos’ office said.

The reason I weigh into this issue is that when I was an Administrative Assistant to Representative Lary Swoboda the exact opposite happened in our office. I know that political turf wars between a speaker and a legislator can be spirited and if both want to play tough it can have rugged outcomes as Ramthun and this staffer now fully grasp.

Swoboda, however, was having a problem with an issue that then-Speaker Tom Loftus wanted to be resolved. So Loftus asked the Luxemburg Democrat what he wanted and it was then our office staff expanded from two employees to three. And we still had a floater secretary who often was found in our offices, too.

The power of the Speaker can be immense. But the spiny nature of a legislator can also be persuasive.

But with the desk and phone within the confines of a legislator’s office, a staffer also must carry the responsibilities of acting in concert with the standards the citizenry expects. Having worked for a decade in the statehouse I fully know the obligations that come with the paycheck.

The news story, therefore, is troubling as it relates to how Ramthun’s staffer misused the position to lie and fabricate and spin and twist and undermine the election results from 20220.

The entire Republican Assembly leadership team issued a statement backing the decision to discipline Ramthun, saying he and his staffer were spreading lies. Their statement said Ramthun falsely alleged that Vos was working with Clinton’s attorney and that Republicans could award the state’s electoral college votes to Trump.

No matter how much Rep. Ramthun and his staffer believe what they are saying is true, it does not make it so,” the GOP leaders said. “Sending out communications full of lies is doing disservice to all voters.”

Let me conclude this post by demonstrating how sincerely held an upright stance is needed when being a legislative staffer.

After work one evening my car was struck in the front end by another driver. Regaling the story the next day in the office Swoboda pulled me aside and wanted to know if I had been drinking before the accident. While I had been out with friends shooting darts and enjoying snacks at a bar I had not consumed alcohol.

But Lary pressed the point, and rightly so, that any such actions even when outside the office, do impact the image of the office. I absolutely agreed. Then and now. It does matter ‘back home’ where constituents desire certain standards of behavior from the ones they elect to serve in office.

That would have been true with drunk driving and is also certainly true when attempting to spin lies about stolen elections.

That all applies equally to a legislator, too.

Right, Timothy?

And so it goes.

Can Republican Party Continue To Be A Governing Party?

Because it is true that our nation requires two highly functioning and rational political parties, it is, therefore, incumbent capable and adroit people gather with other like-minded people and consider how to salvage the Republican Party.

There are times to wrestle with policy differences and while there are significant numbers of them between the two major players in American politics, they are not the reason for this post. Rather it is necessary to grasp the fact there is a crisis eating at the very foundation of our democracy and the political institutions that have guided this nation from the start.

Charlie Sykes, who is known in Wisconsin as a true conservative–one of those reliable ones without an ever-changing lodestar–wrote a pithy snapshot article of where the modern-day GOP now finds itself. With Donald Trump holding a rally this past weekend Sykes had plenty of material to use for his message.

You could see the GOP future in the whole show: a rally that featured all the misfit toys embraced by the Once and Future God King. The My Pillow Guy, Mike Lindell, was there, and treated like a rock star rather than a mental patient off his meds. Indeed, Trump’s rally featured the whole pantheon of deplorability; Rep. Andy Biggs and Rep. Paul Gosar were there, along with the state’s batty party chair, Kelli Ward.”

“Even as he lashed out at Arizona Governor Doug Ducey — a ‘terrible representative of your state’ — Trump embraced State Senator Wendy Rogers, one of the wooliest conspiracy theorists extant in American politics. And that’s really saying something.”

“And, of course there was the Trump-backed candidate for governor, Kari Lake, who seems to have a fetish for jailing people she doesn’t like.”

We have seen over and over a trend line that can not be escaped. Almost every Republican in Congress has remained tightly loyal to Trump, despite ongoing controversies that have produced, and correctly so, significant criticism. But turn into the Op-Ed pages and you will find many former Republican lawmakers along with high-profile conservatives (like Sykes and Joe Scarborough) making strident cases why Trump is unfit to lead the party, and the future of sound governing requires a national party course correction.

The base of the Republican Party has been so indoctrinated with falsehoods and conspiracy theories that current elected members seem unable to take a different path, in fear of alienating that base and losing their seat. But unless the echo chamber is muted, and a dialogue of facts and reason can be again planted in the party the dangers to the nation continues.

Over the decades of my life, the Republican Party knew the value of international alliances, free trade, and a foreign policy that was shaped by our interests and not personalities. Today one has to ask, in light of Trump and his supplanting personal needs over the whole of the party exactly what now defines the GOP? What precisely are their beliefs in 2022 and going forward to another presidential season?

I recall when the GOP was about ideas. Today the anger and resentments of many in the base present more of the reason to be a member of the party rather than the work required of actually governing. Such as when former Congressman Jack Kemp wanted to empower inner-city neighborhoods with jobs. Or Senator Dick Lugar who worked on foreign policy with long-term considerations at where our nation needed to be a quarter of a century away.

Governing is tough work in the best of times, but what is always best for the nation as a whole, is to have two political parties pulling legislation up the hill together. There will be changes in the load being carried and differences in the pace taken, but citizens respond to such combined efforts at doing the nation’s work. The absolute dysfunction of one major party, however, with conspiracy theories being sold, is not something a governing democracy can endure.

And so it goes.

What a Difference Between British and American Conservatives

Notice the stark difference between Tories owning up to Boris Johnson and the GOP still fawning over Donald Trump?

It was refreshing to hear the news throughout the day from the BBC as it reported on the much-anticipated downfall of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. What is making this more interesting from this side of ‘the pond’ is how remarkably different conservatives operate in the two nations.

In May 2020, the British folks were tightly drawn into their homes and ordered to conduct themselves in such a way as to minimize the spread of COVID 19. The pandemic was striking hard and causing death and economic casualties alike.

But at the same time, Downing Street officials were holding a drinking and jolly ole get-together in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s walled garden. The messed-haired leader attended for 25 minutes.

The Tories are rightly upset and some are now calling for the ouster of Johnson. His hold on power is slipping and no one will be surprised if he falls sooner than later.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump staged an insurrection and worked to undermine a smooth transition to the newly duly elected president and the Republican Party can not stoop any lower when licking the autocrat’s shoes.

Conservatives in the United States have proven they will go to great lengths to deny the undermining of democracy caused by Trump. They further erode confidence in our national institutions with their continued refusal to do anything that will not curry favor with the most outlandish and most base members of their party.

It is time for the Republican Party to turn its attention to their brethren in Britain for lessons on how to act in the face of a national crisis of confidence.

And so it goes.

Fox ‘News’ Nothing More Than Extension of Right-Wing Republican Party

Apart from Fox ‘News’ not really being a news network with actual journalistic standards or that a large segment of the aging white men of the nation turn into the network as it confirms their biases about our diversifying society, comes the latest evidence that demonstrates the network is nothing more than a political arm of the Republican Party. The right-wing of the once GOP.

I know my readers are shocked. “I am shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here.”

But apart from the obvious understanding that FOX is nothing more than a partisan operation comes the additional weight as to how the most illogical, and way outside the ballpark thinking from some of the hosts on that network, had access to the most important officeholder in the world.

Stephanie Grisham, former press secretary to Donald Trump, remembers the challenges that came from so many Fox News hosts having the direct number to reach Trump in the White House residence.

“There were times the president would come down the next morning and say, ‘Well, Sean thinks we should do this,’ or, ‘Judge Jeanine thinks we should do this,’ ” said Grisham, referring to Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro, both of whom host prime-time Fox News shows.

Grisham said West Wing staffers would simply roll their eyes in frustration as they scrambled to respond to the influence of the network’s hosts, who weighed in on everything from personnel to messaging strategy.

Can you imagine Dwight Eisenhower or Harry Truman taking such calls or allowing truly deranged personalities to think, even for the length of a phone conversation, that they had any input or pull within the power structure of the White House?

I admit to being ‘old-school’ about the standards reporters and news operations should employ. And I have been over the many years a critic of the citizenry when it comes to their news consumption capabilities. We know that the Founders desired a nation of educated and informed citizens, knowing such a base was essential for the very survival of a democracy.

History shows that around 90% of whites in colonial America were literate by the early 18th century. We also know there was a bevy of newspapers and pamphlets that were not only published but widely read.

Consider the following and frame it within the context of white men now slumped back into the sofa watching a continuous conservative loop of misinformation on Fox News. When they might have last read a book goes back to the year they graduated from high school.

In 1791, Madison remarked that Congress had an obligation to improve the “circulation of newspapers through the entire body of the people”. He helped champion the Post Office Act of 1792. The act included a provision for the delivery of newspapers by the Post Office at extremely low rates for delivery of newspapers. For the century following the passage of the Post Office Act, newspapers often accounted for more than 95% of the weight of mail transported by the post office, but never made up for more than 15% of the revenue. The result of this large indirect subsidy of the fledgling industry was enormous. In 1790, before the passage of the act there was less than one newspaper produced for every 5 citizens. By 1840 there were almost three papers printed per person.

Too many Americans in the 21st century gave up reading a newspaper and slipped further into intellectual decay by believing Fox is a newsgathering operation. It is not. Real reporters and journalists have been replaced by echo chambers of far-right lingo that further prove Fox is not in any way a legitimate news-gathering and reporting operation. The only purpose of the network over the past six years is to play to the absurdities of the Donald Trump base.

News reports over the past few weeks show the tight bonds and familiarity between Fox News hosts and the Trump White House. The fact that Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham were even texting White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows while violent and vile insurrectionists were storming our national Capitol underscores the ease and accessible nature of such communications between Fox and the White House. That line of reporting adds further gravity to the news coverage of how much influence Fox had, and used.

And so it goes.

Happy Birthday Richard Nixon: What A Journey It Has Been

At the age of ten, I sat in the backseat of our family car as we drove to a  nighttime hair appointment for my mom in Plainfield, Wisconsin. My father had the car radio on, its soft glow radiating from the front dashboard. It was election night 1972. Perhaps I was somehow primed for that night due to my rural upbringing, having grandparents for neighbors, the family choice of not having a television in our home, and already loving books. Whatever had preceded that night surely made me more receptive to what I heard and sensed from the radio.

I still recall the authoritative voices of the news announcers, and the crowd noise from election night gatherings as Richard  Nixon’s name was repeated over and over. And I recall my father telling me it was election night, and that Nixon would be elected president.

Countless times over the decades of my life I have thought back to that night, and how Richard Nixon would come to mean a great deal to how my interests were formed.

As I grew into my teen years my fascination with politics, news, broadcasting, and journalism only grew.  As I think back over those years growing up in Hancock I recall the news accounts of  Watergate, the speeches by Nixon, and the final goodbye from the White  House as he talked to White House staff and aides.  

I recall the China trip, and how I would take out a large atlas book kept in the dining groom to follow the journey at the end of the school day. With the Stevens Point Journal spread out on the linoleum floor I located the maps and locations where Nixon had talks and visited sights.

By the time we had a  television in our home in the summer of 1976, I was a captive to the national party conventions. I found them most interesting and followed with enthusiasm the election of Jimmy Carter. In my high school years, I found myself debating issues with classmates while relishing taking history courses along with electives such as comparative political systems to further broaden my thinking and interests.  My most important teacher, and a real aid to my future, Mrs. Glad, continually stoked my interests and urged me to read more and think outside the traditional parameters.  Too few students have someone so remarkable to teach them when it matters.

Following high school, I entered broadcasting school and worked at a radio station in Door County before heeding my internal calling to enter into the political world.  I worked in the Wisconsin State Legislature as an Administrative Assistant and Committee Clerk and became involved in various campaigns and causes.

I mention all this on the 109th birthday of Richard Nixon because in large part my interests, but especially foreign policy and international relations, that were reported on a daily basis in my formative years by our daily newspaper, involved him. He lit a fire of interest within me to follow the news, read the paper (which I did each day while lying on our family couch following school classes), and better understand the rough and tumble of politics.

Much has been written and said over the decades about RN, and I too have difficulty with certain aspects of his campaigns and presidency. But I can honestly say I truly appreciate the better qualities that he possessed and helped instill in me. Read broadly and ponder how it all fits together is a great lesson to have taught a kid in rural Waushara County.

That is a pretty grand thing to be able to say about anyone.

When I was a teenager while growing up in Hancock it was Richard Nixon who showed me the excitement and importance of politics–what a journey it has been and remains every day.

And so it goes.

Stephen Colbert Nails Donald Trump, Low IQ Republican Supporters On Jan. 6th Insurrection Anniversary

Simply brilliant.

After a national day of reflection and memories of the violent and deadly attack on our nations’ Capitol, an insurrection spawned by Donald Trump and carried out by his base of supporters, it was perfect timing at night for Stephen Colbert to air a perfectly unique and honest conclusion to the day.

Dimwits are the best one can say about those who follow Trump blindly.