Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos Should Remove Janel Brandtjen As Chair Of Elections Committee

Parents know how often small children will do just about anything to get attention. The whole nation was reminded of those types of antics when the Stuart skit on Saturday Night Live would make us laugh with “look what I can do’. Now that same type of behavior is being exhibited by a member of the Republican Assembly caucus.

Representative Janel Brandtjen, the chair of the Wisconsin Assembly’s elections committee, has called for invalidating President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory in the state.

While the display is laughable, it is not charming like the performances of the little rascals at home aiming for the limelight with their parents. In fact, it is just sad, dangerous to the nation, and another reminder of how removed from reason and logic a portion of the unhinged element of the Republican Party strives to remain.

Readers do not require my writing this sentence to know that constitutional scholars from across the state and nation, along with even the conservative Republican legislative leaders in Madison have called such outbursts legally impossible. Most Wisconsinites would label Brandtjen’s desire as patently absurd.

I realize that Brandtjen was very busy ginning up this headline-making idea and so did not have the time to review the facts about a number of recounts, along with a slew of court rulings that upheld the victory Biden scored in the state.  Even a legislative audit from the very statehouse where she works showed there was no widespread fraud in the voting outcome.  On top of that, even the outcome by a very conservative group demonstrated there was no out-of-control fraud taking place in Wisconsin.

While I do not carry a stick so to poke at the bears at the zoo, I have to admit it would be more than amusing to allow Brandtjen sixty seconds of uninterrupted time on a newscast so she could explain why she thought decertification was possible.  Since Wisconsin is known as a state that loves alcohol, perhaps a drinking game could be arranged for every ahhh…and umm…as she seeks a way to round the square. Folks living above Highway 29 might even wish to play the video a second time.

I have faulted Assembly Speaker Robin Vos for his desire to play too close to the fire when it comes to the ludicrous base of his party as it relates to the Big Lie.  Prolonging the oxygen in the state for the conspiracy crowd and the danger that this creates for the foundation of our democracy is not something any rational leader should court.

If Vos was seeking what was best for the state and country he would remove, at once, Janel Brandtjen as the chair of the Elections Committee. She has proven to be at odds with facts, and logic, and as such should not remain in such a pivotal place. The seriousness and credibility that comes with being a committee chair are diminished when the actions of Brandtjen are allowed to stand. What she has done casts a shadow on the entire Republican caucus. And the state.

Such a move would show Vos had the leadership skills to speak and act for the higher interest of Wisconsin. Even though it would roil the waters for the conspiracy-prone, the mature members of the state GOP would be assured that a reasoned person was at the helm. Acting impotently, however, will only feed the ongoing narrative that the GOP is an out-of-control clown car.

It is no wonder why many deride the far-right wing of the Republican Party. It is no mystery why conservatives are the butt of jokes for late-night talk show monologues. What the GOP requires are elected officials who will step up and clearly demonstrate a willingness to align with sanity.

Cue Speaker Vos to look into the camera with the red light on and start speaking.

Now that would be a headline in the Milwaukee Journal the state would applaud.

No Glee To Be Had In Booing Of Speaker Robin Vos

No one can take any glee over the booing that Wisconsin Speaker Robin Vos received this weekend during the Republican State Party Convention. While it can be easily framed into a partisan moment where the extreme excesses of Donald Trump’s base were on full display, it is the larger concern about our precarious democracy that matters far more.

It was a most unusual scene to have occurred at a gathering of a political party. The State Assembly leader was booed by convention-goers which made for a gripping moment on newscasts statewide.

What was most troubling, however, was that Vos did not wander off the page of Republican orthodoxy so to receive such a reaction. He did not suggest raising any tax or offering more regulatory control. He did not backtrack from school vouchers or hint at gun control measures.

No, Vos instead simply and plainly told the crowd there’s no pathway to decertifying the 2020 presidential election.

“We have no ability to decertify the election and go back, We need to focus on moving forward.”

And cue the loud boos that filled the convention floor.

It was so raucous that State Party Chairman Paul Farrow had to then inform the delegates to “let him talk” and “be respectful.”

After that display from the conservative crowd, it calls into question exactly who should be surveyed in our state about the need for freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Maybe the UW System should not be first in line as a whipping boy about First Amendment rights.

While Vos did not deserve to be booed for stating a fact, he does need to own his share of the blame for stirring the pot of unreasoned anger in our state about the 2020 election. His use of former Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman to investigate that election has prolonged and needlessly exacerbated the Trump base of the party into continuing to think something nefarious occurred. In fact, as every examination of our state’s balloting proved, nothing illegal or sinister took place.

As evidenced from this weekend’s GOP convention no good comes when partisan attempts are used to strike at our political and electoral institutions. But over and over, across the nation, as The New York Times reported above the fold in their Sunday edition the partisan attacks on truth are far too often the new norm in state legislative races.

At least 357 sitting Republican legislators in closely contested battleground states have used the power of their office to discredit or try to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. The tally accounts for 44 percent of the Republican legislators in the nine states where the presidential race was most narrowly decided. In each of those states, the election was conducted without any evidence of widespread fraud, leaving election officials from both parties in agreement on the victory of Joseph Biden Jr.

Election and democracy experts say they see the rise of anti-democratic impulses in statehouses as a clear, new threat to the health of American democracy. State legislatures hold a unique position in the country’s democratic apparatus, wielding a constitutionally mandated power to set the “times, places and manner of holding elections.” Cheered on by Mr. Trump as he eyes another run for the White House in 2024, many state legislators have shown they see that power as license to exert greater control over the outcome of elections.

It undermines our democracy by playing to the ones who will use factless arguments to then spearhead spurious and dangerous reactions that strike at the heart of our political institutions.

After all that grim reality it would seem, then, for there to be no way this post could stay on theme but still somehow look upwards. And more oddly still, by using Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as the winds to lift our sails. But the following shows not only why we can have faith in reclaiming our democracy, but a lesson that McConnell can impart to Vos.

This weekend the Wall Street Journal reported McConnell’s pleasure over the fact the isolationist wing of the Republican Party was able to be reined in when the Ukraine aid package was put together and passed into law. He said that it was a personal victory for him.

Said McConnell: “I am interested in diminishing the number of my members who believe that America somehow can exist alone in the world.”

He added: “I think the fact that only 11, in the end, ended up voting against the package was an indication of success in convincing a larger number of our members that no matter what was being said by some on the outside that those views were simply incorrect.”

McConnell is most correct about international aid, and on the substance about the Wisconsin election not having been ‘stolen’ Vos is equally correct. What then is required from Vos going forward to combat the most unreasoned in his party, is what McConnell expertly administered in Congress to pass an aid package.

Leadership.

And so it goes.

Speaker Robin Vos Should Not Be Dismissive Of Judge’s Contempt Ruling

I suspect Wisconsinites firmly believe that the ones who make the laws should be the first ones abiding by them. If one asked at any barbershop or diner from Mason to Muskego there would be most certainly strong agreement that our elected officials must not show disdain for the rules of law and order.

If one chatted over coffee and pie with locals I am very sure there would be agreement that a judge’s ruling should be viewed with the respect accorded to people on the bench, and not made into a partisan affair. We can almost hear the voices in this state say if the ones in top positions of government flaunt the laws what message does that send to average citizens about the way we should conduct ourselves in society?

When I pulled the snowy blue plastic bag off Thursday’s Wisconsin State Journal my eyes landed on the troubling front-page story about the contempt charge against Assembly Speaker Robin Vos.

A Dane County Circuit judge held Assembly Speaker Robin Vos in contempt of court Wednesday for failing to provide requested public documents related to the ongoing GOP-ordered review of the 2020 election.

Approached by a reporter following a pair of town halls in western Racine County Wednesday afternoon, during which Vos repeatedly told listeners that the 2020 election could not be decertified, Vos responded to being found in contempt of court.

“It’s a liberal judge in Dane County trying to make us look bad. I don’t know about you, but when you have deleted emails, how do you get deleted emails back if they’re from Gmail? We already have an expert saying they can’t be done. You have a judge who’s focused on making a name for herself, and that’s all she’s doing,” Vos said.

The news that the assembly speaker shrugged off the contempt charge by ‘a liberal judge’ sounds like what we too often hear in our politics. But if it is possible to step back and ponder the significance of that remark it will demonstrate how far away we are from the core values that need to be embraced.

It is not possible to have a healthy democracy if the public perceives that legal rulings and decisions handed down by judges are based on partisan politics rather than the rule of law. When we have not only elected officials, but top members of government who echo such sentiments, it is truly disturbing.

Simply put, Robin Vos, who is now speaker and clearly has eyes on higher office, should not in any way contribute to the further erosion of trust in the judiciary. There is nothing to be gained–other than cheap short-term partisan politics–by fostering a deeper struggle about the distinction between law and politics.

We have always had an intersection of law and politics–from Justice John Marshall forward. That is how our constitutional balancing act was created. But with increasing volume and in numerous ways the institutional legitimacy of our judges is being questioned. That is absolutely harmful to our democracy. While Vos may think he is in some way upholding the views of some of his constituents with his unfortunate remark, it is far more important that a judge properly uphold the law. That is the lesson we need to heed.

I have no problem with anyone disagreeing with a ruling or seeking to better understand a law that decides a case. But it is never proper or appro­pri­ate to defy a ruling or attempt to undermine a judge with a personal attack, as Vos did with this contempt ruling.

I know this story is just par for the course these days given our politics. But in fact, this is really a sad place we find ourselves. Our democracy needs to have more citizen advocates who hold public officials accountable when they undermine our Constitutional norms and values.

And so it goes.

Wisconsin Speaker Robin Vos Should Take Page From Thomas Jefferson Playbook

I am absolutely confident that the vast majority of reasonable Wisconsinites, from both sides of the political aisle, are tired of re-arguing the 2020 presidential election. The vast majority of citizens know the election was fair, the results solid, and the ongoing stirring of the partisan debate to be needless.

Oh, yes, and that same public is opposed to any use of taxpayer dollars to further stoke the partisan fires and undermine the faith that should be instilled in our electoral processes.

This past week it was reported that former Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, now the special counsel in a Republican-orchestrated investigation of the 2020 election, signed a new contract with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. Following that news report, Vos issued a statement praising Gableman for doing a “good job”.

We should expect any Speaker to have pointed remarks and firm stands on the issues of the day. Actual issues, that is. Like methods of raising revenue for transportation needs or how to better formulate school aid payments. But needlessly stirring the red-meat ‘election is not over’ stew for the Republican base seems not only too blatantly partisan but also just sordid.

This brings me to Thomas Jefferson and how Vos might benefit from taking some advice from a Founding Father. (Please hear me out.)

After a close friend of Jefferson’s father dies, the parentless children are added to the Jefferson household. One of those children was a boy two years older than Jefferson, and historians have theorized that it was in those years of potential conflict and tension in the combined family that Jefferson found a most useful tool.

Comity over needless conflict is the best route to take.

Throughout his entire life, Jefferson was known not to engage in unneeded conflict. While not backing down in diplomatic missions to Europe or factional fights within the early years of the nation, he also was known not to desire personal confrontation. He did not pick a fight that was not needed to be fought.

We often think of the Founding Fathers providing guidance and views on the cornerstones of democracy. But if we heed the quieter patterns of their lives we will find lessons that can be learned, that when then added to their well-known consequential actions, makes governing stronger and more productive.

It is a lesson that I sincerely believe Vos could benefit from in his duties as Speaker.

I have no doubt, whatsoever, that Vos fully knows there is nothing to be ‘learned’ or ‘discovered’ or ‘made known’ about the 2020 Wisconsin election. Vos knows this investigation is all just for the demonstration that the Wisconsin GOP has not lost touch with the base of the party.

But in so doing the Speaker has constructed a needless fight in our state over something that is not even there to be fought. It would seem a better use of the assembly leader’s time to focus on how to upgrade worker skills so to meet the needs of employers in the state. Or assist in making sure more graduates from our high schools have a better grasp of civics and history.

It just perplexes me how the platform that Vos has been given is being used too often for the most marginal of purposes.

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.

Michael Gableman On Expensive Woozle Hunt, Taxpayers Pay For Conspiracy Trek

It did not make for national headlines but at the end of last year, another needless review of the November 2020 election results proved there was no nefarious activity taking place and no upset winner to be announced.

The Texas secretary of state’s office on December 31st released a batch of results from its review of the last presidential balloting finding no election chicanery to report. That in spite of repeated, unsubstantiated claims by GOP leaders casting doubts on the integrity of the electoral system. Under a time-wasting and costly review, the bottom line was only a few discrepancies were found between electronic and hand counts of ballots in a sample of voting precincts.

This same scenario has been playing out in states across the nation with the same results. Republicans bloviate about a ‘stolen election’ but the facts remain the same. There were no election hijinks, no invasion of immigrants voting, no grand strategy to toss votes or manipulate machines.

This brings us to the waste of taxpayer money and statewide embarrassment concerning Michael Gableman striking out to find the nonexistent Woozle of election fraud in Wisconsin. Such treks by others in search of what does not exist should be reason enough not to further waste public funds in our state.

But no……

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos hired Gableman in 2021 to scrutinize our state balloting after the Republican Party’s hero-worship of Donald Trump got out of hand. After all, Trump openly stated the GOP in the Badger State was not doing enough to further his empty allegations that Joe Biden did not win the election. So Vos, not wanting to be on the wrong side of a conspiracy theory, threw at least $686,000 to Gableman to hunt for what has not been found since 1926.

A Woozle.

Facts are not important to Wisconsin Republicans when furthering a conspiracy.

An Associated Press review of presidential results in six key battleground states, including Wisconsin, found fewer than 475 cases of potential fraud, a number that would have made no difference in the election’s outcome.

Election officials have referred 31 cases of potential fraud to Wisconsin prosecutors in 12 of the state’s 72 counties, representing about 0.15% of Biden’s margin of victory in the state, the AP review found. State auditors also found no evidence of widespread fraud in the election.

When it comes to Gableman I wrote most pointedly what I thought of him in September 2011. Given his now proven disdain of the election process and his willingness to further a lie that then strikes at the heart of our democracy, which then erodes the faith the citizenry must have in our political institutions the following rings even more true today.

I have commented on CP that Justice Michael Gableman must surely write his opinions in crayon.  Gableman is by far the least intelligent and probing mind on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. 

Simply put, I find Micheal Gableman a dolt.

Gableman’s tactics were slimy while seeking election to the court, and his theatrics have not changed since serving.

Michael Gableman should just get back to his coloring book.

It also is telling that Gableman is not seeking any data or recounts regarding Wisconsin Republicans who have objected to President Biden winning the election or called into question their election victory though the same ballot and election systems were employed.

Hmmm…..

The state residents know Michael Gableman is on a full-out Woozle hunt. On their dime. If only a modern-day Christopher Robin could explain logic and reason to the one too willing to undermine democracy.

And so it goes.

What Is The Magic Number For Wisconsin Speaker Robin Vos?

In the midst of the COVID 19 pandemic there are many questions that we ask, ranging from why the virus is so destructive, to how local businesses can create safe shopping environments. Will there be additional assistance for the unemployed and what about paying back student loans during the health crisis as we enter 2021?

But there is another question that residents of Wisconsin are asking as record numbers of new infections occur. As of Wednesday, we are skirting the 8,000 mark of new cases. And with that sobering statistic citizens want to know what number it will take to propel Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos into action in the legislature?

As of this posting the majority party in the statehouse has not drafted any bills that would deal with the most pressing health care crisis we have ever encountered in our lives. It need not be noted here, as my readers are much aware of the price we have paid, but there are over 2,700 of our fellow citizens who have died this year from the virus.

In a business boardroom had the chairman not acted on a matter of life and death, nor even attempted in seven months to package a deal of relief while working over-time to stem the misery, that person would be escorted to the door and asked for their key. But Vos, who has not called his members to work a day on the assembly floor since April has the audacity to state the Republican-run body will likely not convene until December. I wonder what my readers would find as a response if they called their employer alerting them their return date is December 1st!

What makes this even more appalling is that Vos recognizes a need in our state for more testing, along with a doubling of the number of contact tracers. Those aspects of fighting the virus and stemming the spread are needed now. Heck, it was needed months ago! To know there is not an emergency session called to allow for these basics to be ramped up at once is maddening.

Earlier this week Vos held a press availability where he outlined his views on the pandemic and the path forward. As the Wisconsin State Journal reported Vos thinks the citizens care not about the politics of the issue but “the actual results”. Yet results are nil while the political games are aplenty.

Asked for specifics on when he plans to meet with Evers and pass legislation in the Assembly, Vos said such information is only of interest to political insiders, while residents care about the actual results.

“They want us to say ‘don’t focus on who is fighting with who, don’t focus on who is going to meet, what time, when and where.’ Nobody cares,” Vos said. “They want us to find answers where we can actually move the ball forward.”

If the ‘folks back home’ were scoring this issue on the results from their legislature it would be a mighty low tally. That is not funny. Real people are dying, and those infected are dealing with a medical madness they do not understand. We are all aware of the economic pain being felt by business owners who put their faith and sweat into a dream. Notable businesses that have shut their doors for good include HopCat, Pizza Di Roma and the Under Armour store on State Street.

The misery from this pandemic just keeps growing higher and higher.

If politicians wonder what makes the voters angry and utterly perplexed let me sum it up concisely. It is when the major unrelenting issue of our time is reduced to a partisan snit. While many elderly folks have not seen their kids and grandchildren for many months the ones with the power to make a difference play to their political base. While a sizable portion of the state follows the medical advice and stays close to home the ones in the legislature who could help blunt the spread of the pandemic showcase a cavalier attitude.

Incoming Senate President Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he didn’t see any need for the Legislature to convene.

“At this point, I haven’t seen anything that I’m real excited about,” he told the Journal Sentinel.

That is what makes the citizenry appropriately angry during this pandemic.