Iron County Progressive

 

 


Weekly News From Your Wisconsin Democratic Party Chair 

 We’ve fought for fair maps. We will never stop fighting for fair maps. But last Friday night, the Wisconsin state Supreme Court chose to inflict a set of GOP-drawn legislative maps on our state that are anything but fair

 Our job is to channel our outrage at this travesty into fuel to renew our fight for democracy. 

 Normally, when courts choose maps, they go with a middle path—neither gerrymandered to favor Republicans nor Democrats. Not here, and not this time. As democracy scholar Rob Yablon wrote, “ the new legislative maps from the WI Supreme Court look to be far and away the most politically skewed court-imposed maps anywhere in the country for at least 20+ years.” 

 Yablon went on to write that, when federal courts last redistricted Wisconsin, “they stressed that judges ‘should not select a plan that seeks partisan advantage,’ and they cast aside maps with evident ‘partisan origins.’”

 Not here. And not this time. After the US Supreme Court’s deeply controversial shadow-docket ruling that, in a severe blow to the Voting Rights Act, struck down the previous set of maps adopted by our state legislature (read an excellent analysis of that ruling here), the GOP-backed 4-3 majority on our state Supreme Court chose a set of maps created by Republican politicians with the sole goal of protecting their political power against accountability to voters.

 This makes our battle that much harder. And it makes it that much more important. 

 If you were thinking about running for state legislature but wanted to wait until you saw the maps—run. We need candidates everywhere. To fight and win districts. To demonstrate, through the vote totals, how skewed these maps are. And to turn out voters who can help us reelect Governor Evers and AG Kaul, beat Ron Johnson, and win statewide victories that will be critical to democracy. Democratic state legislative candidates in 2020, win or lose, helped us beat Donald Trump. We all owe them a debt of gratitude. To save democracy in our state, we need your help now. 

 What’s more—I was grateful for the feedback after 2020 that candidates in every district needed support. So this cycle, I’m proud to share that—on top of the in-kind organizing and other support that the party provided to every Democratic candidate last year—this year, the party will also be investing directly in the candidacy of every non-incumbent Democratic nominee. 

 If you know someone who is thinking about running—urge them to get off the fence, and promise to them that you’ll help however you can. Check in with the Assembly or Senate Democratic Caucus about their work to ensure there is a candidate in your district. If you’re in a place with an incumbent Democrat, check in with friends in other areas to see if you can help them. It’s go time. 

 The extraordinary movement that has been fighting for fair maps for the last decade has made enormous progress in redefining this issue and raising it to public awareness. I tweeted about this movement’s critical work here, and I will keep lifting it up. The state Supreme Court’s outrageous decision must not only energize our work this fall, but also next spring—when it’s critical that we win a majority on that crucial body. 

 It’s beyond clear that the foes of democracy will not give an inch. They will go to extreme lengths to lock in their own power and avoid any iota of public accountability. But they underestimate our resolve. They underestimate the fury of voters. They underestimate the strength inherent in the ideals of democratic self-government. They may not realize it—but we will win. Our belief in the power of the people cannot be deterred—and you, and I, and all of us in this movement will never stop marching forward. 

In solidarity, 

Ben 

FIGHT 

Ron Johnson’s Disastrous Tax Day 

This Tax Day, while Ron Johnson was doubling down on defending a special tax break that he now admits benefited himself and his biggest donors, Rep. Gordon Hintz, Chair Wikler and Wisconsin voters braved the weather to rally outside Johnson’s Oshkosh office. The Tax Day rally protested Johnson’s support of the GOP’s 2022 agenda, which would raise taxes on 32% of Wisconsinites and sunset Medicare and Social Security. 

 While Democrats in Congress have worked to pass critical legislation supporting local businesses, cutting taxes for working families and capping insulin costs, Ron Johnson and his fellow Republican politicians have worked to rig the tax code in a way to benefit himself and his biggest donors.

 News also broke this week that two of Johnson’s biggest donors, Liz and Dick Uihlein – the same donors who claimed hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks thanks to Johnson’s efforts – donated another $280,000 to Johnson’s re-election efforts. Hard working Wisconsinites are sick of Johnson’s self-serving agenda and voters in his hometown made sure to convey the message to him through their Tax Day rally.  

State Representative Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh): “Time after time, Ron Johnson has treated people under two systems: one that doesn't have to pay taxes – one that gets out of it – and the rest of us. The fact that we are seeing – just when you thought it couldn't get any worse – Ron Johnson endorsing a GOP plan proposed to go after the middle-class and working-class and raise taxes on 32% of all Wisconsinites…”

WisDems Chair Ben Wikler: “On this Tax Day, we can all agree that working Wisconsinites shouldn't be paying for billionaires' tax bills…We can all agree that politicians like Ron Johnson, who give themselves giant tax cuts and give giant tax cuts to billionaires, should be out of a job come this November.”

 Rebecca Kleefisch’s History of Failing Wisconsin Students and Workforce

Thanks to Governor Tony Evers’ leadership and investment in our workforce, Wisconsin’s unemployment rates are at a record low, sitting at 2.8% after March. Despite the challenges of COVID-19 to Wisconsin’s economy, thanks to Gov. Evers’ leadership, Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is below the national average. 

 This is in strong contrast to Rebecca Kleefisch’s record of failure on workforce issues. Though Kleefisch lists building a worker pipeline as part of her campaign platform, as lieutenant governor,, Kleefisch supported a $7.1 million cut to Wisconsin’s technical college system’s funding — a cut that’s 30% of their funding. This was on top of her support for a $250 million cut from the UW system.

 Kleefisch was also happy to support tax breaks for wealthy donors and large corporations. She even told them, behind closed doors, “we want to know how we can love you more.” It’s clear where Kleefisch’s priorities are and they’re certainly not supporting the next generation entering the workforce. 

 Gov. Evers’ understands that Wisconsin colleges are at the forefront of filling jobs across the state and recovering from the pandemic. His latest budget proposed an increase of $36 million in technical colleges over the next two years and secured an increase for technical schools, universities and and K-12 education. 

Despite what Rebecca Kleefisch might claim, it’s clear from her record of failure on workforce issues where she really stands. 

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg Visits Coloma, Wisconsin

This week, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg visited Wisconsin, highlighting the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s once-in-a-generation investment to our state’s infrastructure. Over the next five years, the state is expected to receive over $5 billion from the Biden-Harris administration which will rebuild roads and bridges, ensure clean drinking water to every home across the state and deliver high-speed internet to rural communities. 

 Secretary Buttigieg met with Governor Evers, union leaders and high school students in Coloma, discussing how the infrastructure law will build upon the work Gov. Evers’ has done in Wisconsin to improve infrastructure and create good-paying jobs in Wisconsin. The combined effort of the Biden-Harris administration and Gov. Evers is setting the Badger State to be more competitive in the 21st century. 




 

A Message from State Senator

Chris Larson

t’s a rare event that only comes around once in a hundred years. The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board has identified a new species: The Wausau Squatter. No, it’s not some new type of waterfowl, it’s a new breed of Wisconsin Republican politician exemplified by DNR Board member Fred Prehn, a Wausau dentist who moonlights as an antique arms dealer among other things.

On Sunday, it will be exactly 1 year since Prehn’s term on the Natural Resources Board expired, yet the Wausau Squatter not only remains on the body, he has cast the deciding vote to block any groundwater standards for PFAs in Wisconsin, and to set the public drinking water standard at over 3 times the level recommended by scientists (70 ppt instead of 20 ppt).

But wait, you might say - didn’t Governor Evers appoint a replacement? Why yes, yes he did. Sandra Naas, an eminently qualified candidate, was appointed over a year ago but the obstructionist GOP State Senate has refused to give her a public hearing, much less an up-or-down vote. So here we sit (pun intended), one year later, with the Wausau Squatter undermining the safety of our water thanks to a Republican legislature that loves nothing more than to undermine Governor Evers at the expense of the people of Wisconsin.

One organism by itself does not a species make. There’s always the potential that the Wausau Squatter is some sort of genetic mutation, unable to be replicated in the wild. Sadly, that’s not the case. Dozens of Evers appointees remain in limbo for no apparent reason other than politics. Think of it as the Mitch McConnell strain of cynical politics: hold as many seats open until your side is in the Executive office, functioning democracy be damned. Luckily, we don’t have to let them get away with it.
Some, like DHS Secretary Designee Karen Timberlake, are able to go about their business pretty much as they normally would, save for the title of “designee,” and the worry that at any moment Republicans could call a vote to remove her.

Others, like appointments to the UW Board of Regents and Wausau Squatter replacement Sandra Naas are forced to sit on the sidelines while obstructionists with expired terms are allowed to squat indefinitely as Republicans attempt to run out the clock on the Evers governorship.

We can’t let them get away with it! Legal proceedings are already underway, but the most surefire way to hold Republicans accountable for the Wausau Squatter and other forms of obstruction is to ensure that Governor Evers is re-elected, and for Wisconsin Democrats to outrun the rigged maps to save the veto by preventing a two-thirds Republican majority in both houses.

I’m up for re-election this fall, and we know that every seat matters to protect our institutions and prevent people like the Wausau Squatter from having their way.





 

 

 

Dems eye ousting Johnson in Wis.

Question remains how best to beat two-time senator

 By Scott Bauer Associated Press

CAMBRIDGE, Wis. — Among the red barns, bins and tractors of a southern Wisconsin dairy farm, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mandela Barnes sat at a white picnic table painted with black spots to resemble a dairy cow.

It was the latest stop on his “Barnes for Barns” tour through rural Wisconsin aimed at appealing to the voters who more typically fuel Republican victories in this closely divided state.

The discussion at Hinchley’s Dairy Farm with an invited group of farmers covered the expected topics — climate change, affordable health care, the alarming rise in farmer suicides and a decline in the small dairy farms that Wisconsin is known for.

But it kept circling back to one key question:

How do you beat Ron Johnson, the Republican incumbent?

“We show up,” said Barnes, the state’s lieutenant governor. “We talk to people directly about the challenges they face and that Ron Johnson has consistently ignored. I think one of the biggest problems is a lot of places outside of Milwaukee and Madison just haven’t seen enough Democrats.”

Beating Johnson has vexed Democrats ever since the former plastics manufacturer blew onto the scene as a tea party outsider in 2010 and beat Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, and did it again in 2016. On the way, Johnson has become one of Donald Trump’s most vocal — and to his opponents, most loathsome — supporters.

Johnson was first elected as a fiscal conservative, known for attacking spending and a desire to lower the national debt. His campaign ads featured plenty of bar graphs and charts. In recent years, as the coronavirus rose and Trump fell, he has become a lightning rod as he staked out anti-science positions and embraced conspiracy theories on the 2020 election.

Johnson elevated unproven COVID-19 treatments such as mouthwash and questioned the need for COVID-19 vaccines. He dismissed climate change. He joined the many Republicans who have played down the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, saying he wasn’t scared by the insurrectionists but would have been concerned if they had been Black Lives Matter protesters.

More broadly, Johnson voted for a massive tax cut that he recently admitted benefited his business and wealthy campaign donors; blocked proposals to distribute $1,200 stimulus checks to Americans; and argued against landing a federal contract that would have brought hundreds of jobs to Wisconsin.

Now, with control of the Senate at stake and Wisconsin among a handful of states with toss-up races, Johnson goes before voters with an energized conservative base and with bad poll numbers for a Democratic president whose party historically loses in midterm elections.

Yet, there is optimism among Democrats that Johnson — whose favorable rating stood at 33% in February in the Marquette University Law School poll — is more vulnerable than ever.

Democratic strategist Joe Zepecki said Johnson “benefited from two very good Republican years in ’10 and ’16. He may benefit from one again. The challenge is how do you buck that trend.” He added: “I think we can do it. He’s given us enough grist for the mill.”

Democrats intend to paint Johnson as a different man from the one voters elected in 2010, someone who morphed from an outsider concerned about the national debt to, as Zepecki calls him, “a conspiracy theory-fueled crank.”

They are hoping Johnson’s most incendiary comments will turn off just enough of the moderate Republicans who deserted Trump in the Milwaukee suburbs and just enough of the roughly 7% of independent voters to tilt things their way.

The desire to beat Johnson has, for now, largely united the top Democrats in the Senate race before the Aug. 9 primary.

Alex Lasry, an executive with the Milwaukee Bucks — his father, Marc, is part owner — has spent millions on television ads as he courts organized labor and attacks Johnson as anti-worker.

Sarah Godlewski, the state treasurer, portrays Johnson as an out-of-touch extremist in her ads. She has been endorsed by Emily’s List.

Tom Nelson, the Outagamie County executive, trails in money but leads in cleverness, cutting creative online videos that include a garage sale fundraiser — his children’s dinosaur toys for $10.

Barnes, who is Black, leads the Democratic field in money, endorsements and early polls. Rural voters aside, his strategy almost surely depends on energizing minority voters in his hometown of Milwaukee — a huge cache of liberal votes that is key to any Democrat running statewide.

Republicans dismiss Barnes’ swing through rural Wisconsin, pointing to comments he made in the 2018 governor’s race in which he said he wasn’t interested in winning over Trump voters.

Barnes later said he wanted to appeal to all “forgotten” voters. They also dismiss the broader Democratic strategy of attacking Johnson as extreme, saying that similar attacks failed in his past two races.


 

 

A MESSAGE FROM KIRK BANGSTAD

I often say this, that hopelessness is the enemy of justice.” --Bryan Stephenson, Professor NYU School of Law.
 
And conversely, without justice, it’s hard to keep hope alive, and Wisconsinites were just punched below the belt once again.
 
Of course I’m referring to the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision last Friday to adopt state legislative maps drawn by Republicans, reversing a prior decision to adopt the Governor’s maps, following an utterly meritless intervention by the ultra-conservative U.S. Supreme Court.  Governor Evers said it best…This was “an unconscionable miscarriage of justice for which the people of this state will see no reprieve for another decade.”
 
This is just the latest decision that, in my mind, adds to a very bleak picture of politics in Wisconsin and America.
 
To me, Wisconsinites can no longer depend on our judicial nor legislative branches of government to protect our democracy, and arguably the same thing can be said about those two branches at the federal level.
 
At the state level, it’s been one disappointment after the next, resulting from what seems like an ugly partnership between our Republican-dominated state legislature and our conservative-majority state Supreme Court.  Wisconsinites have lived through it, but it’s worth retelling…

  • April 2020, weeks after being told to shelter at home, Governor Evers smartly tried to suspend in-person voting, but that ruling was immediately challenged by the Republican legislature and overturned by our state’s Supreme Court.
  • May 2020, Wisconsin’s Supreme Court again sided with Republicans in overturning Evers’ “Safer at Home” order, which turned our state into a Covid Wild West.
  • March 2021, Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned Evers’ Mask Mandate, against overwhelming evidence that indoor masking reduced the spread of Covid.
  • November 2021,  although this doesn’t involve the state Supreme Court, we’re gonna throw in the decision by a Wisconsin judge to acquit Kyle Rittenhouse, a figure who represents everything wrong about vigilante justice, racism, and our out-of-control gun culture, as another example of our broken judicial system.

 
Yeah but that’s only the story of the highly dysfunctional state of Wisconsin since the pandemic.  AT LEAST we can depend on the U.S. Supreme Court for justice and our U.S. Congress, which in theory is controlled by Democrats, right?  Nope.

And on, and on, and on, and on.
 
It appears that we can no longer depend on the judicial and legislative branches of government in Wisconsin and America to protect justice and democracy, and that’s almost enough to make a person start losing hope.

Yes, Wisconsin’s Governor Evers has vetoed the most egregious bills coming from our right-wing legislature, and President Biden has presided over a historically impressive post-covid economy, but that somehow doesn’t dispel my sense of dread. There just seems to be, even within the Democratic Party, this unwritten and feckless Neville Chamberlain-esque policy of appeasement towards ever-growing Republican fascism. 
 
It feels like we’re losing even though we have a Congressional Democratic majority and a Democratic president.  I think this is in part because we’ve never shed the Stockholm syndrome we contracted during the Trump years, but also because we have an entire media empire that profits off of Republican bullying, misinformation, and fear. It may be a false perception, but it seems to me like our national Democratic or Democratically-appointed leaders—Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senators Manchin/Sinema, Attorney General Merrick Garland, and even President Biden, to a certain degree, have become afflicted with this syndrome and too often respond to Republican criminal bullying, projection, and disinformation with the policy of  “appeasement,” hoping that as long as we don’t make the these bullies any angrier, they will stop hurting us. 
 
And “appeasement” does not inspire hope because most adults know that if you don’t stand up to bullies, they’re gonna keep beating you up.
 
So where do we find hope?
 
That’s a hard one for me, because I’ve been trying to keep my own hope alive by finding creative ways to bring common sense and justice back to Wisconsin.  In the last year, we spent tons of money reminding voters, through phone campaigns and television ads, that Republican gerrymandering was cheating. We sued school boards who rejected CDC masking guidelines, making schools vectors for Covid in communities.  And of course, we most recently sued to remove Ron Johnson, Tom Tiffany, and Scott Fitzgerald from office for aiding and abetting the insurrection on January 6th.
 
But the money we spent against gerrymandering didn’t give us Fair Maps, the lawsuit against school boards moved too slowly to protect communities, and I fear that even if we win our current federal lawsuit against these traitors, the suit will ultimately be sent to the 6-3 majority right-wing Trump-appointed U.S. Supreme Court, where justice will be subverted yet again.
 
It’s enough to sap one’s hope.  It really is.

 

 

But you know what?  Today is Easter, and if the story of Easter doesn’t give one hope in seemingly hopeless times, I don’t know what will.
 
Jesus Christ! (said in acclimation not in prayer) if a dude can rise from the dead (either literally or proverbially) and give hope to future generations of mankind that their sins will be forgiven, then Jesus Christ!, we might as well keep fighting the good fight, because we HAVE to have FAITH that somehow, justice will prevail.
 
And you know what?  I truly believe that if normal people keep fighting, for no other reason than having FAITH in a divinity that requires them to fight for a return to justice, kindness, and decency, that this FAITH alone, regardless of the outcome, will provide the hope that the rest of society needs to reject the creeping cynicism that our United States may have fallen irreparably into disrepair.

So I'm going to keep on fighting, specifically NOT because I'm a political leader, but because I'm a concerned citizen, just like the rest of you. I don't know how we're gonna win, but we're certainly not going to win if we lose hope.
 
So folks, if there was ever a day to have FAITH and keep HOPE alive, it is today, Easter, April 17th, 2022.
 
Thanks for reading and thanks for sticking with us.
 
Together, we can make Wisconsin Great Again, one beer and Easter ham at a time.
 
Kirk Bangstad
Owner, Minocqua Brewing Company
Founder, Minocqua Brewing Company Super PAC.