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Don’t let the door hit you on the way out…

Sat, 01/21/2017 - 13:02

The Washington Post’s Jenna Johnson camped out in Trempealeau after the election. Trempealeau and the surrounding western Wisconsin county by the same name went solidly for Donald Trump, and she wanted to know why.

In her story, she probes patrons of bars and diners in the small, historic river town, many of whom have been reliable Democrat voters – until Trump. The area including Trempealeau, Buffalo, and Jackson Counties, however, has been swinging more Republican for years.

The Trempealeau County line is just a few minutes from my hometown, Holmen, so I was brought up in the same culture as the folks Johnson spoke with (unless something profound changes after you cross the Black River bottoms). In fact, I’ve been to all the establishments she visited in writing her story.

The Democrat voters here aren’t the same Democrats Johnson would find in D.C. Their party affiliation is vestigial, mostly left over from the days when the Democratic Party emanated the spirit of “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” The Democratic Party was once the party of the average American, or at least it pretended to be.

This year, many of those vestigial Democrats switched sides and voted for Donald Trump and the Republican ticket.

They sensed in Trump the potential for change – the potential for the political class to start focusing less on maneuvering and manipulation and more on getting to the root of the souring fortunes of people in rural America, people who are increasingly disaffected by having their lives intruded upon by the self-anointed ruling class in a capital thousands of miles away, their paychecks raided, their economic prospects dimming, and their family-oriented way of life disrespected by coastal elites in both parties.

They’re people who are tired of being disrespected and dismissed as not smart enough to run their own lives – not smart enough to see through the smokescreens of Washington politics.

Which brings me to Chris Danou.

The former Assemblyman from Trempealeau was also a victim of the increased Republican turnout; he lost to Republican Treig Pronschinske, making Danou’s seat the one pick-up by Assembly Republicans. According to the Post article:

“It’s infuriating, and it’s sad,” said Danou, who lives in Trempealeau but will soon move to the Madison area with his family. “I was disappointed in my constituents.”

Danou, a former police officer with two graduate degrees, lost to Treig Pronschinske, a technical-college graduate who worked in construction and was a small-town mayor.

Pronschinske said accusations of racism are “a cop-out” from Democrats who are out of touch with how frustrated many in rural towns have become.

There are numerous anecdotes about Danou’s pomposity. According to one, Danou once bragged that the 92nd Assembly seat was his for life, if he chose to keep it.

The voters thought otherwise – but then, Danou is better suited for Madison, a town where haughty, self-serving superiority complexes are the norm rather than the exception.

Danou’s loss is a reminder to all politicians about the value of humility and servant leadership, and about who writes their paychecks, and who can fire them at any time.

The post Don’t let the door hit you on the way out… appeared first on Morning Martini.

Previewing the State Budget

Mon, 01/09/2017 - 15:18

As Wisconsin gears up for another monumental and contentious budget debate, the MacIver Institute posted a preview of the upcoming excitement – including summarizing the budget requests of the major state agencies, new “201” budget items, and the major battles that lie ahead:

Wisconsin state agencies are requesting more than $69 billion in total funding for the 2017-2019 biennial budget, a debate that is quickly taking shape as Governor Scott Walker prepares for his State of the State address Tuesday.

While most Madison insiders and the phalanx of lobbyists hovering about believe that the transportation debate will dominate and may even hold up the passage of the 2017-2019 state budget, the Governor has signaled that he is, once again, looking to make significant long-term changes to state government and the way it operates. Might we see the next big Act 10-like reform that will fundamentally change our state for generations to come? We will soon find out.

As we begin the ’17-’19 budget debate, we take stock of where Wisconsin stands and highlight for you, the taxpayer, all the important upcoming debates – from important policy discussions to petty back-biting and everything in between. While we are not sure where Gov. Walker and the Legislature will end up on the gas tax, tax reform, welfare reform or a whole host of other important issues, we are sure that the budget debate itself and legislative deliberations as the budget moves through the process will prove to be highly entertaining and completely mesmerizing.

This year, agencies have also been required for the first time to submit budget scenarios for a zero percent increase and a 5 percent decrease – named the “201” requirement after the 2015 Act 201 law that forced agencies to submit the different scenarios. Some agencies took the requirement seriously, while some listed shock-value cuts and others barely made an effort at all.

It’s a thorough analysis. Read the whole thing here.

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Federal E-Cig Regulation Could Cost One Wisconsin Company $200 Million

Thu, 01/05/2017 - 11:47

From the MacIver Institute:

An entire industry faces extinction at the hands of impending FDA rules, putting the crushing burden of the regulatory state on full display.

Upwards of 99 percent of businesses in the decade-old e-vapor industry – also known as the vaping or e-cig industry – will likely be crushed under the weight of new FDA “deeming” regulations. However, swift action by Congress and the incoming Trump administration could save the industry and the jobs it supports.

The raft of new rules could cost one small Wisconsin business, Johnson Creek Vapor Company of Hartland, Wis., a staggering $200 million just in FDA application fees and legal costs, said Christian Berkey, the company’s CEO.

“If you want to see how regulations can destroy an entire industry, this is it,” he said.

Though relatively small – the company employs 47 people full-time in southeast Wisconsin – Johnson Creek Vapor was the country’s first producer of e-liquid, the nicotine-containing liquid that’s converted to vapor in e-cigs. Today, Johnson Creek Vapor is the largest e-liquid producer in the country and the second largest in the world, shipping about 50,000 gallons of e-liquid to more than 120 countries each year.

Johnson Creek and its employees, along with the rest of the e-vapor industry in the United States, would likely be snuffed out under the FDA’s new regulatory regime. “It’s going to cost hundreds of thousands of jobs in the U.S. in one fell swoop,” Berkey said. “To say this is ridiculous is the understatement of the year.”

Though one major deadline for e-vapor companies – categorizing all products with the FDA – was pushed back from December to June, that and other deadlines make the next few months a crucial stretch for the industry.

If the objective of the federal government was to destroy the e-vapor industry, these new deeming regulations would be the way to do it.

If the rules take effect, the vast majority of companies in the e-vapor industry will be forced to endure the same massively expensive and complex FDA approval process as Johnson Creek Vapor for every product they sell. That’s because the 2009 law enabling the rules sets February 15, 2007 as the “predicate date” for the rules.

To translate from bureaucrat-speak: Products that entered the market after the 2007 predicate date will be subject to the stringent new approval process. However, products that were already on the market on that date will get a pass – tar-causing traditional cigarettes, for example.

Since the e-vapor industry was still in its infancy at the predicate date – and since most of the industry’s advancements have taken place since then – nearly all e-vapor businesses will be subjected to the costly new process if they want a permission slip from the federal government to keep selling their products.

In practical terms, that means most e-vapor businesses like Johnson Creek Vapor will likely collapse under the weight of the new rules within three years.

The FDA’s draconian and arbitrary new rules don’t sit well with Congressman James Sensenbrenner, who represents the area where Johnson Creek Vapor is located.

“Over-regulation is a pervasive problem in Washington,” Sensenbrenner previously told the MacIver Institute. “I have concerns this new rule will hurt the burgeoning vapor and e-cigarette industry, as well as the businesses supported by it.”

But there is hope for the industry. A first step is the Cole-Bishop amendment, which would change the predicate date from February 15, 2007 to the date the final regulations were adopted – August 8, 2016. That change would put e-cigs on the same regulatory playing field as traditional cigarettes. The amendment is making its way through Congress’ budget process.

Both the Cole-Bishop amendment and regulatory changes by the incoming Trump administration are critical not just to protect jobs, but also to protect public health.

Growing evidence shows that using e-cigarettes is considerably less harmful than smoking traditional cigarettes. An August 2015 study by Public Health England, an agency of England’s Department of Health, found e-cigarettes are 95 percent less harmful than combustible cigarettes.

E-vapor products can help people put down their cigarettes for good and turn to a much less harmful alternative – a ray of hope for many smokers that the FDA is trying its best to extinguish.

Industry leaders and advocates are pushing for a more complete rollback of the FDA rules. “Our ultimate objective is a full repeal and replace” of the regulations, Berkey said.

After talking with members of the new administration, Berkey is optimistic about that possibility. “They are far more reasonable and amenable…today I’m far more hopeful that we’ll get a resolution, and fairly soon,” Berkey said.

Original column here.

The post Federal E-Cig Regulation Could Cost One Wisconsin Company $200 Million appeared first on Morning Martini.

Pundits Look Into The Crystal Ball

Fri, 12/30/2016 - 09:05

I gave up on making predictions about anything involving politics about halfway through the GOP primary. That was a good choice, because I would’ve continued to be wrong about, well, everything.

That said, Right Wisconsin asked contributors from around the state to weigh in with predictions for 2017, and I couldn’t resist. After all, the election is over. Things will fall into a predictable lull now, right?

I wrote:

I’m hopeful for a year of great progress in 2017 – real progress for the cause of smaller government and respect for the Constitution. Here are my predictions, mostly serious with a dash of tongue-in-cheek:

1. Republicans quickly move to repeal Obamacare. The plan will keep certain components of the law and it will phase out other components on a timeline of several years.

2. Trump administration cabinet secretaries begin shredding reams of Obama-era regulations. Environmentalists freak when they find out the tens of thousands of pages of paper weren’t recycled.

3. Trump’s Supreme Court appointee, Wisconsin’s very own Diane Sykes, is quickly confirmed and union agency fees are ruled unconstitutional in 2017.

4. Wisconsin Republicans are perplexed as they debate only among themselves on various issues, especially in the Senate where minority leader Jennifer Shilling has already declared that the GOP “owns this legislature.”

5. In a pre-2018 appeal to the rural Wisconsin vote, Baldwin tries to pose for a picture with a Winchester Super X, but the photo shoot is interrupted when she panics after discovering the gun is a semiautomatic autoloader.

6. The Assembly and Senate federalism committees find themselves very busy by year’s end after various federal reforms devolve considerable decision-making power back to state legislatures.

7. After realizing they are the party of free markets, Wisconsin Republicans finally repeal the Minimum Markup law.

8. Democrats decide on their candidates for Governor and AG for 2018. After hearing the news, Republicans hit Maduro’s and share cigars over their opponents’ painfully thin benches.

9. Rex Tillerson, coming off a bruising confirmation process and discovering the depth of Obama’s foreign policy mess, is found trying to escape in a dingy to a remote offshore oil rig but is caught by the coast guard and forced back to his Washington office.

10. In their quest for new transportation revenue, Assembly leaders start seriously considering tolls for the state’s interstate system.

Whole thing here.

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Madison Progressives Double Down

Tue, 12/20/2016 - 21:13

In a post last weekend I make the case that Rep. Sean Duffy is picking Madison – a city that isn’t well-regarded by much of the state – as a foil to gain support for a potential statewide race. After Duffy called the state’s capital a “communist community” on cable news, Dane County progressives took the ostensible bait by drawing the comments out into an extended Twitter war.

Madison progressives and their flagship newspaper have doubled down.

After the Duffy-Pocan-Soglin-whoever else Twitter war, Capital Times columnist Bill Berry decided to make his feelings about Duffy known to readers of the progressive newspaper of his adopted/pretend home in Madison. Note that Berry says he lives in Stevens Point, which is in the 3rd Congressional district, while Duffy represents the 7th, just a bit further north.

Berry addresses his Madison audience in a manner reminiscent of shouting into a cave through a megaphone:

This [Duffy’s communist comment] unleashed a torrent of angry replies from those who call our capital city home, but Duffy wouldn’t back off. But don’t worry, Madison. Duffy is just a nobody from up north looking for attention. He hasn’t accomplished anything of note while freeloading on the residents of the 7th Congressional District since 2010, but maybe that’s what most people a bit north of here want.

Should Duffy mount a statewide race, declaring him to be “A nobody from up north” sounds like the perfect way for The Left to lose yet another election in Wisconsin to conservatives.

Berry goes on to insult Donald Trump, who won Duffy’s district (those people must really be ignorant hill people to not only support a “nobody” but also to vote for Trump); he connects Duffy with Joe McCarthy (one of the most disgraceful politicians in American  history) apparently under the logic that they’ve both uttered the word “communist” during their lifetimes; and he runs through the usual left-wing talking points against conservative policies like school choice.

Berry also repeats a recent talking point that the Madison area has been home to most of the state’s job creation in recent years. That’s likely true, in part thanks to the growth of Verona-based Epic Systems. Madison is the state’s second largest metro area and, you know, pretty close to all the levers of state government, money, and power – as well as the state’s flagship university. Ironically, the counties around Washington, D.C. are also among the wealthiest in the country.

Berry explicitly connects Madison as the place we send so many of our tax dollars, then talks about how great the jobs situation is there – compared with the po-dunk losers in the sophisticated new economy. He says voters are clearly “confused” because they voted for Duffy and Trump. Comments like these are probably why why Berry directed his angry little column at readers in Madison, not Merrill.

Berry pretty much rubs it in that Madison is thriving while denizens of those towns up nort’ have been seeing their bread and butter manufacturing, timber, and other industrial jobs flee the country.

Cities like “communist” Madison are thriving, by the way, while many northern Wisconsin communities struggle. Duffy gets to do next to nothing for his district while collecting a generous salary and benefits at our cost and spewing stupid tweets just to let people know he’s still alive and not auditioning for some second-rate reality TV show.

If Democrats holed up in the progressive enclave of Madison think it’s unwise to double down on their attacks against Duffy by reminding people that the state’s capital is better off than what they seem to view as northern Wisconsin’s rinky-dink set of shacks in the middle of nowhere surrounded by shuttered factories and mills, then they haven’t indicated as much.

A recent Cap Times staff editorial tries to make the same case as Berry. After comparing Trump and Duffy on the simplistic basis that they have both appeared on reality TV shows, they breathlessly declare with no dearth of grandiosity that “Congressman Sean Duffy got his start in national politics the same way that Donald Trump did: as a self-absorbed reality TV star.”

(Small overlooked detail: Duffy went on to be an accomplished and well-liked district attorney in Ashland County for eight years – a launchpad similar to but longer than the one the 3rd District’s Ron Kind enjoyed prior to being elected to Congress).

They go on to state that Duffy owes his own constituents an apology for the “communist” comment by reminding their Isthmus dwelling readers that not all candidates win 100 percent of the vote all of the time:

…Duffy represents towns, villages, cities and counties that backed Democrats over Republicans for president, for the U.S. Senate and for the U.S. House in 2016, just as towns, villages and cities in Dane County backed Democrats over Republicans for president, for the U.S. Senate and for the House in 2016.

A fine and worthwhile reminder that Democracy and voting are a thing, but Duffy won re-election in 2012 with 56.1 percent of the vote, in 2014 with 59.3 percent, and in 2016 with 61.8 percent of the vote.

The editorial board goes on to demand an apology from Duffy because some of his constituents share the far-left views of the large majority of voters in Madison. Using that logic, shouldn’t Congressman Ron Kind be straight with his own voters about whether he voted for or against Nancy Pelosi for minority leader? He’s so far been mum.

After all, Bernie Sanders won his 3rd district handily in the Democratic primary. Many of his voters are blue collar Democrats who might not be enthralled with west coast elitist Nancy Pelosi pulling Kind’s strings like a marionette.

But the audiences of both pieces isn’t voters in the 3rd, the 7th, or anywhere except Madison. Thus the thesis of this little opus: the Democrats and their increasingly unappealing progressive militia have retreated into the bunkers, writing boring and predictable pieces that actually insult the vast majority of Wisconsin.

In doing so, they fail to realize their city and their ideas aren’t all that popular. Or, maybe the hicks in northern Wisconsin had their computers hacked by the Russians. But then again, people like that don’t know how to use a computer.

The post Madison Progressives Double Down appeared first on Morning Martini.

Talking Electoral College, Protests With Vicki

Tue, 12/20/2016 - 17:00

I talked with Vicki McKenna on her WIBA show about the Electoral College vote, which took place at the state Capitol yesterday.

I was there to cover the event and document the anticipated antics of the inevitable protesters. Possibly the two most noteworthy protester moments were when one lady screamed “We’re all going to go to war and die because of you!!!” at the electors and another who audibly thanked all the people who came from out of state to help with the protests. RPW and Electoral College chairman Brad Courtney also gives his perspective.

Listen to the podcast here.


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Cieslewicz: “Communist” Madison gives Duffy all that he could ask for

Tue, 12/20/2016 - 09:31

It looks like Dave Cieslewicz, a columnist with Madison’s Isthmus newspaper, is on the same page as Morning Martini when it comes to city leaders’ reaction to Rep. Sean Duffy’s “communist” comment about the city.

In his most recent column, Cieslewicz says that the reaction following Duffy’s comment on Fox News played right into Duffy’s hands. He reminded us that Rep. Mark Pocan, Mayor Paul Soglin, and the progressive Cap Times newspaper blew up over the comment and made the obligatory demand for an apology. He then gave some advice:

Look, I’m not criticizing Pocan, Soglin or the Cap Times. They all did what you’d expect: vigorously defend their community. I might have done the same in their positions.

The problem is that this will have no effect on Duffy at all, and it won’t improve Madison’s standing with the rest of Wisconsin. Duffy got a rise out of just the folks he wanted to irritate. And it probably played in the rest of the state just the way he had hoped. Maybe it played even better because Madison leaders came off as not just defensive, but arrogant when they went out of their way to point out how much better Dane County was doing than everybody else.

Seeing a strategy by Duffy, I gave similar advice at the time, writing:

By picking a city he will never come close to winning in a hypothetical statewide contest – one that most Wisconsinites look at in the Dreyfusian witticism as 76 square miles surrounded by reality – Duffy couldn’t have chosen a better foil.

Duffy leveraged one comment on Fox News into a multi-day media cycle aimed at conservatives in southeast Wisconsin. A congressman from far-northern Wisconsin, Duffy would need to make rapid and solid inroads with voters in the super-conservative Milwaukee suburbs, which is an indispensable puzzle piece for any Republican looking to win a statewide race.

This isn’t really a case about right versus left, just about good political strategy. It’s not surprising the Madison contingent would defend their hometown, but it didn’t help their progressive cause. And the “rubbing it in” that the Cap Times did by reminding everyone that Madison is prospering relative to the rest of the state is just bad manners.

Read the whole Cieslewicz column here.

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Creativity Needed to Pave Way for Transportation Solution

Wed, 12/14/2016 - 11:48

In today’s La Crosse Tribune I argue that proposals to raise the gas tax are the easiest solution, not the best solution. An excerpt:

Politicians and special interests have lined up to raise Wisconsin’s gas tax, a contentious issue that the recent election did not resolve. But the simplistic solution of a gas tax hike overlooks the complexity of the transportation funding issue and the buffet of alternative options available to legislators who are willing to be creative.

While Wisconsin’s “other season,” construction season, is quickly coming to an end, you still can’t drive more than a few miles in the state without finding a sea of orange construction barrels. There’s also the endless struggle over the contentious north-south corridor, which could put a four-lane highway through the La Crosse River Marsh.

Let’s acknowledge that there’s plenty of work to do as our region grows and demands on our infrastructure increase. Let’s also acknowledge that a gas tax won’t solve the problem. A breathtaking 28-cent-per-gallon hike — a 91 percent increase — would be needed to fully fund all of Wisconsin’s transportation priorities, according to a recent memo by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

By contrast, the state Department of Transportation’s 2017-2019 budget proposal does not raise the gas tax or registration fees at all. Instead, it redirects more funding to local governments, who will get the largest funding boost from the state that they’ve seen in 15 years. This proposal will help local governments carry out needed maintenance.

The DOT proposal would increase general transportation aid by $65 million, an increase of 8 percent for counties and 4.7 percent for municipalities over the last budget. That’s $14 million more for local roads and $5 million more for local bridges — the largest increase since 1998. It also boosts the highway maintenance fund to $1.7 billion, the largest that fund has ever been.

Whole thing here.

Photo credit: La Crosse Tribune

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Was Duffy’s “Communist” Quip a Genius Move?

Fri, 12/09/2016 - 19:16

There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned Twitter war to shape a news cycle, for better or for worse. Congressman Sean Duffy, who represents Wisconsin’s 7th district, started one recently after he called Madison a “communist community” on Fox News.

The comment might strike some as a minor gaffe, but Duffy is no out-of-control, off-script flame thrower. He’s strategically savvy and very much in control of his message.

Instead, I see a potential strategy for Duffy: leveraging his cable news appearances to grow his statewide conservative credibility. If that was Duffy’s intent, another Wisconsin congressman, Mark Pocan – who represents the Madison area – took the bait by demanding an apology.

.@RepSeanDuffy refers to Madison as a "communist community" on @FoxNews@repmarkpocan demands apology.

— Greg Neumann (@gneumann_wkow) December 7, 2016

Rep. Pocan, who is quite cordial but also very progressive, boldly went on Tucker Carlson’s new show (already famous for Carlson’s relentless grilling of his progressive guests) to explain that Duffy is misguidedly “Trumpizing” Wisconsin politics by slinging insults in the model of Donald Trump. Pocan advertised the appearance on Twitter, extending the social media battle.

I went on FOX News to talk about why @RepSeanDuffy's "Trumpizing" of Wisconsin is the wrong direction for our state:

— Rep. Mark Pocan (@repmarkpocan) December 9, 2016

Carlson read the Wisconsin Communist Party’s platform on-air and asked what part of it Pocan disagrees with. Brushing the question aside, Pocan criticized Duffy’s tongue-in-cheek response to Pocan’s apology demand. Duffy had tweeted in reply that The Left has no sense of humor and offered to send puppies to Madison’s safe spaces as a consolation.

The PC crowd is humorless. For those offended by my "communist" comment, I'll send a therapy dog to your "safe place" of choice in Madison.

— Sean Duffy (@RepSeanDuffy) December 7, 2016

Within one media cycle, the story had made its way into the mainstream media. More importantly, conservative commentators – mainly seated in deep-red southeast Wisconsin – saddled up to defend Duffy and, in the process, repeat and magnify Duffy’s comments about Madison being a communist enclave, as well as his poking fun at eminently mockable lefty concepts like therapy puppies and safe spaces. What do those statements have in common?

They’re ambrosia – red meat – for conservatives.

As for “Trumpizing” Wisconsin politics, Pocan might’ve missed Politics 101 and the entire 2016 presidential election. Trump was successful by constantly picking on a foil – the mainstream media, by the end of the campaign. Democrats have tried in the past few years, unsuccessfully, to use the Koch Brothers as their foil.

By picking a city he will never come close to winning in a hypothetical statewide contest – one that most Wisconsinites look at in the Dreyfusian witticism as 76 square miles surrounded by reality – Duffy couldn’t have chosen a better foil.

Duffy leveraged one comment on Fox News into a multi-day media cycle aimed at conservatives in southeast Wisconsin. A congressman from far-northern Wisconsin, Duffy would need to make rapid and solid inroads with voters in the super-conservative Milwaukee suburbs, which is an indispensable puzzle piece for any Republican looking to win a statewide race.

The question is whether Duffy is looking to mount a statewide race, which at this point is pure speculation. I’ve previously written that Duffy would be an ideal contender to run for U.S. Senate against Sen. Tammy Baldwin (also a creature of Madison) in 2018. I also said one of Duffy’s unique strengths versus other possible Republican contenders is that he’s all but immune to being dragged down by his support of Trump, as Pocan tried to do:

That calculus is this: Duffy was a strong Trump supporter from the very beginning. This turned out to be genius; Duffy’s district swung heavily for Trump in both the primary and general elections, and newfound GOP voters in rural areas could prove crucial.That calculus is this: Duffy was a strong Trump supporter from the very beginning. This turned out to be genius; Duffy’s district swung heavily for Trump in both the primary and general elections, and newfound GOP voters in rural areas could prove crucial…

Trump won Duffy’s district handily. He also won Democrat Ron Kind’s 3rd District. If the Trump trend holds, Duffy would enter the race with a decided advantage among rural voters – not just because of Trump, but because of the rural appeal Duffy has maintained since voters first sent him to Congress to replace retiring lefty Dave Obey in 2010.

Duffy has handily won re-election ever since.

In addition to winning Wisconsin overall, Trump won the all-important Fox Valley by a considerable margin. Further, a Duffy candidacy for Senate – should he emerge from a potential primary – would certainly be embraced by voters in the WOW counties, among the deepest-red counties in the country.

Pocan’s Trump attack could only enhance Duffy’s standing in much of the state’s rural counties that led Wisconsin to becoming a Trump state:

If Sean Duffy wanted to expand his name ID to crucial conservative enclaves beyond his own vast northern Wisconsin district and others that went for Trump (like Democrat Ron Kind’s 3rd district) – which are areas the Democrats have relied on in the past to tip the balance in narrow statewide races – then he could’ve executed no more perfect a strategy to endear himself in places like Waukesha, Ozaukee, and Washington Counties and the Fox Valley than he did via the “commy-gate” comment.

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The Silent Minority

Wed, 12/07/2016 - 16:35

It appears that the leader of the Senate Democrats plans to solve her party’s problem of persuading Wisconsin voters to choose their ideas by giving up on offering ideas altogether.

Scott Bauer, Wisconsin’s chief Associated Press reporter, tweeted this earlier today:

.@SenShilling:"Republicans own this.They own this Legislature right now.I don't think it's up to the minority party to have all the answers"

— Scott Bauer (@sbauerAP) December 7, 2016

Evidently, Sen. Shilling doesn’t think it’s up to the minority party to have any answers. In fact, in a radio interview on WPR several years ago, then-Representative from the 95th Jennifer Shilling said “it’s hard to get anything done when you’re in the minority.”

Indeed, especially if you throw in the towel before the match even begins.

There was a rare sense of bipartisan unity during the Assembly Committee on Transportation’s marathon hearing on transportation funding yesterday – for better or for worse, depending on your position on raising the gas tax or other fees to pay for more transportation funding.

Apparently Sen. Shilling doesn’t want any part of that – and doesn’t want to lift a finger to help forge a long-term funding solution for Wisconsin’s roads.

Sen. Shilling recently won re-election after a recount confirmed her 60-vote victory over Dan Kapanke. Perhaps if Kapanke had won, voters in the 32nd would have a voice at the table as the debate over transportation rages on.

The Senate Democratic caucus has shrunk to a core consisting largely of urban senators that will be strongly affected by the decisions the next legislature makes. One has to wonder what they think of Sen. Shilling’s proclamation that Republicans “own this legislature right now.”

The post The Silent Minority appeared first on Morning Martini.

The Democratic Disconnect

Sun, 12/04/2016 - 18:29

Giving advice to Democrats is simple, but it’s not easy. Most of their ideas involve either a new government initiative for every wrong in society, or creating a wrong for every new government initiative.

But the soup d’jour is figuring out what the hell is wrong with the Democratic Party, and how they can fix it, and it’s difficult not to chime in. My thesis, in short, is that the Democrats don’t care about anyone who won’t show up at a protest.

Democrats spent many years splicing the electorate into segments – segments that started broad. By race, by gender, by immigration status, and so on. I’d suppose that this formulation started after 2004 – after Howard Dean yelled himself out of the Democratic primary, and became a ground-changing chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Dean led the DNC to a remarkable tech-driven renaissance that put his party ahead of the medieval GOP for years.

But the identity-driven politics that Dean’s data operation enabled became increasingly nuanced. Pretty soon the Democrats were targeting college-educated-women-who-change-their-own-oil-and-drive-six-cylinder-domestic-vehicles who may support bisexual school board candidates.

You can cut your electorate into too-small chunks, then get obsessed with whipping them into a meringue.

That’s what the Democrats did. They spent quite a bit of time championing non-sexual bathrooms and transsexualism, which doesn’t appeal to people who just tele-trained their foreign replacement. They flung flames about global warming, which is on the back burner for someone who is working two jobs to pay for the next trip to the grocery store. They blabbed nonstop about increasing taxes on “the rich,” all while average working people saw one-third of their paychecks going to the government – people who started wondering what the government’s definition of “the rich” really is.

I have nothing against an adult who makes a decision about their gender identity. I have plenty of things to concern myself with – that’s not one of them. I think climate change is happening – it has been for billions of years. I think wealthy and well-connected people get away with too many tax loopholes – a problem that only major tax reform can change.

But the Democrats didn’t make that case. They claimed Republicans hate the LGBT community. They claimed they Republicans want Manhattan to be destroyed by a tsunami/ice storm in which Dennis Quaid suffers a tragic end. They claimed the Republicans love to enrich billionaire hedge fund managers.

Lost in the ridiculous rhetoric for the last decade? Working middle class people who haven’t gotten a real raise in decades. Those are people like my dad, who drives truck for a construction company, or my mom, a preschool teacher – one of those relatively rare public workers whose pay and benefits exist in the real world like everyone else’s.

Nowadays, qualifiers like “the real world” and the “private sector” must be applied to areas of the economy populated by those who work in sectors of the economy where economic realities are fully felt. These realities, felt by Wisconsinites who bear a tremendous tax burden, are a large part of why Gov. Scott Walker won three elections in four years. It has nothing to do with jealousy over the deal public workers get – it has to do with the holy grail of progressive rhetoric: fairness.

Even without regard to public employees, the average working person has been fully cognizant of their declining status for decades. Many people have lost well-paying jobs during their working lives, many have been forced to take lower-paying jobs, and many others are forced to be on unemployment or assistance.

Most Americans don’t want assistance. Trump spoke to them.

Both parties have very recently gone through times when they needed serious introspection. After 2012, when the GOP lost a winnable race for president, they did their famous autopsy. Now, after losing the presidency to Donald Trump and Congress by an even wider margin, the Democrats have suffered three clobberings when Barack Obama was off the ballot. They are at least going through the motions of introspection, but re-electing Frisco weirdo Nancy Pelosi didn’t help.

Nonetheless, it appears rumors of the Republican Party’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Maps of the party’s control of Congress are dominating; if Obama’s assertions that he would lower the seas in 2008 were true, and if the blue House districts around the country were the Democrats’ estuaries, the president has indeed fulfilled his goal. Blue areas have receded like floodwaters after a mild storm.

The Democrats have lost seats in the U.S. Senate, dozens of seats in the House, at least 12 governorships, and somewhere near 900 statehouse seats nationwide. There are now only four states where the Democrats control the governor’s mansion and both houses of the state legislature. In addition, one-third of all Democrat members of the House are from just three states: Massachusetts, New York, and California.

Geographically, most of the state of New York is red, and roughly half of California is red.

The Democrats answered a recent challenge to change their tone to address the concerns of working class Americans in “flyover country” via the challenge of Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, but they chose to put Nancy Pelosi back in place. Also, far-left Keith Ellison of Minnesota – documented to be an extreme left-wing socialist, is the frontrunner to take control over the Democratic National Committee.

Ellison should be organizing a protest; he’s hardly someone who can marshal the party to relate to average working Americans.

On healthcare reform, the Democrats’ flagship initiative, Obamacare, has led to an inflation of healthcare premiums and deductibles, rendering many plans as useless as a power drill without a battery. Americans recognize this, even if Donald Trump didn’t articulate it well on his campaign.

On the minimum wage, Democrat professional operatives are flooding the street demanding a $15 minimum wage. For Americans who work for that amount or less in far more important jobs than slapping together a smooshed fast-food burger, the demand is downright offensive.

The Democrats are also now the party of political correctness. On campuses and elsewhere, the stories stream forth about nonsensical, fabricated offenses, microaggressions, safe spaces, and other idiocies that Americans who are struggling to afford to go to the grocery store simply don’t give a crap about.

Most Americans don’t care about someone’s race. On race relations, the Democrats have become the party obsessed with race versus race. To be sure, there are concerns to address about criminal justice, mandatory sentencing, and police profiling, but most Americans are more concerned about crime in America’s communities than what the skin color is of who commits the crime. That’s a legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s crusade to remove skin color from the most important conversations about public policy in America.

On abortion: most Americans aren’t extreme on the issue, but few believe abortion should be a method of birth control. The thought that aborted babies are a source of material for research also unsettles many Americans. It seems now that many Democrats have taken a hard-line stance on abortion that the American people, who are more nuanced than many in the political elite give them credit for, do not support.

And while a large number of Americans are aware of the issue of climate change, it’s not at the forefront of Americans who are suffering a declining standard of living. And despite its best efforts, the left has not effectively made the case that massive economic disruptions are worth addressing it. Most Americans are aware that the climate is never static and are deeply skeptical that expensive corporate welfare for green energy corporations that put up wind mills in Indiana is the solution.

Back to geography: Thirty percent of the House Democratic Caucus is from three states: Massachusetts, New York, and California. That astounding fact shows that claims the GOP was doomed to decay into a regional, marginal party was in fact diametrically untrue.

In the wake of their lurch to the left, the Democrats have become a starkly regional party, limited to the coastal and urban areas of the country – all despite a decade-long campaign to besmirch conservatives.

The Democrats and their allies in the media mocked the Tea Party movement that emerged during the debate over Pres. Obama’s healthcare law in 2009-2010 as Koch Brothers-funded astroturf. That era produced a massive upswell of conservative voter sentiment and swept Democrats from power at all levels of government.

Six years later, Democrats’ fortunes have not improved. In their mockery, the Democrats erred. The Tea Party movement and the subsequent high tide on the right has produced an incredible number of fresh faces in politics in state legislatures, governor’s mansions, congress, and the Senate. The Left has produced its own uprisings, from “Occupy” to “Black Lives Matter.” Neither appears poised to produce viable candidates for office, and the core message of nonstop protests by leftists is muddled at best, and will only turn people away.

Those who spend their time working, raising a family, and running a household are not impressed by protesters who march out, block the streets, and in some cases smash windshields and destroy storefronts.

In the foreseeable future, the Democratic Party will be hobbled by extreme causes that are disjointed with the pocketbook concerns of most Americans. Their hyper-segmentation of the electorate that produces anger among a very small slice of the American people, who take to the streets and block roads that people use to get home from work in order to protest, will only increase that party’s marginalization.

There’s simply nothing left that the Democratic Party stands for that the majority of Americans care all that much about.

The Democratic Party’s star has not gone supernova. Instead, it has just shriveled, shedding its hot corona and shrinking to a small core that is dense, hot, potentially dangerous, but otherwise insignificant in the broader political universe.

The post The Democratic Disconnect appeared first on Morning Martini.