MVPs: Rodgers and Walker
Except for an exceptionally mild winter, 2012 began inauspiciously.
National League MVP Ryan Braun faced a 50-game suspension after failing a test for banned substances; the Badgers lost in the Rose Bowl; a magical Packers 15-1 season ended with a playoff clunker and a defeat at the hands of the New York Giants; and union activists claimed they had gathered a million signatures to force a recall of Gov. Scott Walker. But the selection of Aaron Rodgers as the NFL’s MVP and the overturning of Braun’s suspension may have presaged a turnaround in the fortunes of the Badger State. Let’s hope so.
In January, Walker delivered his second State of the State address, noting: “When I addressed you in this chamber last January, Wisconsin had suffered through three years of 150,000 of our fellow citizens losing their jobs. The unemployment rate was 7.5%. And after years of tax increases and budget tricks, Wisconsin faced one of the largest budget deficits in the country. Now, our unemployment rate is down from a year ago. In fact, it’s the lowest it’s been since 2008. We are turning things around. We are heading in the right direction.”
The Wall Street Journal commented on the irony of the recall: “If they do make the ballot and cause a recall vote as early as this spring, they’ll have to campaign against reforms that have already saved taxpayers tens of millions of dollars and rescued the state from a budget crisis. Game on.”
Meanwhile, south of the border, Illinois tried a different tack: raising spending, taxes and debt. In recognition of those Greece-like economic policies, Moody’s downgraded Illinois from A1 to A2, giving it the dubious distinction of having the worst rating of any of the 50 states.
At the federal level, the Congressional Budget Office delivered more bad news, reporting that 2012 will be the fourth straight year the feds would run an annual deficit exceeding $1 trillion. The CBO projected that economic growth will remain sluggish and the unemployment rate will remain near 9 percent for the next three years. “The CBO report,” wrote Congressman Paul Ryan, “is a harsh indictment of the president’s failed economic policies.”
All Eyes (and Wallets) on Wisconsin
In other respects, though, Wisconsin remained ground zero of American politics, with words like “Armageddon” applied to a state once best known for cheddar. The focus on Wisconsin, however, reportedly had some Democrats nervous. The Hill reported that big labor’s plan to spend heavily in Wisconsin “has sparked angst on the left that the effort will come at the expense of Democrats in other states. … This is a stomach-churning prospect for Democrats and their allies because the labor expenditures could come just months before the general election, when money will be needed for more important battlegrounds such as Ohio and Florida.”
Mickey Mouse Politics
The Government Accountability Board helped the set the tone for a year of political upheaval and chaos by announcing that it would not necessarily strike bogus signatures from the recall petitions. Asked whether this would include, say, a signature by “Mickey Mouse,” election specialist David Buerger explained: “We will flag them, but we will not strike them without challenge.” Ditto for Adolf Hitler. The GAB later doubled down by refusing to take any input from citizen groups who attempted to do the job the GAB refused to do.
As the MacIver Institute quipped, “Apparently the only citizen input accepted by the GAB are those citizens who support the recall.”
Did I Say That?
In January, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett endorsed county Supervisor Johnny Thomas to be the city’s top financial officer. “The citizens of Milwaukee need a comptroller they can trust to ensure our finance system is stable and secure. Johnny has the right mix of public and private experience … to be an excellent comptroller for Milwaukee.”
Barrett was apparently unaware that several weeks earlier, Thomas had been caught in a sting allegedly accepting a $500 bribe. In early February, he was charged with two felonies and dropped out of the race.
On the one-year anniversary of the shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, we had many lectures from the media and the left about the need for more civility. There was, however, apparently an exemption for Wisconsin’s unionistas.
After Walker’s State of the State speech, for example, reported The Capital Times, protestors spotted one state legislator in the hallway:
“There’s a live one!” someone shouted as Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc, also Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch’s husband) strode past on his way to the bathroom.
“As Kleefisch passed the crowd again later, a young woman taunted him. ‘Your wife’s a f—— whore!’ she screamed.”
Civility Update II
As they wrapped up their recall efforts, state Democrats held a series of special events to pump up volunteers. In Fond du Lac County, for instance, the local party invited supporters to “meet special guest Ian Murphy of the [Buffalo] Beast, famous for his ‘Fake David Koch’ phone call.”
Murphy was also famous for his May 2008 column titled “F— the Troops,” which began: “So, 4,000 rubes are dead. Cry me the Tigris. Another 30,000 have been seriously wounded. Boo f—— hoo. They got what they asked for — and cool robotic limbs, too.”
Because of his pranking of Walker, however, all seemed to be forgiven as a Murphy posed for photos with local activists and politicians, including state Sen. Jessica King (D-Oshkosh).
Rules for Wisconsin Radicals
Several times during the year I had to repost something I wrote — with apologies to Saul Alinsky — at the height of the Madison protests.
- Never acknowledge conservative victories as legitimate.
- Never concede defeat in legislative votes. There is always a cloud.
- Rely on Dane County judges whenever possible.
- Elections only matter if liberals win.
- Shut down schools, bring legislative process to a halt, tie up the courts, extort businesses, try to overturn elections … and then say, “This is what democracy looks like.”
- Private businesses, families, personal lives are all fair game. Get the mainstream media to say that both sides are equally guilty.
- Create the appearance of scandal and misconduct wherever and whenever possible.
Chant “shame, shame, shame,” a lot.
- Break laws, ignore rules, commit fraud, flee the state, change standards at will — but hold conservatives to a standard of absolute compliance.
- Use the phrase “Koch brothers,” as often as possible.
- Create chaos whenever possible.
- Demand investigations, even if there is nothing to investigate. It adds to appearance of chaos and misconduct. Media will always bite.
- Bully, intimidate, and threaten, unleash union thugs … but repeatedly accuse Scott Walker and the GOP of being bullies.
- Hold many rallies.
If They Win
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Stephen Moore suggested that the Walker recall “might be the most important nonpresidential election in a decade.” But our own Christian Schneider laid out the stakes more starkly:
“Wisconsin has become a place where public vulgarity is not only tolerated, but expected. … The message is simple: If Walker is recalled, these people win. Their grotesque tactics will be vindicated, further ripping the state apart. Wisconsin will cease being the state its residents love; it will instead be a place where threats and intimidation reign.”
Game on, indeed.
Charles J. Sykes, the WI editor, is the author of seven books and hosts a daily radio show on AM-620 WTMJ in Milwaukee.