Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Wisconsin Now the Reddest State?

No state in America has been more opposed to federal coronavirus relief package.

By - Mar 18th, 2020 11:51 am
Ron Johnson and Glenn Grothman.

Ron Johnson and Glenn Grothman.

When it comes to the presidential vote, Wisconsin may be the most well-known swing state in America, widely seen as the one most likely to decide the 2020 election. Yet when it comes to public policies favored by its Republican politicians, it is more a red state than a purple one. Indeed, as the House of Representative considered whether to pass a coronavirus relief package for America, no state’s representatives was more opposed than those from Wisconsin. 

The multi-billion-dollar legislation passed by a 363 to 40 margin, with all Democrats voting yes and 40 Republicans voting no.  But no state’s Republicans were more opposed, with 100 percent of its GOP members — F. James Sensenbrenner, Glenn Grothman, Mike Gallagher and Bryan Steil — all voting no. (One Republican-leaning district, formerly held by the very conservative Sean Duffy, who retired, is awaiting a special election to fill the position.) The three Democratic representatives, Ron Kind, Gwen Moore and Mark Pocan, all voted yes. 

No state was as implacably opposed to this legislation as Wisconsin. Texas? Just six of its 23 House Republicans voted no. Tennessee? Four of its seven Republicans opposed the bill. South Carolina? Close but no cigar: four of its five Republicans said nay.  

Across America, not one representative of deep-red states like Mississippi, Alabama, Wyoming, Montana, Arkansas, Louisiana, Utah and North Dakota voted against the bill, showing just how popular this legislation was. Yet in purple Wisconsin, which in 2018 elected a full slate of Democratic state officials, including Governor and Attorney General, the majority of its House representatives voted no. How is this possible? 

Steil offered an explanation, saying the bill “places a heavy government mandate on Wisconsin small businesses that are already suffering negative consequences from coronavirus. We need to support job creators, not penalize them.” 

Gallagher, too, said the bill “could force small businesses in Northeast Wisconsin to lay off workers or cause them to close their doors altogether.” 

Sensenbrenner offered a different reason: “We do not know the full cost of this legislation. I am not a fan of passing bills to find out what is in them.” 

Grothman took a similar tack, calling this “the most rushed vote I’ve ever seen in all my time in public office.” But as blogger Jim Rowen has noted, Grothman’s vote comes after many no’s on legislation, including bills to protect Americans from the PFAS “forever chemicals,” to the “Protect and Restore America’s Estuaries Act” to the “Protecting American Lungs and Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2020.”

Then there was Wisconsin’s Republican U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, who echoed the concern about costs for small businesses. But it’s worth noting that while the House bill gives workers 14 days of paid sick leave to be available immediately during the coronavirus pandemic, it also “reimburses small businesses (those with 50 or fewer employees) for the cost of the 14 additional days of leave.”

Johnson, meanwhile, offered an objection no politician offered in even the reddest redoubts of America, arguing the legislation is “incentivizing people to not show up for work… You have to think this thing through in terms of what are the unintended consequences of good intentions… People are going to have to work… We got to keep our economy.”

So to maintain our economy people must continue working even it means they could get a disease that kills them? It’s a philosophy that wouldn’t be championed by the most heartless of Dickens’ Victorian villains.

Beyond the policy reasons offered, the more striking thing is the politics at work: how is it that only Wisconsin’s Republican are so adamantly opposed to legislation welcomed by the majority of representatives in 49 other states? In Johnson’s case, he won’t face the voters until 2022 and he’s at times suggested he won’t run for another term. 

But House Republicans face an election this fall, as do all the members of the Wisconsin Assembly, whose leader, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, declared that the Legislature needn’t take action on the pandemic, saying “There’s no need for the Assembly to come in and have politicians grandstand on the issue.”

How is it only the representatives in Wisconsin, of all the 50 states, are so blasé about the ravages of a global contagion? One word: gerrymandering. The districts of these four congressional representatives in Wisconsin are so gerrymandered that they easily survived the 2018 Blue Wave, when Democrats flipped 41 Republican-leaning states. And the Assembly districts are so gerrymandered that Democrats won the majority of the state-wide vote in 2018, yet won just 36 of 99 districts. Wisconsin is one of American’s most gerrymandered states, which is how purple suddenly turns so virulently red.

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Categories: Murphy's Law, Politics

6 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: Wisconsin Now the Reddest State?”

  1. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    Not just gerrymandering. If AM 620 and AM 1130 were nuked, these “representatives” would be a lot more responsible.

    The Wisconsin GOP needs their Bubble or BS to be smashed into dust.

  2. blurondo says:

    The virus doesn’t see red or blue.
    It’s unfortunate that the constituents of these ideologically frozen pols will be eligible for the assistance. Perhaps it should be available to only the folks whose representatives supported it.

  3. Patricia Jursik says:

    Gerrymandering: the gift that keeps on giving.

  4. frank a schneiger says:

    Gerrymandering is a symptom as well as a cause. Gerrymandered districts don’t necessarily have to produce the likes of Grothman, Sensenbrenner and the gang in the House, but they do make it more likely. For example, Johnson sits in the U.S. Senate, elected statewide. What we are seeing, including today’s vote in which Johnson was one of 8 senators to vote against a corona virus relief bill is a reflection of the reality that one of the two major political parties in now in a state of advanced decay, and that decay is driven by a sense of white victimization and greed. In considering his vote, does anyone believe that the situation faced by people, theoretically his constituents, on Milwaukee’s north or south sides entered Ron Johnson’s thinking?

    Then there is another big – rarely mentioned – issue that relates partly to gerrymandering, but also to other big factors. It is the reality that, even by ordinary standards, Johnson, Grothman and most of the others are stupid people, who, in the current environment, have thrown in their lot with racial hatred, greed, corruption and lies. Anyone watching a Senate or House hearing on C-Span can see that, even in a sea of mediocrity that the Congress has become, these people stand out for being stupid and uninformed. Johnson is part of theRepublican cohort that believes that, as a “businessman,” he has some special insights, and that the government, except for ICE and the military, is totally incompetent.

    And, if anyone wants to get a clear sense of thinking of these officials’ fans, simply look at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on-line comments section, at least until the racist comments produce a “this thread closed.” The elected state Republicans don’t exist in a vacuum.

    In an essay composed while imprisoned by Hitler, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote an essay on why stupidity is more dangerous than evil. He wrote, with respect to the stupid person, “In conversation with him, one virtually feels that one is dealing not at all with him as a person, but with slogans, catchwords and the like that have taken possession of him…The fact that the stupid person is often stubborn must not blind us to the fact that he is not independent….Having thus become a mindless tool, the stupid person will also be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil. This is where the danger of diabolical misuse lurks, for it is this that can once and for all destroy human beings.”

    Patricia Jursik and Bruce Murphy are clearly right, but our problems now go far deeper than gerrymandering.

  5. mkwagner says:

    Thank you Frank for your words of wisdom and quoting Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a theologian and victim of the Nazi regime. It was the stupidity and fear of regular Germans that allowed Hitler and his Nazi Party to take hold of Germany and devastate Europe. And today, Trump and his GOP mouthpieces are spreading a similar fear and distrust in this country.

  6. frank a schneiger says:

    One of the nice things about Ron Johnson and the rest of this seamy crew is that, just when you think you may have been a little too hard on them, they always say something that tells you that you have understated your case. And usually, that something points too some even deeper ailment afflicting our country.

    Case in point, Senator Johnson’s recent comments on the COVID-19 epidemic in which he informed us that the virus “is not a death sentence,” and that no more than 3-4 percent of the population will die; but, in his words, “probably far less.” He had been upset that “all people are hearing about are the deaths,” in this case, that would be the 11 million who would die if his 3-4% figure proves to be correct. But hey, “no more than 3-4 percent.” Or, as General Buck Turgidson said in Dr. Strangelove after being told that he was advocating mass murder and the death of millions of people, “I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed.”

    Here are what are the deeper issues and fissures that Senator Johnson’s statements, votes and behaviors seem to indicate. The first is that I would be willing to bet that Johnson, his colleagues and the Trump base believe that the 3-4 percent will consist mostly of people from groups that they have successfully “otherized” in recent years, not them or people who look or think like them. Even now, we can see the early indicators that the response to the epidemic is going to reflect America’s extreme inequality and the consequences of it.

    Closely, related, the second deeper something reflected in these comments as well as those of other leaders – mostly, but not entirely – Republicans, is that we have become kind of a caste society in which elites live in a world totally separated from the “little people,” whom they claim to represent but whose lives they have zero understanding of. This is especially evident in the U.S. Senate dominated by rich, old, corrupt white men who never fly in group four in coach, sit with the masses at a sporting event, shop in a neighborhood store or even talk to those little people, except to stir up their resentments of those “others” whose deaths Ron Johnson seems to find a reasonable price to pay to keep the wheels of commerce turning.

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