Data Wonk

Why Are Wisconsin Republicans So Hostile to Ukraine?

All 5 of state's remaining Republican House members voted against aid to Ukraine.

By - May 15th, 2024 02:35 pm
Flag of Ukraine. Photo by UP9, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Flag of Ukraine. Photo by UP9, (CC BY-SA 3.0), via Wikimedia Commons

In Wisconsin, as well as the nation, the question of whether to aid Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion has become heavily imbedded in American domestic politics. The chart below summarizes the results of two Marquette Law School Polls from late 2023 and early 2024. The three bars on the left show the percentage of Republicans, Independents, and Democrats who said that the level of aid was too much. The three bars on the right show the percentage saying the level is either about right or too little.

Sixty one percent of Republicans who had a position said the amount of aid was too much. By contrast, 88% of Democrats said that the amount should be maintained or increased. In Marquette’s national poll, taken a few weeks earlier, the proportion of Republicans saying the aid was too much dropped to 50% and the proportion of Democrats rose to 20%.

Thus, support for Ukraine remaining an independent democracy is highly contingent on which party one favors. That said, it is worth noting that 39% of Republicans, although a minority, still represent a large number of people supporting Ukraine.

Is the US providing too much aid for Ukraine or should it maintain or increase the amount?

Is the US providing too much aid for Ukraine or should it maintain or increase the amount?

Compare this partisan alignment with the days of the Cold War, when this country was also faced with an aggressive dictatorship based in Russia. Opposition to Russia united Republicans, who often accused Democrats of being too accommodating to the Communist regime in the USSR.

One has to go back to the 1930s to find an alignment between American political parties and European dictatorships similarly to today’s. Then, it was mainly the Republican Party which argued against support for Czechoslovakia, then Poland, and finally Britain and France, as each of these countries were invaded by German troops.

Donald Trump and his supporters even adopted the same slogan—“America First”—that was used by opponents of American support for the victims of Nazi aggression. (A Doctor Suess cartoon from 1941 shows a woman with an “America First” on her blouse reading to two children. The caption: “ … and the Wolf chewed up the children and spit out their bones … But those were Foreign Children and it really didn’t matter.”)

Wisconsin’s Republican delegation in the US Congress is particularly top-heavy with Republican opponents of aid for Ukraine. Senator Ron Johnson dismisses Ukraine’s ability to survive even with continued American and European help:

“U.S. policy ought to recognize the fact that what they’ve been trying to do hasn’t worked. It’s not going to work,” Johnson said. Johnson said only a negotiated settlement between Russia and Ukraine can end the war. He cited Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent interview with TV personality Tucker Carlson. Putin claimed Russia’s attack on Ukraine was necessary to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO. “They believe in their motherland,” Johnson said. “They’re not going to lose this war. So recognize that reality, and act accordingly.”

An advisor to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the Republicans who say Ukraine can’t win are not on the moral side of this issue: “You will be on the side of those who are still killing my nation, who are still producing missiles and armor and battle tanks, in order to kill Ukrainians day by day, night by night.”

In a story by Lawrence Andrea, Johnson seemed to blame the “West” for the war that Putin started:

“I don’t like to see the Ukrainian people being used as cannon fodder in a proxy war between the West and Russia,” Johnson said. “I think that’s what this has devolved into. I don’t want to spend $60 billion of money we don’t have to fuel a bloody stalemate. We need to do everything we can from a strategic standpoint to figure out how to end this war.”

Obviously, peace would be a good thing. But a peace imposed on Ukraine would mean that, at best, Ukraine would lose a good chunk of its territory or, at worst cease to exist as an independent democracy.

It turns out that five of Wisconsin’s six Republican members of the US House of Representatives agreed with Ron Johnson and voted against H.R. 8035, the most recent package of aid for Ukraine. Thus, if measured by percentages the Wisconsin Republican House delegation was considerably more negative towards Ukraine than the House as a whole, where almost half the members supported Ukraine. Quickly following the vote, Mike Gallagher, Ukraine’s only supporter in the Wisconsin Congressional delegation, resigned from the House, making it five out of five.

What accounts for Ukraine’s unpopularity in Trump world? I suspect that a large factor was the discovery of Trump’s attempt to coerce President Zelenskyy to announce an investigation into Joe Biden’s activities in Ukraine. The next graph shows how strongly correlated were people’s political preferences with approval of Trump’s action. 82% of Democrats felt that Trump did something seriously wrong compared to 4% of Republicans. Conversely, 74% of Republicans felt that Trump did nothing seriously wrong compared to 4% of Democrats.

Did Trump do something wrong in his dealings with Ukraine?

Did Trump do something wrong in his dealings with Ukraine?

Given that Trump, and many of his supporters judge people by whether or not they say good things about Trump, it is likely that this issue has left a bad taste about Ukraine. Trump’s grievances are MAGA’s grievances.

Heavy gerrymandering of Wisconsin’s congressional districts may be a second factor. Despite Wisconsin’s role as a competitive state, six of its eight districts were won by Republicans. Four of those six are considered safely Republican, where any threat to reelection comes in the Republican primary rather than the general election.

However, even if, as appears from Marquette polling, only 39% of Wisconsin Republican voters support Ukraine, that still represents a significant number of Republicans. Evidence for this conclusion is the emergence of a website called Republicans for Ukraine. This site includes a GOP Congressional Report Card, assessing all Republican members of the US House of Representatives for their support or opposition to Ukraine’s efforts to repel the Republican invaders.

The report card was derived from nine House votes on measures that would help or hinder Ukraine’s war efforts. It includes the recently enacted H.R. 8035, the Ukraine Security Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2024, which appropriates $60.8 billion to support Ukraine. It also considered whether the members’ public statements were pro, anti, or neutral to Ukraine.

Here are the ratings for Wisconsin’s six Republican representatives:

  • Thomas Tiffany (District 7) has the distinction of being the only Wisconsin representative to oppose Ukraine on all nine of the votes. He also issued numerous statements and press releases attacking support for Ukraine. Republicans for Ukraine gave him grade of “F-very poor.”
  • Derrick Van Orden (District 3) voted once to support Ukraine and five times against it. (Two votes came before he was elected to Congress.) His statements took a “yes-but” form: “No one wants to reward Vladimir Putin, but the American taxpayer is getting very weary of this blank check that seems to have been written by the Biden Administration” and “Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is illegal … I cannot in good conscience send U.S. tax dollars to Ukraine while our troops may not receive a paycheck this month.” His grade was also “F-very poor.”
  • Early on, Scott Fitzgerald (District 5) was supportive of aid to Ukraine, accompanying this support with a ringing statement:  “President Zelenskyy’s message was loud and clear: democratic nations must continue to provide support to Ukraine in its fight against tyranny. Hundreds of innocent lives have been lost, and the fight has only just begun. President Biden must immediately unleash the full power of economic sanctions on the Russian economy and provide Ukraine with the resources they need to deter Putin and end this tragic conflict. Only then can we move forward with peace.” However, this support evaporated after the first three votes. He joined Tiffany and Van Orden in receiving a grade of “F-very poor.”
  • Glenn Grothman (District 6) sounded sympathetic to Ukraine: “If Ukraine runs out of munitions and Russia wins that war, that would be a bad thing.” However, he voted against aid most of the time. His grade was “D+ Poor.”
  • Bryan Steil also issued a supportive statement: “President Zelenskyy continues to show steadfast leadership amidst the unjust, unproved attack from Russia. His message to Congress was clear: the United States must stand in support of Ukraine.” However, he did not back up this sentiment when it came to support. He received a grade of “C Mediocre.”
  • Mike Gallagher (District 8) was the only Wisconsin Republican representative to vote for the most recent aid package and received a grade of “A Excellent.”

Following the vote, Gallagher resigned from Congress. As a result, none of the remaining Republican members in Congress supports the defense of democracy in Ukraine. I find that a worrying sign for the future of the state and the world.

The good news is that a substantial number of Republicans oppose the threat to democracy from Putin’s Russia. The bad news is that they are completely unrepresented in the US Congress.

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Categories: Data Wonk, Politics

4 thoughts on “Data Wonk: Why Are Wisconsin Republicans So Hostile to Ukraine?”

  1. kaygeeret says:

    Good old Fitzgerald……

    Doing exactly what he is told!

  2. Duane says:

    So in answer to the question “Why Are Wisconsin Republicans So Hostile to Ukraine?” I would simply state that it is because they are a dishonest party that hates democracy and has no sense of history.

    The US has an obligation to defend Ukraine from Russia because of the 1994 “Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty”.
    In 1994, in exchange for signed guarantees from the international community ensuring its future security, the Ukrainian government relinquished its status as a nuclear state and the “Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine.”

    Every Democrat at every chance given should be pointing this out in the media and in Congress.

  3. TosaGramps1315 says:

    Why do they vote the way they do on any piece of legislation? Because their lips are embedded to the rear end of Frump, and whatever Frump want from them, Frump gets. They are just a bunch of mindless, soulless lemmings.

  4. Mingus says:

    Where is the late Senator Joe McCarthy when we need someone like him to identify the Communist agents and sympathizers in the Republican Party. Our grandfathers fought to free Europe from fascism in WW 2 while some of their grandchildren in the House and Senate are working to restore it in these same counties.

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