Wackos vs. Wimps

Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson says what happened on January 6 “didn’t seem like an armed insurrection.” Fact-checkers called that claim “ridiculous revisionist history” and gave it a “pants on fire” rating. A few of Johnson’s fellow congressional Republicans accepted the truth about what happened that day and acted accordingly in the former president’s impeachment trial, only to be censured by their own party.

In the state legislature, ruling Republicans haven’t passed a single bill that’s become law since last April to ease suffering caused by the pandemic—or do anything else worthwhile for Wisconsin, for that matter—but they continue to use every trick in the book to subvert public health directives on mask wearing and physical distancing.

At both the state and national level, GOP officials continue to pander to their increasingly unhinged base, peddling bizarre and thoroughly debunked conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, ranting incessantly about advancing Marxism in America while blessing their former president’s man-crush on Vladimir Putin, and making their party a safe harbor for white supremacists.

One thing has become crystal clear: America has one political party that’s downright scary. And growing scarier by the day, posing a major threat to the country’s health and welfare. Problem is, the U.S. has another party that’s scared. That makes a big mess far harder to clean up.

America desperately needs prompt and dramatic action dealing with multiple national emergencies—a public health crisis of immense proportions, widespread economic hardship, glaring and growing inequality, seething social and racial unrest, and impending environmental calamity—but key Democrats are afraid to act without the cover of bipartisanship. They fear political repercussions if they suspend the filibuster rule in the Senate to free them to act swiftly and boldly on the intersecting crises plaguing the nation. They wring their hands and fret over the possibility that any action taken without Republican support might not be greeted with universal acclaim.

Funny how Mitch McConnell never seems to have such worries. Whenever he really wanted something—and he really wants control over our nation’s courts—he didn’t hesitate to cast aside the filibuster to steamroll the opposition.

Wisconsin’s Democratic Governor Tony Evers just put forward his state budget request. When Republicans who call the shots in the state legislature discard the governor’s proposals—which is as inevitable as the U.S. Senate acquitting the former president was—the question is whether he will take it lying down or do something to overcome the stonewalling.

Our Wisconsin Revolution pleaded with Evers to play hardball with Republicans and propose eliminating funding for private school vouchers—one of their favorite programs—also making it clear he’s prepared to use his extensive veto authority to thwart any effort to restore the funding unless they make concessions. Most Democrats I talked to winced at the suggested use of such a tactic to gain leverage in budget negotiations with legislative Republicans. They worry voucher backers are powerful and would surely seek revenge. They were unpersuaded when I reminded them that organized labor was seen as similarly powerful 10 years ago but not even 100,000 people protesting at the Capitol and a million people signing recall petitions could dissuade Scott Walker and his GOP allies from ramming through legislation kneecapping unions.

Governor Evers did not eliminate private school subsidies in his budget plan. Democrats always seem reluctant to exercise what power they have, even when public opinion is squarely on their side. Republicans have no such qualms, regardless of what the public thinks.

We have one party in this country that’s scary and another that’s scared. The scary one is the aggressor. When it has the ball it’s always looking to score. When it doesn’t have the ball, it’s scratching and clawing to get it back. The scared one appears to be playing defense whether its side has the ball or not.

All of which leaves our state and country caught between political paralysis and psychosis.

Mike McCabe

February 18, 2021