US Politics: Fahrenheit Wisconsin- main battleground in America’s political war – The Economist

A state once known for stolid German virtues is now the main battleground in America’s political war

THE ECONOMIST

IT IS SOBERING TO ENTER A SCHOOL IN MIDDLE AMERICA AND FIND STUDENTS AND TEACHERS FRIGHTENED FOR THEIR LIVES. It was also understandable that those at Wauwatosa East high school should feel this way when Lexington accompanied the local state representative, Robyn Vining, there.

EIGHT HIGH SCHOOLS IN WISCONSIN HAD JUST EXPERIENCED A REAL OR SUSPECTED SHOOTER INCIDENT IN A THREE-DAY PERIOD. One in another school in Waukesha, a suburban area on the edge of Milwaukee, had led to its school cop shooting a pupil.

Several of the 25 students present said they avoided going to the bathroom in class time for fear of the school corridors. When asked who was scared to come to school, all raised their hands. So did their teacher. The blame the students attached to the conservative gun lobby for this catastrophe is one reason their society has 75 members and is growing. The school’s conservative club is defunct.     

The violence America’s gun fetish has wrought is polarising everywhere.

Democrats consider unconscionable Republicans’ refusal to recognise that gun control makes schools safer. 

Republicans fear Democrats’ harping on the subject presages a wider assault on liberty.

But in Wisconsin such partisan issues have become especially bitter. When the state’s Democratic governor, Tony Evers, called a special session of its Republican-led legislature in November to debate two gun control laws — including a “red-flag” bill to help relatives report unhinged gun owners — the Republicans quashed it.

The mutual suspicions such rows are giving rise to, seeping through the communities of a state once known for good governance and neighbourliness, make Wisconsin acutely illustrative of America’s broader political divide. 

THIS POLITICAL DIVIDE MAKES THE STATE LOOK LIKE AN AUGURY OF THE POLITICAL YEAR AHEAD.

So does the related fact that Wisconsin is especially likely to determine whether Donald Trump is re-elected.

This is because, all else remaining equal, Trump needs to win only one of the three rust-belt states he took from the Democrats in 2016. And with Michigan and Pennsylvania looking fairly Democratic, he and his opponents have made Wisconsin – the whitest and most conservative of the trio – their priority.

Last month the Democrats — who will hold their national convention in Milwaukee in July — knocked on 54,000 doors in the state in a weekend. Mr Trump’s campaign, which has fewer volunteers but more money, is meanwhile bombarding Wisconsinites with ads, including many lambasting his impeachment.

Both parties say their activities in the state are eight months ahead of where they would normally be at this point in the cycle. 

Wisconsin’s rancorous politics are in part due to the tightness of its political contest — Mr Trump won the state by 0.7% of the vote.

Democrats were shocked by that. But though Wisconsin had voted for their presidential candidates since 1984, in recent times only Barack Obama won convincingly. John Kerry and Al Gore both won Wisconsin by less than 1% of the vote.

As elsewhere in the Midwest, the rightward shift this denoted was driven by working-class whites and flagging union membership. In 2011, Governor Scott Walker therefore pushed through legislation to smash collective bargaining. In the process he destroyed the Democrats’ main source of campaign finance and, his opponents believed, interparty fair play. That is another reason for the rancour.

Republican voter-registration laws aimed at depressing Democratic turnout have caused more bad blood, on both sides.

Wisconsin Democrats decry their opponents’ tactics.

Wisconsin Republicans, without proof but with no less certainty, accuse the Democrats of what they themselves stand accused of.

Encouraged by the state’s 81 talk-radio stations, many believe Mr Walker was beaten by Mr Evers last year because of electoral fraud by black voters in Milwaukee (FOR WHICH THERE IS NO EVIDENCE).

Meanwhile, following a court ruling, Republican activists appear to have succeeded in an effort to scrub 230,000 names from the electoral roll, mostly in Democratic areas.

THE FACT THAT DEMOCRATS HAVE MORE GROUND FOR COMPLAINT IS AT ONCE PROVABLE AND PRACTICABLY IMMATERIAL – GIVEN HOW EQUALLY WRONGED BOTH SIDES FEEL.

This offers three strands to the 2020 augury: First, the state — and therefore the country — is likely to be close-run. Second, WITH ONLY 10% OF WISCONSINITES CONSIDERED PERSUADABLE, there is no reason to expect a breakthrough for either party. Third, both parties’ base-rallying tactics make that even less likely.

THE DEMOCRATS ARE FOCUSING ON REGISTERING AND TURNING OUT NON-WHITES IN MILWAUKEE, while eroding the Republicans’ grip on suburban areas such as Waukesha, where Mr Trump is not loved.

THE PRESIDENT’S CAMPAIGN IS TRYING TO BOOST HIS SUPPORT FURTHER AMONG WORKING-CLASS WHITES. Wisconsin will be an election for partisans — and therefore nasty.

The early campaigning is already raising tensions in the state. At the weekly gathering of an anti-Trump group known as the PerSisters — a stone’s throw from Wauwatosa East — its middle-aged activists said they no longer shared Thanksgiving and Christmas with pro-Trump relatives: Politics is too fraught.

“In their violent hatred of the president, the Democrats have raised the bar in terms of potential violence and nervousness in the state,” claimed Terry Dittrich, the Republican chairman in nearby Waukesha county.

WISCONSIN NOT SO NICE

The warning from Wisconsin is that the social damage done by such partisan enmity may be long-lasting. Almost worse than their fear was the desperation the kids at Wauwatosa East expressed at the mess their elders were making of their state and country. “You deserve not to be terrified,” lamented Ms Vining, who narrowly won Mr Walker’s old Wauwatosa seat last year in one of the Democrats’ standout successes of the mid-terms. But she will do well to retain it. Although both parties dream of Wisconsin moving towards them, America’s most contested state looks stuck, between their respective anger and fears, for some time yet. 

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  • Clyde Duncan  On January 23, 2020 at 3:57 am

    Let Us Remember The MLK Who Was NOT Liked

    BY THE EDITORIAL BOARD | Charlotte Observer

    To celebrate Martin Luther King Jr., who was born January 15, 1929, here is a look at his message — BY DAVID CARACCIO

    Editor’s note: This 2018 Charlotte Observer editorial was among our most shared that year and again last year. With the 2020 election approaching, its message is equally relevant:

    MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. WAS NOT A WELL-LIKED MAN. He was one of the most polarizing figures in the United States during his final few years of life. He was NOT the cuddly creature we re-invent every King Day to lie to ourselves and our children about how he only wanted us to get along. His approval rating began to rise only after he was no longer here to demand America live up to its ideals.

    KING WANTED PEACE, BUT NOT AT THE EXPENSE OF EQUALITY. He wanted little black girls and boys to play with little white girls and boys, but not if it meant pretending racism did not exist. King respected authority, but challenged those wearing badges and carrying batons and sitting in the Oval Office.

    KING WANTED MORAL CLARITY, NOT CHEAP COMFORT. Were he alive today, he would still be hated by those wedded to the status quo. Because he would notice the poor still being vilified as lazy.

    KING WOULD SEE LARGE CORPORATIONS, LIKE WALMART, BRAG PROUDLY ABOUT MODEST PAY INCREASES THEN QUIETLY ANNOUNCE THOUSANDS OF LAYOFFS.

    The GOP would still have enacted a tax law skewed to the rich then pass work requirements for Medicaid benefits; something the GOP have never required of wealthy Americans receiving government largesse.

    King would know the government pays private collectors triple what they retrieve in back taxes from the low-income while high-income tax cheats skate.

    And when King critiqued capitalism:

    “Again, we have deluded ourselves into believing the myth that capitalism grew and prospered out of the Protestant ethic of hard work and sacrifice. The fact is that capitalism was built on the exploitation and suffering of black slaves and continues to thrive on the exploitation of the poor – both black and white, both here and abroad.”

    MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. WAS NOT A WELL-LIKED MAN when he demanded a radical redistribution of political and economic power.

    MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. WAS NOT A WELL-LIKED MAN when he said:

    “Whites, it must frankly be said, are not putting in a similar mass effort to re-educate themselves out of their racial ignorance. It is an aspect of their sense of superiority that the white people of America believe they have so little to learn.”

    MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. WAS NOT A WELL-LIKED MAN when he was exasperated by those telling him to wait:

    “Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

    MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. WAS NOT A WELL-LIKED MAN when he wanted justice and peace.

    If King could have only one, there is no doubt which he would choose.

  • Clyde Duncan  On January 23, 2020 at 10:39 am

    San Francisco District Attorney Ends Use Of Money Bail

    Newly elected progressive Chesa Boudin fulfilled one of his major campaign promises: Eliminating prosecutors’ use of cash bail in all criminal cases.

    By Sarah Ruiz-Grossman | HuffPost US

    SAN FRANCISCO’S NEW DISTRICT ATTORNEY, CHESA BOUDIN (D), OFFICIALLY ENDED HIS OFFICE’S USE OF MONEY BAIL FOR ALL CRIMINAL CASES.

    Prosecutors at the San Francisco district attorney’s office will no longer ask for cash bail as a condition for pretrial detention under a new policy announced January 2020.

    THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE WILL UTILIZE THE CITY’S EXISTING “RISK ASSESSMENT” TOOL, which uses “objective data” to determine if people pose a “serious threat” to public safety, in which case these can be detained leading up to their trial “regardless of their wealth”, according to a press release from the D.A.’s office.

    PROSECUTORS CAN STILL SEEK TO HAVE DEFENDANTS HELD IN DETENTION BEFORE TRIAL IN CASES OF SERIOUS FELONIES INVOLVING VIOLENT ACTS OR SEXUAL ASSAULTS, FOR INSTANCE.

    “For years I’ve been fighting to end this discriminatory and unsafe approach to pretrial detention,” Boudin said of cash bail in the release. “FROM THIS POINT FORWARD, PRETRIAL DETENTION WILL BE BASED ON PUBLIC SAFETY, NOT ON WEALTH.”

    Boudin, 39, sworn into office earlier this month, IS A FORMER PUBLIC DEFENDER WHO RAN ON A PLATFORM OF ELIMINATING CASH BAIL, CLOSING JAILS AND COMBATING RACISM IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM. This move, just after his inauguration, fulfills a significant campaign promise.

    ADVOCATES FOR BAIL REFORM HAVE LONG ARGUED THAT MONEY BAIL CREATES AN UNEQUAL SYSTEM IN WHICH POOR PEOPLE ARE LOCKED UP BEFORE TRIAL SIMPLY BECAUSE THEY CAN’T AFFORD BAIL AND WEALTHIER PEOPLE ACCUSED OF THE SAME OFFENSES CAN STAY FREE UNTIL THEIR DAY IN COURT.

    BOUDIN HAS DEEP PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM:

    When he was just over a year old, both of his parents, then members of radical left-wing group the WEATHER UNDERGROUND, were sent to prison for driving the getaway car in an infamous 1981-armed robbery in New York. HIS FATHER IS STILL INCARCERATED.

    The district attorney was a leader in the years-long effort in San Francisco and California to challenge the cash bail system.

    AT THE STATE LEVEL, CALIFORNIA RESIDENTS WILL BE VOTING IN 2020 ON WHETHER TO ELIMINATE CASH BAIL STATEWIDE.

    ON ANY GIVEN DAY IN 2016, NEARLY HALF OF THE JAIL POPULATION IN SAN FRANCISCO WOULD HAVE BEEN ELIGIBLE FOR RELEASE IF THOSE INMATES SIMPLY POSTED BAIL, according to a report from the office of the city treasurer.

    CENTRAL TO BOUDIN’S CAMPAIGN PLATFORM WAS ENDING “RACIST DISPARITIES THAT PLAGUE EVERY STEP OF OUR CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM.”

    IN SAN FRANCISCO, BLACK PEOPLE ARE NINE TIMES MORE LIKELY TO BE BOOKED INTO JAILS THAN WHITES, ACCORDING TO A HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH ANALYSIS OF 2014-2015 COUNTY DATA.

    WHEN IT COMES TO MONEY BAIL, BLACK PEOPLE IN SAN FRANCISCO PAY OVER $120 PER CAPITA PER YEAR IN NON-REFUNDABLE BAIL FEES, VERSUS $10 PER CAPITA FOR WHITE PEOPLE, BOUDIN’S OFFICE REPORTED.

    Former District Attorney George Gascon first introduced a risk assessment tool in 2016 in an effort to reduce the use of cash bail. Since then, the number of cases in which prosecutors used money bail had decreased but had not been totally phased out as of last year, Boudin’s office said.

    Some experts have warned about pretrial “risk assessment” tools, noting that algorithms such tools rely on can be vulnerable to racial biases.

    Some also warn that without the use of cash bail, prosecutors may rely more on strict conditions for defendants’ release, such as mandated calls, electronic monitoring and home detention, which can extend state supervision and surveillance of people ― and disproportionately over people of color.

    Human Rights Watch researcher John Raphling called Boudin’s new policy a “great step towards a more just system” in the news release from Boudin’s office.

    “FOR TOO LONG, PROSECUTORS HAVE USED MONEY BAIL AND PRETRIAL INCARCERATION AS LEVERAGE TO PRESSURE PEOPLE TO PLEAD GUILTY REGARDLESS OF ACTUAL GUILT,” HE SAID.

    CALLING BOUDIN’S POLICY A “WELCOME CHANGE THAT WILL HELP BUILD THE CREDIBILITY OF OUR COURTS.”

  • Clyde Duncan  On January 23, 2020 at 10:46 am

    The foregoing seems to me like one answer to Martin Luther King Jr’s prayers!!

    Chesa Boudin said: “For years I’ve been fighting to end this discriminatory and unsafe approach to pretrial detention FROM THIS POINT FORWARD, pretrial detention will be based on PUBLIC SAFETY – NOT ON WEALTH.”

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