"It's a great day to be a Republican!" as Tommy G. Thompson would say.
Today, especially. Even Dane County conservatives get to be happy every so often. But I will not gloat. I well remember the infamous Capital Times editorial of April 1996 that celebrated the liberals' reclaiming of the Dane County Board.
"Let's gloat, shall we?" the CT proclaimed.
The squire of the stately manor was raised to be gracious in defeat and magnanimous in victory.
As was George W. Bush when, in the 2006 mid-terms, admitted, "We got a thumping." No blaming short attention spans, gun- or religion-clinging, or "outside" cash (outside of what)?
Ed Garvey is just plain wrong when he claims that money spent to promote political speech is a "disease." The Supreme Court's Citizens United decision "did us in and there is no easy remedy for the illness."
The plain truth is Wisconsin is, at present, a conservative state. The Gallup organization's tracking poll this August reveals that Wisconsin is 43% conservative, 19% liberal, 36% moderate. Nationally, those figures are 42% conservative, 20% liberal, 35% moderate.
At that, our state is only the 22nd most conservative in the nation, with a 24-point advantage for conservatives over liberals, behind No. #1 Wyoming (with a 44-point advantage), just behind Texas and Alaska but ahead of Kansas and Kentucky. Only in Rhode Island and the District of Columbia do liberals outnumber self-identified conservatives.
As of this writing, Republicans nationally picked up a net 60 congressional seats with 13 still undecided. That is the number I predicted so it appears even that forecast aimed low. It beats the Newt Gingrich revolution of 1994, when 54 new GOP house members forced Bill Clinton to triangulate to the right. The presumptive speaker, John Boehner, spoke at a Dane County Lincoln Day dinner at the behest of his friend, then U.S. Rep. Scott Klug. So, this would have been about 1998 at the Sheraton Hotel in Madison, I think.
Russ Feingold, a good man
Six U.S. Senate seats flipped, including, of course, Wisconsin's. Washington state is still out.
Few political figures are truly loved. Tommy Thompson was and, just as surely, Russ Feingold was loved - truly loved, in a way that Herb Kohl, for instance, never could be. Bill Proxmire was liked but not loved. Jim Doyle? Neither.
Which is only to say that I understand the angst that Russ Feingold's supporters feel this morning. I told Russ face to face that I had tremendous respect for him. But he was always the most liberal political figure in any room he was in, unless Ben Manski was in the hall and John Nichols was taking notes. Russ WAS a maverick - mainly when Barack Obama was not liberal enough.
Sen. Feingold believed in robust government interference in the domestic economy but a flaccid foreign policy. Which would have been fine if Government Motors was still making SUVs in Janesville.
Russ is a valued commodity and will now make a lot of money while still working in the public sector, probably as head of a foundation of some sort. Or the UW-Madison will find him a job. There's always room there for defeated Democrats.
Ron Johnson, R-WI
I think Ron Johnson is earning much of the fervor reserved for true political heroes. The guy really does have that oh shucks, Jimmy Stewart/Gary Cooper aura. He is the embodiment of the citizen legislator, a modern-day Cincinnatus. One feels that he will go to Washington, do as he promised, then return to civilian life at the end of his six-year term, on his own terms, mission accomplished.
That is why The Capital Times' constant labeling of RoJo as a "millionaire politician" was so wrong and cynical.
The state's daily newspapers - except for the Janesville Gazette, to my knowledge - all endorsed the incumbent. Which questions the utility of newspaper endorsements. They all faltered on demanding that Johnson provide specifics rather than understanding the man's philosophy and resolve.
Ron Johnson's election night acceptance speech from the EAA Air Museum in Oshkosh - what symbolism! - was a masterpiece of gratitude, humility, inspiration and sacrifice. He underlined what it is that makes America the great hope of the world.
RoJo said that President Obama "got my attention when he said he fundamentally wanted to transform America." That is what scares most of us conservatives; that is why the prevalence of powdered wigs at tea party events.
"I believe America is precious and it IS exceptional," Johnson said last night in Oshkosh. Those are words that would catch in a liberal's throat.
"I will work with anyone who believes it is freedom and the free-market system that makes America great."
He ended with the tale of our fighting servicemen in the Middle East being offered a satellite connection to talk to a loved one back home. The boyfriend passed it on to his comrade whose wife was near childbirth and he passed it on to the sergeant whose father had not long to live. Where do we find such men?" Ron Johnson asked.
"They come from Oshkosh, they come from Fond du Lac, Superior, Hudson, Green Bay and Platteville. They come from all over Wisconsin. They come from all over America."
Great applause line. Ron Johnson said, "The American spirit is alive, it may not be doing well right now, it may be under attack … but it is our job, our duty to make sure it not only survives for future generations but that it thrives."
It was not a "here's what government can do for you" speech. It was not a wonkish exegesis of a 1,200-page omnibus pork barrel bill. It was not a Russ Feingold speech.
Sen. Scott Fitzgerald represents a small slice of Dane County (Deerfield, Cambridge, and their three surrounding towns). Wouldn't it be grand if the new Senate majority leader introduced a bill to abolish the statutory authorization for the non-elected, no-binding-referendum Regional Transit Authority? It would pass both houses, soon to be in Republican hands. The new governor would sign it, he told me his own self.
I knew the anti-RTA commuter rail referenda would win big but was blown away by how big: 71-29% voted NO. Consider that every one of the 61,245 NO votes (to 24,550 yes) is a vote against Scott McDonell in next February's primary for county executive.
The rear-guard action by McDonell and his allies to call the referenda "fake" and "phony" was insulting. The results are clear: the voters of Dane County, where such a vote was allowed, do not want to pay more taxes for a transit plan that includes commuter rail.
My picks to click
I'm not hearing much from Justin (un)True this morning. But his constant braying that Ben Manski would win in the 77th Assembly district was so much noise. That Ben Manski was going to defeat a Democrat even as tragically flawed as Brett Hulsey in the most liberal district in Wisconsin was pure wish fulfillment. Manski the purist had bludgeoned too many good Democrats to get a pass now. (Barrett, for instance, was the "lesser of two evils.")
I was right-on when I predicted that the State Senate would go 19-14 Republican from its current 18-15 Democrat. I picked State Senate majority leader Russ Decker to lose.
I picked the Assembly to go 55-44 GOP and it went 60-38-1 (from the current 52-46-1 Dem). I forgot that Bob Ziegelbauer ran as an Independent up in Manitowoc.
Picked Treasurer Dawn Marie Sass, to lose but missed on Doug LaFollette and my national Hail Mary, Barney Frank. Wish was father to the thought for three of my four legislative picks; Henke, Schlicht and Clauder did not enter the winner's circle. I also blew it on Angle in Nevada and Fiorina in California. But, so did they.
I was propitious in the big races: governor, senator, AG, and all four congressional picks. I had Sheriff Mahoney big but not big enough.
Blaska's biggest WI upsets, WI: LaFollette, Sass, Decker lose; nationally: Barney Frank loses