Glenn Grothman for Congress
Grothman will be the new Michele Bachmann.
Dane County progressives had a long list of disappointments in the recent election. The ascension of state Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) to the U.S. House of Representatives was certainly high on the list. While the district that elected Grothman leaned heavily Republican, there was hope that he would be too extreme for a district that had been represented for decades by the far more pragmatic Tom Petri.
At a time when Wisconsin is increasingly viewed as a conservative enclave, having Grothman espouse that Martin Luther King Day shouldn't be a holiday doesn't really help our national reputation. But though he can be quite embarrassing to forward-looking Americans, there are some positives to having Grothman in Washington, D.C. instead of Madison.
1. Small fish, big pond.
In the state Senate, Grothman had a ton of seniority and reputation. Now he is only one of 437 -- a freshman in a legislative body that is strongly based upon seniority. Grothman now has a national platform for his pronouncements but, in many ways, he has less real power.
There's a difference between perceived power and real power; the federal seat may be more prestigious than Wisconsin's statehouse, but Grothman arguably may have been more powerful in his old job. Now, he will be the new Michele Bachmann -- a saber rattler, a show horse for the more extreme elements of the Republican Party, and somebody who likely won't hold any real power.
2. This is the end of the road.
Grothman won a House district that was heavily Republican, and incumbency will give him the name recognition and money advantage to keep him in office. But he'll never move any higher than this. Grothman's extreme statements and record, past and future, would make it tough for him to win a statewide race. He’s also no spring chicken; this House seat could have gone to some 35-year-old upcoming conservative with gubernatorial ambitions or the desire to be a U.S. Senator.
For as long as we have the current congressional maps, Grothman is probably safe in his seat. But he isn't going anywhere higher.
3. There's no one else like him.
Glenn Grothman is known for his out-of-line statements about single parents and Kwanzaa, and is rightfully knocked for them. But his talking points erupting via his stream-of-conscious style runs both ways. Grothman took a bold stance against bail bond deregulation in Wisconsin. In fact, that's one reason progressives around the state might come to miss Grothman. At a time when Wisconsin Democrats can't even get a bill to the floor of the statehouse, Grothman was an occasionally independent voice with actual power in the face of an increasingly monolithic Republican Party.
The two parties listen to each other less and less. Grothman, as wholly misguided as he is, is a man whom I honestly believe wants to make things better. Bash Grothman when he says something horribly racist or sexist that he somehow thinks is a step towards equality, but support the man when he takes a positive stand.
Looking back, Grothman's victory isn't ideal, but it could have turned out worse. In this election cycle, that almost feels like a win.