Worst Pols of ’21

As I mentioned yesterday, in the Best Pols category, their opposite number was going to be much tougher. There’s so much competition for the top spot.

And the judges had to wrestle with a tough question that has come to the fore since the Age of Trump. Is it worse to be an idiot fascist or a smart fascist? A guy like Trump is a perfect representation of the former, and he did do a lot of damage, but a guy like Mitch McConnell is the latter and so, does he deserve a hotter place in hell for knowing better?

It’s not a question with one simple answer, but the interplay between idiot and smart fascists plays a role in our rankings. Here’s the countdown.

10. Devin LeMahieu. Back in January the new Republican state Senate Majority Leader showed promise right out of the box, when he announced that he was working with Democratic Gov. Tony Evers on a COVID relief package. But Speaker Robin Vos quickly put him in his place and he’s been taking his orders from Vos ever since. Fries with that, Mr. Speaker?

9. Mitch McConnell. The Senate Minority Leader bloviates about the integrity of the institution when he defends the filibuster — never mind that he weakened it more than anyone else when he dispensed with it for Supreme Court nominees. Previous Republican leaders, like Everett Dirksen, worked constructively with Democratic presidents to add some conservative tint to their legislation. They respected the will of the voters who installed the majority. But McConnell’s just an obstructionist, which wouldn’t be so bad if he didn’t pretend to be a statesman.

8. Progressive Democrats. First they held Pres. Biden’s popular, bipartisan infrastructure bill hostage for months, hoping to pass another bill that amounted to a progressive cafeteria line without a unifying theme or a narrative that average Americans could follow. Now they’re on the verge of driving Sen. Joe Manchin from the party, making Mitch McConnell (see above) the new Majority Leader. The heck of it is, I’m with these people on many issues. But nobody knows how to screw up progress better than progressives.

7. Kevin McCarthy. The Speaker in Waiting couldn’t bring himself to call out his craziest members, even when one of them crossed the line by joking about, oh I don’t know, killing a Democratic colleague. And that Insurrection thing? It was just a tour group that got outside the velvet ropes. Also, consider McCarthy a stand-in for the 193 House Republicans and 43 GOP Senators who voted against impeaching Trump for inciting that riot. We’ve only got so much room.

6. Tom Tiffany and Scott Fitzgerald. Let’s not let these two Wisconsin Congressmen off the hook by including them in that 193 member mass of dishonor. Let’s call out these two for being the only Wisconsin House members who voted not to certify Joe Biden as the clear winner of the Presidency. A lot of Republicans worked at undermining the very foundation of our Democracy this year, but those who voted against the simple, honest and normally routine certification of the results of a free and fair election deserve special contempt.

5. Most of the Madison School Board. If there’s one thing you learn by observing this school board it’s that they are laser focussed on making excuses for violent and disruptive kids. The vast majority of hard-working students who just want to learn? Well, they’d better just check their “privilege” at the door.

4. Rebecca Kleefisch. I’m not sure I’ve got her in the right category. Maybe I should have created a new list of unintentionally wonderful pols. It should be a Republican year and with Gov. Tony Evers’ numbers underwater, a Republican should be the odds-on-favorite to turn the “executive residence” into the “governor’s mansion.” (Democrats refer to it as the former, Republicans the latter.) But Kleefisch is such a thoroughly Trumpy candidate, in the mold of Ron Johnson, that she may find a way to keep Evers around for another four years.

Is he alright?

3. Ron Johnson. Is he alright? Let’s see, he denies climate change, the Insurrection, the integrity of our elections and COVID vaccines. Sometimes I question whether I should be outraged by the guy or concerned for his mental health. I recommend a daily regimen of Scope. At least he’ll have fresh breath when he exhales insanity and inanity.

2. Michael Gableman. Now this is where the rubber meets the road on the idiot fascist/smart fascist debate. The mighty leader of the bogus, partisan and embarrassing “investigation” into last year’s election, Gableman is a clown and a fool. We’re told his doctor doesn’t allow him to chew gum while walking, as this would present a choking hazard in his case. You can’t take the guy seriously. But while he’s bungling around, and blowing taxpayer money, he’s keeping alive the unfounded claims that our election system is rigged. If he were smarter he might be more effective, but on the other hand, if he had half a brain he wouldn’t have taken the job in the first place. Which brings us to this year’s winner for the Worst Pol of 2021…

Robin Vos. For pure evil, you can’t beat this boy. The longest serving Speaker in Wisconsin history is undeniably smart, and from time to time, he’s even tested the waters on speaking up for simple factual reality. He did a public service announcement with his friend, liberal Democrat Mark Pocan, urging people to follow COVID protocols. And he initially pushed back on calls for partisan investigations into clearly false claims of election fraud. But when he felt a little heat, he wilted and appointed Gableman, giving him an initial budget of $676,000 which will now be exceeded. If anything, his furtive dances with doing the right thing make his ultimate decisions to do the wrong thing even worse. This is a smart guy who knows what needs to be done to protect the institutions of our democracy. And yet he does just the opposite to stay in power.

So, there you have it. I’m sure I’ve left deserving candidates on the sidelines, but we like to keep our standards high (or low, in the case) here at YSDA. Feel free to offer your own nominees below.

Welcome to the 312th consecutive day of posts here at YSDA. Thanks for reading!


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

One thought on “Worst Pols of ’21

  1. Hereby nominate Satya Rhodes Conway: praised the police then pulled it back when the Hard Left criticized her. No position of police body-worn cameras? Where WERE the police downtown during the riots of June 2020? Big advocate of the do-nothing, unneeded, self-aggrandizing Civilian Police Oversight Board. No aid for the State Street businesses? Taxpayer-paid cop bashing “public art” on boarded-over businesses?


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