Would I kill some wolves to keep Sen. Tammy Baldwin in Washington? You bet I would.
Last week, Baldwin joined crazy conservative Sen. Ron Johnson and two Republican senators from Wyoming in introducing a bill that would delist the gray wolf and turn management of the species back to the states. This has raised howls among animal rights groups and, I would imagine, a lot of Baldwin’s base supporters in Dane County.
That is precisely the reason I support her for doing it. I don’t know what Baldwin’s calculation is for sure, but from my perspective this move is pure political genius. A high-profile, highly charged issue like this builds enormous political capital for Baldwin outside of Dane and Milwaukee counties. Meanwhile, her base will huff and puff, but where else will they have to go come reelection time in 2024?
And, I’ll be honest, anything that annoys Dane County liberals and sends them into fits of rage is kind of entertaining for me, too.
Now, let me hasten to add here that on the merits I think she’s wrong. While the gray wolf was delisted in early 2021 the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board, still controlled by Republicans as it remains so today, over-ruled its own resource professionals and authorized a hunt. It was an ugly slaughter. Hunters were allowed to use dogs to chase down the wolves, and they picked them off so rapidly that they blew past the kill quota by 80% before it could be stopped.
Moreover, that hunt was driven not by responsible Wisconsin hunters, but by Hunter Nation, a radical national group led in part by the ludicrous Ted Nugent. Hunter Nation filed a lawsuit that forced the hunt, and then Hunter Nation pressed the board to allow the most liberal rules possible.
To make matters still worse, the rushed decision short-changed consultation with tribes, which see the wolf as sacred.
It was all disgusting on every level, and it probably contributed to the decision by a Federal court to relist the wolf and take their management out of the hands of states like Wisconsin, which clearly can’t handle it.
But that’s just the merits of the case. The politics are quite different. The overwhelming sentiment in Northern Wisconsin is that wolves are bad. They’re predators that attack livestock, the prized white tail deer population and sometimes even domestic animals. Never mind that the evidence is that none of that predation is particularly widespread, though I suppose if it’s your family dog that met the wolf you’d feel differently.
And, of course, it’s a cultural issue. Let’s face it. Part of the push to kill wolves is that it annoys liberals, condescending snobs in Madison who want to tell Northern people how to live.
And that brings me back to my point: It’s precisely because this issue packs such a wallop that it makes so much sense for Baldwin to be on the wrong side of it back in Madison. She puts so much political capital in the bank in rural Wisconsin with this that it makes up for much of the liberal stuff she does the rest of the time.
Look, Tammy Baldwin is an openly gay Dane County liberal who has now won twice statewide. She defeated iconic pol Tommy Thompson in 2012 and she just pasted her Republican opponent in 2018, running way ahead of anybody else on the Democratic ticket that year. Baldwin proves, as Russ Feingold once did, that you can be among the most liberal senators in Washington and still win in Wisconsin if you play your Sheepshead hand right.
Her move on the gray wolf is about playing the right card. She’s wrong on the merits and, you know what, I don’t care because she’s so very right on so many other things. If this is what it takes to keep Baldwin in Washington, well sorry, but I’ll sacrifice some wolves for that.