MKE, Nuremberg & the GOP

In normal times I’d welcome Republicans to Wisconsin for their national convention in 2024. But this isn’t my father’s Republican Party. It isn’t even my older brother-in-law’s GOP. 

The Republican National Committee has now officially chosen Milwaukee for its next confab, which had been a foregone conclusion since its rival, Nashville, balked at approving a formal agreement between that city and the RNC. By contrast, Milwaukee’s Democratic Mayor Cavalier Johnson was all in. 

I don’t blame Johnson. He’s doing what mayors do — shamelessly promote their towns. In remarks at the formal announcement Johnson urged Republicans to bring “all your money” to his city and to leave it there. On that level, this is fine. The convention will introduce Milwaukee to not just convention goers but to media types from all over the world and to national television audiences. Milwaukee could get the plug it was cheated out of in 2020 when Democrats had to all but cancel the physical convention due to the pandemic. 

But you have to think about the cost and all that can go wrong. Security measures will have to be extraordinary. The convention is likely to attract elements of extremist groups, like the Oath Keepers, and lots and lots of protestors on the left. Emotions will run high. 

Milwaukee, Wisconsin skyline concept illustration including the Milwaukee Art Museum, US Bank Building and the Hoan Bridge. EPS 10 file. Transparency effects used on highlight elements.

Let’s hope that physical confrontations can be avoided outside the venue, but what happens inside the convention hall is sure to be ugly. If the last two years are any indication, this remains a party built around not a set of ideas, but loyalty to one awful man. Trump, and most of his party, have launched a sustained effort to do nothing less than undermine American democracy. 

Republicans have pushed bogus “investigations” into nonexistent voter fraud, made countless baseless claims about the integrity or legality of voting procedures, created an environment that threatens the physical safety of voting officials, and plotted to transfer control over elections from nonpartisan agencies to partisan officeholders. They’re not just sore losers over 2020; the party is actively working to assure a Republican victory in 2024 regardless of the popular vote and regardless even of that vote as reflected in the Electoral College. Here’s what I mean by that. Democrats now routinely win the national popular vote, but that’s mostly because they run up huge margins in states like California and New York. They can still lose where it counts, in the Electoral College, because Republicans can win enough states to give them a majority of votes there. But even when that happens, those state victories are based on the popular vote in each state. A case to be decided by the ultra-conservative Supreme Court next year could give legislatures the power to assign electoral votes regardless of their state’s popular vote. And, at least where presidential elections are concerned, there goes democracy. 

And this is all on top of the “hate fests” that Republican conventions had become even before Trump. This is not Ronald Reagan’s sunny GOP. This is a very dark place in American politics and culture. It’s a place steeped in bizarre conspiracy theories, a blood and soil nationalist and populist movement that seeks to return America to some imagined era when it was “great.” 

So, is it unfair of me to compare their next convention to the Nuremberg rallies of the 1930s? To be sure I don’t accuse the Republicans of plotting genocide, but this is essentially a quasi-fascist party now. It is built around blind loyalty to one man and a mythical past, it would trample any rule of law or sense of fair play that gets in his way, and it appeals to the very worst instincts in human nature, specifically to white nationalism. The convention will welcome a former president, and perhaps its nominee once again, who encouraged the violent overthrow of the United States government in the Jan. 6 insurrection. So, while I don’t accuse Republicans of being genocidal maniacs, I don’t apologize for my comparison on other levels. This is not what we once knew as the GOP; it’s something else entirely. 

When you think about it, in a matter of months in 2016, Trump created a third party and replaced one of the two major parties. The name didn’t change, but everything else did. I may have disagreed with the party of Reagan, but I don’t recognize the party of Trump. 

I hope all goes well in Milwaukee two summers from now. I hope there will be peaceful protests, but no violence. I hope that Trump fades and that, whoever the nominee is, he or she recommits the party to the rule of law. I hope that the party’s inevitable appeals to grievance and the mythical wonderful past are at least muted. And I hope everybody spends a lot of money. 

Unfortunately, only my last hope is guaranteed to happen. 

A version of this piece originally appeared in Isthmus.

Published by dave cieslewicz

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

8 thoughts on “MKE, Nuremberg & the GOP

  1. “The convention is likely to attract elements of extremist groups, like the Oath Keepers, and lots and lots of protestors on the left. ”

    Your bias is showing. Were the Oath Keepers burning cities in 2020? How does this grab you:

    “The convention is likely to attract elements of extremist groups, like Antifa and BLM, and lots and lots of supporters on the right.”

    Let’s face it, you talk a good “middle of the road” game but the left for better or for worse are still your people. Nuremberg…Jesus Christ. I guess we’re down to only 2 choices….fascists or communists. We are so f’d.


    1. I don’t pretend to be right down the middle. I’ve written on numerous occasions that I am a center-left moderate. I am biased toward the left, but you can’t accuse me of not criticizing them when I think they’re wrong — as in yesterday on student loans. In fact, I’ve been harshly critical of what I call the “hard-left.” But let’s not engage in false equivalency. The left didn’t commit an armed insurrection to overthrow the government and the left hasn’t spent the last two years trying to undermine our elections or engaging in flat out crazy conspiracy theories. It’s just silly to compare BLM to the Oath Keepers.


      1. No the left committed an armed secession – remember the CHAZ zone?

        You must have been “up Nort” when State Street was destroyed. Hint: it wasn’t Oath Keepers, and all the plywood wasn’t some new boutique fad.


      2. I was strongly critical of the riot on State St. I’m strongly critical of the insurrection on January 6th. But while both are awful, looting stores in Madison is not equivalent to breaking into the Capitol, creating mayhem that resulted in several deaths and many injuries and threatening to hang the Vice President.


  2. Wow Dave, just when I thought you were becoming genuinely reasonable, you go hyperbolic with your comparisons. A little Bible, as distasteful as it is for you:

    “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own [party’s]eye?

    Quasi-fascist? How about forced vaccinations, which you were out-spokenly in favor of? (No sorry, you don’t get off with ‘I didn’t support forced.’ If someone is forced to take the jab or lose their job, shop at the grocery store, etc., it’s only a hair’s breadth away from forced.)

    Your inability to objectively look at the Republican party is your greatest weakness as a commentator.

    Unfortunately it looks like the state Republican meetings for this year are over, but why not hang out with your fellow bloggeur David B and find out what’s actually happening with the Republican party, rather than opining on your fantasies about them?

    (Please note, I am non-partisan. Neither party stands for the common person. They both trample over Rights whenever and however it suits their needs.)


    1. I am being objective about the Republicans. They meet the definition of fascist. They are built around, not a set of principles, but blind loyalty to one leader. They emphasize blood and soil white nationalism and adhere to the belief that there was some heroic past that must be restored. They would destroy institutions of liberal democracy if those get in their way. It would be less than honest if I backed away from that valid comparison.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you.

    I see you are using the re-definition of Fascism, the one that conveniently leaves out the economic aspects. The one that leaves out the bureaucratic control of the State, just focusing on a dictator/blood/nation. Very convenient. By that Woke redefinition, Democrats and the Left couldn’t possibly be fascists. And that redefinition couldn’t be more incorrect.

    Really Dave, you need to hang out with some Republicans. Your brush is grossly broad.


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