A Good Day For Democracy

Yesterday was a good day for American democracy at every level.

Here in Madison, 45 candidates filed papers for 20 seats on the City Council. Eight districts will need primaries and only six seats will go uncontested. This is further evidence that moves to make the Council smaller and full-time (and therefore less responsive) are unnecessary to attract candidates. I was also impressed by the diversity of experience in those candidates. You can read more about that here.

Also in Madison, a third candidate showed up to run for Mayor. That means that there will be a February primary between Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, her main challenger Gloria Reyes and the third candidate, Scott Kerr. It’s not yet clear how each candidate will try to differentiate themselves but having another voice in the mix should make the discussion more complete.

At the state level, Gov. Tony Evers’ inaugural address emphasized a renewed commitment to cooperation with Republicans. That follows on similar comments made by Republican leaders. It was a little disappointing that Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu carped that Evers’ priorities in his speech were too liberal. He’s a liberal Democrat. He just won a second term. He’s the governor. He really does get to talk about his agenda just like Republicans can talk about theirs. What’s important is that they find some compromises and make some progress in the end.

Also at the state level, three Republican appointees that had held out on the board that oversees the state’s tech schools finally submitted their resignations. Republican squatter Fred Prehn resigned from the Natural Resources Board last week. That would suggest that LeMahieu may have given them a message that Senate Republicans were ready to vote on their replacements. It was ridiculous and undemocratic that Evers had to go a full term without having control of either of those boards.

At the national level, it was reported that Sen. Ron Johnson had wanted legislative Republicans to ignore the popular vote in the 2020 election and assign our electoral votes to Donald Trump. That’s not what was encouraging. What was encouraging was that state party chair Andrew Hitt and executive director Mark Jefferson thought he was nuts. Here’s the text exchange as reported in documents released by the January 6th committee:

“Ron called me right after and now is arguing for us to have the legislature choose the electors. OMG,” Hitt’s text message to Jefferson said.

“What is he doing?” Jefferson replied.

“There is a huge amount of pressure building on them to find a way around the electoral college,” Hitt told Jefferson.

“How can he feel good about promoting that though?” Jefferson said. “Does he believe we won here?”

Let’s not give Hitt too much credit, as he later participated in the scam to get “alternate” electoral votes before Congress. But the internal messages that he and Jefferson never thought would go public suggest that the two at least realized that what Johnson wanted was wrong. Give them credit for having a conscience, even if they didn’t follow it.

Kevin McCarthy is reaping what he sowed.

And finally there’s Kevin McCarthy. I would say that his struggle to become Speaker is good for American democracy because it displays the dysfunction — and I hope the death rattle — of the fascist hard-right. Traditional conservative Republicans made a deal with the populist devil and now they’re paying the price. May it pull their party down so that it can rise again as a principled conservative movement.

All of this falls hard on the heels of November elections where losing candidates offered the normal sort of graceful concessions that up until Trump had been a hallmark of American democracy. And, of course, Trump himself took a thrashing, dramatically lowering his political capital.

At every level there’s reason for optimism that the hard-right populist fever may have broken.


Published by dave cieslewicz

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

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