The Danger of QAnon

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Hands Up

Hands Up/Don’t Shoot. Photo by Callen Harty.

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As Darkness Descends

Man with a weapon at a gun rights rally. Photo by Callen Harty.

Yesterday morning a friend of mine posted a warning on Facebook. There was an event page hosted by a militia group called Kenosha Guard. The event was “Armed Citizens to Protect our Lives and Property.” The event page asked if there were “any patriots willing to take up arms and defend our city tonight from the evil thugs?” My friend posted it as a warning with a note to Kenosha friends to stay safe.

I made the mistake of reading some of the comments on that event page and saw additional ones today. The one I saw suggested putting bodies in a pile and starting it on fire. Another one said, “When the shooting starts, make sure someone is sending a live feed of the mother fuckers going down.”  My heart sank and an ominous feeling came over me. I feared for any protesters who may go out onto the streets of Kenosha last night.

It turned out those fears were not unfounded. One of the “armed citizens” opened fire and shot one of the protesters in the head, killing him. Apparently the shooter was chased by several others and when he fell to the ground he fired and killed one more person and injured another. He then walked up to the police, still holding his gun, and they did not stop and question him, arrest him, or anything else. They drove right past him. He walked away.

Reports are coming out now that the shooter was a 17-year old from a town in Illinois that is about half an hour south of Kenosha. He was using a gun which was illegal for a person his age to even own in Illinois. After he walked away from the scene last night, it is being reported that he has now been arrested for murder. Already, right-wingers, gun rights activists, and others are speaking out on his behalf, claiming he shot in self-defense and that he was the victim in this.

There are several things wrong with this whole scenario. First, there was a huge police presence in Kenosha the last several nights because of the rioting caused by the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Videos taken at the time of the shooting show armored police vehicles a block away from where it happened. In addition, Wisconsin’s governor called in 125 National Guard troops two nights ago and doubled that to 250 yesterday. These are the people paid to protect us. We do not need armed “militiamen” to add to the chaos. To be blunt, a bunch of white men brandishing guns where Black Lives Matter protests are happening makes an already volatile situation a powder keg ready to explode.

Second, what is a 17-year-old Blue Lives Matter fan kid doing there with a powerful weapon? Why would the so-called “militia” allow him to join them? Did he really think that the Kenosha Guard was there to protect lives and property and not to intimidate and threaten protesters? Did he understand that most of these “militias” around the country are simply fronts for racist right-wingers who want others to cower before their weapons?

Third, excuse me, Kenosha Police, but really? You provided water to the Kenosha Guard members and thanked them for being there? You encouraged them? You let the shooter walk right past you and did nothing to stop him?

Fourth, the media is irritating the hell out of me, calling the Kenosha Guard “armed citizens” instead of right-wing violent fanatic vigilantes. Meanwhile, the others are Black Lives Matter activists, demonstrators, protesters, but never called citizens or community members. We can see where the media falls on the race issue. On social media, Facebook needs to be called out for failing to take down the militia event when it was called to their attention. I’ve seen at least two people who contacted them about the event and accompanying hate speech with no action taken.

Finally, my heart is hurting because of these killings. Although the press has not yet released information on the victims, I did see a video of the young man who was shot in the head and it hurts to know that he is gone because of a trigger happy kid who fell in with a bunch of grown men who love their guns and their supposed manhood more than anything else. Both of their lives are gone, as well as the other victim, and countless others will be permanently changed because of this incident. No citizen expressing an opinion, protesting legally, or in any other way taking a stand should be shot and killed for that. And even if they were damaging property, they did not deserve to die. Property can be replaced. Lives cannot.

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The Pardoning of Susan B. Anthony

Womens March

At the 2017 Women’s March in Madison, Wisconsin. Photo by Callen Harty.

Today Donald Trump, the hero of nasty women everywhere, officially pardoned Susan B. Anthony for the crime of illegally voting in 1872.

Excuse me for laughing.

If any other President, on the 100th anniversary of woman’s suffrage in the United States, issued a pardon for Anthony it would be noted as a nice symbolic gesture to mark that anniversary. But when it is Trump the immediate reaction is that this was a cynical ploy to attract the votes of those suburban housewives he so desperately needs to win the next election and to whom he has brazenly appealed to with racist overtures about protecting their neighborhoods from the residents of low income housing.

At the signing ceremony today, he noted, “She was never pardoned. Did you know that?” And one cannot be blamed for assuming he didn’t know it either until the likelihood that some staffer recently read it in an article on the suffrage anniversary and thought it would be a grand gesture and a stroke of genius that would cause women everywhere to take off their aprons and head to the polls as soon as possible.

A known misogynist accused of sexually assaulting more than two dozen women signing a pardon for one of the earliest pioneers of women’s rights is beyond ironic. It is disgusting, especially when one knows his history with women. He is opposed to a woman’s right to choose. He has repeatedly denigrated strong women, particularly in politics, but more generally any that speak out against him. He has gone to court to fight the Equal Rights Amendment. A quick Google search on Trump and women’s rights reveals site after site listing the many ways his administration’s policies have harmed women. If he had been alive when Anthony cast her vote he would have called her a nasty woman and insisted that she pay the penalty for trying to break into the old boys’ club. Or he would have grabbed her pussy simply because he was famous and could.

The second irony is that Anthony and some other suffragettes held complicated views on race. Anthony was opposed to the 15th amendment, which enshrined the idea of the right to vote regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” While she and Elizabeth Cady Stanton both said they opposed the amendment because it excluded women, they used racist tropes to back up their positions. One can imagine the racist Trump appreciating those viewpoints if he took the time to learn anything about it. Perhaps if he knew that part of Anthony’s history, he would have also given her a medal for defending the white race.

Finally, regardless of her faults, Anthony’s fight was to expand voting rights. Trump honoring her for that at a time when he and his Republican allies are doing everything in their power to limit voting is really not funny and I am no longer laughing. They have purged voter rolls, caused the postal service to cut hours and service, cut polling locations (particularly in minority neighborhoods), fought mail-in voting, and lied about fraud and potential issues with mailed ballots. If he thought he could get away with it, Trump would likely take the vote away from women and minorities again. If he could, he would return voting only to men who owned land. It would make it easier for him to win reelection, which is really all that he is concerned about now.

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protect children

Protect Children. Photo by Callen Harty.

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Sacrificial Lambs

Trump chicken

Trump chicken. Photo by Callen Harty.

“We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. It’s going to be just fine.”

That was Donald Trump’s initial response to the coronavirus all the way back in January. Since then, it has been one failure after another, with him all the while assuring us it’s going to be just fine, it will disappear, we have it under control, and countless times stating that it will miraculously go away.

It has not gone away and he has yet to admit that he was wrong all along. It was not a hoax, it was not the flu, it had no intention of just disappearing when the weather got warmer or Trump wished hard enough.

The day the death toll in this country passed 10,000 he said there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Less than a week later that had doubled to 20,000 deaths. Now we are over 135,000.

Despite this, Trump continues to undermine his medical experts, make them alter their reporting, and ignore their recommendations. He decided to officially withdraw from the World Health Organization. Ignoring medical experts at the Centers for Disease Control, he has over the course of the pandemic spouted idiotic theories about flu vaccines, injecting disinfectants, focusing powerful light, taking hydroxychloroquine, and his favorite, waiting for the virus to make its miraculous departure.

Like George Bush’s Mission Accomplished banner, Trump’s repeated claims that we are doing better, that things are looking good, that we can start reopening the country, are nothing but wishful thinking. One has to wonder why and the answer is quite clear to anyone who has been awake this whole time.

Covid-19 makes Trump look bad because people are sick and dying, the economy has tanked, and he has been clueless about how to lead. Importantly, there is an election coming up and his narcissistic ego cannot acknowledge that he might lose because he was supposed to be responsible for leading us through this crisis and failed miserably. And continues to fail miserably.

He cannot acknowledge the failure, though. Everything that has happened has been someone else’s fault–the Chinese, the Democrats, the medical professionals. His ego prevents him from seeing just how badly he has mismanaged this crisis. His ego also prevents him from wearing a mask in public and that sends a signal to others that it is okay, that they are safe from harm. It signals that the worst is over as he has promised all along.

But, of course, it is not. Cases keep rising, death tallies keep rising, and the supposed leader of this country (and formerly of the free world) keeps failing. He does everything he can in his narcissistic head to create a world of his own making, a world in which he has valiantly led us through this pandemic to the promised land of healthy people and a healthy economy. To prove it, he starts to hold rallies and tries to strong arm mayors and governors into reopening their cities and states. People can gather to see him at political rallies, they don’t have to wear masks (because those are for the weak–how did a medical issue become a political issue, anyway?), and they can sit side-by-side without worrying about getting the disease.

All of this to look strong, to desperately try to get the economy to rebound by November, and to win an election. If some want to follow Trump off of that cliff, it is their choice to do so. But now he is demanding that schools open in the fall because, again, he wants to pretend that none of this is real, that if you close your eyes and click your heels together three times we can go home again, we can go back to the lives we were leading before, and everything will return to normal. He doesn’t understand that his land of make-believe is not real, but his narcissistic need to constantly win has put him in the position of having to believe it and of being willing to sacrifice America’s children on the altar of politics.

During this pandemic, Trump has not gone far enough in what he needed to do most of the time. Now he has gone too far. Children’s lives (and their teachers) are at stake here, as well as those who may contract the virus from them. He has threatened to withhold funding for schools that don’t start back up in the fall. He is trying to bully school districts into complying with his demands–not for their good, but for his ego and his political future. This, as much as anything he has done during his presidency, illustrates his malignant narcissism. He needs to go back to school. He needs to be educated about medicine. He needs to learn empathy and compassion. And, most importantly, he needs to leave the White House in November.

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The Gentrification of Protest

We Hear You

We Hear You. Photo by Callen Harty.

Madison, Wisconsin has had six consecutive days and nights of protests since George Floyd’s murder became the latest episode of a black man killed by police. The last several nights have been relatively peaceful. The first several nights saw windows smashed out of 75 or so buildings on State Street, looting, and other damage. Most of the windows and doors along the entire street are boarded up–many because of damaged windows, some to try to protect from damage.

In the last couple days many of the boarded windows have been covered with art, much of it very striking and beautiful. Today I went to see it myself and was transfixed by a great deal of it. I ran into a friend, Jenny, and we talked about our feelings about it. There were many African-American artists, particularly women, working on different pieces all along the street, and it was amazing to see the works they were creating. There were also a lot of white folks working on pieces, too. At least a couple of the pieces were done by Latino artists in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. The protests have been a really nice mix of races, ages, and other characteristics, so the mix of artists is perhaps a good representation of the protests and the city as a whole.

At one point my friend said something that struck me. She said all of the beautiful artwork reminded her of gentrification and it blew me away because I was enjoying the art, but also feeling somewhat ambivalent about it and she nailed it for me with that. Many of the boarded windows had signs on them that indicated that the works were commissioned pieces. In some ways it felt like the gentrification of protest. You’re covering up the anger with flowers and rainbows, ignoring the underlying passion and demands. If you hide the harsher, more direct messages and cover the boards with appealing artwork, people may want to come downtown again and do a little shopping. It seemed likely that a lot of the original graffiti was being painted over with lovely images about peace and love. There’s nothing wrong with promoting peace and love, but it’s also important to hold onto the messages being conveyed by the protesters.

I found myself drawn to the boards that were not yet covered with beautiful images, but with the rawer graffiti and tagging, with messages like “Open Your Eyes,” “Arrest Matt Kenney,” “BLM,” “Fuck 12,” “I Can’t Breathe,” “Community Control,” “Defund the Police,” “Latinos Stand with You,” “Cops Kill,” “Breonna Taylor,” “Justice for Tony Robinson,” “Justice for Floyd,” “No Cops in Schools,” “Change the System,” and “Do You Hear Us Now?”

It’s great that the city is paying artists, particularly black artists–who tend not to be very valued in this country–to create art in the midst of destruction. It is beautiful and profound and conveys important messages to a hurting city and a hurting nation. But please don’t cover all the gut-level feelings and statements that were there first and from those on the front lines. Those messages are just as important, or more so. Those boards and buildings were marked by the protesters with their own feelings, needs, and desires. They are messages that the protesters are trying to convey to the world and we need to listen.

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George Floyd Died Today

Black Lives Matter 2

Black Lives Matter. Photo by Callen Harty.

George Floyd died today. And another piece of America went with him.

I want to believe that the racist culture in which our nation and our entire history is so steeped is in decline, and perhaps white women calling police because their privilege is threatened and police officers killing black men because their power is threatened are the last gasps of systemic racism.

But those in power do not give up power easily. Racism is so entrenched in the United States that getting to a place of equity must necessarily require years of deconstructing systems that are designed for the powerful to maintain their power.

George Floyd’s death is a result of the way things are set up and the racism that is ingrained everywhere in this county. Racism is not the domain of the South. It is in Georgia, but also in New York. It is in Louisville and also in Minneapolis. It permeates the very fiber of this country. It is everywhere. In the North it has not always been as overt, but it is just as insidious.

When an entire race or class of people is considered “other” or “less than,” then citizens everywhere, consciously or not, feel superior to that class. White people are inherently racist by virtue of years of growing up privileged in the culture. We have to struggle and work hard to overcome the racism of the culture in which we are raised. We have to consciously seek to change.

There has been an incredible and frightening rise of overt and extreme racism in America, from the shooting of a jogger in Georgia to the police killing of a black man in Minnesota to the appearance of Confederate flags and swastikas in the halls of the Michigan Capitol. It feels like a reaction to the disintegration of a power structure that has been in place for hundreds of years that does not want to let go. But regardless of the reason, people of color are dying because of it, and each time that happens, a piece of our innocence dies also, our excuses for not standing up for our black brothers and sisters are chipped away, and we are laid bare as a nation.

George Floyd died today. He wasn’t killed by one policeman. He was killed by the power structure. He was not the only one. His death was in one place at one time. But people of color are dying daily, hourly, minute by minute–from a disproportionate number of Covid-19 cases, from poverty, from an unrelenting number of oppressions. It is time for all of us to rise up and say “No more!” It is time for the system to relinquish its power and live up to the unfulfilled promise that all of us are created equal.

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Open Letter to Justice Rebecca Bradley

Heart Mountain Camp

Heart Mountain Camp, the site of a World War II Japanese internment camp. Photo by Callen Harty.

Justice Bradley,

No, the stay-at-home order currently in effect is not like Japanese internment camps and there is no chance that it will be. Being asked to stay at home to protect yourself and other people is not the same as being ripped from your home and taken to a prison camp where you are not allowed to leave for any reason. Being furloughed due to the tough economy brought about by Covid-19 is not the same as losing your house and all your possessions. Not being allowed to shop or dine out for a while is not the same as being incarcerated because you are perceived to be an enemy combatant because of your heritage. Having to hear a court case over video while protecting yourself at home is not the same as losing your freedom and rights as a citizen because people are scared of your last name.

Your ignorance of history and your privilege are showing and it is not pretty.

And no, the governor and health secretary extending the stay-at-home order is not tyranny. Tyranny is Adolph Hitler killing 12 million people. It is the Chinese crackdown on Tiananmen Square. It is Pol Pot, Joseph Stalin, Idi Amin, and others imprisoning and killing their own citizens. It is not a soft-spoken Wisconsin governor who is doing his best to keep people alive.

You ask, “where in the Constitution did the people of Wisconsin confer authority on a single unelected cabinet secretary to compel almost six million people to stay at home and close their businesses and face imprisonment if they don’t comply?” The answer is simple and you know it. It’s called representative government. The people gave the legislators they voted into office the authority to create laws for the benefit of all and those legislators created laws that allow this during a pandemic. If the Republican leadership doesn’t like the laws as they stand, they can draft their own legislation. It’s in the job description.

Wisconsin citizens also gave the State Supreme Court the power to decide Constitutional questions with the expectation that justices would be objective and not partisan hacks. Republicans have been saying for years that judges–every time those judges decide against them–are activist judges who try to create laws from the bench. Project much? The laws in this state are already clear on this issue. Overriding the stay-at-home orders would simply be the court overriding the will of the people through the acts of the legislature. It would be activist conservative judges creating laws from the bench.

There is little doubt that the decision that will be handed down soon will favor the Republican leadership that skipped lower courts and brought this case directly to you and your fellow conservatives on the bench. It was clear when the court agreed to hear the case instead of sending it to a lower court that the stay-at-home order would be overturned. I sincerely hope that doing so does not endanger anyone–including you and your loved ones–though anyone with an ounce of sense and the ability to understand basic science would not bet on it.

No, the governor and his health secretary will not be sending Wisconsin citizens to concentration camps. But it is very likely the Supreme Court will be sentencing countless Wisconsin citizens to death sentences.

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Virus of the Soul

heart balloon

Heart Balloon. Photo by Callen Harty.

Sitting at home reading about tens of thousands of people in my country dying of Covid-19 is hard enough. Knowing that countless more will die in the coming months is even more difficult. But reading about ignorant and hateful acts by my fellow countrymen is far more disheartening and honestly far more frightening than a deadly virus. It is a virus of the soul and I am more confident than ever that the soul of America is lost.

While we have achieved greatness in many ways, we also have a long history of horrible people and horrible acts, starting with the genocide of Native Americans, and continuing with the enslavement of African people, the exploitation of resources all over the world, and the destruction of the environment and anything else that stands in the way of profits and more profits. Money is our god and anything that stands in the way of accumulating more of it is expendable and we’ll go to war with anyone to defend that god.

This is on my mind because the news stories that are the scariest today are not about the virus, but about fellow citizens who have no love, empathy, or concern for others. Today I read a report out of Michigan about a security guard who was killed after telling a young woman she was required to wear a face mask to enter a store. Hours later family members came back to the store and he was shot and killed after a heated argument over the situation.

The coronavirus isn’t killing us as much as it is exposing us to the horrors of who we are as a nation.

Shortly after digesting the Michigan story I saw another one about a 79-year old man in Wisconsin who was killed over an argument about a parking space. A parking space! A person’s life is worth no more than a parking space? We are so lazy or so entitled or so–whatever was in the mind of the killer–that another man’s life becomes that meaningless? This country is in more trouble from the disintegration of morals and empathy than anything else that threatens us right now.

Also today there was a report that right-wing activist Ammon Bundy in a speech in Idaho blamed the Jews for the Holocaust, another man who was told he had to wear a face mask in a store in Michigan wiped his nose on the employee’s shirt in protest, and in California a man went shopping and instead of wearing a regular mask donned a Ku Klux Klan hood.

We are a sick country. Somewhere along the line we lost the spirit of neighbors helping neighbors and returned to the Civil War circumstance of brother against brother. We lost our sense of compassion, of putting ourselves in the shoes of others, and we have forgotten how to compromise. We have also forgotten how to sacrifice for the good of all because we have not had to do so for decades. We have lost the ability to love one another because we are all so damned self-assured that our political positions are right and those who disagree with us are all idiots or evil. We have self-quarantined our hearts.

I wish I had an answer, but I am at a loss. What I know is that we need to find our souls again and we need to learn how to love one another again. This is not an answer that science can find for us. It is not up to government. The politicians are even more divided than the rest of us. It isn’t even an answer religion can find for us. It has to come from deep within each of us. We desperately need a spiritual reawakening and we need to open our hearts to the possibilities and the power of love. Simply put, we are a lost and doomed nation if we do not.

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Wisconsin Asshats

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Scott Fitzgerald and Robin Vos. Photos by Callen Harty

Dear Scott Fitzgerald and Robin Vos,

The nicest thing I can say about the two of you is that you are asshats. After years in the Wisconsin Legislature as waterboys for the Koch Brothers and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), you are somehow still in power as the Senate Majority Leader and the Speaker of the Assembly. Your service to right-wing causes has been a disservice to the citizens of this state as a whole, but because you are in conservative districts (all of which were gerrymandered by you and your party) you keep getting reelected to further wreak destruction upon the state. Vos, you first got in by running unopposed for your old boss’ position in both the primary and general election and once an incumbent, always an incumbent.

Though your constituents have been okay with your various power grabs over the years, I am hopeful that maybe this time they will find their humanity and realize that you have none. Filing a suit to force Wisconsin to hold in-person elections during a pandemic should be enough to cause voters to boot you out of office. Already, there appear to be spikes in Covid-19 cases in Milwaukee and Green Bay, two of the cities with the longest lines because they didn’t have enough volunteers to handle the usual number of polling stations. Perhaps you are okay with a spike and a handful of people dying in your attempt to help your conservative lackey Supreme Court Justice win another term. Fortunately, that failed, but people are still going to die because of it.

And now, you are filing suit again, appealing directly to the conservative State Supreme Court and bypassing lower courts to try to immediately halt Governor Evers’ extension of his stay-at-home order. How many lives are okay to sacrifice to satisfy the business interests who back you? How many pieces of silver do you need? How much more power do you crave?

Vos, you even stated that you wanted to craft the suit carefully so as not to give the governor more power should you lose. Can you tell us again that everything you do is not about accruing more power? Bullshit. You’re an asshat who doesn’t care about the people of this state. Neither one of you is listening more carefully to medical experts than to your corporate benefactors. Neither one of you has ever listened more to the citizens of this state than to the moneyed interests whose interests are the core of your agenda in the statehouse.

If you win this case (with the help of the Supreme Court that sides with you every time you file a lawsuit, and there have been many), and cause the state to open up before it should, you will be responsible for much more sickness and death. Of course, you won’t care. You will have done what you need to do to satisfy those who want to keep you in power. You will have to live with that. Unfortunately, others may not.


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On the 2020 Wisconsin Spring Election

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Scott Fitzgerald and Robin Vos. Photos by Callen Harty

The most important race in Wisconsin’s 2020 spring election was the Supreme Court race between Scott Walker-appointed Daniel Kelly and Jill Karofsky. A win for Karofsky would change the conservative majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court from 5-2 to 4-3, a tenuous hold on the third branch of government after Republicans lost the Executive branch last year. The current conservative court has upheld virtually every Republican-passed law that has been challenged and every case taken before them by the Republicans for years, including a suit last week to overturn Governor Evers’ last-ditch attempt to postpone the election so as not to put Wisconsin’s citizens in danger.

When Evers ordered the election postponed, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos complained that Evers should have worked with them sooner to do something about it. But the two of them control both houses of the Legislature. They didn’t have to wait for the governor to do anything. They could have put together legislation to delay the election like sixteen other states had done, or switch it to all mailed ballots like Alaska did, or a combination of both. The governor had even said he felt it was the responsibility of the Legislature, not him, to take the lead on it. But they didn’t.

Long before Covid-19 and this particular election, Republicans have been doing what they can to suppress votes in the state and nationwide. After winning the Wisconsin governorship and legislature in 2010, they met in secret to create the most gerrymandered voting districts in the country. Within a couple years of that, they passed stringent voter ID laws, claiming it was necessary due to voter fraud, despite virtually no evidence of that. Back in 2018, after Scott Walker lost his bid for reelection, the Republicans had a plan to separate the Supreme Court election from the primary, knowing that Democrats would be more motivated to show up at the polls with a contested primary. That effort failed after the press alerted the public to the cost of doing so and the fact that the only reason for doing it would be to help Daniel Kelly. Currently, they have a lawsuit that is on hold that would purge more than 200,000 voters from the rolls, a tactic used by Republicans across the nation.

When Governor Evers finally called the Legislature into special session to vote on postponing the election, Vos and Fitzgerald had a couple of their members go to the Capitol, gavel the session in and gavel the session out in less than thirty seconds, with no discussion at all about what could or should be done to protect Wisconsin citizens against the coronavirus. While Evers could have called a special session sooner there is no reason to believe that wouldn’t have been gaveled in and out just as quickly. The Republicans seemed determined to force the election and to do whatever they could to prevent as many people from voting as possible.

The same day, Republicans petitioned the United States Supreme Court to overturn a lower court decision that would have extended absentee balloting by a week. One would think that government officials would do everything they could to make sure that everyone who wanted to vote could do so and that every ballot would be counted. One could assume that unless those leaders wanted to suppress the vote to help their preferred candidate.

The reality was that keeping the election in-person would force residents of the two largest Wisconsin cities–Milwaukee and Madison–to have to go to the polls and risk contracting Covid-19 despite a stay-at-home order, or stay at home and forfeit their ballots. And, what a surprise, the two largest cities are also the two biggest Democratic strongholds in the state, as well as having the most cases and deaths from the virus. Citizens in smaller towns outstate would not have as much to fear by going to the polls in person (though nobody anywhere in the state should have been forced to make that decision).

On Monday, Evers signed his Executive Order postponing the election, an eleventh hour attempt to do what should have been done at least a couple weeks earlier. Supporters of Fitzgerald and Vos screamed that Evers was trying to become a dictator, despite the fact that in his Executive Order he cited a state statute–323.12(4)(b)–that the Republicans passed during Scott Walker’s tenure as governor to give the governor more power. The governor had a couple weeks earlier declared an emergency due to the coronavirus and under the state of emergency, 323.12(4)(b) specifically says that the governor may “Issue such orders as he or she deems necessary for the security of persons and property.” Evers didn’t want to go this route, but felt he had no choice.

Vos and Fitzgerald immediately took it to their friends on the State Supreme Court, who shortly after ruled in their favor on a 4-2 vote, with four conservatives voting to hold the election, two liberals voting to postpone it, and Daniel Kelly recusing himself given that he was running for reelection. Despite a declaration of emergency and the governor quoting a state statute that appeared to give the governor the power to do what was necessary to protect the citizens of the state, the court ruled that he did not have the authority to do what he did. Later in the day, the U. S. Supreme Court overturned most of the lower court decision and determined that all absentee ballots had to be postmarked by April 7 and had to arrive at the city clerk’s office by April 13 to count.

The election was probably the most bizarre in the history of Wisconsin, if not the nation. Voters stood in line for hours in Milwaukee, which had only five polling places open because they could not find enough poll workers to staff the nearly 200 sites they would normally have open. Citizens also waited in long lines in many other cities. Some gave up and went home rather than stand with so many other people during a pandemic. Many, many people who didn’t get absentee ballots, including hundreds who had ordered them well in advance but hadn’t yet received them, had to make the decision to risk their health to vote in person or opt to stay home and not vote in a critical election. Countless people chose to forego their right to vote in favor of their health and safety, but huge numbers of determined citizens made their way to the polls, waited in lines, wore masks and gloves, and ultimately voted. Those who did vote in person risked their lives for their vote and for democracy. Wisconsin will soon see if there is a surge of the virus in a couple weeks and whether any of them die for their determination.

Assembly Speaker Vos volunteered at his local polling place in Burlington while stating that gathering all those people in one place was perfectly safe. He became the laughing stock of the nation when pictures surfaced of him in full protective equipment where he volunteered inside as people voted drive-up. Plenty of people were already angry at Vos and Fitzgerald for forcing the election to be held, but were even angrier that he showed up wearing full personal protective equipment when so many health care workers were not able to get the same for themselves.

After the election was over, bins of unmailed ballots for Oshkosh, Appleton, and Fox Point were found. The Wisconsin Elections Commission received complaints from all over the state from citizens who put in requests for absentee ballots and never got them. The Commission and the U. S. Postal Service both opened investigations into what may have happened with those ballots.

Because absentee ballots could still be counted if they arrived by the 13th, results were ordered not to be released until after 4:00 p.m. on Monday, April 13. By mid-evening, the race was called for Karofsky who was holding at about a six percent lead for a couple of hours. By midnight, almost 99% of the votes had been counted and she had approximately a 150,000 vote lead out of about a million and a half votes cast, enough to overcome any Republican objections, challenges, or lawsuits. The result was clearly a rebuke of Vos and Fitzgerald, as well as Donald Trump, who had used his pulpit as President to encourage citizens to show up at the polls during a pandemic and to vote for Kelly, and finally, of the Wisconsin Supreme Court itself and their close association with Republican leadership.

Prior to the election there were articles stating that this latest Republican attempt to thwart voting would be the playbook for the fall national election if it succeeded, and it was generally thought that it would and that incumbent Kelly would win another ten-year term. Karofsky’s win sent a clear warning signal to Republicans both in Wisconsin and nationally that they had better find another playbook as the citizens were tired of attempts to suppress the vote and subvert the will of the people. Wisconsinites who were embarrassed by the naked politics a week previously were suddenly proud that their fellow citizens overcame the odds and made their voices heard.

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