Wisconsin's delegation to the House includes 5 Republicans, Bryan Steil, Scott Fitzgerald, Glenn Grothman, Tom Tiffany and Mike Gallagher. You'd think that in a swing state like Wisconsin, at least a coupe of them would be kind of mainstream. After all, Democrats regularly win statewide in Wisconsin. Biden for example beat Trump 49.45% to 48.82%. Two years earlier Tony Evers ousted Republican Governor Scott Walker 49.5% to 48.4%. And last year, the progressive candidate for the state superintendent of public instruction, Jill Underly, beat conservative nutcase Deborah Kerr, 57.6% to 42.3%. But no-- none of the Wisconsin Republicans are even remotely moderate. They are all very extreme, very far right.
Let me give you an example from Tuesday. The House passed a bill to kill the government from shutting down-- 272-162. Kevin McCarthy, the GOP leader joined the Democrats to keep the government open, so did 50 other Republicans. But not even one of Wisconsin's members voted to keep the government open. Instead they voted along with the psychopaths and radicals like Marjorie Traitor Greene, Madison Cawthorn, Matt Gaetz, Mo Brooks, Paul Gosar, Lauren Boebert, Gym Jordan, Louie Gohmert, etc... the whole freakshow.
That's what happens when an ultra-partisan gerrymander happens-- and essentially 50-50 state like Wisconsin winds up with Democrats essentially packed into 2 districts and 5 all Republican districts spawn Satanic candidates with no worries about being held accountable for extremism. Wisconsin is now a state where no one is surprised when news items like this are reported: "A supporter of former President Donald Trump who said authorities should root out voter fraud is among five people who were charged Thursday with election fraud by a Republican district attorney who’s running for Wisconsin attorney general."
Tom Nelson, the progressive for state Assembly majority leader and former Bernie delegate is now running for the U.S. Senate seat and he told me the other day that the Republicans stick together, at least in part, because they don't want to embarrass Ron Johnson who's more extreme than any of them. He also said that he thought that "If there was one moment in our nation's history that I thought Democrats and Republicans would come together to fight a common foe, it would be a pandemic. I was wrong-- Dead wrong. And Wisconsin is Exhibit A. From Day 1, Robin Vos and legislative Republicans were hell bent on stripping Governor Evers of seemingly every power he had to combat a pandemic and protect the safety and health of his citizens. And with an assistant from the GOP branch office that is the state Supreme Court they were largely successful. And not to be outdone, the GOP congressional delegation have followed closely in their steps. They voted en masse against crucial bi-partisan COVID legislation last year. And the year before that. Howie called out their latest tomfoolery. He was surprised. I wasn't. In Wisconsin we are just used to a Republican Party putting partisanship-- and Donald Trump-- ahead of state and country. I want to put those days behind us. It won't happen in one day. But we can start. And it begins with defeating Ron Johnson in November." If you want to help Tom do that, please consider contributing to his Senate campaign here.
Charlie Sykes is probably Wisconsin's best-known conservative commentator. For years he had the #1 political radio show in the state, but now that he's a NeverTrumper-- but still a hard core conservative-- his Wisconsin following has dissipated. That feeling is mutual. His column yesterday was titled How Wisconsin’s GOP Is Losing Its Mind-- The Kraken Comes To Wisconsin.
Andy Kroll’s deep dive into Wisconsin’s insane politics in Rolling Stone (paywalled) begins with an anecdote about a fringy GOP state legislator named Timothy Ramthun:
At 5:01 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 2, Tim Ramthun was sitting in his living room with the TV on when his cellphone rang. He turned to his wife of four decades, Carolann. “Oh, the president’s calling,” he told her. She scoffed. “Hello, Mr. President,” Ramthun said to the caller. “This is Representative Ramthun. May I help you?” Carolann still didn’t believe him, until she heard the voice on the other end and almost fell out of her chair. She started recording a video of her husband, a junior member of the Wisconsin state Assembly, receiving praise from the 45th president of the United States.
Ramthun wasn’t surprised by Donald Trump’s call. A few weeks earlier, Trump had left a message on his work phone at the state Capitol at 6:30 in the morning. Trump had wanted to thank Ramthun for his continued efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, something Trump proceeded to do later that day in a written statement praising Ramthun for “putting forward a very powerful and very popular, because it’s true, resolution to decertify the 2020 Presidential Election in Wisconsin based on the recently found absolute proof of large scale voter fraud that took place.”
Now, with his wife recording the conversation, Ramthun listened as Trump asked what he could do to be helpful. He offered to endorse Ramthun, and Ramthun knew how powerful that endorsement could be running for reelection to the Assembly or seeking a higher office. Trump wasn’t the only conservative luminary to dangle an endorsement: Mike Lindell, the CEO of MyPillow and a leader of the growing election-fraud movement in America, had twice said he’d back Ramthun.
Ramthun told Trump he appreciated the pledge of support, but he wanted the former president to know that the fraud he believed he’d uncovered, and the conspiracy that tied it together, required all of his attention at the moment. First, he would pass his resolution to decertify the last presidential election, and then he would help other states follow his lead.
“If one state does this, I think others will follow,” he remembers telling Trump.
“You’re my kind of guy,” Trump replied.
This is Trump’s guy. Full wooly-Mike-Lindell-level crazy.
Now we come to the familiar part of the story.
Wisconsin’s GOP has been tossing bits of red meat to the MAGAverse in the hope that it will keep the real crazies under control. In an attempt to appease the MAGAverse, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos launched an expensive and pointless investigation of the 2020 election, headed by a former state supreme court justice named Michael Gableman.
That investigation has been one FUBAR after another — but it has also failed to satisfy the face-eating-leopard crowd.
By the end of January, Vice News was reporting: “Trump Has Pushed the Wisconsin GOP Into a Full Meltdown.”
Accusations of slander. Leaked documents. Fake news pushed by a right-wing conspiracy website. Staff forcibly reassigned. Angry warnings from former President Donald Trump.
Just last week, TFG put out a statement attacking Vos: “ICYMI: ‘Wisconsin Speaker Vos Is Secretly Pushing Legislation to Increase Number of Drop Boxes After Judge Ruled Them Illegal in State.’”
This comes in spite of an aggressive campaign of sucking up by Wisconsin’s GOP. Behold this display of self-humiliation.
But it has all been for naught.
For months now, the Wisconsin GOP has tried desperately to keep the real insanity at bay-- and by real insanity, I mean Timothy Ramthum. After Ramthum tried to introduce legislation decertifying the presidential election, the assembly’s majority leader, Jim Steineke tweeted:
The GOP leadership then stripped Ramthum of his lone staffer “for lying about fellow GOP members and using taxpayer resources to put out political screeds.”
But that move has simply made Ramthum a martyr and a rock star for much of the increasingly Trumpified GOP base. The Iowa County Republican Party released a statement praising Ramthun, and accused of Vos of being “impotent to accomplish anything of significance.” When Ramthum spoke at a meeting of the Sheboygan County GOP earlier this month, he got a standing ovation.
And, of course Ramthum’s got Trump.
So, here it comes.
The GOP’s craziest legislator is running for governor.