On January 4, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel did a story about an interview Kevin Nicholson did when he was still a College Democrat. The young Nicholson appeared to agree with Paul Begala and say not-so-nice things about prominent Republicans, including former Governor Tommy Thompson.
Is this news? Nicholson has explained ad nauseam how he has made the conversion from being a Democrat to a Republican. Is there anyone who is paying attention to the US Senate race that doesn’t know that Nicholson was a Democrat until the 2008 election?
Let’s just stipulate right now that, whatever terrible thing we can imagine a young College Democrat doing before 2008, Nicholson did it. Did he vote for former Vice President Al Gore in 2000? Yes, Nicholson did. Did Nicholson vote for John Kerry in 2004? Sure. Does Nicholson probably have an autographed picture of himself and former Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) tucked away in a cardboard box where he hopes his children will never find it? He probably does.
We can even imagine young Nicholson going door-to-door trying to convince the families of Mequon to vote for former Governor Jim Doyle. No act of being a staunch Democrat was probably beneath the young activist.
So, assuming the absolute worst, like Nicholson celebrating Earth Day with Gaylord Nelson or being photographed with Barbra Streisand, so what? Was there something about Nicholson being an ex-Democrat that some of us missed?
That doesn’t mean that we have to believe Nicholson’s conversion story. Nicholson’s supporters like to point out Ronald Reagan, the conservative saint, was once a Democrat, too. But unlike Nicholson, Reagan the Great had a history of taking conservative positions on issues and supporting conservative candidates publicly before running for governor of California. With Nicholson, the only record we have is his word and a few supporters vouching for him. Republican voters will have to decide if that’s enough, especially since Nicholson’s opponent state Senator Leah Vukmir (R-Brookfield) has a solid conservative history.
But let’s not pretend that every revelation of Nicholson being a Democrat that behaved like a Democrat is breaking news. We don’t judge St. Paul before his conversion; let’s not judge Nicholson before his conversion, too.