The problem with democracy is that sometimes the voters are wrong. Man is flawed, and man in numbers can be wrong, too.
Tuesday night’s results were another reminder of the flaws of mankind. We’ll return to the state Supreme court race in a moment, but we have to believe that something has happened to the drinking water after seeing the results of the state treasurer referendum. The position is basically dormant except for a constitutional requirement that we elect someone to hold the office,
The current incumbent, Matt Adamczyk, not only campaigned to eliminate the position but even began his term in office by firing the staff without replacing them. He spends his time playing phone operator, redirecting wayward calls while researching different ways the state can save money – neither of which he is required to do. The legislature has taken away almost all other responsibilities save for one constitutionally mandated committee assignment where Adamczyk foils the travel junket plans of Secretary of State Doug La Follette.
The vote, 61 percent to 39 percent, in favor of keeping the state treasurer position is probably the dumbest mistake voters have made in a statewide election since Democrat Dawn Marie Sass defeated Republican Jack Voight for the vestigial position in the 2006 election. After Tuesday night’s result, it’s likely that every Sass clone of both parties will suddenly find the position too tempting. It’s the classic political featherbed of no work and full pay.We can also be sure that the next state treasurer will add back staff accordingly, political patronage at the taxpayer expense.
But while the results of the referendum were frustrating to see, the consequences are small compared to the election of Judge Rebecca Dallet to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
There will be plenty of finger-pointing and, certainly, some of it is deserved. Judge Michael Screnock’s campaign seemed to be a replay of past successful campaigns for the Supreme Court: hang on and hope for the calvary (like Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce) to arrive. In this case, it was too little, too late.
Screnock’s side struggled to get any message out, and we suspect no candidate for public office in Wisconsin will ever play the tuba again. It’s doubtful Screnock even had the name recognition of a typical conservative candidate for Wisconsin Supreme Court.
The opportunities to attack Dallet were there, especially after her poorly-timed trip to San Francisco, but it seemed Screnock’s campaign lacked the resources. Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce attacked Dallet on the Skenandore case, but the San Francisco values Dallet admired and the records of the fundraiser’s hosts were never exploited by conservatives.
There were external factors, too. Screnock’s endorsement by the NRA was cynically exploited by Dallet, made possible by the mass shooting in Florida, while her own ties to special interests such as Planned Parenthood were never questioned by the mainstream media. And, no, it didn’t help that the Walker Administration played games with the scheduling of two special elections for the legislature. When it threatened to become a case in the state Supreme Court, Governor Scott Walker probably regretted ever sitting on the scheduling of those elections, and we can guess Screnock’s campaign wasn’t too thrilled, either.
However, none of that accounts for the high percentage of the vote Dallet received in Dane County or the lower vote percentage Screnock received in the WOW counties: Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington. Republicans already had a taste of the renewed Democratic enthusiasm for voting in a special election in the 10th Senate district. The Marquette University Law School Poll further confirmed that Republicans are suffering from an enthusiasm gap. Privately, we’re being told that the polls are just bad out there for Republicans.
Republicans are learning the hard way that the midterm elections tend to be painful when the President of the United States is of the same party. President Donald Trump is the best recruiting tool and enthusiasm generator for Democrats since President George W. Bush’s administration Iraq policy faltered before “the Surge” was implemented. There is a reason Dallet put Trump in her first commercial: he motivates Democrats.
On Tuesday, Republicans had their third reminder of how bad the election cycle can be for Republicans. The voters made a decade-long mistake by electing Dallet. They can make even more mistakes in November.