As a Wisconsin Election Takes A Fishy Turn, is the Tea Turning Toxic?

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Wisconsin state workers protest proposed cuts to benefits. (Getty)

What had been a low-profile state Supreme Court election in Wisconsin yesterday drew national attention as it appeared to be an early indicator of impending toxic blowback from the Tea Party’s hard-line politics.


Progressive challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg appeared yesterday to have pulled off a surprise victory over incumbent conservative justice David Prosser. Prosser, who had expected an easy win, initially looked to have lost by 204 votes, largely as a result of high voter turnout by Wisconsinites angry about Governor Scott Walker’s battle with state unions.

Surprise Again!

Now the tables are turned. In what the Washington Post called a "stunning twist," a County clerk announced Thursday that she had forgotten to record 14,000 votes, which gave Prosser the lead by 7,500 votes. Clerk Kathy Nickolaus (R) of heavily Republican Waukesha County said that she had inadvertently failed to import and save information into the database, omitting the votes. Nickolaus previously worked under Prosser in the Assembly GOP Caucus years ago when Prosser was Assembly Minority Leader.

As County clerk, Nickolaus set off a firestorm of criticism last year from the Waukesha County Board when she refused to agree to comply with the recommendations of the board following an audit. That audit had been requested after the county's director of administration found Nickolaus uncooperative with attempts to have the county's experts review her systems. In addition, the board had taken issue with Nickolaus's decision not to report municipal election results on election night. 

Kloppenbug and Prosser's campaigns are already collecting money and lawyers in case of a challenge. Under Wisconsin law, only the candidates can request a recount.

Madison, Round Two

Madison was rocked by weeks of protest following the introduction of a bill by Governor Walker that would strip public employee unions of collective bargaining rights, and now has evolved into the epicenter of a Tea-Party pushback. Nationwide, demonstrations were held in solidarity with the Wisconsin workers, and donations to Kloppenburg’s campaign suddenly poured in from across the country. Recall drives have been started against sixteen Wisconsin state senators, and recall elections could be started as early as June. Eight of the Senators targeted are Republicans who voted in favor of Walker’s anti-union bill, and the other eight are the Democrats who fled the state to avoid a quorum in an attempt to thwart the bill’s passage. 

While a recount is expected for the Supreme Court seat, the final vote may prove to be the least interesting part of this story. More interesting is the sudden resistance in the country to the hard-line conservative politics embraced by many of the winners of the midterm elections. As the Scott Walkers of the world suddenly find themselves a political liability to their conservative brethren, what will it mean to someone such as Michele Bachmann, who has made a political name on a platform of extreme social conservatism?

Tea Party Schism

Added to this political bad taste left behind Walker’s anti-union legislation is a schism in the magic of the Tea Party story. What was once widely portrayed as a grassroots movement from middle-America has now taken on the character of more a traditional conservative agenda (see Karl Rove and the billionaire Republican backers Koch brothers). Small-government libertarians in the party are at odds by the more conservative activist-types, who seek to expand government's reach over things like immigration, prohibiting gay marriage and abortion.  Tony Perkins, head of the conservative Family Research Council, has said that a majority of Tea Party voters self-identify as conservative evangelicals.  Conservative senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) effectively alienated a large portion of the Tea Party by seeming to argue that libertarians don't exist, saying "you can't be a fiscal conservative and not be a social conservative."

The split is quickly becoming evident at a federal level as well, as the Republican House struggles internally between those whose agenda includes remaining electable enough to promote a conservative agenda, and those whose entire agenda is to cut the budget, regardless of the political fall-out. Many in the Tea Party feel that their success and momentum has been co-opted by the Republican establishment and is now being used to promote a conservative social agenda — even at the expense of budget cuts. Even Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann are at odds over the next step, with Palin tweeting "Let him shut it" while Bachmann suggested a compromise may be in order.

Libertarian-minded Tea Party activists voted in a number of the nation's current GOP crop, but now pose a threat to the GOP, as disillusion with current Republican leadership may lead them to mount a challenge to the Republican front-runner in the coming presidential primaries which could harm Republican chances. 

Speaking in New York City at the 20th anniversary convention of the National Action Network, senior campaign strategist David Axelrod mused about the turning tide of voters. 

"[T]he atmosphere in Wisconsin has changed dramatically," he said. "If you reran the same race that you ran in November, [Scott Walker] would lose and not by a few votes. I think independent voters have seen enough to know they're uncomfortable. I think democratic voters are mobilized. And I think that's a microcosm of what's going on in many places around the country." 


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Comments [16]

WisKid from Wiscompton

All I am going to say here is if all the Rs and Ds were reversed and 14k votes MAGICALLY appeared in Dane county on a shady Democrat who had almost gone to prison for criminal campaign activity but escaped by ratting out everyone else the right wing would be screaming bloody murder and getting their guns being the ignorant violent people they are. Now at this point to say it definitely was or was not fraud is absurd. Does it look like fraud? Does it smell like fraud? HELL YES! Could it be that this woman is just conveniently incompetent? Its possible. Either could be the case. BUT ONE THING I KNOW FOR SURE IS WE WILL NOT GET A REAL INVESTIGATION IN WALKERS WISCONSIN! With Walker in sole owner ship of the SState Troopers and JB Van Hollen being Walkers dedicated lap dog there is zero chance of a real investigation unless the FBI cyber crimes and or federal attorny gets involved.

Apr. 11 2011 01:25 PM

There's nothing fishy about it. Waukesha County's clerk is incompetent, but the truth of the matter is that they simply made an error and forgot to count an entire city's ballots. Unless you believe no on in Brookfield voted on Tuesday, those votes are real, and are the same results that Brookfield's clerk posted to their website on election night. The county just forgot to include them in the county-wide totals. Yes, it is "convenient" for the incumbent, but it appears to be true. Meanwhile, Milwaukee's DA has a press conference for Monday.

Apr. 10 2011 10:05 PM
Joe M

It's a good thing the mistake happened. It showed the true colors of what an incompitant Judge JoAnne would have been. Claiming victory before all the evidence is in. The millions of dollars that poured in by the unions, show that their power is already eroding and they don't like it. You can't buy an election anymore. Most of the "other hard working people" are fed up to with everybody that won't do their fair share and only look for handouts. Entitlements should be for the extreme cases only. CUT THE BUDGET

Apr. 10 2011 09:49 PM

its sad how dems cry foul when the repubs
use the same tactics they have used over and over! i was on the union side until they got violent.
there was no real cause for that. this is not the 19th century.
but they use intimidation on the one hand and fear on the other to drive either end of their agenda. how many hardworking poor people have been kicked off job sites "only" because were not union brothers?

Apr. 10 2011 12:46 PM
James Noonan

Re: Thank God for the Right - the situation you are hoping for (Repubelicking prez, senate and congress) existed for the first 6 years of this century...where is all the debt/deficit cutting, budget balancing? Oh, that's right...didn't happen, LOL. You do realize that most big corps, like GE, already not only pay ZERO taxes, they actually get billions back? So by lowering corporate taxes, you mean you want to give them MORE billions back? I am so glad I dont have children, so I dont have to worry about them living on into the future of this country with millions of people who are as catastrophically stupid as you. If you and the rest of the teabagger trash is what America is producing, it deserves to crash and burn.

Apr. 09 2011 06:58 PM

What you union bashers fail to realize is that unions are the working people that make our cities, counties, and states work! They're the folks teaching your kids, picking up your trash, putting out your fires, arresting criminals, serving your meals, delivering your mail, taking care of your roads and building some of the few American products left. Unions are the workers not the billionaires that are funding all of these anti-union bills. This had absolutely nothing to do with creating growth or solving a budget problem, Scott Walker CREATED that budget problem by giving away millions to corporations and the super rich. The public unions agreed to every single concession the governor asked for and he still went after their right to constitutional right to free association and form together to collectively bargain. Just because you're too damn scared to demand that the oligarchy in this country give a little bit back to the workers who are creating their wealth, don't take it out on the folks who have the guts enough to stand up for what is right. You shouldn't be griping about that union members have better wages and benefits than non-union workers, you should realize that's why we form unions and that you can have that too. Solidarity Forever!

Apr. 09 2011 10:59 AM
essay from louisiana

horrible article, and awesome comments for the most part.

down with public employee union/big government collusion, it's time to take our state and federal governments back

Apr. 09 2011 03:59 AM
DooDooEcon from San Diego

I like the tactic of waiting until the fake votes are counted and then turning in the actual votes. Brilliant tactic! It is clear that since prior to the end of the civil war, the Democratic party has been oscillating between treason and fraud.

Look at President Obama, he is a complete fraud. His entire "narrative" is fantasy. Even his biggest supporters have to admit that they do not know anything about him.

I ask every Democrat to join with The Every American Party and save our country! You have been lied to by the Unions, the President and your Party leaders. "Progessive" as a term is even false, they are "regressing" to state control. There is no freedom to be found on the left, so join with your fellow americans where your input will be valued.

Apr. 09 2011 02:23 AM
Charles Roth from Pasadena, CA

Although I vote Democrat for practical reason, I am truly an Independent. Having lived in Europe for 16 years gives me a perspective on what is happening in my country, which makes me believe that the blind are leading the an ideological path to the cliffs of national ruin. I have to side with the Democrats in large, because they are the rational ones at this juncture in political retrograde in our country. This need or desire for throwback to the days of yesteryear, i.e., the Robber Barrons, J.P. Morgan, and all the rest of their ilk who thought of the American worker as their pawns in a power struggle with other financial and political plutocrats, NOW...are paranoid about loosing their hold on the powers that run this country. From their lofty seats in the corner offices on high, insulated from the "sturm und drom" of daily existance which they only see through their eyes on the bottom line. A wealthy friend of mine, who was a politically Democrat, and a Republican when it came to making certain business decisions, once told me, "don't worry about the uber wealthy, my friend, they wouldn't give you a second thought. Not that I need either a first or second thought from any of them, I just want then to get their finger out of my eye so that I can live as "I" wish, and not as "THEY" wish.

Apr. 09 2011 01:45 AM
Thank God from The Right because I'm right.

How pathetic are these democrats? They insist that the people reject the tea party and governor walker, yet less than a month after the so called "union revolution" occurs, they still can't even win an election, despite their widespread fraud, motor voting, and Union donations. This is proof positive that the majority of Wisconsin voters support walker and his responsible policies. The democrats can call him radical and evil all they want, and they can flood the media with uneven coverage of the situation in Wisconsin and biased polls, but in the end, the people have spoken, and though they aren't as outspoken and belligerent as the protesters that absolutely trashed Madison causing thousands of dollars in damage to public property a few weeks ago, they outnumber them. I hope the GOP wins the president, a 60 vote senate majority, and sweeps even more seats in the house of representatives in 2012. Finally cut the debt and deficit, cut corporate taxes so that the corps can bring the jobs back home where they belong, and bring America back to prosperity. End this class warfare, us vs. them, steal from the rich because the middle class can't all afford big screen tv's, nonsense! People need to realize that taxing the rich is impossible to sustain and will not bring long-term prosperity. Read a book. Learn the truth. Educate yourself, Don't just blindly follow everything your Unionized high school teachers jammed down your throat in high school, use your brain, think critically, and most importantly, think for yourself.

Apr. 09 2011 01:29 AM

The Clerk who made the error in not adding the votes from a whole city (0 votes reported), may be incompetent, in contrast to the judge who, as the mother of one union activist and the wife of another, was up to her chin in conflict of interest yet still came through three times to put a Temp. Restr. Order against the implementation of the elimination of mandatory union membership.
Not eliminating unions, just mandatory union membership.

This is what I do not get.

Per a recent federal study, 2/3rd of kids leaving high school in Wisconsin can not read at grade level, yet the population stands up and protects those teachers who criminally neglect their duties, teaching the kids reading, writing and some math.
Do parents in Wisconsin hate their kids???

Apr. 09 2011 01:21 AM

It's fun to watch a race where, for a change, the Democrats aren't holding out on reporting their votes till they know how many graves and illegal aliens they have to vote to put them over the top. This time they thought they had it in the can and then discovered that a big chunk of Republican votes hadn't been counted for a change. :-)

Apr. 09 2011 01:00 AM

What a pitiful article -- a piece of crapola at best. Now I hope the not-so-secret motivation of the involved county clerk is revealed. It was a bizarre (if foolish) try to bring out something positive out of this mess for the libs. Poor try! Poor writing! Poor mislead libs.

Apr. 09 2011 12:54 AM
Mergus from WI

Martha, Martha, Martha,
We simply wanted a justice who wasn't in the governor's pocket. That really is the purpose of the court isn't it? Checks & balances, that sort of thing. Doesn't seem that unreasonable to me.

Apr. 09 2011 12:49 AM
ConservativesArekillingMy Country from Madison

You must be proud that a woman already linked to one voter fraud came to your rescue by doing it again. Don't worry. She'll be investigated and get the jail time she deserves along with the rest of the GOP rats

Apr. 09 2011 12:46 AM

It must suck to be a unionist in Wisconsin today. Gov. Walker prevailed with his pro-growth responsible budget law. The unions thought they'd bought a Supreme Court judge who'd rule their way.

The unions went to bed giddy with delight that they'd won... only to wake up to the reality that they did not.

This vote total correction must surely have sent the unionists into hysterical shock... with any luck it will cause many of them to stroke out.

Apr. 09 2011 12:38 AM

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