The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is part of the USA Today network of newspapers, which includes The Arizona Republic. The USA Today network of newspapers has a policy of no longer making endorsements of candidates. See, The Arizona Republic will no longer make candidate endorsements. Here’s why (Feb. 2020).
This is an abdication of the media’s role as the “watchdog of democracy.” When one of our political parties has turned against democracy and become an anti-democracy White Christian Nationalist, QAnon conspiracy driven MAGA personality cult of Donald Trump — the first president in U.S. history to use his rabid cult supporters to wage a violent seditious insurrection to topple the U.S.government and install him as emperor of a Christian theocratic autocracy — playing the old Fox News game of “we report, you decide” without taking a stand to defend American democracy, and to editorialize that readers must reject this anti-democracy cult that wants to burn down our democracy, is a betrayal by the media to fulfill its role as the “watchdog of democracy.”
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel rejected the USA Today policy, and made a “save our democracy from these barbarians at the gate” editorial endorsement of Gov. Tony Evers and Mandela Barnes for Senate. It’s not too late for The Arizona Republic to find the courage to do the same. Arizona has been ground zero for this anti-democracy political cult. More is expected from the media here. Silence is complicity in the death of our democracy.
The warning Wednesday in Phoenix illustrates alarm about voters putting a slate of election deniers in charge of the state’s elections https://t.co/mZJKUtCv06
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) November 3, 2022
Here is the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial. Editorial: Vote for Tony Evers and Mandela Barnes to defend our democracy. Here’s why.
Democracy is on the ballot Nov. 8.
And we believe that means a vote for Democrats Mandela Barnes for U.S. Senate and Tony Evers for governor.
Their Republican opponents, incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson and businessman Tim Michels, continue to cast doubt on the 2020 election, and both have fudged on whether they will accept the outcome of the 2022 vote. A commitment to basic democratic principles is a threshold neither passes, and their willingness to cavalierly ignore longtime norms of democracy is dangerous.
U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a lifelong Republican who has stood bravely against her party as it bowed to the whims of former President Donald Trump, put it this way in a recent interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd:
“No one of any party should be voting for people who are election deniers. “(Election deniers) are telling you they’ll only certify an election they agree with. … There’s not much graver threat to the democracy than you can imagine than that.”
WATCH: @RepLizCheney (R-Wyo.) says “no one of any party” should be voting for an election denier.
“[Election deniers] are telling you they’ll only certify an election they agree with. … There’s not much graver threat to the democracy than you can imagine than that.” pic.twitter.com/gbNumptZsI
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) October 23, 2022
If the Republican Party is to escape Donald Trump’s cult of personality, it has to begin in elections like these. Normally, the USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin editorial board does not recommend candidates in elections, but because of the stakes in this election — and our deep concerns with these candidates — we have decided to do so.
Ron Johnson is Wisconsin’s worst senator in decades
Johnson has played fast and loose with the facts for years. He’s an anti-science superspreader of conspiracies who has claimed sunspots cause global warming and warned that the vaccines that saved millions of lives could make the COVID-19 pandemic worse. He has touted unproven remedies for the virus and even suggested that with mouthwash could kill it.
It took Johnson more than a month to acknowledge the obvious: that Joe Biden had defeated Donald Trump for the presidency. And even then, the senator held a sham hearing the next day that allowed Trump’s lawyers to air arguments that had been shot down in courtrooms across the country.
Johnson later threatened to vote against the certification of electors from swing states when Congress met for the ceremonial counting of Electoral College votes. Though he had a change of heart after the deadly insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, he continued to downplay the violence, claiming the attackers were “people that love this country, that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break the law.”
Johnson’s office also was involved in an attempt to pass a document regarding “Wisconsin electors” to then Vice President Mike Pence just minutes before Congress was to certify the vote. Johnson’s explanations for what happened — and for what he and his staff knew — don’t add up.
More recently, the senator has suggested the government should rewrite the rulesfor the two government programs seniors rely on most — Medicare and Social Security — making them subject to annual political fights in Congress rather than mandatory payments as promised. And he’s claimed before a Republican group that climate change was “bullshit.”
All the while, this incompetent senator has compiled an appallingly slim list of accomplishments for 12 years in office. He even took a pass on trying to help Wisconsin workers when a large state contractor was moving jobs out of state, saying: “It’s not like we don’t have enough jobs here in Wisconsin.”
His opponent, Mandela Barnes, is young at 35 but has served two terms as state representative and one as lieutenant governor. He comes from solid middle-class roots in Milwaukee and knows what it’s like to work hard.
Barnes is an unapologetic progressive but no radical. His positions on the major issues facing the country are reasonable, measured and mainstream.
On immigration, Barnes favors comprehensive reform and a path to citizenship, not abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, as some Johnson supporters have claimed. In the not-so-distant past, Republicans from deep red states like Florida’s Sen. Marco Rubio favored just such a plan.
Johnson and supporters have made crime a major issue in the campaign, falsely claiming that Barnes wants to “defund the police.” In fact, Barnes hasn’t called for defunding the police. Instead, he favors giving police the resources they need to keep the public safe but also spending money on crime prevention, including for schools and job creation.
Crime is a local issue handled by mayors, city councils and police departments — not senators. Its emergence in the Senate race this fall is simple fear-mongering on the part of Republicans, who are hoping to scare voters that the Black man running for Senate is too “different” and too “dangerous” to serve — actual words used in commercials supporting Johnson.
One of the ads even intentionally darkened Barnes’ skin. The ads are racist and disgraceful.Johnson also criticized Barnes’ position on the state’s bail system. Barnes favors eliminating cash bail and moving to a system in which judges would decide whether to hold or release defendants before trial based on their danger to society — similar to the system used in federal courts. The state’s cash bail system needs reform and Barnes is correct to raise it as a concern. Cash bail discriminates against poor defendants while not necessarily defending the public from dangerous suspects.
Our take on Barnes: He’s a quick study who will lean progressive but remain pragmatic. Most importantly, he will focus on helping working-class constituents rather than delivering tax cuts to billionaire donors as Johnson has done.
Tony Evers has earned a second term. Tim Michels is a Trump acolyte.
Tim Michels is where he is today because of Donald Trump’s endorsement in the Republican primary in August — an endorsement that required Michels to toe the Trumpian line:
- After getting Trump’s stamp of approval, Michels at first declined to support a Trump run for president in 2024. But Michels soon fell in line, saying that, of course, he would support a Trump candidacy, even after the former president’s disgraceful incitement of a riot on Jan. 6, 2021.
- Michels has cast doubt on the 2020 election, saying that “maybe” the election was stolen and refusing to rule out supporting a legislative effort to overturn the election results even though decertifying the election is both illegal and impossible.
- He has argued that the Wisconsin Elections Commission, created by fellow Republicans while Scott Walker was governor, should be shut down and that all rules the commission set for local clerks to carry out elections should be eliminated.
- He has refused to say whether he would certify the next presidential election if Trump makes another run and loses again in Wisconsin.
- He says he wants to fix the “big problems that we had in 2020,” including the use of ballot drop boxes and private funding to help local municipalities conduct elections during a pandemic. He has not explained how drop boxes and private funds made the election fraudulent.
Folks, we’ve known this for awhile – Tim Michels is a danger to our democracy.
When you head to the polls on Election Day, remember that we’re fighting to protect our democracy, voting rights, and free, fair, and secure elections. https://t.co/Cnec0EDr5P
— Tony Evers (@Tony4WI) October 31, 2022
At times, Michels seems to have only a rudimentary knowledge of the duties and responsibilities of the job he is seeking. Working for his family’s highway and pipeline construction business, Michels has spent years away from Wisconsin at homes in Connecticut and New York City.
Recently, he called on Gov. Evers to stop prison paroles altogether — a move that likely isn’t possible under state law. The governor appoints the chairperson to the state parole commission but does not make parole decisions for inmates convicted of a crime committed before Dec. 31, 1999. After that, the state’s “truth in sentencing” law eliminated parole.
At a recent speech before Milwaukee Rotary, Michels suggested he would not enforce the state’s abortion law that makes the procedure a felony, saying he would not arrest any doctors. His campaign immediately walked that back, noting that the governor wouldn’t arrest anyone but that district attorneys and police should enforce all laws.
In fact, Michels has long embraced a position on abortion that is out of step with most people in Wisconsin: He has opposed adding exceptions for rape and incest to Wisconsin’s ban on the procedure. Recently, he said he’d sign a bill that included those exceptions, but his campaign says his personal views haven’t changed. The Republican Assembly leader said there is little likelihood of passing a bill creating exceptions for rape and incest.
And then there are the troubling conflicts of interest this wealthy construction magnate will have to navigate should he become governor. Michels has said he would divest himself from Michels Corp. if he is elected, but he hasn’t said how he would do that and experts say it will be hard to do.
This matters because state law requires the governor to sign off on road construction worth more than $1,000 and bars public officials from profiting from government actions. It’s a tough needle to thread for a man whose company has won more than $1.1 billion in taxpayer-financed construction projects in the past eight years.
Michels sells himself as “a businessman not a politician,” and says he plans to do demolition work in Madison. But, in fact, his wealth has been built off taxpayer-financed government projects. And, in reality, Republicans have run all or most branches of government in Madison since 2010. So will Michels really demolish what his own party built, even though it’s been great for his family’s business? Or is this his version of “drain the swamp” — an empty campaign promise?
Tony Evers, on the other hand, has been a steady, competent hand at the tiller of state government. Evers, an aw-shucks, euchre-playing everyman, has solid instincts and has consistently embraced good government.
One example: The former state superintendent skillfully managed a deadly pandemic even as the Republican-led Legislature refused to do its job as people were dying.
As cases and deaths mounted, Republican lawmakers wasted the summer and early fall of 2020 doing nothing to combat the virus, and instead, made a political issue out of fighting a governor who simply tried to keep everyone safe.
Evers, meantime, continued to advocate for science-based solutions including mask-wearing, social distancing and vaccines. The governor also was right to be cautious in reopening schools and businesses, though his actions drew flak from political opponents.
Evers has fought for increased funding for K-12 schools and a state office focused on sustainability and environmental justice. He established advisory groups to address “forever chemicals” and climate change. Michels, on the other hand, has said he doesn’t believe in human-caused climate change, even though more than 99% of scientists agree that humans play a key role in global warming.
In August, Evers announced a plan to return $600 million to taxpayers out of the state’s surplus. The governor has advocated taking the question of legal abortion directly to voters through a binding referendum, a proposal immediately shot down by the GOP-controlled Legislature.
And Evers has said increasing shared revenue for municipalities would be a priority, showing that he understands that municipal finance is broken in many areas of the state. Michels, on the other hand, is flirting with a flat tax, which could be a boon for the rich but expensive for the middle class and disastrous for the finances of cities and towns.
But the most important reason to vote for Evers? His veto pen.
If Michels is elected, Republicans will have total control of state government — the governor’s chair, both houses of the Legislature, and the state Supreme Court. After two rounds of gerrymandering, the state Assembly and Senate are out of reach of Democrats, probably for years, despite Wisconsin being a purple state with roughly equal numbers of voters from both parties.
Year after year of one-party rule is dangerous — no matter which party it is. Evers provides a check on that power — an important check in a presidential battleground state that will figure prominently in the 2024 election. Evers can turn back the worst Republican instincts, especially when it comes to conducting elections. He can protect the citizens from their power-politics moves, which somehow always boost their financial backers over everyone else.
Ron Johnson and Tim Michels are by no means unique in the new Republican Party. A recent Washington Post analysis found that a majority of Republican nominees on the ballot for the House, Senate and key statewide offices — 291 of them — had denied or questioned the outcome of the last presidential election.
Most of them know better but continue to press the lie to ignite the Trump base, a revealing indicator of character. Sen. Johnson was even recorded admitting Trump lost Wisconsin because he underperformed other Republicans on the same ballots in the same election. “He didn’t get 51,000 votes that other Republicans got, and that’s why he lost,” Johnson said.
We all need to do our part to stamp out this dangerous nonsense on Nov. 8. Wisconsin voters can send a message that they want competent, rational governance; that they value living in a democracy where the citizens remain in charge.
We urge voters to give Gov. Tony Evers a second term as governor and to fire Ron Johnson after two, six-year terms and send Mandela Barnes to the Senate. If you can’t bring yourself to vote for a Democrat, consider passing over these two races and voting in the remaining races on your ballot.
Make no mistake: Democracy is on the ballot this year. Please vote for candidates who have shown they believe in it.
This is the kind of editorial we should expect from our so-called “paper of record” for the state of Arizona. The Arizona Republic is miserably failing its role as the “watchdog of democracy.”
Author: AZ BlueMeanie