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Reality Check: The Left Is on the March

AP Photo/Morry Gash

For the last few weeks, the dominant topic in American politics has been Donald Trump and the politicized and abusive charges against him in New York City.  Conservative media and activists have been focused on the issue, culminating in Trump's lengthy, nationally-televised airing of grievances Tuesday evening after arriving back in Florida after his Manhattan arraignment.  Meanwhile, that same night, a hardcore leftist declared victory in Chicago's mayoral election -- winning a slim majority of the city's voters, who apparently approved of his horrendous views on school closures and "criminal justice," and were swayed by his racialized attacks against his more centrist opponent, an anti-crime, pro-law enforcement, pro-business moderate Democrat.  The socialist won, with 91 percent of his funding coming from unions (and therefore, indirectly, from taxpayers).  Appropriately enough, his taxation plans may only hasten the exodus out of the city and state.  


Just north of the Windy City, conservatives lost their ideological majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and it wasn't close.  The criminal-coddling progressive candidate trounced her conservative alternative, winning by ten points -- which is an outright blowout in the Badger State, where statewide races have recently been decided by nail-biting margins in the low single digits.  The Left vastly outspent the Right in the consequential race, pounding the conservative jurist with unanswered abortion attacks, while relentlessly tying him to Trump.  It worked.  And now, when the state's highest court rules on critical issues over the next few years (including on potential issues like redistricting and election administration in the critical midwestern battleground), a died-in-the-wool leftist majority will have the power to impose its will.  The editors of the Wall Street Journal rightly see Wisconsin as a major red flag and are sounding the alarm:

As in 2022, Democrats helped to choose their GOP opponent, spending $1 million in the primary to defeat conservative challenger and Wisconsin Circuit Court judge Jennifer Dorow. That elevated former Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly into the runoff. He appealed to the Donald Trump base, but he had already lost an election after being appointed by former Gov. Scott Walker to fill a vacancy on the court. Judge Protasiewicz dispensed with most legal niceties and ran a nakedly political campaign almost like a candidate for Governor. She called Wisconsin’s legislative electoral maps “rigged” and Scott Walker’s 2011 Act 10 limits on union collective bargaining unconstitutional. She refused to say if she’d recuse herself if those cases come before the court.

Her major issue was abortion, especially the fate of an 1849 state statute that became law after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The law bans abortion in nearly all cases. Republicans who control the state Legislature helped her cause by failing to amend the law. They had ample warning from results last year in Michigan and Kentucky, where abortion drove Democratic turnout. The Wisconsin results show abortion is still politically potent. In a special election for the state Senate on Tuesday, the Republican candidate barely won in a longtime GOP stronghold in the northern Milwaukee suburbs. If Republicans can’t win in Mequon, their legislative majorities will soon be imperiled, and you can move Wisconsin out of the swing-state column for the Presidency in 2024. Republicans had better get their abortion position straight, and more in line with where voters are or they will face another disappointment in 2024. A total ban is a loser in swing states. Republicans who insist on that position could soon find that electoral defeats will lead to even more liberal state abortion laws than under Roe. That’s where Michigan is now after last year’s rout.


We'll return to Michigan in a moment.  But this week's result is another example of the recent Democratic playbook producing success.  Again.  They meddled in the conservative nomination process to produce a weaker, Trump-aligned opponent.  They beat the drum on Trump during the ensuing general election campaign, launching constant attacks on abortion.  The conservative response on abortion was...effectively nothing:

Abortion was mentioned in roughly a third of television ads coming from Protasiewicz’s campaign and other allied groups, according to data from the ad tracking service AdImpact. It was virtually non-existent in ads from the other side, appearing in just 1 percent of ads.

One out of every three ads from the Left in this race mentioned abortion (and there were a lot more of their ads in general, due to their higher spending).  The Right ignored the issue and decided instead to hammer incessantly at the leftist candidate's dreadful record on the bench, especially her habit of releasing dangerous criminals with little to no jail time, quite a few of whom re-offended.  But the crime issue ultimately fizzled, as it did in Chicago.  When the Left is allowed to define conservatives on abortion, with almost no pushback, they will draw a lot of political blood.  I'm not remotely suggesting that Republicans should abandon the pro-life cause.  Polling has consistently shown that majorities of Americans support fairly significant restrictions on abortion, and that the radical Democratic stance is unpopular.  What Republicans cannot do is adopt extreme positions on the issue that alienate swing voters, and/or run away from the matter as much as possible, hoping that Democratic attacks won't land.  Democrats and their allies are taking full advantage of that information vacuum, framing their opponents in the least favorable light imaginable (often dishonestly), and winning.  The GOP can adapt on substance and messaging, and fight back in effective ways, or they can just keep getting bludgeoned.


Meanwhile, the three upper midwest states that helped Trump thread the needle to pull off an epic upset in 2016 have soured profoundly on Trump's party since then.  In Michigan, Democrats have been swept into power all across the state, turning back the clock on important economic progress, at the behest of their labor union allies.  The Michigan GOP has been taken over by election truthers and conspiracy kooks.  Their longtime headquarters sits empty.  Longtime operatives and activists have been purged from the party, or have voluntarily walked away.  In Pennsylvania, Democrats crushed the GOP's January 6th gubernatorial candidate (their preferred opponent) by double digits last year, and John Fetterman won a US Senate seat.  Winnable swing districts at the state and federal levels also went blue, despite the Democratic president's unpopularity.  And Wisconsin, having re-elected its rioter-coddling governor, now has a Left-controlled Supreme Court that may be inclined to tear down the reforms former Scott Walker worked tirelessly to implement.  And these examples don't even mention all the avoidable losing Republicans have done in places like Georgia and Arizona over the last few years.  

Independent swing voters are making very clear the sorts of Republicans they're willing to support, and those they're eager to defeat.  Democrats are very pleased to continue picking their preferred GOP opponents, leading Republican voters around by the nose whenever possible.  Meanwhile, many rank-and-file Republicans are fixated on yet more Trump Trump Trump -- to the chagrin of the voters who decide elections, and to the delight of the Democrats.  One major political party is absolutely, ruthlessly obsessed with winning elections and attaining power.  The other major political party is very angry about that, but it's unclear if they have much collective interest in doing what it takes to adjust and win.  So long as that attitude prevails, expect to see a lot more Chicagos and Wisconsins in the coming years.  Continuing to lose, for the same reasons, is a choice.


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