How Wisconsin’s GOP Is Losing Its Mind
Plus: The Gazpacho Police!
If I were a more serious person, I would pass over the internet’s most delectable moment of political idiocracy. But I am not that person.
Behold the Soup Lady Who Broke the Internet:
Join us tonight!
What’s on your mind? Leave a question for the team in the Comments on this post.
Exclusively for Bulwark+ members!
The Kraken Comes to Wisconsin
Andy Kroll’s deep dive into Wisconsin’s insane politics in Rolling Stone (paywalled) begins with an anecdote about a fringy GOP state legislator named Timothy Ramthun:
At 5:01 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 2, Tim Ramthun was sitting in his living room with the TV on when his cellphone rang. He turned to his wife of four decades, Carolann. “Oh, the president’s calling,” he told her. She scoffed. “Hello, Mr. President,” Ramthun said to the caller. “This is Representative Ramthun. May I help you?” Carolann still didn’t believe him, until she heard the voice on the other end and almost fell out of her chair. She started recording a video of her husband, a junior member of the Wisconsin state Assembly, receiving praise from the 45th president of the United States.
Ramthun wasn’t surprised by Donald Trump’s call. A few weeks earlier, Trump had left a message on his work phone at the state Capitol at 6:30 in the morning. Trump had wanted to thank Ramthun for his continued efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, something Trump proceeded to do later that day in a written statement praising Ramthun for “putting forward a very powerful and very popular, because it’s true, resolution to decertify the 2020 Presidential Election in Wisconsin based on the recently found absolute proof of large scale voter fraud that took place.”
Now, with his wife recording the conversation, Ramthun listened as Trump asked what he could do to be helpful. He offered to endorse Ramthun, and Ramthun knew how powerful that endorsement could be running for reelection to the Assembly or seeking a higher office. Trump wasn’t the only conservative luminary to dangle an endorsement: Mike Lindell, the CEO of MyPillow and a leader of the growing election-fraud movement in America, had twice said he’d back Ramthun.
Ramthun told Trump he appreciated the pledge of support, but he wanted the former president to know that the fraud he believed he’d uncovered, and the conspiracy that tied it together, required all of his attention at the moment. First, he would pass his resolution to decertify the last presidential election, and then he would help other states follow his lead.
“If one state does this, I think others will follow,” he remembers telling Trump.
“You’re my kind of guy,” Trump replied.
This is Trump’s guy. Full wooly-Mike-Lindell-level crazy.
Now we come to the familiar part of the story.
Wisconsin’s GOP has been tossing bits of red meat to the MAGAverse in the hope that it will keep the real crazies under control. In an attempt to appease the MAGAverse, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos launched an expensive and pointless investigation of the 2020 election, headed by a former state supreme court justice named Michael Gableman.
That investigation has been one FUBAR after another — but it has also failed to satisfy the face-eating-leopard crowd.
By the end of January, Vice News was reporting: “Trump Has Pushed the Wisconsin GOP Into a Full Meltdown.”
Accusations of slander. Leaked documents. Fake news pushed by a right-wing conspiracy website. Staff forcibly reassigned. Angry warnings from former President Donald Trump.
Just last week, TFG put out a statement attacking Vos: “ICYMI: ‘Wisconsin Speaker Vos Is Secretly Pushing Legislation to Increase Number of Drop Boxes After Judge Ruled Them Illegal in State.’”
This comes in spite of an aggressive campaign of sucking up by Wisconsin’s GOP. Behold this display of self-humiliation.
But it has all been for naught.
For months now, the Wisconsin GOP has tried desperately to keep the real insanity at bay — and by real insanity, I mean Timothy Ramthum. After Ramthum tried to introduce legislation decertifying the presidential election, the assembly’s majority leader, Jim Steineke tweeted:
The GOP leadership then stripped Ramthum of his lone staffer “for lying about fellow GOP members and using taxpayer resources to put out political screeds.”
But that move has simply made Ramthum a martyr and a rock star for much of the increasingly Trumpified GOP base. The Iowa County Republican Party released a statement praising Ramthun, and accused of Vos of being “impotent to accomplish anything of significance.” When Ramthum spoke at a meeting of the Sheboygan County GOP earlier this month, he got a standing ovation.
And, of course Ramthum’s got Trump.
So, here it comes.
The GOP’s craziest legislator is running for governor.
MADISON – A state lawmaker who was disciplined by the Assembly leader over false election claims and who has repeatedly called on his colleagues to take the impossible action of overturning Wisconsin's 2020 presidential election results, appears to be running for governor.
A new campaign website says Rep. Timothy Ramthun, a Republican from Campbellsport, is running on a platform of election scrutiny and is endorsed by Mike Lindell, the MyPillow executive who has heavily promoted baseless election conspiracy theories.
(Weirdly enough, he pulled the website down within minutes. But he’s still expected to run.)
This, um, complicates things for the Wisconsin GOP.
A Ramthun entry into the race would scramble the Republican primary for governor. Ramthun has been praised publicly and privately by former President Donald Trump for his push to undo the 2020 election result, a legally impossible task.
This won’t be a problem, will it?
The National Archives and Records Administration has asked the Justice Department to examine Donald Trump’s handling of White House records, sparking discussions among federal law enforcement officials about whether they should investigate the former president for a possible crime….
Is this real life?
1. Pre-K’s Broken Promise
Researchers at Vanderbilt University studied 3,000 low-income Tennessee children who had all applied for a pre-K program. Some were accepted and others were not. Both groups were followed from age 3 or 4 until the sixth grade. Earlier results from this cohort were published after the kids completed the third grade. They found that while the pre-K kids scored better on literacy and other measures in kindergarten, those gains quickly eroded, and by grade 3, the non-pre-K kids had caught up and surpassed the pre-K cohort. The results were worrying enough that one of the study’s authors cautioned about the national rush to implement universal pre-K. “You have school systems that are pushing pre-K when they have demonstrably failing K-12 systems,” Dale Farran warned. “It makes me cringe.”
2. America Can’t Fight Authoritarianism on the Cheap
The good news is that the United States has the economic capacity to reclaim its place as the uncontested, dominant military power. Current defense spending is 3.8 percent of GDP, lower than any point of the Cold War, when America faced only one adversary. As recently as 1980, in President Jimmy Carter’s last year in office, the United States spent 6.5 percent of GDP on defense. And under Obama the figure reached 5.5 percent.
The bad news is that, while the United States wants to be a global power, it seems to lack the political will to invest in this objective, in which case the American defense of Ukraine, the Biden administration’s bolstering of NATO, and the bipartisan urge to confront China are all just hollow pretensions.
3. The Role of Racial Resentment in Our Politics
We cannot have real conversations about the future of our country—the size of government, the rights of individuals, the roles of institutions, the fairness of processes, the equality of opportunity—if we do not wrestle with how much our positions on these things are shaped by our views on race.