I arrived in Milwaukee on the weekend of the Wisconsin Republican Party’s convention. The crowd assembling at the Hilton was mostly male and nearly all white. The only visible diversity was in the age of the participants, with a large contingent of blue-blazered College Republicans milling alongside older men with canes. During a break in the proceedings, Jeff Johns, the genial chairman of the Ozaukee County Republican Party, warned me about Fond du Lac Avenue, which bisects the black swath of northwest Milwaukee. “You don’t want to travel that at night,” he says. “You’re basically traveling the colored section.” He also voiced suspicions about Democratic turnout operations in Milwaukee, with campaigns “picking people up for their votes” and rewarding them with “free meals and benefits.”And how is Mr. Johns so sure the people in the "colored section" get these "free meals and benefits"? Why, Charlie Sykes and his comrades on Milwaukee's airwaves told him.
On Sunday morning, as the convention concluded with a closed-door prayer breakfast (because Jesus hated helping poor outsiders...), I headed to my hotel and flipped on the television, just in time for Charlie Sykes’s weekly show. One of Sykes’s panelists raised the issue of “an incident in the fifteenth aldermanic district where supporters of a liberal candidate bought meals for voters.” The fifteenth district is mostly black, the candidate is black, and the former acting mayor who provided the lunches to voters is black. But the panelist didn’t mention any of that. For his audience, who live beyond Fond du Lac Avenue and its check-cashing outlets and shuttered storefronts, over the city line where the humble frame houses and bungalows give way abruptly to McMansion subdivisions with names like Harmony Hills and River Heights, he didn’t need to.Walker's supporters in the 262 know their "facts", despite the fact that they have nothing close to direct contact with those minority groups they denigrate, and differences of opinion are not tolerated. It results in a scary groupthink that has all but eliminated decent, everyday Republicans we were acquainted with, and has replaced them with Walkerbots that demand purity and acquiring power by any means necessary.
In the past dozen years, two moderate state senators in metro Milwaukee have lost their jobs in Republican primaries after falling out of favor with SykesBelling, while a third has moved sharply right to avoid their wrath. “The listenership is just so much higher here,” says Scott Jensen, the former Republican speaker of the state Assembly. “And the ability to get people to march in step when [the shows] are all hammering the same themes is extraordinary.” Dale Schultz, a moderate Republican state senator in southwestern Wisconsin who is retiring this year, is blunter. “Talk radio gets going and some of my colleagues end up wetting themselves,” he says. “It’s appalling.”
2. There's a good reason convicted criminal and voucher lobbyist Scooter Jensen notes that right-wingers are able to "march in step" in SE Wisconsin- because they all work for the same people. In addition to the article's revelation of Walker working hand-in-hand with the SykesBelling monster, remember Bruce Murphy's article from last October in Urban Milwaukee talking about how the Bradley Foundation and other Wisconsin right-wing organizations had created a propaganda behemoth. In case you wonder why right-wingers seem to operate in a different world than the rest of us, this bubble-world network helps to exaplin why, as groups such as the Bradleys and the Kochs fund "news" organizations like MacIver, the Wisconsin Reporter, and Media Trakkkers.
The overlap between these various groups is remarkable. The managing editor of Right Wisconsin is Brian Fraley who helped launch the MacIver Institute, where he continues to serve as a Senior Fellow. The Associate Editor of Right Wisconsin is Collin Roth, who worked for two years for Media Trackers. Then there is the ubiquitous conservative blogger James Wigderson, who also does columns for MacIver Institute and Right Wisconsin.Shoot, it's the media version of a Citizens for a Strong America/United Sportsmen of Wisconsin "incest and money-laundering" party. The Wisconsin Republican Party should be thought of as a cold machine, both in terms of the top-down hierarchy that calls it shots, and in its uncaring method of "divide and conquer" governance.
When it came to the fabricated story by Media Trackers on the supposed harassment of a gay Republican, Sykes had writer Brian Sikma, who hatched the story, on his show, and read some of the erroneous information on the air.
But to complete the circle here, you have to bring in the role of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Its columnist Christian Schneider wrote a column spreading the story on the supposed harassment of the gay Republican and Schneider and the newspaper later removed the column from the JS website.
For some time the Journal Sentinel ran columns by both Schneider and Mike Nichols, though both were getting paid by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, whose major funding comes from the Bradley Foundation. (Sykes has also been paid by the WPRI to edit its “Wisconsin Interest” online magazine.)
After I raised questions about this, Schneider stepped down from WPRI. And last month, the Journal Sentinel announced that Schneider was hired on staff. The position is part-time, according to JS editorial page editor David Haynes.
3. As usual, Charlie Pierce sums it up well when it comes to our Gov, his spokesmodels in the media, and the mentality that his "divide and conquer" bubble-world supporters have. This closing paragraph also contains honesty that the average Wisconsin media member doesn't have the guts to use.
Now, it can be argued, seriously, that being the white guy who triumphed over all the collected Others of the conservative hatescape is a sure path to success, at least through the Republican primaries. Nonetheless, as MacGillis points out, Walker has been positively slavering in front of some of the worst that the "maintstream" American right has to offer. Read the whole thing. From my own experience that, if anything, MacGillis is soft-pedaling the viciousness of people like Mark Belling, who once said that cannibal murderer Jeffrey Dahmer represented the "logical extension of the gay lifestyle." That's the primordial ooze out of which Scott Walker crawled and into which he regularly returns. He is a beer-and-brat Lester Maddox. I guess the essential question for the country is whether or not this is a good thing to be or not.It's good if you're part of Scotty's in-crowd and get some money and power sent your way, or if you're a stockholder in a media company that gets big money from the many political ads that result from this environment. But it sucks if you have a shred of decency and actually care about your state improving itself in the 21st Century.