Many people here in Wisconsin have been lamenting the loss of moderate Republican lawmakers. Politicians with radical viewpoints, like Glenn Grothman, appear to be the majority. Some have suggested that we’re just following a national trend, that the GOP as a whole has become more extreme, and that it’s only going to get worse. But I’m not so sure that’s true. In fact, based upon evidence, I think it’s all an illusion. And that’s good news for Wisconsin.
Wisconsin lawmakers have made some pretty nutty statements recently, in my opinion. For example, Republican Senator Ron Johnson recently stated that women who can’t afford birth control should simply Google “what if I can’t afford birth control?” to find a solution, and bam, problem solved.
But it’s not just Johnson’s comments that have people here fired up; some of the most egregious offenses of late come from Wisconsin women. At a gathering in downtown Waukesha a few weeks ago, area women could not comprehend how female GOP lawmakers could support legislation that is patently anti-women or understand why they don’t seem to care about women’s health.
For example, Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, a cancer survivor herself, had congratulated Susan G. Komen when the foundation announced it would cut funding to Planned Parenthood. Did she not want other want women to have access to life-saving cancer screenings? Really?
Then there’s Alberta Darling, who drafted a motion to end our state’s support for Planned Parenthood clinics last year. She also voted to restrict eligibility for the family planning program, part of Badgercare, to exclude men from the program, among other things.
Do these women really think it’s smart to cut these services, which have been proven to prevent disease, save lives, and reduce costs? Do they really believe the things they say? Or are they faking it?
After all, Alberta Darling used to sit on the board of Planned Parenthood, she used to be pro-choice, she used to be concerned with women’s health, she used to be a moderate.
So what happened?
Looking at recent Wisconsin history, it appears that moderate GOP women have been driven out of the legislature and replaced with white males who consistently vote against women’s rights. Here are four such examples:
Barbara Lorman, who was a State Senator from 1980-1994, lost in a Republican primary election to Scott Fitzgerald in 1994.
Peggy Rosenzweig was a State Assemblywoman from 1982 to 1993 and a State Senator from 1993 to 2002. She also lost in a Republican primary, to Tom Reynolds in 2002.
Mary Panzer served as a State Assemblywoman from 1980 to 1993, a State Senator from 1993 to 2004, and was, at one point, majority leader. She lost in a republican primary to Glenn Grothman in 2004.
Carol Roessler served in the State Assembly from 1982 to 1987, and was a State Senator from 1987 to 2008. She didn’t lose in a primary, but resigned in 2008 after accepting a post from then Governor Jim Doyle. However, she was replaced by Republican Randy Hopper, who was part of the “backbone of Scott Walker’s extreme agenda” until his recall in 2011.
Four moderate GOP women, four departures from the legislature, four white male replacements who consistently vote(d) against women’s rights. And three of them were directly primaried by their own party.
This leads me to conclude that it’s possible that the Wisconsin GOP hasn’t really moved radically right, that those who are currently in power pushed all the moderates out, presenting the illusion that the party has moved to the far right.
So some legislators are, in fact, faking it.
Of course, some Republican lawmakers truly do believe the outlandish things they say. I’m guessing the Fitzgeralds are legit, for example. But I’ll bet behind the scenes most of our Republican politicians are less Glenn Grothman and more Dale Schultz.
It’s all about power, if seems, it’s all about who controls the GOP right now, and they all have to play along if they want to keep their jobs.
The good news is, if Wisconsinites can vote out those currently in power, if we can break up the FitzWalkerstan club currently in charge, then the moderate GOP politicians will come crawling out of the woodwork. Then, and only then, will we have the ability to end our state’s bitter divide and usher in an era of reasonableness.
Make it so.