On today's BradCast: The good news just seems to keep on coming. We'll take it while it lasts! Tuesday brought huge election victories for democracy and progressives in Chicago and Wisconsin! [Audio liNk to full show follows this summary.]
In Chicago, Democratic progressive teacher and union member Brandon Johnson defeated conservative, self-proclaimed "tough on crime" Democrat Paul Vallas to become the new Windy City Mayor in a stunning victory.
But the biggest election of the night, and perhaps of 2023, was the Wisconsin state Supreme Court victory of liberal Milwaukee Judge Janet Protasiewicz over far-right former state Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly, a Republican activist supported by anti-choice groups who advised his party in their failed attempt to overturn the state's 2020 election. Her victory creates a progressive majority on the high court for the first time in 15 years.
In a closely divided state where elections are traditionally very close, often within 1 or 2 points, Protasiewicz reportedly blew Kelly away by a whopping 11 points as of this afternoon's tally. It was Kelly's second defeat in running for the Supreme Court in as many years.
And it comes not a moment too soon. The Badger State's new, 4 to 3 progressive high court majority will likely face a host of critical issues for both the state and nation in the years ahead, including an 1849 abortion ban which Republicans are hoping to enforce; wildly gerrymandered state and Congressional district maps in one of the most gerrymandered states in the nation; voting rights issues; and hopes by Republicans of trying to steal the 2024 Presidential election.
We're delighted to be joined once again today to discuss all of this good news by Wisconsin's favorite son and progressive journalist, JOHN NICHOLS of The Nation, and co-author, with Bernie Sanders, of the new book, It's Okay to be Angry About Capitalism.
Nichols says Tuesday's mayoral race in Chicago was "one of the most significant election results in the country for urban politics in quite awhile." He describes the previously little-known Johnson as having built a "multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-generational rainbow coalition" that propelled him to victory. "He beat the guy that everybody bet was going to be the next mayor of Chicago. Brandon Johnson will take office as a progressive who ran on taxing the rich, reforming the police, and investing money in public education, public health, and public services. A pretty remarkable win."
But the bulk of our time is spent discussing the extraordinary, long-awaited Supreme Court victory in Wisconsin, which, with some $45 million spent on both candidates, clocks in as the most expensive judicial race in U.S. history.
"It was a bitter race. It was an intense race," Nichols tells me in trying to explain Kelly's incredible election night remarks in which he attempted to eviscerate his opponent in one of the most incredible sore-loser "concession" speeches in modern memory. Kelly described the contest as "the most deeply deceitful, dishonorable, despicable campaigns I have ever seen run for the courts," going on to attack Protasiewicz as "a serial liar" who has "demeaned the judiciary."
"It's going to go down in history," Nichols says referring to Kelly's election night outburst. "I've seen bitter concessions. I've seen angry concessions. I have seen refusals to concede. I have never, up until now, seen a concession that literally made people cringe."
We've got a lot to discuss about the new majority on the state's high court; what it means for Wisconsin moving forward; whether Republicans, with a narrow state Senate Special Election victory last night will attempt to impeach Protasiewicz with their newly won, gerrymandered super-majority in the upper chamber; and why Nichols, as he reports at The Nation today, believes this was "the most important election of 2023...for any American who cares about democracy, fair elections, voting rights, and much more."
Despite the good news, however, Nichols reminds us that WI is still a closely divided state, capable of wild swings. "The bottom line is this: Don't take your eyes away from Wisconsin," he advises. "It is a battleground state. This is the state of Robert M. LaFollette, the greatest progressive ever to serve in the U.S. Senate, and of Joe McCarthy, the most reactionary person, I would argue, to serve in the U.S. Senate. Those realities still exist. And this Supreme Court race is a very encouraging result as part of a very encouraging pattern in Wisconsin. But when you take your eyes off the prize, when you aren't paying attention, patterns can shift back."
Finally today, with all of the encouraging news of late, a few reminders that all of this good news at the national level, where Republican policies are wildly unpopular, also means that Rightwingers are embracing violent responses and GOP-controlled states are upping their desperation in hopes of holding on to control by hook and by crook. In many such states, it's not creeping authoritarianism in play, it's actual authoritarianism.
In Tennessee, for example, state Republicans are hoping to expel three Democratic state House members who dared support peaceful protesters calling for gun safety measures following last week's school shooting in Nashville. In Texas, GOP state lawmakers have quietly introduced a bill to allow the Sec. of State to overturn election results in the state's most populous and Democratic-leaning County; and in Florida, authoritarian Gov. Ron DeSantis is deploying Big Government weaponization against those, like the Walt Disney Company, who disagree with his anti-freedom, anti-LGBTQ policies...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)