Eclipses Galore

Yesterday was the day of the eclipse. The moon eclipsed the sun. The man who currently occupies the presidency eclipsed the Speaker of the House. And the top generals apparently eclipsed Steve Bannon and the man who currently occupies the presidency! What a day.

This morning I noted that our local press apparently can't stay up late enough to cover the news in Wisconsin. The Journal Sentinel had not word one about Paul Ryan's fake town hall last night. (It's a fake event, in my view, when the audience is hand-picked by no-one-know-who and the questions are screened in advance, again by some anonymous folks, presumably at CNN.) The national press, however, went to town on it.

Politico notes that Ryan faces heat back home: "In this small southeast Wisconsin town on Lake Michigan [Racine], the speaker received the same kind of treatment as other congressional Republican facing unhappy crowds at town halls. In some ways his powerful position in Washington makes it worse because he controls the 240-strong House Republican majority." I'm not so sure about the "controls" part — and that's the crux of his problem.

The Washington Post focuses on Ryan's challenger Randy Bryce: "CNN’s town hall forum with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, at some risk of being overshadowed by the president’s speech on Afghanistan, has turned into a marketing opportunity for progressives. Randy Bryce, Ryan’s likely Democratic opponent in 2018, has purchased time for two 30-second spots that will run during the broadcast in the Republican’s district." The Post story includes video of both ads. Well worth a watch.

And a Dominican nun challenged Ryan on his approach to health care. Charlie Pierce at Esquire sharpens his already deadly pen. Here's the first paragraph:

While the president* was fastening on his Serious World Leader face Monday night, Speaker Paul Ryan, the zombie-eyed granny-starver from the state of Wisconsin, was facing a carefully tailored audience at a CNN "town hall" in Racine. Because Ryan is the biggest fake to hit Congress since the King of the Cranks, Ignatius Donnelly, there was the usual nonsense and prevarication.... But my favorite moment came when Ryan was confronted by a Dominican nun who challenged him to square his zombie-eyed granny-starving with his Catholicism. What followed was pure Ryan, which is to say dishonest, cowardly, patronizing, and totally unmoored from either self-awareness or actual reality. Gaze in awe.

If you didn't watch and want to, you can see the whole thing on YouTube.


Back here in Wisconsin, the race for the Democratic nomination for governor is heating up. The Wisconsin State Journal has a page devoted to helping us keep track of who is in, who is thinking, and who is out. The list of "ins" is getting longer: Dana Wachs (Representative, Eau Claire) has entered the race as have Tony Evers (State Superintendent of Public Instruction), Mike McCabe (founder of Blue Jean Nation), and Andy Gronik (Democratic Businessman), plus the Don Quixote of candidates, Bob Harlow (software engineer). In the still-exploring category, we have former state Rep. Brett Hulsey, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, and State Senator Kathleen Vinehout.

The Democratic Party of Milwaukee County is already gearing up to sponsor at least one candidate forum, possibly early next year. But you don't have to wait to hear what Senator Vinehout is thinking. She'll be speaking and answering questions at an event Grassroots North Shore is hosting on Wednesday, August 30, at Bay Shore Lutheran Church (1200 E Hampton Rd, Whitefish Bay) at 6:30 pm. Doors open at 6 pm. Please RSVP.

Finally, mark your calendars and save the dates for the Grassroots North Shore annual picnic on Sunday, September 17 from 4:30-7pm ( see more information and RSVP) and our annual fundraiser "Laugh 'Til It Dursts" with nationally renowned political comedian Will Durst on Thursday, September 21 from 7-9pm ( see more information, buy tickets and RSVP).


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America's Lost Weekend

I want to say a few things about the events of the past week but before taking up those issues, it's important to attend to colossal failures closer to home. As of this writing, the WI biennial budget is still not complete! So I encourage everyone to attend a Conversation with Senator Kathleen Vinehout on Sunday, August 30, at the Bay Shore Lutheran Church (1200 E Hampton Rd, Whitefish Bay) from 6:30 pm - 8 pm. Senator Vinehout will be discussing the budget and other vital issues with ample time for questions and answers.

I also want to urge you to add two upcoming events to your calendar:

  • On Sunday, September 17, Grassroots North Shore will be holding our annual picnic. Earnell Lucas, candidate for Milwaukee County Sheriff, and Josh Kaul, candidate for Attorney General, will be joining us. Don't miss this opportunity to meet them. Stay tuned for further information.
  • And on Thursday, September 21, Will Durst, nationally-renowned political comedian, will bring us some much-needed laughter. So let's "Laugh 'Til It Dursts" together. RSVP now and we'll send you everything you need to know about where and how much the tickets will be in the next week or so.

On a more sober note, I continue to be appalled by and ashamed of the events that took place in Charlottesville last weekend. It's hard to believe that so many people in our country feel so comfortable with white supremacist and white nationalist ideas. But for POTUS to fail to disavow these toxins in our body politic until days after the events, and then only grudgingly, is deeply unnerving. The coming weekend promises more of the same in at least nine locations around the country, according to an article in New York Magazine. A "White Lives Matter" rally planned for September 11 at Texas A & M has been canceled out of safety concerns [Slate, August 15, 2017]. While I am not certain that canceling such events is the best response, the university's position is certainly understandable.

There's a lot more to this eruption of bigotry and hatred than I can encompass or even understand right now, but I find it heartening that so many communities are calling for the removal of many symbols of the Confederacy, especially statues of Robert E. Lee. As he often does, Josh Marshall has a deeply informed take on what those symbols mean, how and when they were erected, and why statues of people like Lee should not remain visible testaments of our nation's values.

I encourage you to read the entire piece, but here are a few key paragraphs:

Debates over public memory and the valorization of history are frequently complicated and politically vexed. But on the margins, in extreme cases, they are often pretty straightforward. For any subject of controversy, the first question we should ask is: What is the person known for? How did they earn a place in our collective public remembrance? 

As Thomas Jefferson’s involvement in slavery has become increasingly difficult to dismiss as simply a product of his times and as his use of one of his own slaves as his lifelong concubine has become more surely confirmed as fact, Jefferson’s place in the national pantheon has come in for increasing criticism. In his case, we have a mixed ledger. He is the author of the Declaration of Independence, the prime driver of the Northwest Ordinance, a significant anti-slavery document, Secretary of State, President. He was also a lifelong slaveholder with all that entailed. With Jefferson you have numerous acts which are high points in our national story joined with an integral involvement with our greatest national shame. This will be a long public discussion. 

What is Robert E. Lee known for? .... Lee is known for one thing: being the key military leader in a violent rebellion against the United States and leading that rebellion to protect slavery. That’s it. Absent his decision to participate in the rebellion he’d be all but unknown to history. He outlived the war by only five years. There’s simply no positive side of the ledger to make it a tough call. The only logic to honoring Lee is to honor treason and treason in the worst possible cause.

Marshall goes on to retell the fate of Lee's plantation. The Lincoln administration turned it into Arlington National Cemetery: "The federal government confiscated it and dedicated it as a final resting place for those who died defending the United States." And he notes that the statues of Lee were erected decades after the Civil War. In fact he argues that

[T]hese statues date not from the Civil War Era but from the decades of the establishment of Jim Crow, to celebrate the South’s success establishing an apartheid system on the ruins of the Antebellum slave South. A statue of Lee in uniform, mounted on a horse in a southern town square has only ever had one meaning: white supremacy. These statues didn’t come to be associated with racism and Jim Crow only after the Civil War had receded into memory. They were created, from the start, to mark and celebrate the foundations of Jim Crow, uncontested white rule.

Even the National Review is now calling for monuments to the Confederacy to be removed from prominent public display: Mothball the Confederate Monuments. These are hopeful developments.

But meanwhile, POTUS continues to embarrass himself and us as he turns his petty ire on the four CEOs who have resigned from his advisory board. And in a much more ominous turn, his Justice Department threatens everyone's civil liberties by demanding that a tech company turn over more than 1.3 million IP addresses to identify visitors to a website set up to coordinate protests on Inauguration Day [Washington Post, August 15, 2017]. It's hard not to despair.



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Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink?

Even though national news is in a quiet period while POTUS* golfs and tweets, the need for organized political action and resistance goes on. This Sunday, August 13, Grassroots North Shore is sponsoring a presentation by the League of Conservation Voters and they need our help. The program, "Save Our Wells and Waterways," will take place at the North Shore Presbyterian Church (4048 N. Bartlett Ave, Shorewood) at 4pm. In addition to presentation by MattDannenberg, Field Director, and George Olufosoye, Southeast Organizer, we will be organizing a lobbying campaign with phone banks all fall to pressure the Wisconsin legislature to act to save one of our most precious (and irreplaceable) resources.

And here's the thing about political action: It's like live music — it only happens when YOU are there. So RSVP and lend a hand.

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The Dog Days Are Upon Us

For many people, August means summer vacation. And I'm no exception. But events don't stop — or even slow down — while we're away or just tuning out. Some of us have to stay "woke" and active. So, here's what's happening that needs the attention of everyone who is NOT on vacation.

Those of you visiting Wisconsin's beautiful state parks or other recreational areas, and those of us who just want to make sure they are still wonderful for future generations, need to turn some attention to what is happening to our state's waterways and wells. To make that easy for you, Grassroots North Shore is hosting a presentation by Matt Dannenberg (Field Director) and George Olufosoye (Southeast Organizer) of the WI League of Conservation Voters, on Sunday, August 13, from 4-5:30 at the North Shore Presbyterian Church (4048 N Bartlett Ave, Shorewood). And because awareness is good but action is better, we're following up with a series of phone banks to reach voters all across the state.

The days for phone banks have been set (subject to sufficient interest) and you can sign up for one or more dates when you RSVP for the program.

Phone banks begin at 5pm and end at 7:30pm. 

August: 15, 16, 17 (Tuesday through Thursday); 
August 22, 23, 24 (Tuesday through Thursday); 
August 29-30 (Tues, Wed); 
September: 5, 7 (Tuesday and Thursday); 
September 12, 13, 14 (Tuesday through Thursday); 
September 18, 19 (Monday and Tuesday); 
September 25, 26, 27, 28 (Mon through Thurs).

Additional dates will be scheduled in October.

On other environmental fronts, there's the Foxconn (or perhaps the Foxconn con?) deal. With the legislature in special session to grant all kinds of concessions for this deal, we need to become informed and where useful we need to call legislators to let them know that the citizens of Wisconsin will not allow the company to degrade the environment. Here's what's happening:

Environmental organizations are raising objections over a legislative package exempting Foxconn Technology Group from regulations if the company agrees to build a $10 billion electronics plant in Wisconsin.... The measures proposed by the Walker administration exempt the company from state wetlands regulations and an extensive environmental analysis that some other large projects are subject to. [JSOnline, August 1, 2017]

And aside from the environmental concerns, there's the cost to taxpayers to consider. David Haynes's editorial in the Journal Sentinel lays out many of the concerns while acknowledging the potential rewards. Here's a bit of his piece. But you really should read the whole thing.

Foxconn’s investments could be catalytic, launching a brand new industry in southeastern Wisconsin — indeed, an industry that doesn’t exist anywhere in the United States at the moment. Despite the huge tax breaks involved and whatever additional local tax abatements might be needed for infrastructure improvements, the investment might pay off if Foxconn does what it says it will do.
  • Will Foxconn do what it says it will do? The company has a track record of broken promises. In 2013, Foxconn promised to open a new high-tech factory in Harrisburg, Pa., employing 500 people. It never happened....
  • Will the state meticulously track Foxconn’s activity? Will it demand ironclad claw-back provisions to protect taxpayers? Will it retain outside help to ensure that those provisions are ironclad? The state has no experience with an incentive package of this size and may need outside help to write careful terms for the final agreement. Legislation would be required to enact the incentives.
  • Are Foxconn’s job promises real? Foxconn has heavily automated its factories elsewhere, replacing 60,000 workers with robots in the last year alone. It even produces its own industrial robots — known as “Foxbots.” With factory automation improving the bottom line for companies, the long-term viability of these jobs is a legitimate concern for taxpayers footing the bill.
[JSOnline, July 28, 2017]

I know you know what to do: call | write | email. You can find the contact information for your legislators here: Wisconsin State Legislature. But you really should put your representatives on speed dial. It's that kind of year.


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Deals, both better and worse

So, is "The Better Deal" a big deal or not? The agenda itself strikes me as a worthy articulation of key initiatives Democrats have been discussing for years. I'm just not sure as a slogan it stands up well to such oldies and goodies as the "New Deal," "New Frontier," or "Great Society." Of course its actual rival is "Make America Great Again!"

If you're interested in promoting a strong agenda for the Democratic party, you might want to look into the work going on under the rubric "Summer for Progress." Unfortunately, the website doesn't provide any information about who is behind this effort but the purpose of the petition is to show support for eight bills that have been introduced in the House of Representatives:

  1. Medicare for All: H.R. 676 Medicare For All Act
  2. Free College Tuition: H.R. 1880 College for All Act of 2017
  3. Worker Rights: H.R.15 - Raise the Wage Act
  4. Women’s Rights: H.R.771 - Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH Woman) Act of 2017
  5. Voting Rights: H.R. 2840 - Automatic Voter Registration Act
  6. Environmental Justice: Climate Change Bill - Renewable Energy (More details soon!)
  7. Criminal Justice and Immigrant Rights: H.R. 3227 - Justice is Not For Sale Act of 2017
  8. Taxing Wall Street: H.R. 1144 - Inclusive Prosperity Act

The point of this exercise, I'm sure, is to make some news. There's zero chance any of these bills will make it to the floor for a vote during this congressional session.

Meanwhile, the Senate is going to vote in a couple of hours on the procedural motion to allow "debate" on some bill or other that rewards the rich and punishes the poor and middle classes under the guise of "reforming" the healthcare system. It has escaped no one's notice that Senator McCain is making an emergency exit from his sick bed to help strip affordable access to the very healthcare system he's now relying on to cure his glioblastoma from millions of Americans. His privileged position makes such hypocrisy impossible to overlook. Senator McCain sometimes seems to be a man of principle. Not on this occasion, it seems.

Meanwhile, the Senate is going to vote in a couple of hours on the procedural motion to allow "debate" on some bill or other that rewards the rich and punishes the poor and middle classes under the guise of "reforming" the healthcare system. It has escaped no one's notice that Senator McCain is making an emergency exit from his sick bed to help strip affordable access to the very healthcare system he's now relying on to cure his glioblastoma from millions of Americans. His privileged position makes such hypocrisy impossible to overlook. Senator McCain sometimes seems to be a man of principle. Not on this occasion, it seems.

And in Wisconsin disfunction, the budget is still not done. The key issue seems to be how to fund necessary spending on roads. "The Senate plan would rely on borrowing to fund roads and cut taxes on businesses and those earning $200,000 to $500,000 a year" (jsonline, July 23, 2017). Few would argue that our roads need repairs, but choosing bond issues over other funding methods (primarily taxes either in the form of mileage or in the form of raising the gas tax) simply "kicks the can down the road" as politicians are fond of saying. The proposal to cut taxes on the wealthiest among us is just mind-boggling.

And then there are the funds for education. Per pupil spending will go up, but looser rules for some types of voucher schools may not be such welcome news. Apparently Republicans are trying to find ways of "boosting enrollment in two of the state's four voucher programs" while at the same time "rural schools would lose almost all of the $20 million in so-called sparsity aid proposed by Walker" (jsonline., July 23, 2017). I have no idea why they think it important to manipulate the budget for such purposes. Isn't the "free market" supposed to determine the "winners and losers" here? Plus Walker wants to limit the ability of school districts to use referenda to offset the declines in state funding. As usual, they are determined to stick it to the little people who just work for a living and barely make ends meet.

Some Announcements

Our next event, on Sunday, August 13, addresses issues with conservation of our waters. The League of Conservation Voters will present "Help Save Our Wells and Waterways" at the North Shore Presbyterian Church, beginning at 4pm. As Wisconsin’s wells and waterways are put under pressure from the relaxation of state water protection standards, citizens MUST work together or face irreparable harm. So I hope you will join us. As usual, please RSVP.



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Activism Works

All those calls and emails, all that demonstrating and participating in town halls — they've paid off! Even what the New York Times is calling "Plan C" — to "repeal now and replace later" — is DOA. Three Senators — Susan Collins (ME), Shelley Moore Capito (WV) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) — "immediately declared they could not vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement — enough to doom the effort before it could get any momentum." I'll have a little more to say on this subject in a bit.

But first,

Some Announcements

Grassroots North Shore moved into our new offices last week. So we're having a "housewarming" to inaugurate our new space. We're serving ice cream and beverages, weather permitting. If it rains and we have to move the party indoors, we'll provide other treats instead.

And like any new tenant, we're decorating! So if you have piles of buttons sitting around and you'd like to give them to a good cause, we will turn those piles into decorations!

Just bring those unused buttons when you come to the open house on Sunday, July 23rd. We will have lots of ribbons for you to create your display or just leave them for us to do. Either way, we will have a wall of political memories.

join us on Sunday, July 23, from 3-5:30 at 5600 W. Brown Deer Road.

And SAVE THE DATE: On Sunday, August 13, GRNS is hosting a presentation by the League of Conservation Voters: "Help Save Our Wells and Waterways." The League will fill us in on the physical and legislative status of wells and waterways, and their protection (or lack of) in Wisconsin. The event will take place at the North Shore Presbyterian Church (4048 N. Bartlett Ave, Shorewood) from 4-6:30pm. Please join us as we turn our attention to vital state issues.


It's not clear what Republicans will try next but it is clear that engaged citizens can and do make a difference. We can't promise it will always work. But we can see that voter resistance can force a change of course. So when Trump and McConnell and Ryan cook up their next nasty "tax cut masquerading as healthcare" stew, you'll know just what to do.

Josh Marshall has what I think is the best explanation of why the Republican plan to repeal the ACA has come such a cropper. First he acknowledges the vital role played by how unpopular the various versions of the legislation was and the equally vital played by "the huge and sustained nationwide activism against Trumpcare." The deeper driver at work, though, is this:

At the outset of Obamacare’s post-legislative history, Republicans were for repeal. Then repeal became ‘Repeal and Replace’, a tacit but highly significant concession that the 2009 status quo ante was not acceptable. Over time, Repeal and Replace got gussied up with claims that the replacement for Obamacare would be better than Obamacare. There was a good deal of vagueness and mendacity packaged into this messaging. But the critical thing was that in the process of evolving from ‘Repeal’ to ‘Repeal and Replace’, Republicans made a tacit concession that those who had gained coverage under Obamacare should in fact have coverage. It was just that Obamacare did it in a flawed way and Obamacare’s replacement would do it better.

The problem, at its core, was that Republicans could not concoct a solution that would maintain coverage for all those who had gained it while their majority wanted deep tax cuts and a sizable portion of their caucus did not understand — or didn't accept — the basic concession Marshall has exposed.

Meanwhile David Leonhardt's "A Project to Nourish Your Political Soul" provides a completely different perspective on what progressives can do to start changing the bitter and polarized climate.

[T]he Trump era is coarsening our discourse. Too often recently I have watched people I respect spiral from a political discussion into a nasty, personal argument. 

So I have a suggestion. By all means, Trump’s opponents should continue to fight — for health care, civil rights, the climate and truth itself. But there is also a quieter step that’s worth taking no matter your views, for the sake of nourishing your political soul. 

Pick an issue that you find complicated, and grapple with it. 

Choose one on which you’re legitimately torn or harbor secret doubts. Read up on it. Don’t rush to explain away inconvenient evidence. 

Then do something truly radical: Consider changing your mind, at least partially.

I'm going to give it a try.

Local Activism at Work

Engagement and activism work locally just as well. On July 10, 2017, concerned Shorewood residents turned out at a Village Board meeting in support of a "Resolution for Justice and Dignity." Chuck Carlson explains what happened and how citizens prevailed:

[T]he Shorewood, WI village board voted 7-0 to approve the Resolution for Justice and Dignity that was presented by the Shorewood Solidarity Network (SSN). This unanimous vote demonstrated a commitment by Shorewood and its residents to “promote the principle of universal respect for the dignity of all” regardless of “race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, immigration status, sexual orientation, sexual or gender identity, or disability.” The passage of this resolution was a positive victory for all who live, work, shop, visit or pass through Shorewood. 

While the 7-0 vote, would indicate a human rights statement resolution was an easy accomplishment, the actual process demonstrates the importance of strong organization and involvement by community members.

Read the rest of the story on our blog.

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Unrigging our maps / July 11, 2017

Largely because of Wisconsin's high profile case about extremely partisan electoral maps, activists have begun talking to state legislators and key leaders about a pair of bills languishing in committees in the state Senate and the Assembly. These bills — SB13 and AB44 — aim to transform the way Wisconsin establishes electoral districts for the Assembly, state Senate, and US Congress. District lines must be redrawn every ten years, following the US Census, so that they reflect the population enumerated in the count. Currently, the legislature devises electoral maps and the process is highly partisan. If SB13 and AB44 were to become law, electoral maps would be developed by the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau.

Under the current process, the party in power can develop maps that all but guarantee that it will retain power at least until new maps are drawn after the next US Census. In November 2016, a federal court comprised of two district judges and one appellate judge ruled that the maps the Republican-controlled legislature had developed after the 2010 Census produced exactly that result. The state appealed the ruling and the case, Gill v. Whitford, is pending at the US Supreme Court where oral arguments will take place during the first week of October, 2017. If Whitford et al. (the defendants in the case) prevail, Wisconsin will presumably have to draw new maps soon, perhaps even in time for the 2018 elections.

But even if Whitford et al. win the case, the problem of partisan maps will not disappear. We will still need to ensure that Wisconsin legislates a nonpartisan process for all future rounds of redistricting.

I'm reviewing these points — while apologizing for the length of this piece — because it is important to press our legislators to support the pending bills. People who have spoken directly to Republican representatives report two standard responses, neither of which addresses the key issues. First, Republicans deflect the conversation by saying that they are awaiting the Supreme Court's ruling. Second, many argue that because partisan voters are not evenly distributed across the state but are instead "clustered" in like-minded communities, even a nonpartisan process for drawing district lines will not change the distribution of power much, if at all. They are in effect arguing that Republicans will retain most or all of their electoral advantage because of where people of various political persuasions have chosen to live.

The first response has no merit because Gill v. Whitford only addresses the outcomes of elections. It will not alter the process by which the state redraws its electoral districts every ten years. Even if Whitford et al. prevail, the party in power can continue to skew the maps just as they like. Nothing short of additional (and expensive) litigation can stop that practice. Only the passage of new laws governing the process of redistricting will ensure that our electoral maps are constructed in a fair and nonpartisan way.

The second response takes a bit more investigation. It's based on a theory called "The Big Sort" developed by Bill Bishop in 2004 and published by the same name in 2008. According to Bishop's analysis, Democrats are densely clustered in mostly urban areas while Republicans dominate in all the less densely populated areas of the country. And the trend of spatial segregation by political leaning seems to have accelerated between 1992 and 2016. (See an analysis by Richard Florida from October 2016.)

Few if any serious analyses claim that the GOP domination of state legislatures and congressional seats is due solely to self-sorting. Instead they argue that electoral maps deliberately skewed to favor the party in power (which, by the way, both parties do whenever they have enough power — see Maryland, Illinois, and Rhode Island to name just a few of the most egregious Democratic gerrymanders) don't have as much impact as some (including me) suppose. A significant imbalance arising from ideological self-sorting would remain and would continue to produce lopsided results in many areas of the country, they argue.

The idea is apparently that Democrats have packed themselves into cities, which has made it impossible for congressional and state legislative districts to be anything but Republican-leaning overall, because non-urban areas are now left to Republican dominance. [Neil Buchanan, "Is Gerrymandering a Mirage?" in Newsweek, June 25, 2017]

Recently, a number of articles examining the relationship between self-sorting, gerrymandering, and political outcomes have concluded that even though there is strong evidence of clustering, uncompetitive electoral districts are not an inevitable result. Professor Sam Wang, at the Princeton Election Consortium, writes:

It is a commonly believed that the predominant force in partisan asymmetry is population clustering: groups that tilt Democratic are clustered into cities, generating a natural packing effect. A clustering effect certainly exists. However, as of 2012-2014, this effect has become secondary to gerrymandering in a handful of states. 

Population clustering and partisan actions are not mutually exclusive. In fact, partisan gerrymandering relies on the fact that voters are not distributed perfectly uniformly. Using this fact, redistricters lasso voters into districts to suit political ends. For this reason, it is easy to mix up the two processes. [Wang, The effect of gerrymandering in four states exceeds that of population clustering in all 50 states, December 8, 2015]

A more recent analysis of the 2016 elections by the AP showed

four times as many states with Republican-skewed state House or Assembly districts than Democratic ones. Among the two dozen most populated states that determine the vast majority of Congress, there were nearly three times as many with Republican-tilted U.S. House districts. 

Traditional battlegrounds such as Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida and Virginia were among those with significant Republican advantages in their U.S. or state House races. All had districts drawn by Republicans after the last Census in 2010.... 

[T]he data suggest that even if Democrats had turned out in larger numbers, their chances of substantial legislative gains were limited by gerrymandering.... 

A separate statistical analysis conducted for AP by the Princeton University Gerrymandering Project found that the extreme Republican advantages in some states were no fluke. The Republican edge in Michigan’s state House districts had only a 1-in-16,000 probability of occurring by chance; in Wisconsin’s Assembly districts, there was a mere 1-in-60,000 likelihood of it happening randomly, the analysis found [emphasis added].

The situation is certainly bleak: extremely partisan maps exacerbate the radical polarization we've been experiencing and make a return to more civil political discourse and a willingness to compromise much less likely. For me, that means we must do everything we can to address the way electoral districts are drawn.

A series of actions are currently under way to bring attention to this foundational issue and to pressure the legislature to hold hearings on SB13 and AB44. A large number of issue-oriented as well as politically-active organizations are participating in a coordinated effort to push this issue as hard as possible. At the Fair Elections Forum we are hosting on Sunday, July 16, at the North Shore Presbyterian Church (see details here), you can pick up an action packet that will guide your personal effort to make a difference. I hope you'll come.


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We are Making Headway

Who said "winning isn't everything; it's the ONLY thing"? It's often attributed to the late, great Vince Lombardi though a lesser known college football coach seems to have said it first. When it comes to the Trumpcare catastrophe staring us in the face, it's absolutely true. We HAVE TO WIN THIS ONE to prevent hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens from medical penury or untimely deaths. I'm sure everyone reading this newsletter is doing something to help stave off this disaster.

You know what to do, right? Call Senator Johnson's office (414-276-7282, 202-224-5323). He's saying he will not vote for the "motion to proceed," which is a necessary technical vote to bring the bill up for a vote. You probably won't think much of his reasoning, but remember that winning is the only thing. Ditto with Senator Paul (Kentucky, 202-224-4343) who is basically opposed to all government participation in the health insurance business.

Senator Collins (Maine, 207-622-8414) and Senator Heller (Nevada, 202-224-6244, Facebook) have both said they won't vote for this tax cut for millionaires masquerading as "healthcare reform." It wouldn't hurt to visit their Facebook pages or to send them some email applauding their decision and lauding their courage in the face of extraordinary pressure. A few are wavering, among them Senator Lisa Murkowski (Alaska, Facebook) and Senator Shelley Moore Capito (West Virginia, Facebook).

It looks as if the public outcry might be turning the tide. But Mitch McConnell is wily. So keep it up.

And while we're talking about the necessity of winning, Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo wrote an important post last week arguing that Voting Rights Defeatism is Toxic. It's his response to some of the ways people and pundits reacted to John Ossoff's loss in the Georgia special election. Complaining about voter suppression may provide some emotional balm. But "the simple fact is that Democrats or anyone who believes in voting rights will need to win elections under the current restrictive system to be able to change laws to change that system. The fact that that is challenging and unfair doesn’t change the reality of it. There’s no getting around this basic fact." And that's the bottom line, friends. We are going to have to gird up our loins, sashay into less friendly territories, and figure out some ways to get to 50+1.

To me, that means pulling together rather than squabbling between factions. It means accepting some "impure positions" in our big-tent coalition. It means working with the electoral district and the voters in it starting from where they are and not where we all wish they were. Because right now, WINNING IS THE ONLY THING that will allow us to make a difference — in Wisconsin, in the country, in the world.

Don't get me wrong. Republicans have rigged electoral maps all over the US, wherever they had enough power to act alone. The AP has undertaken an analysis of all 435 congressional races and 4700 state legislative races in the 2016 cycle. Apparently the researchers used the "efficiency gap" tool that was developed for the Fair Elections Project's Wisconsin challenge (Gill v. Whitford) to be argued before the US Supreme Court in the first week of October.

According to the NBCNews account of the AP report, "The analysis found four times as many states with Republican-skewed state House or Assembly districts than Democratic ones. Among the two dozen most populated states that determine the vast majority of Congress, there were nearly three times as many with Republican-tilted U.S. House districts." A separate analysis using different statistical methods provides the same conclusion: "A separate statistical analysis conducted for AP by the Princeton University Gerrymandering Project found that the extreme Republican advantages in some states were no fluke. The Republican edge in Michigan's state House districts had only a 1-in-16,000 probability of occurring by chance; in Wisconsin's Assembly districts, there was a mere 1-in-60,000 likelihood of it happening randomly, the analysis found."

Clearly we have our work cut out for us, but we must not tire or weaken. Thus endeth the lesson. With apologies for its length and some personal ranting.


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Summertime, summertime, sum-sum-summertime!

Get out your calendars! July is fast upon us and Grassroots North Shore has oodles of fun activities planned for us.

On Saturday July 8, we are teaming up with the North Shore Huddle for a picnic/barbecue as part of a statewide "Fired Up for Tammy" event at Humboldt Park. Look for more details and an RSVP page coming soon.

On Sunday July 16, we are hosting a Town Hall on Fair Elections at the North Shore Presbyterian Church (4048 N. Bartlett Ave, Shorewood). Now that the US Supreme Court has set a date for oral arguments in the case known as Gill v Whitford, our panel of experts — Sachin Chheda (director of the Fair Elections Project), Dan Theno (former Republican state senator), and Anna Dvorak (lead organizer for the Citizen Action Milwaukee Organizing Cooperative) — will help us understand the issues and the process and will provide information on how you can help reform the way Wisconsin draws its electoral maps every ten years. Citizen Action Milwaukee Co-op, Fair Elections Project, League of Women Voters, OFA of Wisconsin, Supermarket Legends, and Wisconsin Democracy Campaign are all co-sponsoring this town hall and numerous others all around Wisconsin. The case has powerful national implications. It's being covered extensively in the national press. A recent item in the Washington Post, for example, explains Why the Supreme Court’s decision to review Wisconsin’s gerrymandering is such a big deal. So you won't want to miss this opportunity. RSVP now.

Finally, on Sunday, July 23, we're having an Ice Cream Social to welcome everyone to our new office at 5600 W. Brown Deer Rd. After two years of looking, we are finally ready to move to our new home. It met all of our requirements:

  • First floor
  • Lots of parking
  • In our price range

We also got some wonderful perks we hadn’t expected:

  • Beautifully appointed vending area with great coffee
  • A new Starbucks going in across the street
  • On-site management
  • An owner who is a kindred spirit and, during campaign season, if there are open spaces in the building is willing to let us rent on a weekly basis for GOTV.
  • Exactly one mile from Larry’s Brown Deer Market! 

We look forward to showing you our new digs. More details will be announced in a couple of weeks. So, save the date because we are excited to share this with you.


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Staying Cool in a Hot Political Climate

Temperatures are, apparently, soaring in DC. The news out of Washington is unrelentingly unsettling. It's been pretty hot here too. The lettuce in my garden has already bolted! Time seems to have entered a bizarre fast lane: events that should take months to develop hurtle past almost too quickly for even cursory understanding. How is it possible that lettuce could complete its quiet life cycle in a matter of days! Or that a presidency could collapse almost before it began. Strange days.

I want to avert my eyes and put earplugs in my ears, but I am mesmerized by the gruesome traffic accident our national government has become. Right now, I am listening to the beginning of the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing starring Jeff Sessions. And I'm trying to respond to all the urgent calls to contact senators about their secret bill to "reform" our entire healthcare system without a single public hearing or any opportunity even to read the bill. Please call Senator Johnson's office today, tomorrow and every day to register your concerns about the bill AND about the process a committee of which he is a member has been using. Here's his contact information: 
(414) 276-7282 and (202) 224-5323.

And continue doing all you do to push back against the many, many ways the Trump administration and the Walker administration continue to undermine our democracy and to damage the environment, our social safety net, and our country's general well being.

Please also save the date for the next Grassroots North Shore event, a FAIR ELECTIONS TOWN HALL on Sunday, July 16, at 4:30pm (doors open at 4) at the North Shore Presbyterian Church (4048 N Bartlett Ave, Shorewood). Sachin Chheda (Director of the Fair Elections Project), Dan Theno (former Republican State Senator), and Anna Dvorak (lead organizer for the Citizen Action Milwaukee Organizing Cooperative) will explain how Wisconsin's legislative districts became so skewed after the 2010 census, what the lawsuit Gill v Whitford entails and where it currently stands, and what Senate Bill 13 and Assembly Bill 44 (both bills currently stalled in the legislature) would do to address the problem of unfair electoral maps in the future.

We're Moving to a New Office Soon

What We Looked For in a New Location

From Eilene Stevens, Chair

I thought finding a place that met our needs would be easier. We needed a first floor location with a lot of parking. We also needed to stay within our budget. We pride ourselves on asking for money only twice a year: once for a modest membership fee (single - $20, family - $30, and student/limited income - $5 a year) and a single, annual fundraiser. We are committed to staying within our North Shore Communities and meeting our financial obligations without asking our members for more.

We looked for almost two years. We looked at storefronts, vacant restaurants, shared office spaces. Either the price was right but there was no parking or the space was wonderful but too much money. Finally, Mark Gennis found our new home. It meets our needs: on the first floor, tons of parking, and we can afford it.

Next week: Details about our July 3rd move with pictures of our new location.


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