The first page article in the Ozaukee News-Graphic on November 6 began by asserting that “… voters in Ozaukee County stayed true to their Republican roots.” Talk about beginning a news report with fallacies – this takes the cake. First, Ozaukee County’s roots, for the first fifty-plus years of our statehood, were deeply and entirely embedded in the Democratic Party. Despite the Republican Party having been founded in Wisconsin, and overwhelmingly the choice of Wisconsinites, before, during, and for many years after the Civil War, Ozaukee County always voted for Democrats to represent it, until WWI. And second, while, some Republican voters did vote the Party-line, certainly not all did, and not nearly as many as did in the recent past. Our local newspaper report of the election could not have been more factually incorrect (while being, of course, quite “politically correct”, as far as the current local ruling party establishment is concerned).
If that opening headline and first sentence wasn’t sufficiently misleading for “news” readers, the sentence following that opening is obviously and wildly false. It is just not possible that “… 75.4 percent of registered voters cast straight-party Republican ballots”, as the newspaper report asserted, when it was 75 percent of registered voters who voted, period. The truth is that only 23 percent of registered voters “cast straight-party Republican ballots”. The third sentence in the article then iced their own preposterous cake by falsely asserting, “That was 3 percent higher than in the 2004 presidential election, despite an unprecedented push from Democratic canvassers.” The uncomfortable truth is that the Democratic candidate for President got 16 percent more votes in Ozaukee County in 2008 than in 2004, and the Republican candidate got 8 percent fewer votes than in 2004. Think twice before you believe what you read in our local newspaper.
The simple unspun truth is that in Ozaukee County, the Democratic candidate for President collected 39 percent of the vote in 2008, in contrast to less than 34 percent in 2004, and the Republican candidate for President did correspondingly poorer in 2008 compared to 2004. The editor, if not the reporter, should have reconsidered saying “despite … Democratic canvassers” in their “news report”. And they should have pointed out that the canvassers were local volunteers.
If the News-Graphic wants to use the word “despite” in their “news report”, it should try using it in this sentence:
“Despite the significant increase in population since the 2004 Presidential election, and the greater number of actual voters, the Republican candidate for President this November received 8 percent fewer actual votes in Ozaukee County than did the Republican candidate for President in 2004. Barack Obama, on the other hand, received 16 percent more votes in 2008 than did the Democratic candidate in 2004.”
Would the News-Graphic ascribe that simple truth to “Democratic canvassers”, or to growing public awareness, or to both? Does that simple fact not throw a bit of light on the newspaper’s factually false and biased “news report” spin that “voters in Ozaukee County stayed true to their Republican roots”?
Journalists and newspapers can’t claim to be competent or responsible if they just quote statistics and loaded words and spin provided by politically partisan government officials without doing a little bit of independent thinking or checking before printing them. But the Cedarburg-published News-Graphic, if nothing else, is notoriously following a well-worn path. In September of 1896, for example, the publisher of the Cedarburg News declared arrogantly in print that, “… a gentleman of Mr. McGinley’s political faith (Republican) cannot be elected (to the state senate) from this district.” Looking only in the rear view mirror, it is easy to see why he made such a confident prediction. There had never been a Republican elected to the state senate to represent Ozaukee County. It is a satisfying, fitting footnote to history that the eight senate elections immediately following that bold assertion that a Republican “cannot be elected” were all won by Republican candidates.
In recent Presidential elections prior to 2008, two out of every SIX Ozaukee County votes were cast for the Democratic Party candidate. But in 2008, two out of every FIVE Ozaukee County votes were cast for Barack Obama. That certainly indicates a change – but not the phony “3 percent” change in the other direction implied by the newspaper article, and it doesn’t imply “staying true” to the status quo, either. Then again, it does imply an electorate here that is a tad out of synch with the rest of Wisconsin and the rest of the United States. In that respect, Ozaukee County does remain true to its 19th Century roots, when not a single legislator representing Ozaukee and Washington counties voted to ratify the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution. (The 13th abolished slavery in the United States after the Civil War.)
There was another significant change in Ozaukee and Washington counties this year. Seven legislative offices representing parts of Ozaukee and Washington counties were actually contested in the general election this year. There were clear choices on the ballot for Wisconsin state Senate district 20, for Wisconsin state Assembly district 58, and for U.S. Congress district 5. But there was no Democrat running in those three races. Those who wished to vote for President and also to vote for one or more challengers to incumbent Republican legislators Sensenbrenner, Grothman, and/or Strachota, could not vote a straight-party ticket. (This insurgent choice for a change would explain a relative increase this year in the ratio of straight Republican tickets cast, compared to straight Democratic tickets. As has been the case in the past, in part of Ozaukee County, most of Washington County, southern Sheboygan County, southeastern Fond du Lac County, and Theresa in Dodge County, the only Democrat running for office was the one running for U.S. President.)
Most residents of Ozaukee and Washington counties had more than one name on the ballot for the offices of U.S. Congress, state Senate, and state Assembly. That is not merely newsworthy. That is a truly historic development here. There were four Democrats (Dr. Sheldon Wasserman, Dr. Rene’ Settle-Robinson, Perry Duman, and Charlene Brady) and three Independents (Robert Raymond, Clyde Winter, and Greg Dombro) giving us a choice for a change in Ozaukee and Washington counties.
(Ironically, the only grassroots candidates challenging the status quo here, who actually worked together and cooperated with each other in challenging the Republican incumbents, were the two Independent candidates running for the state legislature.)
Unfortunately, none of the challengers won their election, although all of them provided an important, substantive, progressive alternative. Interestingly, none of the four non-establishment, local candidates representing change in Ozaukee County received anything close to the percentage of votes that Barack Obama received there. Why that occurred is an important subject for those not well-served or well-represented by the status quo to explore and hopefully to understand.
Robert Raymond (conservative Independent) won 20 percent of the vote in the 5th Congressional District, with 21 percent in Ozaukee County and 17 percent in Washington County.
Clyde Winter (progressive Independent) won 20 percent of the vote in the 20th state Senate district, with 23 percent in Ozaukee County (not including Mequon-Thiensville) and 19 percent in Washington County (not including Hartford, Germantown, etc).
Greg Dombro (progressive Independent) won 17 percent of the vote in the 58th Assembly district of Washington County (West Bend, Jackson, Slinger, Addison, etc).
Perry Duman (progressive Democrat) won 30 percent of the vote in the 60th Assembly district (Port Washington, Cedarburg, Grafton, Saukville, and Town of Trenton).
Dr. Rene’ Settle-Robinson (progressive Democrat) won 42 percent of the vote in the 23rd Assembly district, with 27 percent in Mequon-Thiensville of Ozaukee County.
Dr. Sheldon Wasserman (D) won 49 percent of the vote in the 8th state Senate district, with 38 percent in Mequon-Thiensville of Ozaukee County and 31 percent in Germantown and Richfield of Washington County.
Charlene Brady (D) won 38 percent of the vote in the 24th Assembly district, with 35 percent in Germantown and Richfield of Washington County.
Despite none of the challengers in Ozaukee and Washington counties winning an office this time, it was an exhilarating, gratifying, and useful experience, and it is a source of pride and honor, to have shared a place on this 2008 general election ballot with President-elect Barack Obama.
The day before the election, combat infantry veteran and progressive Independent Greg Dombro, when confronted with expressions of fear and intolerance about Barack Obama, and with questions of who he supported for President, said, “I’m voting for Barack Obama, but I’ll tell you how I feel about this election. No matter who wins, he’s going to have my complete support. America is facing such huge neglected and growing problems, that we cannot afford to be divided by partisan bickering – hating and fearing one another and our own President. America needs to work together for a change.”
Thank you and your family, Greg.
Thanks to all of you who made this election year interesting and hopeful, inciting and insightful, despite the ominous portents and misleading, degrading distractions.
Gung Ho! Wisconsin and America!