One of the single most entertaining things that happened Tuesday night was watching conservative Rebecca Bradley beat liberal Joanne Kloppenburg in the Wisconsin Supreme Court election. It was widely considered to be the most competitive of the three major races that evening… and I suppose that that’s even true, given that Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders had blowout wins, while Bradley had to settle for a 52/48 victory. The thing was, though: exit polling and general events on the ground suggested that Kloppenburg was actually favored to win? So what happened?
Basically? Bernie Sanders happened. More accurately, Bernie Sanders voters happened. Heck, even more accurately, Bernie Sanders voters didn’t happen. From the Washington Post: “According to exit polling conducted by the independent group DecisionDesk and BenchMark Politics, perhaps 15 percent of Sanders voters skipped the Bradley-Kloppenburg race; just 4 percent of Hillary Clinton voters did the same.” Given that Bernie Sanders won that race, that’s an even more embarrassing drop-off rate than it looks.
As I recall, something like this happened in 2012, too. I could have sworn that I wrote this up at the time, but I can’t find it: so let me recreate the scene. 2012. Democrats win the Presidential election in Wisconsin by a decent amount. They also likewise elected progressive heroine Tammy Baldwin to the Senate to replace… Herb Kohl, was it? So, that should have translated to success elsewhere, right? …Wrong. Forget the House races: incumbency wins most battles there, so there’s no shock in hearing that no House seats were flipped. But in the state legislature: Republicans increased their lead in the State House and flipped the State Senate. Apparently enough of the liberals and progressives who wanted to make sure that Wisconsin re-elected a black dude President (and that the state elected the first ever openly gay US Senator) simply couldn’t be bothered to fill out the rest of the ballot. Maybe they were in a hurry.
I know that this concept makes no sense to many of my readers. I have difficulty understanding it, in fact. But it’s real! And it can rear up and bite liberals right on the sit-upon*.
PS: To be fair, even if every Democrat voted the full slate Bradley still would have won. Barely. There might have been a recount, although I’d have to look that up. And Democrats in Wisconsin would now be able to tell themselves that they’ve stopped falling and can now look to rebuild. But, hey, that didn’t happen, so… I guess they’re still falling into the pit?
*A point that was made in the WaPo article: in terms of raw numbers, about the same number of Republicans as Democrats inexplicably declined to vote in the Supreme Court election. I am manfully fighting my own biases by magnanimously assuming that Republican voters with this civil flaw were equally distributed across the candidates; still, that doesn’t distract from the fact that Sanders voters were apparently just a little more inclined to only do the bare minimum than Clinton voters were. Which turned out to be great news for Wisconsin! Good job!
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