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Parker: The Election Day that changed politics forever


’Tis the season of looking back, which brings us inevitably to Election Day 2016.

Donald Trump’s victory places last year as one of the most significant in modern American history. Not only did he change how politics is played, but he probably destroyed the Republican Party as we knew it. Most important, he will go down as one of the most effective politicians of all time, at least beyond the Beltway.

As with other course-altering events—9/11, the moon landing, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and the Kennedys, many will remember where they were when the reality of a Trump presidency hit them.

Plenty of people had already gone to bed on Election Night, believing that Clinton would win. But those who stayed awake were reminded yet again that it’s not over until it’s over. In a word: Pennsylvania.

Trump already had been declared the projected winner in other swing states—Florida, North Carolina and Ohio—and was leading in traditionally Democratic-leaning Michigan and Wisconsin. But when Pennsylvania was called late in the night, countless Americans stared at their screens in disbelief.

Trump had won.

As sleepyheads awoke the next morning to the startling news, a massive thought-cloud settled over the nation. It contained just three letters, the first two of which were WT.

What happened, actually?

Much commentary and several books, including Clinton’s own, have attempted an explanation. Voter intensity for Trump was stronger than for Clinton; his surge was larger than hers; many Democrats stayed home because they didn’t like Clinton; others were bitter at how they felt Bernie Sanders had been treated during the primaries by the Democratic National Committee via the Clintons.

More to the precise point, in Pennsylvania as elsewhere, Trump’s dominance in rural areas overshadowed Clinton’s wins in urban areas.

Specifically, the deplorables were out of the basket and setting the establishment on fire.

Trump’s small- and midsized-town “rural” voters may not have ever jumped on Amazon to order the latest Walter Isaacson tome or posted their gently worn Louboutins for sale on “The Real Real,” but they weren’t stupid, ignorant, racist, misogynist or nativist, not most, anyway. They were regular, God-fearing folks who were sick of Washington, distrustful of liberal policies, and fed up with elites, including many in the media, who couldn’t see them except down their noses.

There’s a wonderful line in Doug Marlette’s 2001 autobiographical novel, “The Bridge,” in which the late editorial cartoonist’s grandmother, “Mama Lucy,” a North Carolina mill worker who was stabbed in the stomach by the National Guard during the General Textile Strike of 1934, is talking to her successful grandson about his new life way up yonder in New York City.

This tiny, fearless woman who chewed tobacco and packed heat, according to Marlette’s many tellings, wrapped up her thoughts nice-and-neat-like: I wouldn’t put a crick in my neck to look up at them tall buildin’s!

It was just one line, but those few words told a long, multi-generational story of resentment by people who had been left out of the American dream. New Yorkers were stand-ins for the mill owners, who acted as if they were better than Mama Lucy and her people; the tall buildings symbolized the big houses of her greedy employers, whose thresholds she and “her sort” would never darken except by the servants’ entrance.

What happened in 2016 could not be summed up any better. Mama Lucy’s attitude and the cultural context from which she spoke could be transposed with little tweaking. Not that members of Trump’s base are all poor or unpolished, but they probably understood Mama Lucy’s remark without my having to explain it.

The irony, obviously, is that Donald Trump is the big building. But rather than make everyday Americans strain to see him high up in his gilded tower, Trump came down to ground level and spoke not at them but to their darkest, most haunted places.

It didn’t pain him at all to say what they needed to hear, whereas Clinton, for all her husband’s “faux bubba”-ness, a term my dear friend Marlette created just for Bill, and her frequent references to her father as a “rock-ribbed, up-by-your-bootstraps, conservative Republican,” didn’t even know the words.

It would be a mistake for future candidates and campaign managers to miss these lessons. The resentments of Mama Lucy and others who feel slighted or looked down upon are as constant as kudzu—and no one yet has understood them better than Donald Trump, the rage-filled city boy from Queens who could never get enough of anything. Especially respect.

Guest Views: Bill would needlessly put wetlands at risk

For more than a century, Wisconsin has been at the heart of a long debate between builders who want to develop the land and conservationists who want to preserve it. Out of those lively discussions has come a rough balance of interests and an understanding that the state needs development to continue to grow economically but also needs to honor and protect its unique environmental heritage—the rivers, streams and lakes that make Wisconsin an outdoor treasure.

Unfortunately, a bill now moving through the state Assembly fails to do that.

Assembly Bill 547 would upend 16 years of careful management of isolated wetlands in the state. The proposed law seeks to repeal what was put in place by a bipartisan act of the Legislature after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2001 that said federal clean water laws didn’t allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to regulate wetlands that weren’t connected to a stream or river.

More than 1 million acres of wetlands in Wisconsin—20 percent of all the state’s wetlands, according to the Wisconsin Wetlands Association—fall into that category.

A high-powered group lobbying in favor of AB 547, including Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, argues that the new bill is just common sense—that the 2001 law has hindered property owners and builders from developing land that has little ecological value. As Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) told the Journal Sentinel’s Lee Bergquist recently, “The vast majority of those wetlands, you would never assume they were wetlands.”

That’s debatable. But even so, why not deal with that concern instead of putting millions of acres of wetlands that do have value at risk? And why not find a smart compromise with the Wetlands Association and an array of outdoors groups that oppose the bill? Why not use your power wisely?

Lucas Vebber, general counsel and director of environmental and energy policy at WMC, said the state chamber is “more than willing to sit down” with conservation and sporting groups and said the motivation behind the legislation was to solve “a very real problem” for developers.

“We would love to work with them in a way that maybe tightens up the bill,” he said. “We’re not looking to push through this original bill.” And that’s certainly good to hear, but so far, it has appeared that this bill is on a fast track and conservation groups say they feel left out of the process.

Wetlands are a critical feature of the Wisconsin environment. They filter drinking water, provide natural protection against flooding and shoreline erosion and provide a rich habitat for hunters.

The legislation requires replacement of wetlands at a ratio of 1.2 acres for every acre destroyed, which at first glance sounds reasonable. But look closer and you begin to wonder: Replacement with what—and where? Filling in wetlands in one spot, even if another wetland is built somewhere else, might still put residents downstream at risk during heavy rain, cause soil erosion and destroy habitats for ducks, geese, pheasants and rare or endangered species. ...

There is still time to take a deep breath and address the real issues. Steineke and the rest of the Republican leadership in the Legislature should do that. We can have both smart development and smart conservation. But only if developers and conservationists are willing to work together to make it so. The Legislature has an obligation to lead that discussion in the public interest.

—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Sound Off for Wednesday, Nov. 8

On Milton celebrating 50th anniversary of merger: Very interesting about the history of the two Miltons coming together. At the current time, I feel the city may be suffering from negative effects of urban sprawl. It’s not Milton’s fault this is happening, but it’s something that should be studied for the benefit of city residents.

On conflicts of interest: Regarding property taxes involving municipalities and school districts, I would like to see the Legislature pass a law in Wisconsin that bankers may not serve on boards or councils if their bank is a lender to that school board, council or town board.

On the humane society: We need to have funding for the human society, and another thing we need is we need to start getting these things done because we have too many people who are cut from the same mold. When you get too many from the same mold, you don’t get anything done.

On Janesville’s big hurry: Everyone around this city is speeding 40 mph down Mount Zion in a 25 mph zone. Liberty, Lexington, side streets—40 mph. When is it going to stop? People don’t stop at stop signs. They roll through at 20 mph. I think everyone should start getting tickets. It would also help the city’s finances and maybe educate one or two people. Something has got to be done about all the speeders.

On Saturday story, “Federal tax plan would have little effect locally”: The Gazette-generated article shows little understanding of the federal tax system. House Republicans are proposing a cut to how much mortgage interest can be deducted from gross income. They are not proposing a credit, which is a direct reduction of taxes owed.

On proposal to eliminate hunting age restrictions: I find it hilarious that next to the hunting article (Sunday, Page 3A) is a picture (‘Saturday at the lanes’) of a man showing 6-year-olds how to put their fingers in a bowling ball. Are you serious? How about you wait until they are out of a car seat before you give them a gun to go hunting.

I wonder who started the thing about toddlers being able to shoot guns? Here we have all the violence around, and who came up with that idea? It’s a bad idea.

On the mass shooting at the Texas church: One thing the people of Texas won’t be clamoring for is gun-control laws. There was already a law that said this guy wasn’t supposed to have a gun, and it didn’t do a whole lot of good. You really want to stop these mass shootings? The best thing you can do right now is eliminate gun-free zones because the one thing that every one of these shootings has in common is they all took place in a spot where it was a pretty good fact that no one else would have a gun to fight back.

With the latest mass shooting in a small Texas town I feel compelled to share my feelings. I was never an anti-gun person. However, with a lack of legislation on the part of the Republican Congress and their cavalier attitude of sending ‘thoughts and prayers’ to the innocent victims, I now am anti-gun.

On Janesville leaf pickup: Not only does the pickup seem a little premature, but our day is scheduled the same day as our garbage and recycling pickup. I know we’re very fortunate to even have this service, but if we’re going to do it, couldn’t there be a little better coordination with the garbage pickup? How are the people going to scoop up the leaves with all the bins in the way?

Janesville really doesn’t realize how good they’ve got it. I don’t believe in putting the leaves in the street, anyway, because it just ruins the water system. But if they come out a little early and pick up your leaves, maybe you should just rake them up and put them in a bag and take them to the Janesville landfill that doesn’t charge any money. I guess maybe Janesville is just way too lazy and needs to complain too often. I appreciate the leaf pickup.

On a kind gesture: When my husband and I were dining at World Buffet on Sunday celebrating his 83rd birthday, a lovely couple appeared at our table, and after conversing with us, they announced that they would be paying for our meals. God bless these kind and wonderful people.