By Lisa Keen
Tuesday’s hotly contested Wisconsin primary produced some unusual political background noise for both Democrats and Republicans. U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders was compared to a Wisconsin statewide candidate who has said the feminist movement was full of “man-hating lesbians.” An informal Twitter survey by Log Cabin Republicans found a majority of respondents saying “Never Trump.” And a Politico report said the Republican Party is now expecting a big struggle at the convention over marriage for same-sex couples.
Sanders won the Democratic primary in the Badger State Tuesday. He took 57 percent of the Democratic vote, compared to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 43 percent. At the end of the day, the delegate count for the nomination still heavily favors Clinton. She has 73 percent of the 2,383 delegates she needs to become the party’s presidential nominee; Sanders has 44 percent. Sanders’ campaign made an outreach to the LGBT community in Wisconsin. It handed out flyers outside an anniversary event of the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce. Fair Wisconsin PAC, the state’s largest LGBT political organization, endorsed Clinton. So did Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., the first openly gay U.S. senator, who also published an opinion piece in the Milwaukee Journal encouraging others to support Clinton.
But U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wisc., withheld his endorsement and finally announced March 31 that he would not endorse either of the “two great alternatives.”
“There’s really good things about both candidates,” Pocan told Wisconsin Public Radio. “I love the aspirational tone and the vision that I think you’re seeing out of Sen. Sanders’ campaign, and I absolutely admire and am unbelievably impressed with the qualifications and the resume of Secretary Clinton.” Except for conservative bisexual U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., Pocan is the only openly LGBT member of Congress to not endorse Clinton.
Fair Wisconsin PAC Board Chair Nancy Nusbaum released a statement March 30 announcing her group’s endorsement. She called Clinton a “champion for LGBT equality on both the domestic and international stage.” “We are confident that she is the best candidate to continue and expand on the legacy of the Obama Administration as the most pro-fairness in history,” said the statement. The endorsements of Baldwin and Fair Wisconsin PAC continue a trend, thus far, in endorsements by the LGBT community: Almost all are for Clinton. They include the Human Rights Campaign, the Congressional Equality PAC and LPAC, as well as most well-known LGBT leaders. And in early February, a marketing survey of 563 LGBT voters nationwide found that 48 percent would vote for Clinton, 41 percent for Sanders, 2 percent for Trump, and 1 percent each for Kasich and Rubio. Four percent were undecided.
The Democratic primary Tuesday became entangled in a prominent statewide race for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Both Sanders and Clinton spoke out against incumbent candidate Rebecca Bradley after it was revealed that Bradely had written pieces for her college newspaper calling LGBT people and people with HIV “queers” and “degenerates” and calling homosexuality an “abnormal sexual preference.” In a 1992 essay, she gleefully predicted the “demise” of the feminist movement, saying it was “largely composed of angry, militant, man-hating lesbians.” Bradley, a recent appointee of Gov. Scott Walker to the bench, apologized for the essays she wrote as a student 25 years ago at Marquette University. She said she is now “embarrassed at the content and tone of what I wrote those many years ago.” During a campaign speech Saturday in Milwaukee, Clinton said, “There is no place on any Supreme Court or any court in this country, no place at all for Rebecca Bradley’s decades-long track record of dangerous rhetoric against women, survivors of sexual assault and the LGBT community.” At a rally in Madison Sunday, Sanders said he thought a large turnout at the primary would help defeat Bradley and elect her challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg.
In an odd twist, a decades-old comment from Sanders was compared to a decades-old statement from Bradley. A former Republican state official, defending Bradley on Wisconsin Public Radio, claimed that “Bernie Sanders said something very similar when he was in college.” The official, Bill McCoshen, noted that Sanders, like Bradley, suggested women are partly responsible for date rape. PolitiFact, a column that scrutinizes the truthfulness of political claims, examined McCoshen’s statement and called it “Half True.” It noted that, in the 1992 essay, Bradley wrote that lesbian academic Camille Paglia “legitimately suggested that women play a role in date rape.” In 1972, 31-year-old Sanders examined the changing roles of men and women and suggested women fantasize about being raped. PolitiFact concluded, “both Sanders and Bradley wrote about rape in ways that were offensive to some women.” The fact that a Republican official in Wisconsin was able to call up the obscure Sanders quote for use in defending a Republican candidate suggests the Republican Party is as prepared to attack Sanders as a presidential nominee as it is Clinton. And the degree to which the GOP is in disarray over who will be its nominee lends a sense of urgency to its need for political ammunition.
The GOP Splintering
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz won Tuesday’s Republican primary in Wisconsin and, along with it, nearly all the state’s 42 delegates. That puts him up to 514 delegates, or 42 percent of the 1,237 needed to win the GOP nomination. But while Cruz did some impressive catching up this week, real estate mogul Donald Trump still has 60 percent of the delegates he needs to become the Republican nominee. Ohio Gov. John Kasich has 12 percent.
The big news for the GOP this past week were the self-inflicted political wounds Trump suffered during the run-up to the Wisconsin contest. He stumbled badly, miscalculating how voters would respond to his off-the-cuff pronouncements on abortion (women should be punished), his campaign manager being booked for assaulting a female reporter (it was the woman’s fault), and allowing South Korea and Japan to have nuclear weapon capability (so the U.S. doesn’t have to defend them). A Gallup Poll released April 1 showed 70 percent of women and 58 percent of men had an unfavorable opinion of Trump. But 48 percent of voters have an unfavorable view of Cruz, too.
At a CNN Town Hall meeting in Milwaukee March 29, an audience member asked Cruz “how and why does your religion play a part in your political decision-making? Don’t you think it should be more of a moral belief and not something that can interfere with your decision-making when you’re making decisions for all religions in the United States?” Cruz said his faith “is an integral part” of who he is but that he thinks “those in politics have an obligation not to wear their faith on their sleeve.”
But just five days earlier, Cruz’s “religious liberty” advisory council recommended that, as president, he implement a number of actions that would amount to wearing his faith on his office. In releasing their recommendations, Cruz said, “As president, I have pledged on my first day in office to rescind every single one of President Obama’s unconstitutional executive actions, and to direct every federal agency to respect and protect the religious liberty of every American.”
Politico.com reported Monday that some of the Republican Party’s biggest donors are funding an effort to lobby Republican Party platform committee members to soften the language against marriage for same-sex couples. The article suggested it will be a “divisive battle” at what many expect will already be a very contentious convention over the party’s nominee.
Log Cabin Republicans national president Gregory Angelo said Log Cabin has “worked closely” with those donors to lobby for a “more inclusive” platform. Log Cabin Republicans conducted an informal Twitter poll last month and found 62 percent of respondents saying “Never Trump.” Only 17 percent said “Only Trump” and 21 percent said “Maybe Trump.” The survey received replies from 166 people. Log Cabin’s Angelo said his sense, in talking with Log Cabin members around the country, is that they “are essentially in parallel to the greater Republican electorate.” “Every Republican organization in the country,” said Angelo, “is having the same kind of soul-searching exercise Log Cabin is.”