Analysis Politics

Wisconsin Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, “Sugar Daddy” and Women Voters in the Walker Recall

Andy Kopsa

In what is the first major election battle in the 2012 cycle, Governor Scott Walker is pitting woman against woman in his pending recall election.  Walker's Lt. Governor, Rebecca Kleefisch played the “sugar daddy” card in an off the wall statement.  

The Wisconsin recall election is fixing to get ugly. 

In what is the first major election battle in the 2012 cycle, Governor Scott Walker is pitting woman against woman in his pending recall election. Walker’s Lt. Governor, Rebecca Kleefisch, played the “sugar daddy” card in an off-the-wall statement aimed directly at Walker challenger Kathleen Falk. 

This from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal on March 26:

Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch is attacking a Democratic recall challenger to Gov. Scott Walker and throwing gender politics into the mix.

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Kleefisch, a Republican, is criticizing former Dane County executive Kathleen Falk for “setting women back 50 years.”

Kleefisch said Falk is using public employee unions as a “sugar daddy” to support her campaign and in exchange promising to strongly restoring collective bargaining provisions repealed by Walker.

“It is scandalous, and it reeks of the dependent, fragile woman leaning on a big, strong arm because she doesn’t believe she can do it on her own,” Kleefisch said.

Melissa Baldauff, co-chairwoman of the Democratic group Women against Walker, released a statement saying that Kleefisch should apologize for the “deplorable language” and that Walker policies had been more harmful to women because they had reduced their access to health care. 

(Read Kleefisch’s full statement here)

Kleefisch hammers on the union angle as Falk has secured the endorsement of several unions, including the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) and AFSCME.

Kleefisch nonsense aside, this gets to the heart of the matter: Women voters matter in elections (perhaps more than ever in this cycle) and women voters will matter in the Walker recall election. 

Speaking with Kathleen Falk earlier this month on the last day of a decidedly anti-choice/anti-women Wisconsin legislative session, Falk made no bones about Walker’s declared war on women:

I asked Falk about the idea of a real “war on women” not only in Wisconsin but also throughout the US; did she believe there to be a war on women or were “we” overreacting? 

Falk, still wearing her pink leather jacket–the color of the Mad as Hell rally, gives me what I interpret as a knowing look, and turns to Ross, who hands me a ready copy of a press release titled “Falk: Wisconsin Must End Walker’s ‘War on Women’. 

In it, Falk cuts to the chase:

“We have seen the rights of women under assault at the federal level with the Blunt amendment to allow employers to deny women basic health care coverage but here in Wisconsin we see an even more unrelenting attack on women’s rights from Governor Walker that will not end until he is recalled and we elect a new governor.” 

Falk believes she will be the new governor.  

Perhaps Kleefisch’s portrayal of unions as Falk’s ‘sugar daddy’ suggests Walker is worried that Falk may be right in her belief.   

Scot Ross, Falk’s communication director told me via email today in response to Kleefisch’s remarks:

“Gov. Walker’s ‘War on Women’ will not stop until we remove him from office and elect Kathleen Falk our next governor. Gov. Walker’s extremist attacks on women across Wisconsin, whether it’s ending pay equity protections, restricting access to reproductive care, or sending us back to the days of ‘abstinence only’ education, are in direct opposition to the values of the people of Wisconsin.”

No matter who becomes Wisconsin’s next governor, women voters will play a major role in the efforts to dump Walker.

The directive for women’s right’s advocates coming at the end of the Wisconsin session is that women must take their frustration to the ballot box and their first target is Walker. 

According to Tanya Atkinson, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Wisconsin, “The great thing about women is we don’t just get angry, we take action.”  The first chance they will get will be in the recall of Governor Walker.”

Atkinson and other pro-women advocates held a “Mad as Hell” rally on the steps of the capitol in Madison earlier this month to deliver the message that women aren’t taking this legislative nonsense any more. 

All though the rally came on the last day of the session, Lisa Subeck of NARAL Wisconsin calls it, “just a starting point.”  According to Subeck and representatives from Planned Parenthood and other women’s rights advocates, the next logical – and imperative step – is to get women out to vote. 

Wisconsin could serve as a bellwether for how women will vote come November; how women organize around the Wisconsin recall could signal how women will organize in other states and nationally to oust anti-choice legislators around the country. 

Wisconsin’s repeal of the Healthy Youth Act, a ban on telemed abortion and the use of misleading “anti-coercion” language in an anti-choice bill, as well as bans on private insurance coverage for abortion, are all the sad product of a disastrous 2010 election cycle for women’s rights advocates. I will be looking to Wisconsin for hope and possibly a way forward to undo some of the damaging and in some cases life-threatening anti-women legislation that has been unleashed across the country.

News Health Systems

New GOP Kentucky Governor Wants to Undo the State’s Health-Care Gains

Teddy Wilson

Bevin's victory leaves in doubt the future of the program that provides health care to more than 400,000 low-income residents.

Newly elected Kentucky governor, Republican Matt Bevin, may be poised to eliminate health care for thousands of the state’s low-income residents after he defeated Attorney General Jack Conway on Tuesday.  

The gubernatorial campaign focused heavily on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the state’s expansion of Medicaid. Bevin promised to dramatically scale back the state’s kynect program, which expanded health-care access. Bevin’s victory leaves in doubt the future of the program that provides health care to more than 400,000 low-income residents.

“I’m proud of the fact that this is a great night for Republicans in Kentucky and, more importantly, a great night for conservatives in Kentucky,” Bevin said in front of a crowd of supporters, reported the New York Times. Bevin added, “We have a lot of work to do.”

Bevin won decisively, defeating Conway, 52.5 percent to 43.8 percent, after narrowly winning the Republican primary in May by 83 votes.

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The victory comes less than two years after Bevin waged an unsuccessful primary campaign against U.S. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell.

Bevin’s wealth and campaign style earned him comparisons to Republican presidential candidate billionaire Donald Trump. However, the policies he has promised to implement as governor are comparable to Republican governors such Kansas’ Sam Brownback and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, who have focused efforts on eliminating health-care access to low-income families.

The central issue of the campaign was the expansion of Medicaid under the ACA through the kynect program, which Bevin called “a disaster.”

The program has been widely praised as a success, and it has been credited with reducing the uninsured rate in the state from 20.4 percent in 2013 to 11.9 percent in mid-year 2014. Kentucky’s 8.5 percent drop in the uninsured rate over the past two years is more than any other state with the exception of Arkansas.

Bevin said that if elected he would repeal Gov. Steve Beshear’s executive order expanding Medicaid eligibility to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. “Absolutely,” Bevin said. “No question about it. I would reverse that immediately.”

Bevin’s proposed plan is to transition residents on Medicaid through kynect to the federal health insurance exchange by 2017, when the federal subsidies are reduced.

The federal government pays 100 percent of the cost of expanding Medicaid in the state, and beginning in 2017, federal funding will decrease to 90 percent. Kentucky’s expansion of Medicaid created a $15.6 billion economic impact as well as nearly 17,000 new jobs across the state, according an analysis by the state health department.

Bevin has expressed an ideological opposition to Medicaid expansion. During a debate in May, Bevin said that there are too many “able bodied, working age people” who are “taking advantage” of the government benefits.

“We’ve got to stop subsidizing poor decisions,” Bevin said, reported the Lexington Herald-Leader. “Stop subsidizing those who are able to take advantage of a situation and of a system that we literally cannot afford to continue.”

The elimination of the kynect program is just one of an assortment of conservative policies Bevin will seek to impose as governor. He has also pushed implementation of so-called right-to-work laws designed to crush labor unions, and has promised to “lead the charge” decreasing taxes and regulations on businesses.

Bevin, who became Kentucky’s first Republican governor since 2003 and just the second Republican to hold the office since 1971, may soon have the GOP majorities he needs in the state legislature to implement his agenda.

The Republican gains in Kentucky are just the latest in two decades worth of defeats for Democrats throughout the South, and leaves only Virginia with a Democrat in the governor’s mansion.

Kentucky is the only Southern state in which Republicans and Democrats each control one chamber of the state legislature. Republicans hold a massive 27-11 majority in the state senate, while Democrats maintain a slim 54-46 majority in the state house.

However, the control of the state house may now be in doubt.

“This changes the dynamics,” state Senate President Robert Stivers told the New York Times. “Instead of having one leg of the stool, we now have two legs of the stool—and the third leg is very weak.”

Commentary Politics

GOP: Attack Women All You Want, But Hands Off the White Republican Ones

Jodi Jacobson

The GOP is worried that Donald Trump insulted women. Really? Have you looked at your platform lately?

Friday was a horrible, no-good, very bad day for the Republican Party.

Members of the GOP—the party of the “welfare queen,” “the slut,” and “the legitimate rape“—spent the weekend being indignant! apoplectic! and falling all over themselves because Donald Trump, the billionaire GOP presidential aspirant, ostensibly insulted Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly on national TV during the first GOP debate in Cleveland last week. It’s debatable whether there was any insult to Kelly. In Mr. Trump’s defense (words I never thought I’d be writing), I don’t think there was. Trump is and was his normal combative self and he no more insulted Kelly than he has countless other people. But the furor that has erupted tells you all you need to know: Trump was invited to the debate despite a long history of making sexist and derogatory insults to women, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and many others. But he’s become persona non grata after alleged insults to Megyn Kelly, suggesting that the GOP is A-OK with denigrating women, as long as they are not white Republican ones.

Indeed, the entire GOP platform is an insult to women. This is the party that has fought vociferously to kill insurance coverage for the contraceptive methods used by 99 percent of all sexually active women in this country. It’s the party that can’t quite understand why sham obstacles limiting access to contraception and abortion are demeaning and insulting on their face, not to mention a threat to the lives, health, and economic status of women everywhere. It’s the party that refuses to pass legislation establishing a living wage—even in its own house—to “protect jobs.” It’s the same GOP that endorses forced pregnancy for all women, whether she had consensual sex or was raped and that would sooner allow a woman to die from pregnancy-related complications than provide her a life-saving abortion (because… life). It’s the same party that has gleefully cut billions of dollars from women’s health, has sought to deny them equal pay for equal work, can’t wrap its mind around the urgent need for child care, and would rather arrest a pregnant woman for addiction than provide her treatment. It’s the party that fetishizes fertilized eggs, embryos, blastocysts, and fetuses to the point they are willing to endanger the public health, but never met a baby from which they would not snatch money for formula, diapers, or health care and never met a single mother they wouldn’t demean (unless she’s a white Republican).

The GOP, however, is crying crocodile tears. The party is not so much up in arms about insulting women as it is finding ways to undermine Trump. The Donald is the party’s own Frankenstein and one it now wishes would go far, far away because Republicans have a presidential race to run and Trump’s popularity is based on the fact that he uses an unfiltered megaphone to say what the GOP really means. Trump apparently never got the memo on “The Code,” the secret words and phrases GOP candidates use to churn up racism, classism, misogyny, and hatred without actually clearly saying the things they are saying, so they have plausible deniability.

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With The Code, you can call women sluts, but know that all the “good people” get it… you are not talking about them. With The Code, you can denigrate the working poor, but assure the white working poor you are not talking about them. With The Code you can pit people against each other and suggest that immigrants are a danger to the republic, Black people are scary, slavery was not such a bad thing after all, poor people should just suck it up, and women don’t deserve health care, without ever coming out and saying those actual things.

But The Donald does not follow rules. So while pollsters tell GOP candidates they have to find nicer and less direct ways of, for example, telling women they should go to hell in a hand basket, The Donald says these things right out loud, to wild cheering by the Roman Colosseum crowds that apparently vote Republican these days. And the very-serious-real GOP candidates do not like this one bit because the Trump Real-Talk Express exposes them for what they are—anti-woman, anti-poor, fundamentalist religious and corporate shills—and puts them that much further away from installing the Koch Brothers shadow government in the White House.

Here’s how it all started: During the GOP debate in Cleveland, Ohio, Kelly, who, it shall be noted, is white, blond, and Republican, asked Trump about his past public comments toward women.

KELLY: Mr. Trump, one of the things people love about you is you speak your mind and you don’t use a politician’s filter. However, that is not without its downsides, in particular, when it comes to women. You’ve called women you don’t like “fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.”

(LAUGHTER)

Your Twitter account…

TRUMP: Only Rosie O’Donnell.

(LAUGHTER)

KELLY: No, it wasn’t.

(APPLAUSE)

Your Twitter account…

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Thank you.

KELLY: For the record, it was well beyond Rosie O’Donnell.

TRUMP: Yes, I’m sure it was.

KELLY: Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women’s looks. You once told a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president, and how will you answer the charge from Hillary Clinton, who was likely to be the Democratic nominee, that you are part of the war on women?

TRUMP: I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct.

(APPLAUSE)

I’ve been challenged by so many people, and I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either. This country is in big trouble. We don’t win anymore. We lose to China. We lose to Mexico both in trade and at the border. We lose to everybody.

And frankly, what I say, and oftentimes it’s fun, it’s kidding. We have a good time. What I say is what I say. And honestly Megyn, if you don’t like it, I’m sorry. I’ve been very nice to you, although I could probably maybe not be, based on the way you have treated me. But I wouldn’t do that.

(APPLAUSE)

But you know what, we—we need strength, we need energy, we need quickness and we need brain in this country to turn it around. That, I can tell you right now.

Though you can not be faulted for thinking so, dear reader, this exchange was not the cause of the explosion of pearl-clutching concern about The Donald’s “feelings toward women.” No. That came after Trump gave an interview to CNN, in which, when asked about sparring with Kelly during the debate, Trump responded by saying that Kelly’s questions were “ridiculous” and “off-base.”

“You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes,” Trump told CNN’s Don Lemon on Friday night. “Blood coming out of her wherever.”

Someone suggested Trump was referring to menstruation, and this threw the collective GOP field onto a fainting couch. For example, conservative blogger and Fox News commentator Erick Erickson disinvited Trump from a RedState event this past weekend. Erickson is known for his regular denigration of women, most recently calling them “female animals,” and hurling insults at Michelle Obama, among many others. But this has never stopped Fox News from employing him. Black first ladies can be insulted. White Republican women are off-limits.

Jeb Bush responded to Trump by crying “Do we want to win? Do we want to insult 53 percent of all voters? What Donald Trump said is wrong. That is not how you win elections. Worse yet, that is not how you bring people together to solve problems.” Bush, however, has spent much of the past month insulting women. Like the little boy who says “me too! me too!”, Bush has been rushing to prove that as governor of Florida he de-funded Planned Parenthood before anyone else thought about it! He further promised that as president he would push to end federal funding. Nothing says “I don’t want to insult women” like denying three million hardworking women a year access to basic primary preventive care.

Like in the rest of the GOP field, there is no amount of denigrating women that is not worth it if you can pander to fundamentalist Christian voters. So Bush also told a group of fundamentalists that he wasn’t sure “we needed to be spending half a billion a year on women’s health care.” I mean, what are a few thousand more deaths of women per year from pregnancy complications, breast, uterine, or cervical cancer, or other causes, when you are trying really, really, really, really hard to prove you are “pro-lifier” than thou?

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was too busy reassuring America he would rather let women die from complications of pregnancy than provide an abortion to really get into the substance of Trump’s comments. Former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR), who thinks women can’t control their libido and therefore don’t deserve access to reproductive health care, said he would “stand for Megyn Kelly” (because, you know, she’s white, blond, Republican). (And yes, we can confidently say according to public records that she is a registered Republican.)

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry said about Trump that “attacking veterans, Hispanics and women demonstrates a serious lack of character and basic decency, and his comments distract from the serious issues facing our country.” I almost split my sides laughing at this pathological hypocrisy until I realized that Perry is probably mad about the attention Trump is getting for the very things for which Perry’s administration is so famous…. attacking veterans, Hispanics, and women. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, he of the draconian cuts in wages, assault on voting rights, reduced health spending, attacks on education, and denial of the right to protest, and he who boasts about how many women he’s cut off from reproductive health care, declared, “There is no excuse” for Trump’s behavior.

This reaction leads me to believe that the GOP suffers from a deep form of collective personality disorder. It is worth noting, for example, that no one at Fox News, which hosted this clown show, was disturbed enough by Trump’s prior comments about women to deny him a place on the podium last week. It was only after his non-insult to Kelly that he got kicked out of the party, so to speak. Sexist and denigrating comments? No problem. Just hands off the white Republican ones.

No one in the GOP or the media has disinvited, or even questioned, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and other GOP candidates for the rampant slut-shaming of women and risks to women’s lives inherent in their comments and proposed policies. No one in the GOP or Fox has ever been moved to act at the prospect of arresting pregnant women for illness and drug addiction, for insulting Black women, Latinas, Native American women, young women, and Democratic women. I don’t remember Rick Perry being disinvited from anything for leaving hundreds of thousands of women in his state without primary health care. And if unnecessarily endangering women’s lives is not insulting, what is?

No one in the GOP seems to really understand that the entire GOP platform is an insult to the intelligence, rights, and dignity of women. Full stop.

The panic that has resulted from Trump’s comments is a direct result of the fact the GOP debate proved to be its own unedited reality show resulting in a massive collision of GOP misogyny, madonna/whore complexes, and profound hypocrisy. The message is loud and clear: Insult women all you want, but hands off the white GOP women.

Memo to Mr. Bush: We got the message and we were already beyond insulted. We’re pretty smart that way.