“Wisconsin Death Trip” was a book in the early 1970s and a 1999 movie about the difficulties of 19th century life in the midwest. It’s about to take on a new meaning, that of going to the primary polls on Tuesday.
Wisconsin has, as of the latest reports, 2,267 confirmed cases of covid-19, with 68 deaths resulting. The numbers have been rising steadily; 12 of those deaths occurred just the day before.
In the midst of the outbreak, they’re scheduled to hold their primary election tomorrow.
The election date is written into their state Constitution, which makes it very difficult to change. Nevertheless, there are options available which could postpone the election, including but not exclusive to voting by mail or emergency legislation.
Instead, they’re going ahead… and the reasons seem to be entirely political in nature. At best, they’re putting possible political gain ahead of human lives. At worst, they’re making a concerted effort to kill off parts of their constituency which oppose them.
They key election was initially seen as the fight between incumbent State Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly and a woman trying to unseat him, Judge Jill Karofsky. Justice elections are not designated by party, but Kelly has deep Republican ties and Karofsky is reliably Democrat in her views; while not technically a partisan election, it effectively is so.
In large part because of this election, the Democrat Governor, Tony Evers, was initially behind efforts to keep the election on track even as other states postponed their primaries. As the novel coronavirus outbreak has spiralled out of control, he has reversed course, breaking with the Republican legislative leaders who have been demanding the election be held.
The obvious question is why, if both parties feel they have a vested interest in the outcome of this election, would they both pursue an immediate vote? One of three circumstances is at play: the polling shows the Democrat, the Republican, or neither with a significant advantage.
Kelly would seem to be in the lead based on polling data, while Karofsky can be expected to have a significant boost due to higher expected Democrat turnout, what with the Biden/Sanders race still in play. Because of coronavirus concerns, however, the turnout is expected to be very low. That could help Kelly retain his position.
The recent boost in coronavirus spread has presented a new consideration, as well. Overwhelmingly, youth are the demographic least likely to show concern about potential infection. This boosts the hope for Sanders supporters that he might yet win some of the states where his polling is dramatically lower than that of Biden… states like Wisconsin.
Trump and the GOP have made no secret of their desire to face Sanders instead of Biden in the general election. Forcing the election increases the odds of that happening, just a few short weeks after Biden had effectively locked the nomination.
Lastly, the Republicans have a final benefit to demanding the election be held tomorrow. If Democrat voters, particularly elderly voters who are more likely to support Biden, go to the polls it is virtually certain that many will contract the novel coronavirus and come down with covid-19. The subsequent boost in illnesses will stand an excellent chance of overwhelming Wisconsin’s health care system. If it doesn’t, some Biden supporters will die; if it does, it raises the possibility of hundreds or even thousands dying before the general election.
There is no way that any proficient political analyst for the Republican party in Wisconsin has not already considered this, and presented that scenario to state leaders. I would like to hope that no politician would regard indirectly taking the lives of their constituents as an incentive. I no longer have such faith in the Republican party.