Wisconsin’s New Normal

by Christian Schneider

Rage is the new normal in Wisconsin. The big crowds may have disappeared from the state capitol, but a small yet vocal cadre of angry protesters remains intent on disrupting the state’s genial Midwestern rhythm. Yesterday, for instance, a dozen protesters repeatedly disrupted a speech Rep. Paul Ryan was delivering to a local Rotary club. According to this report, 20 people were escorted out of the meeting, and three arrested:

Their reasoning is clear: If Wisconsin is allowed to fall back into comfortable civility, the state’s citizens might notice that Republican reforms are working. Paul Ryan had nothing to do with the state’s rollback of public employees’ collective-bargaining privileges, but the protests against him clearly are an extension of the movement inspired by that controversy.

Democrats expose the vacuity of these protests when they try to justify them. Democratic party of Milwaukee chairman Sachin Chheda, for example, tried to blame the demonstrations at the Ryan event on the congressman’s supposed “unavailability” to the public. This talking point piggybacks on a Politico report from last month that tried to embarrass Ryan for speaking to a Rotary club in his district that charged $15 admission to the event.

What the report notably excluded was that Ryan had just finished a round of at least 19 townhall meetings all over his district. I personally followed him to the first several; the rooms were packed, and there was no shortage of constituents willing to ask him tough questions. Saying Paul Ryan is unavailable to his constituents is like saying Mary Kate Gosselin is unavailable to TV cameras. Politifact Wisconsin gave the “unavailability” charge a “Pants on Fire” rating just yesterday.

But this is what the winter’s protests hath wrought. After thousands of them occupied the capitol building with no intervention by law enforcement, bitter protesters now are confident that they can disrupt any public event with little chance of being held accountable. Above the din of the human vuvuzuelas at his meeting, Ryan called this the “new normal” for Wisconsin. This fall the state should go back to beer, Packers, and cheese — instead, there will be an angry nomadic mob looking to spread misery for its own narrow ends.

—Christian Schneider is a senior fellow at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute.

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