Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Wisconsin voters are in a rebellious mood

Bill Barth

The message from voters in Wisconsin’s spring election is loud and unmistakable.


“Fed up!”


Start with the presidential primary. President Biden and former President Donald Trump are, essentially, unopposed. All the suspense is gone. They will be the nominees of the Democratic and Republican parties, a rerun of the 2020 election.


And lots of Wisconsin voters are mad about it.


Biden’s only real opposition came from a ballot category called “uninstructed,” which captured more than 8% of the vote. (Dean Phillips, whose longshot challenge ended weeks ago, still received 3% of the tally.)


For Trump, it was even worse. More than 20% of Republican primary voters chose anybody else.


While Biden got just under 90% of the Democratic vote, Trump fell slightly below 80% among Republicans.


Biden bled out more than the 20,000 votes he won Wisconsin by in 2020. Trump was rejected by a whopping 120,000 Republicans. Advantage, barely: Biden.


It’s a similar story to what’s playing out in both state-by-state balloting and national polling – people are upset and angry with this choice for November, for good reason.


Here’s my take, and it’s in accord with millions of others. Biden is too old, mush-mouthed and out of step. Trump is too crazy, dangerous and abnormal.


This time around, the political parties have let down the American people, by offering no affirmative choices – someone to cast a positive vote for, rather than a negative vote against. Forget the partisan divide. Even within their own parties large segments of the base do not like or want either of these two jokers.


No doubt, the parties are depending on their bases coming home in November because, well, what other choice do voters have? Sure, there’s Robert Kennedy Jr., Cornel West, Jill Stein.


Protest votes. Spoiler votes. Silly votes.


Come next January, it will be Biden or Trump taking the oath of office. The winner will be carried to victory by voters who simply dislike the other guy more.


Cue disunity and division for another four years.


Here where the wife and I live, in the Beloit area, voter frustration on local matters was just as clear.


A School District of Beloit operating fund referendum tanked by a nearly 2-1 margin. Voters registered their anger over problems with academic scores, behavioral issues, student absenteeism and enrollment being siphoned off to voucher and charter schools. Call it a vote of no confidence.


The message from the district has been that deep cuts would happen if the referendum failed. The message from voters is go ahead, do it. Show us what you’ve got.


It’s fair to note that similar operational and-or capital referenda were held across the state. Unofficial results show 91 school referenda were on the ballot across Wisconsin, and about two-thirds passed.


So funding problems are not localized to any given school district. Wisconsin’s complicated school funding system creates broad problems. That complex message, though, falls flat with plenty of voters.


Final point: Where we live it’s relatively rare for voters to kick out an incumbent county board supervisor. In fact, most districts have trouble finding two candidates to compete. In Beloit District 14 voters booted out incumbent Mike Zoril. For years, he’s been a political and social media bomb-thrower from the right. He brought that approach when he was elected to the board, where he was widely perceived as contributing to internal strife and dysfunction.


Like most county boards, the Rock County unit over the years had been a quiet space where collegiality and nonpartisan reasonableness tended to prevail. Get back to that, at all levels of government.




Bill Barth is the former Editor of the Beloit Daily News, and a member of the Wisconsin Newspaper Hall of Fame. Write to him at [email protected].



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  • R

    Ron SmithApr 22, 2024 at 9:07 am

    I have not met one single person in Wisconsin who voted for Trump the first time that’s changed their mind. But many Biden voters are going for Trump or Kennedy. They are fed up with inflation and people who can’t speak English under this administration. 4 years ago credit cards were a convenience! Now they are a lifeline. I’m 77 and in poor health. I can’t start over. It’s like coming home from Vietnam in 1970 back to Wisconsin. People were divided. No jobs! College student treating me (vets) to eggs, tomatoes, spitting and all kinds of foul language. A country divided; and today it’s 10 times worse.
    America has turned into an evil country! Even if Trump gets in I think America is to far gone.