U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, the Wisconsin Republican who is perhaps most famous for complaining that he was struggling to get by on a $174,000 congressional salary, made some headlines last year when he went on Fox News and dismissed the state’s capital city as “the progressive, liberal, communist community of Madison.”
Madison is, of course, a progressive community. And it has plenty of liberal politicians and people in its midst. But no one who knows the city’s history, or its present circumstance as a booming capital of tech innovation and entrepreneurship, would mistake it for Leningrad.
Congressman Mark Pocan, a progressive Democrat well regarded for his ability to work across lines of partisanship and ideology, suggested that Duffy was trying “to ‘Trump-ize’ Wisconsin.”
Madison Mayor Paul Soglin simply dismissed Duffy as a “moron.”
Duffy, who turned to politics after a career as a reality TV “star,” relished the attention. Little known and even less respected in Wisconsin political circles, he gave up on a potential challenge to Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin when even Republicans had a hard time taking him seriously. So it was nice to get a little time in the spotlight — even if the discussion turned to what Soglin described as “a sad state of affairs that such ignorance is sitting in Washington, representing a fine part of the state of Wisconsin.”
Unfortunately for Duffy, he’s been trumped.
Donald Trump’s new communications director, Goldman Sachs alumnus Anthony Scaramucci, doesn’t just claim that Madison is a communist stronghold. Scaramucci says there’s a Marxist strain that runs through all of Wisconsin.
When Scaramucci was serving as national finance co-chairman of the Scott Walker for President campaign in 2015 — yes, the “Mooch” was a Walker man, not a Trumpkin — Politico reported that the financier said he backed the governor of Wisconsin because: “Wisconsin is basically a communist country inside the United States and this guy has won three elections in four years there. How is a reddish guy winning in a bluer-than-blue state? … Of all the people in the field he has the full bandwidth to do that job. It will be Walker-Rubio, that’s my prediction.”
Scaramucci’s predictive capacity is slim. But so too is his understanding of Wisconsin’s rich political history and its electoral instincts. Indeed, he was as wrong in his assessment of Wisconsin as Duffy is in his assessment of Madison.
With his new post, however, Anthony Scaramucci is the king of getting things wrong about Wisconsin. Sean Duffy is just a pretender to the throne.
John Nichols is associate editor of The Capital Times. firstname.lastname@example.org and @NicholsUprising
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