If 2016 taught us anything, it’s that we should believe our politicians will behave in victory just as they behaved on the campaign trail. For all his flaws, Trump has been true to his word on one thing — that the presidential candidate would not be much different than the president.
Now, in 2018, Wisconsin voters have the opportunity to apply that lesson in a variety of races, including the battle for U.S. Senate, which pits incumbent Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, against state Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield.
That both Baldwin and Vukmir will behave in office just as they have behaved on the campaign trail is well understood and anticipated. For Baldwin, this board takes comfort in that thought. For Vukmir, not so much.
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Vukmir’s campaign has made national headlines on several occasions, but not for reasons any campaign should be proud of or that any potential voter should be impressed by.
In May, Vukmir’s campaign labeled her opponent as playing for “Team Terrorist” after Baldwin voted against Gina Haspel’s confirmation as CIA director. For that remark, she received a “Pants on Fire” dishonesty rating from PolitiFact. It was just one of three such ratings she has received in her career.
The PolitiFact point can’t be overstated. As of Oct. 25, Vukmir has received 12 ratings from the independent political fact-checker. None of them are labeled as “True,” and only three are labeled as “Half True” or “Mostly True.” The rest — 75 percent of all her PolitiFact ratings — have been labeled as “False,” “Mostly False,” or “Pants on Fire.”
Putting any ideological and policy disagreements aside, voters — future constituents if that candidate is victorious — have the right to demand truthfulness and transparency from those seeking high office. Vukmir has shown herself as more than just uninterested in honesty — she’s shown herself as willing to actively attack and corrode the vital trust that must exist between a people and their government, all in the name of a win that would serve only to further polarize an already divided electorate.
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Not that ideological differences are inconsequential, though. A senator’s outlook on their role as a member of the party in power has to matter, especially considering the man who currently resides in the White House.
Despite her early declarations that Trump is “offensive to everyone,” Vukmir has since put aside her obvious reservations and has fully devoted herself to singing his praises at all times and on all issues. In the primary debates, Vukmir declined to criticize Trump on any issue. That’s not what Wisconsin needs from its senator.
This state needs — this state deserves — representatives who stand up for its interests and its people, not another Republican willing to be cowed at every turn by a president who has shown himself lacking the moral and political leadership we’ve come to expect from our elected officials.
But attacks on one’s opponent don’t necessarily equate to an endorsement, so enough about Vukmir. Baldwin is worthy of an endorsement in her own right, Vukmir’s faults aside.
Baldwin, like any politician, has had her mistakes. In 2015, she was reported to have failed to act on instances of malpractice at a Tomah Veterans Affairs medical clinic, in which a veteran died after being over-prescribed opioids.
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But what sets Baldwin apart from other politicians, and what makes her worthy of this endorsement and of reelection this November, is how she’s worked to improve the situation. In the aftermath of the incident, she worked personally with the family of the deceased veteran to pass a law establishing better opioid prescription guidelines at Veterans Affairs medical clinics.
What we can’t expect from our politicians is perfection, or that we’ll always agree with them, or that they’ll always make us proud. But what we can expect — indeed, what we should expect — is that our politicians will be honest with us, that they will strive to fix their mistakes and that they will stand up to any and all attempts to undermine centuries of hard-earned progress in establishing the democracy we’re all blessed to live in.
This board believes we can depend on that from Baldwin because her record in office and on the campaign trail has shown her to embody those values. Vukmir, to her credit, has been honest on one thing, and one thing only — she’s just not that kind of politician.
For Wisconsin’s next senator, that just won’t do. Not ever, but definitely not now.
The Editorial Board serves to represent the voice of The Badger Herald editorial department, distinct from the newsroom, and does not necessarily reflect the views of each staff member.