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Liberal Cap Times cartoon likens law firm to lynch mob

Empower Wisconsin | Jan. 17, 2020

Is this what civility looks like? 

MADISON —The editorial page of the liberal Cap Times has often appealed to a return to “civility” in politics.

Apparently, the media outlet’s idea of civility is publishing a crass cartoon that equates a conservative law firm with a legitimate voter integrity lawsuit to a lynch mob.

The cartoon, drawn by longtime unionista cartoonist Mike Konopacki, depicts Rick Esenberg, president and chief legal counsel of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), as a masked hangman holding on to and surround by nooses. The caption reads: “The Wisconsin Institute for Law Liberty WILL let you vote, but first you gotta jump through a few hoops.”

There’s nothing subtle about the racial overtones of the message. And, if you’re fond of civility, there’s nothing all that clever about it.

The cartoon was originally paired with a column by liberal curmudgeon Dave Zweifel, the Cap Times’ editor emeritus. Headlined, “Don’t let the vote suppressors win in Wisconsin,” Zweifel’s piece takes aim at WILL and its lawsuit. The Milwaukee-based public interest law firm is suing the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC), charging that the regulator failed to remove from the state’s voter rolls the registrations of more than 200,000 voters believed to have moved.

The lawsuit has become entangled in a legal web, with the liberal 4th District Court of Appeals stepping in to stay the ruling of a lower court judge that had ordered the Elections Commission to deactivate the outdated registrations. The same judge earlier this week held in contempt of court the commission and its three Democrat members for failing to follow his order. The appeals court stayed that order, too.

In his column, Zweifel tells the story of his barber who was frustrated to find that she was not registered to vote where she has resided for several elections. He acknowledges that WILL’s lawsuit had nothing to do with the barber’s registration troubles and he ultimately undercuts his broader point by describing how easy it is to check voter registration (You can do it “right from your smartphone”).

But that didn’t stop Zweifel from ranting about how organizations like WILL — or anyone who believes in voter integrity — have tried to “suppress the vote.”

“In other words,” Zweifel asserts, “make people jump through hoops to exercise what should be an easy, simple task in a free, democratic country.”

And that’s where Konopacki and his offensive noose cartoon comes in.

WILL’s lawsuit is based on a point of law, and there’s clear evidence the Elections Commission violated the law (and the will of the voters who elected the lawmakers that crafted the statute).

Most agree that voting is a sacred right, but many believe that proof of identity is vital to free and fair elections. Does that make them racists, members of a lynch mob, or “vote suppressors”?

Apparently that’s what it means to some at the Cap Times, which, coincidentally, had yet to apologize to Esenberg and his law firm as of late Thursday. The newspaper’s website did take the cartoon down later Wednesday. Jessie Opoien, the newspaper’s opinion editor did tell Milwaukee radio host Steve Scaffidi Thursday that the cartoon went too far and that she has privately apologized to Esenberg. The opinion page noted that the cartoon “was determined to be in poor taste.”

Indeed. And wrong. And anything but “civil.”

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