Wisconsin Public Radio's 'Mapped Out' podcast series from Bridgit Bowden and Shawn Johnson has been looking at legislative and gerrymandering in Wisconsin:
"WPR’s award-winning reporters Shawn Johnson and Bridget Bowden conducted dozens of interviews, pored over hundreds of court records, and reviewed hours of archived audio from hearings, speeches and protests to bring you the new podcast series. “Mapped Out” takes a look at the past to give you the context and background to understand how redistricting is unfolding today."
On a hot late summer day in August 2021, Johnson and Bowden stopped by my apartment to interbiew me for a segment for the podcast series, "Wisconsin's 2011 map cemented Republicans' majority and shaped a decade of policy Locked In" that was published Wednesday, October 27, 2021.
Here's the excerpt with the text of the interview: My interview in the podcast is slightly expanded from the text in the article as I speak directly about how cannabis relieves my often extreme extreme pain from glaucoma.
Despite broad support, some issues languish
It might seem obvious to say, but sometimes the reason proposals don’t become law is that they’re not popular. But other times, popular ideas don’t go anywhere either.
One person who has a good handle on what’s popular and what’s not in Wisconsin is Charles Franklin. He runs the Marquette University Law School poll, which has asked more than 1,200 questions in 66 polls since 2012.
In Wisconsin, the quintessential purple state, a lot of those polls come back pretty close to 50-50. Republicans and Democrats know where they stand, and they’re not budging.
Some issues do break through that divide, though. Franklin said sometimes this happens because societal views shift. He used same-sex marriage as an example — for years the American public was against it, and then public opinion changed.
Franklin said there are signs that a similar change is happening right now with another issue: marijuana legalization.
"We've seen substantial evolution from majority opposition to substantial majority support over recent years," he said.
Lawmakers in other states have taken notice. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 18 states allow recreational marijuana, including Wisconsin’s neighbors Illinois and Michigan.
In Wisconsin, about 59 percent of voters supported legal marijuana in an April 2019 poll.
"But when you add medical marijuana to it, then you start to get these true supermajorities," Franklin said.
Eighty-three percent supported medical marijuana in that same poll, including strong majorities of voters from both parties.
One of the people who has supported this for years is Madison resident Gary Storck, who uses marijuana to treat his glaucoma.
"It can just be excruciating at times," Storck said. "It’s like an ice pick in my eye ... cannabis really, really helps."
Storck has been pushing to legalize medical marijuana in Wisconsin for decades. He felt like they were on the verge of passing it in 2009 during the last session when Democrats were in control.
Lawmakers, including some Republicans have talked about it since then, but the issue goes nowhere. Storck has basically stopped trying.
"I've been more and more discouraged every session to the point where I really don't even actively go to the Capitol anymore," he said. "I don't see any point."
Storck has a theory on why it never goes anywhere: He thinks it’s the map. Republicans don’t have to listen to people like him, Storck said, because their majority is always safe.
Aside from marijuana, Franklin says there are a few other issues that consistently get widespread public support. For example, 80 percent of Wisconsin voters support background checks for private gun sales with majorities across the partisan divide. But proposals have gone nowhere in the GOP-controlled Legislature.
The Mapped Out series is a fascinating look at how gerrymandering has twisted Wisconsin politics and the legislature's extreme opposition to any kind of cannabis legalization, even medical, is indicative of the depth of this problem, which will hopefully be resolved by fair maps in the near future.