But, as you know, Trump didn’t stop there. Recognizing that his popularity with the Republican base gave him leverage over his party’s elected officials, he began pressure campaigns across the country aimed at deploying legislative power to undermine the 2020 results. In Wisconsin, that meant putting pressure on Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R).
In June 2021, shortly after Trump called him by name, Vos announcement an investigation to uncover this alleged fraud. To lead the effort, he chose Michael Gableman, a retired member of the state Supreme Court. The intention, it seems, was to demonstrate that this was not a partisan fishing expedition, but rather an investigation guided by an experienced jurist.
That’s not how it happened. Just over a year later, Gableman’s investigation was closed by Vos and the former judge cited for contempt. The investigation turned up nothing significant. And Gableman, it seems, has gone from retired judge to anti-establishment revolutionary.
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Monday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on comments Gableman made earlier this month at a Republican Party event in Outagamie County, Wisconsin. In his speech, a registration which was filmed by liberal activist Lauren Windsor, Gableman explicitly advocates “revolution”.
“I feel like I worked in the twilight zone,” says Gableman. “And the newspapers portrayed me as the bad guy. So it’s a good thing that I’m not doing it for the newspapers, I’m doing it for you.
“For the first time in my life, I’m beginning to wonder if America’s best days aren’t behind us,” he added a little later. “I don’t know. But I’ll tell you what. Our comfort, our comfort keeps us from taking the right action.” After a riff on how the frequency of obesity is a mark of abundance of the country, he continued, “It is this very comfort that keeps us from what our founders knew to be the only way to keep government honest, which is revolution.”
“Thomas Jefferson said the tree of liberty should be watered with the blood of revolution in every generation,” Gableman said. “I don’t think that’s going to happen. And our president went out of his way to say, “Don’t even think about a revolution. We have F-14s.’ Who talks like that?
Gableman did not respond to a request for comment from The Post.
People who recognize the downsides of armed conflict, certainly. Presidents of nations. People like that.
gable misquote Jefferson here. In a letter written in 1787, Jefferson praised Shay’s Rebellion, an uprising that emerged among Massachusetts Revolutionary War veterans during the drafting of the Constitution. He derided British claims that the new nation had collapsed into anarchy and suggested that seeing such rebellions every few decades – those rooted in misconceptions but demonstrating an interest in governance – was healthy . In another letter of the same year, he describes the rebellion as “a medicine [sic] necessary for the good health of the government.
That’s not what Gableman is describing. Jefferson, speaking his own mind in an era before First Amendment protections for the right to assemble and petition the government, embraces rebellion, uprising. He did not endorse revolution – an overthrow of government – or suggest that revolution should be a feature of government.
It’s easy enough to trace Gableman’s path back to this point. Even when Vos nominated him, there were obvious questions about his impartiality. He had assisted a pro-Trump protest in Wisconsin on November 7, 2020, shortly after the election call for Joe Biden. While Wisconsin Supreme Court elections are technically nonpartisan, there are often few questions about partisan allegiances. Gableman, for example, served for a time as a county Republican party chairman. The review itself was plagued with problems. At one point, Gableman admitted that he lacked “a comprehensive understanding or even an understanding of how elections work”.
In March, Gableman appeared before a state assembly committee to present the findings of his investigation. A report proposed to the chamber was clear that the intention of the inquiry was “not to challenge the certification of the presidential election”. But in presenting the results, Gableman encouraged them to decertify the election results anyway.
Why? Not for a good reason. The inquiry made two central statements in its effort to cast suspicion on the election results. The first was that a nonprofit group had provided funds to expand voting access in the state, which Gableman’s team suggested was a violation of the law – despite the courts having repeatedly confirmed the subsidies. The second was an allegation about suspicious vote totals in nursing homes, an allegation that was soon to be demystified. No evidence has been presented to suggest the state winner was anyone other than Biden.
Despite finding no evidence of significant fraud, Gableman has become a Trumpworld star. Trump personally congratulated him at an event at Mar-a-Lago in April. There’s a reason he was asked to speak at that dinner in Outagamie County, after all.
Vos’s refusal to consider overturning the election results — something Trump continued to demand even this summer — made him a target for the former president in the state’s primary election. Gableman joined the fight, endorsing Vos’ opponent. Shortly after Vos was renamed, he ended Gableman’s investigation, withdraw subpoenas of Gableman’s effort. Gableman, meanwhile, faced a summons for contempt of court for not keeping the election review documents.
That Gableman is now advocating for some kind of “revolution” is telling. He’s a figure who’s been at the center of the Republican establishment in a swing state for years — a literal component of the state’s justice system. Asked to spend that legacy on a review of the 2020 election, Gableman then collapsed into Trumpism. He embraced Trump’s theory on the case and Trump embraced it back. He moved to the right of the state’s staunchly conservative establishment and came into conflict with it. And now he sees no other way than to maybe challenge those F-14s.
Artificial reasons for contesting elections are to democracy what division by zero is to mathematics: once you’ve done it, anything can follow. In Wisconsin, what followed was an elected jurist telling his supporters that revolution is a viable and natural next step.