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Phosphorus: The Devil’s Element

We spend the first half hour fantasizing over what could change in Wisconsin if we were to actually get Fair Maps and we look to what happened in Michigan as proof that it could.

Then Dan Egan joins to talk about his new book, “The Devil’s Element: phosphorus and a world out of balance,” and we learn way more than we thought about “the oil of our time.”

Finally, we close out the hour talking with Don Brown of “This Week in Waukesha” discussing how mad the March Madness weekend was.

Guest: Dan Egan

Check out this episode on Spotify and Apple Podcasts!

A Case Study on Ending Gerrymandering: Michigan

In 2018, Michigan voters amended the state constitution and put an end to gerrymandering. And then Michiganders got to see what happens when district lines are drawn by an independent citizens commission, and not wired by politicians to select winners and losers before anyone casts a vote.

Here’s what happened: When 49.9 percent of Michigan voters backed Democrats for Congress, and 47.6 percent preferred Republicans, last fall’s outcome turned out as fairly as possible. Democrats won seven seats and Republicans took six, exactly in line with each party’s share of the vote. Compare that to a decade ago, in 2012, when Democratic candidates won some 240,000 more votes, but Republicans controlled nine of the 14 seats.

The independent commission delivered a fair outcome for the state legislature as well. Democrats narrowly won more votes for both the state House and the state Senate and won narrow majorities in each — 20-18 in the Senate, 56-54 in the House. That connection between the popular will and political control had been severed over the last decade; Democrats, for example, won more votes for the state House in 2012, 2014, 2018, and 2020, but on tilted maps never managed to translate a majority of votes into a majority of seats.

But it’s not about which party won, of course. It’s about ensuring that the maps are responsive to voters rather than the politicians that draw them — and it’s about guaranteeing that in our representative democracy, a majority of citizens still have the power to select their leaders, and also to vote them out when they so desire. As simple as that sounds, we have not had that ability for years. Our elections were almost beside the point. Independent redistricting returned them to the people. Now the party that wins the most votes, whichever party that may be, is likely to win the most seats.

Fast forward to this legislative session, and Michigan Democrats are working to rapidly pass major legislation after winning control of the state legislature for the first time in almost 40 years.

  • Last week, Democrats ended Michigan’s right-to-work law that allowed workers union benefits without paying union dues.
  • They repealed the state’s archaic abortion ban
  • Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also signed an expansion to the state’s civil rights laws, banning discrimination against gender identity and sexual orientation. 
  • Meanwhile, state Senate Democrats passed sweeping gun safety legislation following the mass shooting at Michigan State University in February. The House could bring up the bill next week; Whitmer is expected to sign it. 

This Wisconsin girl can dream. 

Reminder that the Wisconsin Supreme Court Election is 15 days away.

The Devil’s Element – Phosphorus and a World Out of Balance

Who knew phosphorus could be so interesting?  We are joined by journalist and author, Dan Egan, to talk about his new book, The Devil’s Element – Phosphorus and a World Out of Balance. 

Dan is the author of the New York Times bestseller, “The Death and Life of the Great Lakes.” Egan was a reporter with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, covering the Great Lakes from 2002 until 2021. Now, he is a journalist in residence at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Freshwater Sciences, he is a two-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

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