If you read his quotes in mainstream publications, you'll find a series of measured statements on political trends. Democrats appealing to the youth vote in the run-up to the midterms are "betting long odds, given the very long history of low turnout in midterms among young voters," Franklin told the Washington Post recently. Final pre-election polls suggested "a Republican wave of genuinely historical proportions," he told USA Today. Feingold's problems had "more to do with the mood of the country than with Feingold himself," he told the Boston Globe.Here's the post of mine that York read, and here's the Isthmus article that I drew to his attention to Franklin's opinion of the voters ("They're pretty damn stupid.").
It's all pretty unremarkable stuff. And readers would have no idea what Franklin really thinks about the voters whose opinions he's measuring and commenting on. But now they do.
ADDED: Professor Franklin appears in the comments section of yesterday's post and says:
Sigh. Bill's Lueder's quote is exactly accurate. I said exactly what he says I said. Normally I would just let it go at that since once such a quote is out it will spread no matter what. The only complaint I have is that Lueder's subsequent conclusions from that quote are his own and not mine.
The context was the Senate race and the point I was making, which I've made numerous times before, was that voters embraced Ron Johnson before they knew much about him. In a June 26-27 poll by Public Policy Polling, Johnson trailed Feingold by just 2 points, yet in the poll 62% said they had neither a favorable nor an unfavorable opinion of Johnson. I've used that poll frequently to illustrate the fact that voters were ready to embrace a Republican they knew almost nothing about over a three term incumbent Democrat. The race wasn't about specific details of Johnson vs Feingold, it was a rejection of Democrats more or less regardless of what voters knew about the GOP candidate.
That was the context in which I said voters are "pretty damn stupid". Too hyperbolic indeed, but I said it and have no complaint that it was quoted when I knew I was speaking to journalists.
But I wish what I said next had also been quoted. I went on to say that despite not knowing the details of Johnson's policy positions, the voters did NOT make a mistake in choosing Johnson as the more conservative candidate and certain to be more favorable to cutting government. That was indeed the correct connection by an angry electorate, even if the details were quite vague.
Voter's often act on little information and can be astonishingly unaware of things one might consider "facts". A post-election Pew poll finds less than half (46%) know the GOP won only the House but not the Senate. And at times voters appear to vote for candidates who are likely to take positions at odds with the voter's interests.
But in the Johnson-Feingold race, I think despite lack of details about Johnson, a majority of Wisconsin voter's picked the guy they wanted, and for basically the right reason. Dems may be astonished at the rejection of a favorite son, but in making this choice I think voter's properly expressed their preferences and matched them to the right candidate.
So I wish I had phrased this differently but that's my bad, no one else's. But I do not agree with the conclusion that voter's were "stupid" to pick Johnson over Feingold. In fact I believe a majority got the Senator they wanted, and that is always good for a republic.