It’s the Lack of Hope that Kills You

Dan O’Donnell has obtained new polling data that shows conservative Dan Kelly is very much alive in the Supreme Court race and, with a little help in the final stretch, can absolutely pull off a win.

Mar. 22, 2023
Perspective by Dan O’Donnell

In the first season finale of the hit Apple TV series Ted Lasso, the plucky underdogs of AFC Richmond need to pull off a colossal upset against powerhouse Manchester City to avoid relegation from the English Premier League.  In the runup to the match, Richmond’s coach, the titular Lasso, is dismayed that his closest confidante—the owner of his local pub—is already depressed.

“You’re acting like we lost the game already, yeah?” he asks her.  “Why don’t you have a little hope?”

“Aw, Ted,” she replies.  “Haven’t you lived here long enough to realize? It’s the hope that kills you.”

With just three statewide wins since 2016, Wisconsin conservatives understandably share that sentiment; daring not to hope for fear of yet another heartbreak.  This despair is masked by a cynicism that has convinced them that no matter what they do or how hard they work, it won’t be enough.

“Democrats will just cheat anyways” is a common refrain.  So is “Dan Kelly can’t win.”  And so is the downright poisonous “what’s the point in even voting?”

After nearly a full episode of hearing similar doomsaying from the AFC Richmond faithful, Coach Lasso rallies his players before the big match.

“So I’ve been hearing this phrase y’all got over here that I ain’t too crazy about,” he tells them.  “‘It’s the hope that kills you.’ Y’all know that? I disagree, you know? I think it’s the lack of hope that comes and gets you. See, I believe in hope. I believe in belief.”

Belief is a powerful thing, but for most practical people it can’t be rooted in blind faith.  In politics especially, that’s the thing that kills you.  There admittedly hasn’t been much reason for hope in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race, with liberal Janet Protasiewicz outspending Kelly more than 2-to-1 and a media openly protecting her from serious allegations of racism and elder abuse, but there is still reason to believe.

The MacIver Institute has obtained the results of the most recent internal poll conducted by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC), which show Protasiewicz leading Kelly by just two percentage points at 43% to 41%.  The poll, conducted Monday among 600 likely voters, has a margin of error of +/- 4.3%. Kelly has narrowed the gap from a 45%-41% deficit in the same poll on March 2 and is well within the margin of error.

Almost as importantly, on March 2, Protasiewicz was viewed favorably by 38% of respondents and unfavorably by 28%.  Those numbers now stand at 39% favorable and 35% unfavorable and show that advertising (much of it from WMC) about “No Jail Janet” Protasiewicz’s leniency on the bench is having an impact on voters’ perceptions of her.

WMC’s poll also shows among those who say they will “definitely” vote in the upcoming election, 40% are Republicans while just 34% are Democrats and 24% are independents.  This tends to undercut the narrative that Kelly is facing a significant enthusiasm gap as his voters are more likely to be certain to vote.

Will they? That’s where belief in belief comes in.  And, more significantly, that’s where you come in.  It’s not just enough to hope or even to pray.  You must fight for every single vote.  Call or text every conservative friend you have and remind them that there is an election going on right now (early voting started Tuesday).  Remind them that every conservative reform—from Act 10 to School Choice to Right to Work—will be undone if Protasiewicz wins and liberals seize a 4-3 majority on the Supreme Court.  Remind them that Protasiewicz has already all but promised to redraw Wisconsin’s electoral maps and eliminate Voter ID right before the 2024 presidential election to help deliver a critical swing state for the Democrats.

Remind them that all of this is worth fighting and far too important to give up on.  There is hope yet, and not just blind hope.  There is concrete data that shows that this race is absolutely winnable, and it will only be the lack of hope—and a corresponding lack of hard work for the next two weeks—that will kill us.