Wisconsin Historian Bill Cronon’s NYT piece criticizing Wisconsin Republicans for their “radical break” got a lot of play earlier this week. Behind that piece was a March 15 scholarly blog post sketching the recent history of the Republican Party and the key role of the American Legislative Exchange Council in planning strategy. (The blog post is “required reading” on US politics if you have not seen it already.)
Yesterday, March 17 [edited to correct time order of events], the Republican party filed an Open Records request with University legal counsel asking for “Copies of all emails into and out of Prof. William Cronon’s state email account from January 1, 2011 to present which reference any of the following terms: Republican, Scott Walker, recall, collective bargaining, AFSCME, WEAC, rally, union, Alberta Darling, Randy Hopper, Dan Kapanke, Rob Cowles, Scott Fitzgerald, Sheila Harsdorf, Luther Olsen, Glenn Grothman, Mary Lazich, Jeff Fitzgerald, Marty Beil, or Mary Bell.” Read his extensive blog post for details about the problem with this.
The Republicans have suffered a number of hits lately from the content of Scott Walker’s email, so it is at one level not surprising that they are trying to turn tables. But the target is an academic analysis of recent US political history by a political moderate that led to a well-regarded editorial, not a “to the barricades” political call. Academics who work at public institutions take note. This fight is escalating.