For Just Such a Time as This

It's important to learn from history, so we're not doomed to repeat it

For Just Such a Time as This
Web site home page of the Republican Party of St. Croix County as it was on January 12, 2021

Where are We Now?

On Saturday, March 11th, the Republican Party of St. Croix County will hold its bi-annual election of Executive Committee leadership at its annual caucus. This will end the term of Matt Bocklund, who is not seeking re-election to the Chairman position. Matt promised to hold the seat for one term, and is remaining true to his word. Membership decisively elected Matt in March of 2021 triggering a split in the Party where members disgruntled with the election outcome formed a parallel local Rump Party. That group has been working unsuccessfully to discredit and undermine Matt’s efforts.

One of the key Rump Party figures working diligently to undermine Matt’s efforts has been Paul Berning, who is also County Supervisor for District 7 in Hudson. Paul is seeking the Chairman position that Matt is vacating, and is apparently looking to gain control of the Party he’s done his best to undermine for the last two years after the 2021 caucus outcome wasn’t what he wanted.

The Republican Party Nominating Committee has nominated Matt Rust for the Chairman seat. Matt Rust is the current Vice Chairman, and a candidate publicly supported by Paul Berning in the past to continue in the Vice Chairman role. Ultimately, membership will decide who the best candidate for the position will be. I find it difficult to believe that a majority of the membership will support the individual who has worked so diligently against the Party he is now attempting to lead.

“I believe in the Republican Party for what it stands for, not what it has become. I believe in the Christian Church for what it stands for, not what it has become. I believe in our Nation for what it stands for, not what it has become. And I believe all these are worth fighting to preserve against the forces of evil in this dark world that work to destroy them. Guided by the principles of God’s Word, the Declaration of Independence is our nation’s founding document and the conscience on which it was established. We must return to it frequently to preserve our rights and liberties.”
Matt Rust, Vice Chairman, Republican Party of St. Croix County

So What’s the History?

Just over two years ago, following the disappointing loss in the 2020 Presidential election, as Chairman of the Republican Party of St. Croix County, I took a simple action that has since proven to be one of the most pivotal for me in my adult life. It set into motion a series of events that continue to unfold to the current day, and will likely continue well into the future. That simple act was to rebrand the Party web site and boldly state the harsh truth that conservative patriots already knew, but a truth that the Republican “establishment” was far too timid to express openly.

Si Vis Pacem Para Bellum

The message was simple, and acknowledged the fact that we are in a culture war with the left, and if we want peace, we’d better prepare for that war. It’s a truth to which no intellectually honest conservative I’ve spoken with disagrees. All the negative feedback I’ve received over the statement has been about how I so blatantly and boldly stated it, rather than its truth or untruth.

“President Trump radically changed the Republican Party in 2016, now it's up to us to follow that lead. Patriots need to continue the fight to make sure that we put America and its citizens first, and hold all of our elected representatives accountable to their oaths to uphold the Constitution.

It's time to stand and be counted as a conservative warrior in the on-going fight to preserve our Constitutional Republic. Please join us. We need to start local by removing leftist tyrants from all local and County positions in the future April elections.”

Republican Party of St Croix County Web Site as of January 12/2021

During the 2020 Presidential election campaign cycle, unprecedented numbers of energetic, enthusiastic, younger conservatives came out in support of President Trump, and by extension, the Republican Party. As a County Party, we operated a stunningly successful “Victory Center” campaign headquarters in Hudson, WI, funded by the Republican Party of Wisconsin (RPW) and by extension the Trump Victory campaign. This quickly became a gathering point during the height of the Covid “Lockdowns” where Trump supporting patriots could defiantly meet in opposition to the lock down orders dictated from on high by Governor “King” Tony Evers. And meet they did.

Standing room only during a visit to the Victory Center by South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem on October 1, 2020

Following the 2020 election loss, it quickly became apparent that the Republican National Committee, followed closely by the Republican Party of Wisconsin, was rapidly distancing itself from Trump, along with the massive number of awakened patriots who had come out in support of the Party for the first time during the Trump election cycle. Even the Executive Committee of our own County party was pressing me as Chairman on being careful to not engage too deeply with the “Patriot” supporter crowd to minimize “the wrong kind of Republicans” from becoming active in the Party.

I quickly decided, “Not happening on my watch”, and that I would recruit as many new patriot members to the Party as possible. The final straw for me as Party Chairman was drawn in November 2020, when the Executive Committee voted to forego the annual Lincoln Day Dinner in March 2021, for fear of Covid. The Lincoln Day dinner was our major fundraiser for the year, and after exhausting our record financial resources prior to the 2020 election, I needed a plan for new member engagement and fundraising for 2021. The Executive committee had spent all of 2020 abdicating responsibility for many things to the Chair. When Lincoln Day was canceled, I chose to immediately re-brand the site and execute a membership drive / fundraiser event for early January.

The Impending Storm

At that time, I had no idea of the political firestorm I was about to unleash in our corner of the State, and how that firestorm would help accomplish the objective, and shine the brightest of lights on exposing the true nature of many people who I had come to believe were of the conservative patriot mindset. It would clearly show who would stand for the biblically based principles of the Constitution and Party Platform. It would show who would talk of standing up for conservative principals but be too fearful to actually do so in the face of adversity. Most importantly, it would show with stunning clarity who would be interested only in maintaining control over “the little people” to further a self-serving agenda, or one passed down through the status-quo power structure of the Republican Party regardless of the will of the people.

John Kraft making the point to the audience that we ARE at war with the Left during the Conservative Educational Political Conference in Hudson, WI July 2021

2021 was a caucus election year, where in March, Party Membership would elect its representation for the following two years. I felt it was critical to educate patriots on the process, recruit as many as possible to join the Party and express their wishes directly by casting ballots at the upcoming Caucus. I perceived this as the only way to prevent the Republican Party from slipping back into its spineless and overly compromising past after the changes forced by President Trump.

Our “Promises Made, Promises Kept” membership drive and fundraiser event was scheduled and held on January 8th 2021, just two days after the unfortunate events that unfolded at the US Capitol on January 6th. The web site had been updated well in advance that, during the last weeks of December. My message to the packed room full of patriots at the event was that we are indeed at war with the left, and need to take our Party back as well as our Country.

For whatever reason, the local Left was more agitated than usual about this particular event. They were convinced I was attempting to organize a local militia, not recruiting members to the Republican Party. After leftist complaints to the hotel hosting the event, the Hudson mayor, and the Hudson police chief all failed to get the event canceled, apparently the web site update was noticed, and became the focus of the cancel efforts.

The media picked up the story and it spread like wildfire during the week following the extremely successful membership drive. The panicked executive committee had me shut down the web site and all communication while they cowered in fear of the Left, pressing me for more than a week to resign as chairman to placate the attackers. The only way for an Executive Committee to officially remove a Chairman is to convene a special caucus and have membership vote the chair out. That, was very unlikely.

Paul Berning addressing the full house audience at the “Promises Made, Promises Kept” membership event in January 2021

Leading the effort to gather support to remove me as Chair was Mr. Paul Berning. The same Paul Berning who I considered to be a trusted friend, and the individual who recruited me into local politics in St. Croix County after I moved there in 2015. Paul had worked closely with me on the “Promises Made, Promises Kept” event, and presented candidates for local offices at the event. He was the last person I expected to immediately prove to be a turncoat when the leftist media attacked. Lesson learned.

“THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

— Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, December 19, 1776

After two weeks of refusing to step down as Chairman, and with the Caucus only a few more weeks away, I decided to tender my resignation and focus my attention on recruiting new Patriot members to the party to attend and vote at the March Caucus. That gave the media and the Left their “gotcha” moment, and allowed me to continue the mission I had started.

Illustration of the “mainstream” Republican Party’s attitude toward constitutional patriot membership

With the Party web site dark, the membership registration system still operating, the Executive Committee in hiding, and membership growing rapidly, the only thing to do was sit back and let the membership decide who the County Party leadership should be, exactly as spelled out in its constitution. I spent the remaining time promoting the caucus, and urging new membership to make their voices heard.

On caucus day, the incumbent Executive Committee, and the Nominating Committee it had put together, fully anticipated a smooth, simple, show of hands vote on the single slate of candidates it advanced to membership for consideration. They had faith in a non-existent “Backroom deal” that Paul Berning thought he had arranged to present membership with a single slate of candidates to vote on. They were so confident, that there were no arrangements made to have ballot materials available at the election. Completely unanticipated was the record turnout of new members, and floor nominations of officers made by those new members. At the end of the day, membership had elected a solid mix of both old and new leaders, but with the four officer positions, Chairman, Vice Chairman, Treasurer, and Secretary being new, fresh faces. Matt Bocklund was resoundingly elected as Chairman.

New Chairman Matt Bocklund (center), and new Committee members Lynn Betzold (left) and Sarah Bocklund (right) being sworn in following the 2021 caucus

Over the course of the subsequent two year term, the significantly revised St. Croix County Republican Party leadership has performed extraordinarily well, despite all the efforts to undermine them. Some significant achievements include:

  • Membership at a record high
  • Dedicated, permanent, self-funded Victory Center office in Hudson
  • Working diligently to recruit and support candidates for the County Board, resulting in a conservative majority for the first time in many years.
  • Conservative gains on Hudson City Council
  • Organizing live candidate debates
  • Party Constitution updated for the first time since 2012, and By-Laws drafted for the first time in Party History
  • Holding events and meetings at various locations throughout the County instead of solely in Hudson
  • Adding a second major “Reagan Reunion” annual fundraiser dinner in addition to Lincoln Day
  • Record number of poll workers placed across the County - over 200
  • Significantly increased volunteer engagement, for voter contacts including phone calls, door knocking, parade floats, sign placement, literature distribution

All of the experienced committee members who were elected or re-elected at the 2021 caucus subsequently resigned, and instead chose to work with the parallel “Rump Party”that has consistently attempted to discredit and subvert the efforts of the legitimate St. Croix Republican Party. Paul Berning has actively and consistently been involved in those efforts since verbalizing threats at the 2021 caucus. These include:

  • Boycotting events organized by the party, and organizing secondary, parallel events with candidates, and urging members to attend these events instead
  • Setting up a second a parallel, competing Republican Victory center during the last election cycle, funded under false pretenses by Republican Party of Wisconsin
  • Urging elected State Assembly and Senate reps to form a pact to boycott events organized by the Party and to ignore constituents who attend those events
  • Causing confusion in the community about the Republican Party

Wrapping it All Up

From my perspective, the 2023 caucus represents the culmination of my 5+ years of working to advance the conservative cause in St. Croix County, and making an impact, however small, in the effort to return the Republican Party to being true to the values and platform the it sets forward. Matt Bocklund has done a great job during his term. I am confident that membership will avoid the pitfall of returning to the status quo of being run from the top down by a group of controlling elites, but rather embrace the vision of the Founders of the Country and rest the power with the people. Politics is sometimes an uncomfortable business, but a just cause is worth fighting for.

If you are a member of the St. Croix County Republican Party, please make time to attend the Caucus on Saturday, March 11th. The Business meeting begins promptly at 9:00, so please arrive early enough to get checked in. The Caucus is being held at:

Calvary Assembly of God
2988 60th St.
Wilson, WI 54027

Thanks for reading this rather long article. Let me know what you think in the comments. Please Share this article with anyone who may be interested.

John Kraft
Past Chairman
Republican Party of St. Croix County

“It was necessary that the country should be strongly animated.”
-Thomas Paine