Frequent commenter VidaLoca weighs in (and his friend’s dog Charlie provides additional editorial comment):
I’ve been thinking for a while of trying to do a guest post for BJ on the Wisconsin Governor’s race. I put the idea to John, who graciously accepted, so here goes. My own background/expertise is very simple: I live in Milwaukee County and I’ve been a political activist here for a number of years; I have some familiarity with what’s going on locally with the movement to resist Scott Walker (though somewhat less familiarity with the situation statewide). I hope you’ll find the following to be interesting and I’ll be here to respond to your comments. I realize that some of what I have to say may be controversial so I’ve tried to add enough footnotes to at least give the impression that I’m not making it all up as I go, without creating a post that will take (too) many hours to read.
What follows was inspired in part by a promise I made to Kay to write “something” on the Governor’s race here, and also in part by John’s “Early Voting” post of 10/23 that sounded very pessimistic about the Democratic organization in WVA. I gathered that things in WVA are — to put it mildly — grim. I have to say, everyone I run into in Milwaukee — from the activists to the people I meet knocking on doors — is totally stoked. We HAVE to vote, we HAVE to do this. At the same time, as in WVA, the existing models aren’t doing it for us: so with our backs against the wall we’re trying to come up with new models.
Herewith, the situation in Wisconsin, emphasis on Milwaukee, one week out from the election:
1. The Candidates:
A. Scott Walker — Scott Walker will hardly need extensive introduction to BJ readers, nevertheless I urge you to take a look at The Unelectable Whiteness of Scott Walker from the 6/15/2014 issue of TNR. While I disagree with the title — he and his whiteness are hardly “unelectable” — the article is correct in understanding (albeit, implicitly) that what Walker and the Republicans have done is to take class warfare to a new and much more open level, and that he’s been able to use white supremacy to leverage his success in doing so. Those of you who have the time and the interest should also check out the links therein to the series of Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel articles on the state of political play in SE Wisconsin. Those articles make a mistake in conflating the Wisconsin Democratic Party with external (ie, out-of-state) campaign organizations such as OFA, with the result that they take the Wis. DP more seriously as an organizational force than its recent history warrants. Nevertheless they help to shed a lot of light on the political situation in the state. It is bitter and it is partisan and when you read that it is more bitter and more partisan than anywhere else in the country that’s a credible statement.
It’s a special place — (aren’t they all?) but particularly if you feel compelled on or after Nov. 5 to say something like “Well Wisconsin voters elected Scott Walker not once but three times in four years so they deserve what they get, yadda-yadda”, you owe it to your credibility to try to understand some of the details laid out there first.
B. Mary Burke — If you didn’t follow the links in the “Scott Walker” section above, at least grasp the point that since Feb. 2011, Walker’s inauguration, the demonstrations in Madison, etc., politics here has been all class warfare, all the time. Then read Likely Scott Walker foe reported earning at least $6.8 million since 2008. After that, read Some Democrats dismayed with Mary Burke after Trek ruling. The point: as parties, the WI Republicans are extraordinarily good at the class warfare game. The WI Democrats are extraordinarily not. And Mary Burke has real problems parachuting from Madison into Milwaukee and appealing to poor and working-class voters here who feel justifiably abused and disenfranchised by the leaders of a political system that too often and for too long has failed to represent them — and here, those leaders are all Democrats. Simply put, seen through the lens of class politics she looks a lot like “one of them” and not much like “one of us”.
2. The Campaign:
One might think that after four years of Scott Walker, anyone with respiration and a pulse would be beating him like a rented mule. For reasons that I hope are becoming more clear if you’ve followed along this far, one would be wrong. But the good news is that since spring, Walker and Burke have been polling neck-and-neck and that should not be underestimated in its effect on keeping our morale up after we watched the way Walker handled Tom Barrett in his previous two campaigns. Clearly the Democrats have learned something from those experiences — they aren’t running Barrett for a third time! — but overall they’re running the same campaign again only with a new candidate. Still being tied is better than being behind and we’ll take hope where we can get it.
3. Strategy and tactics:
In as highly polarized an environment as this one is, it’s no secret that winning the election will come down to GOTV. With only 5-10% of the electorate “undecided” (and that’s your 5-10% that couldn’t find their ass with both hands and a flashlight), persuasion will not play much of a role — though that’s not to say that a boatload of money won’t be spent on TV ads. We learned the hard way in the 2012 recall election that Walker’s 47% will crawl over broken glass to vote for him. We expect Burke’s support, for the reasons that I outlined above, to be softer.
The Democratic Party people are trying to use a “turn out the base” strategy. They have this category that they call “strong Dems” that they feel they can mobilize and get to the polls; if they can get enough of these people out they think they’ll win. This will work for them in some places in Milwaukee County — liberal pockets in the well-to-do northshore suburbs and the eastern part of Wauwatosa are two that I’m somewhat familiar with and there are other areas here as well where it will work up to a point. Certainly it will work on the west side of Madison. Problem is, there aren’t enough voters in these pockets: the best the “turn out the base for Burke” strategy can do is about 47% of the registered/likely voters averaged over the state. That’s effectively a ceiling: Burke is not going to peel many Walker supporters away no matter what she says or how hard she tries. So what the Democrats have is not a “plan to win” in this election — in the best case it’s a “plan to tie” or a “plan to stop the bleeding” relative to Waukesha/Ozaukee/Washington counties to the north and west, and it won’t even do that if Walker can drive down Burke’s numbers and/or demoralize her supporters.
Another thing we learned in the recall election is that we will not get anywhere near a winning margin of people out to vote on the “anyone but Walker” message alone: you can’t beat something with nothing. On the other hand, a straight-up “vote for Burke” message comes with the limitations I’ve described above.
Our solution is to expand the pool of likely Burke voters, getting around the limitations that Burke brings to the table by talking about something other than Burke. Since early spring we’ve succeeded in getting referenda on the ballots in about 10 counties and several municipalities around the state, calling for an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10/hour. 10 counties out of the 72 in the state sounds like small potatoes, but in fact this adds up to about 40% of the voting population. We’re doing GOTV, targeted at inconsistent, unmotivated, “dropoff” voters — the kind that somehow only vote in Presidential elections (the kind that only vote when they see a compelling reason to do so and believe that the act of voting will actually make a difference, the kind that don’t get polled because they aren’t “likely voters” or even “registered voters”) — and urging them to go vote for the increased minimum wage. And oh yeah, vote for Burke too while they’re at it. This is more than just a passive strategy because under an interesting technicality of Wisconsin law, the legislature does not need to act to raise the minimum wage. The Governor can simply raise it by administrative fiat. So what we’re doing is jamming Walker, demanding that he raise the min. wage and forcing him to go public with his refusal. We’re also jamming Burke, though more gently: she’d be a fool if she didn’t line up on our side, and indeed she has done so — but if she wins and does not follow through she will be facing problems down the road.
In addition to this basic meat-and-potatoes stuff we’ve got the side dishes (though it should be said, in Milwaukee only — but that’s the one place where it matters most): free early-voting and election-day rides to the polls up and running, voter registration drive complete, poll watching/vote integrity ready to go. To be fair I don’t want to over-hype any of this: we began putting all of this machinery together in the early spring of 2012 so it’s been in place for only 2-1/2 years. Everyone knows we lost the election that really mattered in June of 2012 and we’ve lost others that we cared about since then too. It’s not perfect by any means but it’s the best at hand and it’s all ours. It’s very much of a work in progress; a lot is done by volunteers who can up and volunteer for something else at the drop of a hat; there are a lot of moving parts and every time you have moving parts you have friction. We don’t all agree and we don’t all even like each other yet somehow we’ve been able to persevere thus far — and every time we do this we get better at it. We’re building the tools, we’re putting the pieces in place.
What we’re about is we’re stealing the Republican tactic of using wedge issues to drive up the vote. We’re trying to bring people who don’t even appear in the polling statistics out to the polls. We’re trying to electoralize class warfare. Why not? — it shouldn’t be just the Republicans that get to do that! Along the way, we’re trying to build permanent organizational capacity to carry this work on into other issues after the election is over because the WI Democrats’ appetite for class warfare — to the extent they ever had one — vanished a long time ago.
Those of you who happen to live in the other 49 states may be wondering if this has any relevance to your situation. I can think of at least two ways in which it does:
A. Walker’s core support — Walker has succeeded by putting together a united front of de-classsed and economically marginalized white workers, the nouveau-riche upwardly mobile strivers from the McMansions of Waukesa County, and the truly rich “natural” right-wing base of the Republican Party. We believe that over time this united front will prove to be unstable — you can only piss on peoples’ legs while telling them it’s raining so many times before they start to figure you out — but at the moment they’re a legitimate mass right-wing social movement. They are organized, energized, fighting with their backs against the wall just like we are. We’ve learned the hard way that their GOTV machinery deserves the utmost respect. Why this is all true, and how it got this way, is a topic for another post although the TNR article noted above points to some reasons. However, if Walker wins it’s reasonable to expect that this model will be taken up and duplicated elsewhere in the country. And even if they lose there’s no way they are going to give up and walk away, they’ll be back for more again and again.
The cliche is that the states are the laboratories of democracy — but it’s just as true that they’re the laboratories of fascism as well. If you agree that fascism is the brand with the big growth potential in the coming years then this becomes a cause for concern. Don’t underestimate these people: in fact, you should try to learn from the Republicans in Wisconsin because the Republicans in your state will be doing just exactly that. The Democrats in your state? — well, you know better than I.
B. Don’t mourn, organize: — On the other hand, we believe that if we win our model will have some legs too. The takeaway is this: electoral support field work is not rocket science. If you’re not happy with the candidates you’re offered, if you’re not happy with the way their campaigns are organized, you can do something about it. You don’t need to wait on the Democratic Party to get its shit together because if your state is like mine, that day may never come. You do need an analysis of your community/region/state that points you in the direction of the important issues around which to mobilize, you need at least one candidate that can speak to those issues, and you need a core of people who can put the wheels in motion. The rest is organizational details.*** In case you think I’m engaging in rhetorical excess by using phrases like “class warfare” and “white supremacy” I recommend you re-read the TNR article. Or keep in mind that in the 16 months from January 2011 to the end of the legislative session in May 2012 the Republicans successfully eviscerated collective bargaining for public employees, school funding, womens’ health, low-income assistance, environmental regulations and domestic partner benefits. They passed legislation allowing concealed-carry of firearms and a “stand your ground” rule relaxing regulations on their use. They redrew the legislative districts for the next 10 years in an attempt to insure their continued dominance of state politics and the continuation of their policies. They passed one of the most restrictive voter ID laws in the country. And, they directly rewarded the investments of their patrons. On white supremacy, again see the TNR article or read Gov. Scott Walker wants drug testing for public aid recipients. Tax cuts, and drug testing for poor people: this isn’t some “dog whistle” folks, this is an air-raid siren. Look at the date on that article: Sept. 14, 6 weeks ago: this is Walker consolidating and solidifying his base; he’s locking in votes. I don’t think “class warfare” and “white supremacy” are rhetorical excess at all, I think they’re accurate descriptive terms and they should be used more often. That’s not to say that all Democrats are traitors because they aren’t. There are actually quite a number Democrats here who we support (and though it may sound surprising given the skeptical tone of this article, Mary Burke is one of them). It is to say that a lot of the traitors are Democrats though, and it’s a real problem for their brand.
Lot of good reads, and if any of you have a handle on your own local races and would like to send me similar posts, I’m sure everyone would appreciate them. VidaLoca will be around in the comments to answer any questions.
Mike in NC
Actually, it appears that pissing on people’s legs and telling them it’s raining succeeds very nicely in American politics. For example, speculating that JEB! is just the right guy to save the country.
Tree With Water
Great photo- that dog knows the score. My folks used to tell a story of a San Francisco beat cop in their neighborhood who made a point to ticket any car with an “I Like Ike” bumper sticker for any violation he could spot, but would would leave any car with a Stevenson sticker alone.
Thanks for all your work. I hope it turns out well.
Thanks for the update.
I have relatives in Wisconsin, and my best friend lives in Sheboygan, and have spent wonderful weeks around Barraboo and Hayward and in Door County, and camping at Wyalusing. The sailboats I sailed in my youth were made in Zenda. I like Carr Valley’s blue cheeses above all others, better even than real Roquefort or Gorgonzola. Aldo Leopold is high in my pantheon of heroes, and the International Crane Foundation is in my mind a demonstration that people do not _have_ to be utterly selfish [expletives]
But from far-away California where I live, there’s only so much I can do. I fed the Capitol protesters in Madison off and on for a month, and helped fund the grad student organization that took responsibility for cleanup and logistics. I’ve given a bunch of money to Burke’s campaign, just as I gave a bunch of money to the recall effort.
If you can identify something more I can do at this late date, and from this distance, I’ll do it.
I love that photo. I hope you guys pull it out.
Nice piece. My take on this comes from living and working in Madison and having family in Central Wisconsin. You seem to have it nailed.
BTW, it appears that there is steady flow of people voting early in Dane County. And the yard signs in Wausau seem pretty evenly split (for whatever that is worth).
Still pissed about that James Harrison dirty hit on Colt McCoy when he (Colt) was with the Browns.
Harrison should have never played another snap after that hit.
Nice summary. If Mary Burke does not win, who would you suggest as a future candidate or for that matter a candidate for the senate in 2016? She might not be ideal, but who would have had a better chance of winning state-wide? Living in Waukesha County (Brookfield) it is easy to get discouraged, but at least I see a few Burke signs whereas Barrett signs were non-existent. My wife, daughter and I have all voted already so there will be at least three votes for her from Waukesha County! It is my wife’s first vote! (became a US citizen a little over one year ago.)
That was an amazingly bad decision by Colt. Double bracketed coverage?
@Omnes Omnibus: Thanks, Omnes.
I remember in the fall of 2010 driving a number of times from Milwaukee up to Shawano. As soon as one got out of Milwaukee County the countryside was paved solid with signs for Walker and Ron Johnson. I’d really be interested to know what it’s like in that area this year if anyone can share any information.
From my vantage point in Madison, this seems accurate, and thanks for the Milwaukee perspective. I’ll add a few random thoughts.
Around here, people have been doing similar targeted canvassing, along with traditional canvassing of just hitting a neighborhood with a list. A few of my friends are outgoing enough that they strike up conversations with retail workers, bartenders, etc. and talk to them about the issues and try to get them to commit to going to the polls. The minimum wage / living wage issue seems to really resonate with people, even with people who make well above the minimum.
I run in activist circles here, and a good number of the problem people are on the left – Mary Burke is seen as the lesser of two evils, and they don’t want to vote for any kind of evil. These people make me want to bang my head against a wall. A number of them believe that if people don’t vote in large enough numbers, the powers that be will take notice and . . . I’m not sure what beyond doing whatever the hell they wanted to do to begin with. In any case, the DPW really couldn’t care less about us, though they like our money and all the hours we’re usually willing to volunteer.
One thing that strikes me about Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin is the stranglehold that conservative media has, such that even less obviously partisan media outlets have traditionally given Walker a pass. It was really striking watching the two debates. In the first one, held in Eau Claire, had reporters from that part of the state and from Wisconsin Public Radio. The questions were pertinent, sometimes tough, and included really good follow ups. The second debate was in Milwaukee, with local reporters (apparently TV anchors no less?), and the questions were meh for the most part, follow-ups didn’t get anywhere, and some of the issues raised were really not all that pertinent to the rest of the state (where would you go if you had a day off to ride your bike or motorcycle? really?).
One of the issues I’m involved in is fighting the massive open-pit iron mine proposed for the Penokees up north. A lot of the activists up there were initially not happy with Burke’s position. In the past year, she’s been up there and talked to people, and she listened and now has a more informed take; most of the activists I know up there are her supporters now – some support her primarily to get Walker out, but at least they’ll be voting.
My mother lives in northwestern Illinois, so I drive through southwestern Wisconsin to visit her. Normally at this point in an election season, I’d be seeing the farmlands blanketed with Republican signs and only a few Democratic signs. Last week when I went out, it was about 50-50, though there were actually fewer signs for either side. I get the feeling there’s not a lot of enthusiasm for either side.
@JCJ: If Burke loses, I would look for a Dem from outside the Madison-Milwaukee axis of evil. Mandy Wright is fairly new to the political scene, but she is someone who might be an up and comer. Great on the issues, an extremely energetic campaigner (she shows up at everything – no Coakley problem there. She went door to door and talked to everyone.)
VidaLoca, thanks for the boots on the ground report. Here in the hinterlands of the northwoods my gut tells me Burke has ever so slightly more support just by virtue of the fact that anyone with a pulse knows Walker is a shitheel. Won’t stop a lot of them from voting for him though (feature not bug) no shortage of racists, victim blamers, and outright idiots that swallow the swill directly from the GoP propaganda machine. There may be more spite votes for Scoot here than honest supporters. So around here the cons are loud and proud – huge (roughly 6’x8′) Walker signs in vacant lots and along the highways, but I still feel the bluster is overcompensation on their part.
The Guv race will be close, unfortunately the state seats and reps will go pug with little competition, and this once proudly progressive state will continue to flounder no matter who leads the executive branch.
Just get out and vote.
I am starting to believe that the Republic Party and their fluffers in the national media have done some serious harm to the Republicans by setting such a high bar.
Sure, it could still be a calamity for the Democrats but it is starting to look like the GOP could end up losing more Governorships than predicted and not gain a majority in the Senate and lose more House seats than expected.
I just saw some polling that Mia Love in Utah is now losing her race. There will be more of that coming down the pike.
I am convinced that Hagan will win. Shaheen will beat Brown and that Begich will hold Alaska. The Republicans will ending up needing to run the tables and that won’t happen.
Having set such a high bar, when they don’t run the tables it will be a disaster for them.
I fully expect that will be the case.
Then we can start running with the memes about how much of a wipeout this election was for the tea-party wing of the Republican Party.
Get out and vote.
Someone from outside of the “axis of evil” would probably be a good idea. The only trouble with that is I was already working on my “Omnes Omnibus 2018!” signs.
@GxB: In your part of the state, it seems like resentment toward Madison/Milwaukee and guns are the big drivers.
Oh yeah, eff Scott Walker.
@GxB: Good points. People in solidly blue states need to keep in mind that it really wasn’t all that long ago that what’s happened in Wisconsin would have been considered unthinkable.
Hard to say. My perspective is a little skewed because I’m more familiar with the Milwaukee crowd of politicians than the rest of the the pack statewide, but at the same time Milwaukee politicians have a hard time in the rest of the state. As do Madison politicians. Haven’t had too much time to think about this really. Rumor here has it that Chris Abele (Milw. Co. executive) wants to run for Senate in 2016. That would be a nightmare.
Sadly, I can’t think of anyone. The Democrats do not have a deep bench to begin with and I think the established war-horses were leery of taking on Walker and his campaign war chest. As critical as I am of Burke I have to give her fair credit for taking on the challenge.
More intelligent than anything that comes out of MSM mouthpieces. This race ain’t over by any means, and the MSM and GOP can be slow on the uptake.
And I applaud that dog! Like his style. Would make a great T shirt.
@JCJ: Oh, hell no!
But seriously, check out Mandy Wright. Both my mom and my s-i-l know her personally and are huge fans – both on the issues and simply as person. My brother remains impressed that she was the kicker for the Wausau East high school football team (Go Lumberjacks!).
ETA: Let me just add a quick “Fuck Sean Duffy” too.
That’s pretty much the case statewide. The local newscasts love to trot out the “balanced coverage” buzz-phrase, but there’s plenty of pro-Walker bias to be found. What’s worse are the local fishwrap though. The tripe they publish is so unabashedly pro republican it’s near parody. One local bozo has been called out repeatedly but he still trots out idiocy like “job creators” and “tax cuts stimulate the economy” like it’s still 2012 and Romney/Ryan is the new cool – christ, how can anyone still buy that?
@GxB: Are there any papers outside of Madison and Milwaukee that aren’t owned by Gannett?
I grew up in Madison and I love the place so please don’t take this the wrong way — but my God, some things never change.
Amen to that. So much anger and resentment here against the DPW. And they don’t give a shit, they just keep rollin’ along.
I was up in Cedarburg last week and it looked the same there. And that was solid Walker country in 2010 and 2012 both.
@GregB: From your keyboard to the FSM’s noodly apendages.
That it would, and it’s not a bad idea. You couldn’t wear it much west of 60th Street without some concerns though…
@Omnes Omnibus: Yes, Mandy Wright is awesome; a friend of mine knows her from church and also speaks highly of her. When the Republicans were fast-tracking the anti-abortion legislation that mandated transvaginal ultrasounds, among other things, her speech on the assembly floor about her experience as a victim of rape when she was a child had me in tears.
@Omnes Omnibus: Oh, no doubt there. I think the vast majority of those who vote straight R here will let just about every other thing on the conservative agenda slide but GUNS – No way, no how, outta my cold dead hands, you Madison hippies and freaks… (with a side order of hate for the urban-types in Milwaukee.)
Pretty sad that I feel like an alien amongst people I’ve known since grade school.
@Omnes Omnibus: That I do not know. All I know is the editorial pages are a farce and not worth reading unless it’s a LTE calling them on their bullshit.
That was a great, heart wrenching but very real speech. Anyone who voted for the legislation after hearing it is a heartless asshole, but then we knew that anyway.
One of the other things about her is that she is only 37, so she has a lot of years in front of her.
No offense taken! People can be utterly ridiculous. There were people in my neighborhood (near east side) who didn’t vote in the recall because Barrett wasn’t strong enough on environmental issues. And they could live with what Walker was doing? It made absolutely no sense.
Regarding the DPW, we can’t win. If the party does poorly, it’s the fault of the lefty activists who didn’t climb on board with their chosen candidate from day 1 (I still hear that accusation); if the party does well, it’s because they did everything right, not because we busted our butts to get out the vote in spite of them. We need to take over the party from within (an aspect of not mourning, but organizing).
@efgoldman: Did you know that when Joe was looking for a big issue on which to make a name, he debated between anti-communism and advocating national healthcare?
Also too, his is a grave on which I have urinated.
Actually neither the empty jobs promises, nor the investigation into his past campaigns seem to have hurt him a great deal. In 2010, he beat Tom Barrett by 52% to 47% of 2,158,000 votes cast. In 2012 he beat Barrett again by 53% to 46% of 2,500,000 votes cast. While I realize that comparing voting percentages to his current poll numbers is not the safest thing to do, it does give you a feeling for the very hard core of support that he has. To me, that’s the most worrying thing about Walker: in spite of his demonstrated record he’s still popular with a lot of people who “should” know better (as you point out, so is Joe McCarthy, even to this day).
A labor organizer I know has been canvassing union members here in Madison, and a not inconsequential number of them favor Walker because of guns – and these are people in public unions and have seen their take-home pay slashed and lost a lot of workplace rights in the wake of Act 10. He does his best to get them to accept that the NRA is lying to them and Burke’s platform says nothing taking guns away, but that’s the one issue some people vote on, even in hippie town.
It wasnt that long ago that we in CA had the Governator, a Republican majority in one house of the Lege, a couple of other Republicans holding statewide offices, and Prop 8 approved by the voters. Our message to the rest of yall is simple: it can be done.
Ugh! That useless idiot. He’s got an ad where he trots out his kids – vote for my daddy cuz he’s the bestest. Between him and MoRon Johnson I don’t think their collective IQ is above room temperature. I’d love to get them in front of the cameras and ask them specifically what they have done for the people of Wisconsin? Seriously, justify your existence let alone your fat government paycheck. Whether either one could even comprehend the question would be entertainment enough.
@GxB: The Duffy’s constituency home is a huge McMansion a few blocks from my parents’ house.
Note: About two blocks from my parents’ place, the neighborhood changes from reasonably well off but not ostentatious to massive barn-like things.
My friends in the liberal enclaves up in the northshore suburbs are trying to do something like that. Their modification seems to be to organize themselves so tightly that the DP can’t run a campaign in their area, can’t even function effectively, unless it deals with them. They’ve sucked all the oxygen out of the room. They’re pretty bitter about the Party though; I don’t think a takeover is on their agenda. “Don’t fuck with us, and we won’t fuck with you.”
Down in Milwaukee proper, we’re looking around at what we’re able to do and thinking, “Shit, what do we need the DP for? What value does it bring us?”.
@efgoldman: Home of Ed Gein, Bob LaFollette, Harry Houdini, Les Paul, and the birthplace of the Republican party. What can I say, we’re a pretty diverse state despite the admittedly bland outward appearance. It’s the quiet ones you gotta worry about…
Well, when the least Democratic voting ward in the city is the East side lakefront and that goes D 55-45% as a general rule, it has an effect.
@VidaLoca: I’ve said before that Walker could slaughter puppies and kittens on live television, and 47% of the state would still support him. Not only that, they’d say the puppies and kittens deserved it. (And point taken on McCarthy, but the state government was for a long time a model of well-run, clean progressive governance with innovative ideas that tried to make people’s lives better. That started to fade under Tommy Thompson, but the Fitzwalkerstanis just blew it all up.)
@GxB: The state is the size of France and has of five million people. Some diversity is to be expected.
@kideni: Also, the only state with a major city that elected multiple Socialist mayors.
@Omnes Omnibus: Oh, right — but they’re voting for the candidate not the Party. We back Democratic candidates all the time.
@VidaLoca: I was agreeing with you. Just tossing some numbers in.
@VidaLoca: As I read addages like the one given here about voting choices and evil, I cant help but wonder what in the hell has happened to peoples ability to apply simple reason to events. If you don’t vote for the lesser of two evils, then the asshole who is the greater of two evils will be elected. So then the stupidity of a few does damage to the rest of us
@Omnes Omnibus: Yeah, I didn’t want to get side-tracked into a discussion about third parties, spoilers, Ralph Nader comparisons and so on. And you make a valid point, as long as the Democrats have a ballot line I’d have to stipulate that there’s at least something we need them for.
I’m in a bubble, so this may be all wishful thinking. However, I get the impression that Walker’s tall tales about his bald spot (supposedly caused not by male-pattern baldness but from hitting his head on a cabinet while doing repairs requested by his wife, whom he always portrays as a nag, a money grubber, or in some other negative light when he talks about her) and how he cut his thumb (supposedly from a pheasant hunt when he accidentally took off the safety and pulled the trigger at the same time – and even with all that fumbling, he still got the bird, of course) have kind of hurt him. He lies all the time, but he usually can filibuster well enough to get the media to back off, and most people don’t pay much attention. These two lies, since they’re so ridiculous and they’re things he brought up, seem to give even some of his media sycophants pause, and more people may be realizing that he’s not entirely trustworthy.
Is that’s what’s known as understatement?
Yes, exactly. We spend a lot of time studying the right wing. In particular, re your point about being well organized locally before getting enthralled about national campaigns. As to your points a, b, and c — that’s why we stay out the the DP organization. It’s a sink hole.
This is one place where he may not be lying. I am not a big fan of Tonette. I also suspect that their kids are assholes as well.
living in SC I can empathize with you. No conversation about politics at church or any other gathering Although many of the church folks know my feelings . I can sit and listen to ignorant rantings and outright lies for only so long and then I explode . As a retired teacher , I am able on occasion to emote a pretty good rant myself
Okay, I’m trying to tone down the obsessive copyediting, and please don’t be offended, but your statement that Wisconsin is as big as France didn’t sound right, and in the process of some otherwise dusty Googling I found this hilarious but helpful site: MapFight.
@kideni: A good liar knows there are times when you should just STFU rather than telling another lie. Or lying when you don’t have to. So in addition to everything else, Walker is not even a very good liar — he’s not ready for the prime time of lying, which is what a national campaign would be. But, damn if it doesn’t look like this election will come down to a few tens of thousands of votes, in a state where a couple of million people will likely turn out.
Thank God. I only wish Dems would go national with this strategy. It works, ask any Republican.
Dems have at least one-third more voters but are getting killed because the Republicans have a winning stratagem that gets them out every time. We do not.
I like that MapFight website! I could see wasting a lt of time on that. We do have almost as many cows in Wisconsin as there are in France for what that is worth. Yeah, ok, not much.
@Steeplejack: Madame Harsh lied to me back in high school French. Damn her.
ETA: More than twice the size of Benelux?
@Omnes Omnibus: I know some people who pity Tonette because of who she’s married to. I don’t. She goes along willingly with everything he does. Their marriage seems to have been really calculated – he needed a wife and family to rise up in conservative in politics; she was from a mobbed-up family of Republican donors and she wanted to have kids.
As for the kids, the older son, at Marquette, definitely seems to be following in his father’s footsteps – president of the College Republicans, sneers at poor people, denigrates Milwaukee. The younger son is at UW Madison and seems to be living more quietly. They both looked bored and unhappy when they’re dragged out on the campaign trail. And of course, there may be at least one other Walker child, but that’s a whole ‘nother situation.
Go national? In your dreams. I’d be impressed if they’d even do it in a single state.
If you want to help GOTV Kos, MoveOn, AFL etc. have websites to sign up to call voters in close and important races nationwide. It’s not fun; I got about 60% hangups my first shift (for Hagen) but I guess it helps, otherwise the wouldn’t waste the $ doing it. They target people they’ve i.d.’d as probable Dems for GOTV, not undecideds so you don’t have to do any politic-ing. But people with close races have been bombarded with this stuff, so they are a bit cranky.
The Fat Kate Middleton
This is a beautiful survey ofl what’s happening in WI. I live in eastern IA, and the similarities are, um, interesting.
Oh, it does indeed. I’ve been canvassing and calling here on behalf of Bruce Braley, and it’s starting to make me crazy. Yeah, we’re targeting, but the organizers aren’t sharing with the folks like me exactly why they’re asking us to do what they want us to do. For example: you want me to tell the potential voter you absolutely MUST vote early or absentee ballot. Why? Tell me what I should say to that voter why it’s so important, when they’re already telling me they will, by God, vote Democratic no matter what it takes … so stop bothering me. This is what I hear, over and over, so that now I’m just saying, “Hey, I’m with the Linn County Democratic Party, and I’m just here to encourage you to vote, come hell or high water, ’cause this election really IS important, and if we all vote, we all win.” Not the message I’ve been given to promulgate, but I get a lot of high fives and even the occasional cheer, so hey.
@GregB: jeez hope you’re right.
Yes, and you’re 19.63 times as big as Liechtenstein! And don’t get me started on Andorra and Vatican City.
This is one of those oddball things that makes me love the Internet. I have already wasted way too much time comparing sizes.
Wisconsin is about as big as Cambodia, although I don’t see how that affects Omnes’s point.
Curse you for waking that long dormant memory! I have a completely tin ear and even I could tell those things were an abomination.
OK, I’ll bite. Adultery? Abortion?
@Steeplejack: My only point, and twice as big as Benelux makes it quite well, is that WI is a big state. Bigger, I think, than many outside observers realize.
Folks, I have to be rolling out of bed in about 6 hours so I’m calling it a night. Thanks for all the feedback, it’s been a pleasure. Talk soon.
Do you think the visit last week from Bill Clinton will help much?
The Fat Kate Middleton
@Geoduck: Scotty’s college girlfriend who he pushed to get an abortion? Don’t have the details at hand here.
@VidaLoca: Thanks again for doing the post. Your analysis was very good. as has been the subsequent discussion.
@JCJ: I think Wisconsin is a state where Bill still carries weight.
The Fat Kate Middleton
@efgoldman: I read in the Cedar Rapid Gazette today that more TV money is being spent in this market than anywhere in the U.S.
Hey, I was a grade-school Charlie Parker on the tonette! Wish I still had it. Of course, that was back in the mists of time when music was considered to be a useful, even necessary, part of the curriculum.
I remember it fondly whenever I hear the (ocarina?) solo in “Wild Thing” (1:05 in this clip).
@efgoldman: I grew up in the recorder era. I also quickly moved to violin, then violin and viola.
Well, you’re going to have a good bit of diversity in a population of 5-6 million, which is what I took your point to be, regardless of the size of the state.
@Geoduck: Knocked up his girlfriend in college. Her roommate from the time has spoken about it, and there was some news coverage just before the recall. A Milwaukee journalist found a different Scott Walker, who he claimed was the child’s father, but the dates don’t match up. Walker’s people have never issued a cease and desist order on the people who brought out the story to begin with, which suggests there may be something to it. The ex-girlfriend won’t talk about the situation, and her daughter (now in her 20s and married) lives in another state and doesn’t know that she might be Walker’s daughter.
edited to add: here’s the story: http://wcmcoop.com/2012/06/02/integrity-the-child-scott-walker-left-behind/
@Steeplejack: That too.
Which is why, noting the references above to Dems not fighting dirty, we don’t bring it up.
Since I missed Masterpiece Mystery last night, I am going to watch the rebroadcast starting now.
Report from on the ground in one small part of CA-50.
Dems don’t vote in off-cycle elections and that’s going to bite my corner of the universe in a big way this November.
The prep work was done in 2012 with the elimination of the council/mayor government and the establishment of a “strong mayor”. Local Dems went along with this gleefully, we’d had a hold on the reins here so long, what could go wrong?
Well, one died and the others started fighting AND the GOP had already planned to dump a few million into the local races here – city elections and all the local school boards.
They’re going to win the city. Nothing anyone can do about that at this point. We’ve always managed to cobble some sort of functional coalition together since the 1990s, but those days are over.
The school board (my field of expertise) is a crapshoot. 8 candidates going for the seats currently occupied by three incumbents, two of the Teatardiest are insanely well funded and are working hard for the job. They would frankly deserve it. The incumbents have done a miserable job (one of them is a friend of mine and I’m not sure the friendship will survive this election, as she is flat out not taking it seriously) handing off the GOTV and money chores to the teacher’s union, which doesn’t really have the money…and when was the last time you heard of a teacher having time to go to the bathroom, never mind work a phone bank or canvass a neighborhood?
For the first time in a long time, I’m scared about how this election could go.
Nationally, Darryl Issa will win again. He’s not even spending any money this cycle, although he’s the richest member of Congress, the Dems ran such a weak-ass no-name that he’s counting on name recognition alone to get the job done. It will. The good white trash citizenry of Vista and Escondido will keep him in office as long as he lives.
Jerry will win again, thankfully. But when he’s done we have no one to take his place. The CA Dem party is in a serious state of institutional decay, because they’ve had to do nothing since the early 2000s to keep winning. For now that’s fine. It will suffice for the rest of the decade. But after that, the underlying rot is going to become very visible and we could be in for some really ugly changes.
I’ll leave you all with this observation: If Gavin Newsom is your next guy on the depth chart you are in deep, deep shit.
@Omnes Omnibus: Yep. I also doubt his supporters would be swayed by this. If Republican voters supported David Vitter after he was found to have frequented prostitutes and had a diaper fetish, at the same time that he was excoriating Clinton for his foibles, they aren’t going to care that Walker might have gotten his girlfriend pregnant, attempted to get her to have an abortion, and then abandoned her.
@CONGRATULATIONS!: Kamala Harris?
@kideni: Yeah, I am not a fan of dirty pool, and I especially oppose it when it fails.
another Holocene human
OT: It’s time for me to apologize to certain other commenters on here, especially ruemara for making an ass of myself re: Cornel West. I knew I was wrong but doubled down like an asshat because I was angry and so very sure I was right.
Well, I have been doing some reading and feel like a right prat. I didn’t realize Tavis and Cornel took to the streets in 2011 on a bus sponsored by Wal-Mart. Very disturbing. I got taken in by the very people they snookered. I could ask where my common sense was but really I don’t need it. I could have listened to Imani. Or ruemara. Sorry. I should have listened to you, taken it down a notch and stopped feeding my ego with misdirected anger, and definitely, I shouldn’t have taken it out on everyone here at Balloon Juice :(
@another Holocene human:
You aren’t a newcomer here. Why would you say that? It’s what everyone else does.
@The Fat Kate Middleton:
tell the potential voter you absolutely MUST vote early or absentee ballot. Why?
Apparently the Dem workers do not trust the voting apparatus in use to cleanly and accurately tabulate the vote.
Early and absentee ballots are much more difficult for election officials to make disappear.
I agree that would be a tough phone pitch.
I’m sorry that Iowa’s Republicans have become such shysters that the Dems fear tabulation fraud; H.R. Gross would never have stood for it, nor would Robert Ray.
@joel hanes: Because something might happen on Election Day that prevents you from getting to the polls. If you have already voted, at a time convenient to you, it is done.
Top shelf post, and most informative if somewhat discouraging. I get that there are a lot of people who will vote for Walker, aka The Goggle-eyed Homunculus, simply to register their (ahem) distaste for That Man In (our) White House and all his works. But the guy is such a complete, total corporate tool that one would think even working class white dudes would have figured out by now that Walker, to put it mildly, does not have their interests at heart. Clearly one would be wrong.
*Only change I would have made: “you can only piss down peoples’ backs
on peoples’ legswhile telling them it’s raining so many times before they start to figure you out…”
The Fat Kate Middleton
@joel hanes: Almost exactly what my husband said when I was talking about this … I agree about Robert Ray (who I actually voted for), but not sure about H.R. Gross. What really makes me sad is that whatever type of “automatic” voting machine we use is suspect, as my husband has said repeatedly. We vote absentee ballot, but he still doesn’t trust it, despite our friends who have counted them tell us how safe the counting method is.
The Fat Kate Middleton
@joel hanes: I also have to say … this breaks my heart. The Iowa I grew up in would never have let this happen.
Why isn’t the Attorney General a serious candidate for Governor?
Thanks for this great informative post on Wisconsin.
I see that Pat Roberts in Kansas is going after the youth vote by rolling out a gravely ill looking Bob Dole.
That’s better than Cosmo Scott Brown in NH getting endorsed by a dead Republican.
This is really great, and I learned a lot. I’d love to have other people write in depth about their states or regions. Better Know A District!
Great post, VidaLoca. Many thanks! I learned more from it than I have from multiple other articles. One question: how did the Democratic Party of Wisconsin get so fucked up and so-out-of-touch? I expect it was long in coming, but I’d love to reae your report
We drove WI highway 70 from Florence (just west of the U.P.) all the way to MN, via Minocqua and Spooner and such. A *lot* of I Stand with Walker signs, and a few Burke signs (some of them home made).
The whole northern tier of WI is rural white and small-town blue collar and small businesses. The base for Walker I think, though he’d as soon as shit on these folks as help them, I suspect. Its a mystery of group identity that these people are Republicans (ok, the small business owners would be traditional Rs but that boat sailed 20 years ago, the GOP only wants small business campaign dollars, not to actually, y’know, help small biz economy).
ETA: we did drive through one Indian Rez. A bit more Burke action there, but they are small communities.
Beer swilling, gun-toting, fishouse-to-escape-“the wife” working class white dudes will not be voting for Burke. They just won’t.
Also, did anyone here the This American Life segment this weekend about how Walker’s admin shit-canned a student-nominee to the WI University Board of Regents because he signed the recall petition?
Seems Walker and his pals now have an enemies list of nearly 1,000,000 people they are tracking…
The title is probably an attempt to pun on Walker’s “ineluctable whiteness”, which is real.
anent the thin bench to succeed Jerry Brown
yes. We are also blessed with Debra Bowen.
She has done great work on electronic voting integrity; best in the nation IMHO.
I haven’t heard her speak, though.
Quick answers to some points you all have raised:
This is, in my opinion, the big question coming out of the Walker (and indeed the Tea Party) experience. I have some ideas but it really requires a longer post to work them out. A couple of quick points though: (a) Walker always has given himself credit for being “a politician who gets things done”. Even people who don’t agree with him on any other point give him credit for that one and if you look at his record he deserves it. Granted, the things he gets done are extremely destructive but it’s hard to find anyone who can remember anything the last Democratic governor (2002-2010) accomplished. So there’s that. The biggest thing though is that under some definitions of self-interest he does serve the needs of working-class white dudes. He serves the interests of rich white dudes much better but again, nobody remembers getting much value from the last Democratic administration.
Another good question and another topic for a longer post. I think the DPW is similar to DPs in other states and nationally in that, as the industrial base here was hollowed out (and essentially destroyed) in the ’80s and ’90’s, the DP had to turn away from relying on unions for money and turned to relying on rich donors. Another feature of that period was the administration of Gov. Tommy Thompson (1987-2001). Thompson was as popular here among white people as Reagan was popular nationally, for many of the same reasons. The DPW met the challenge by triangulating madly rather than fighting back or developing a principled program. Finally, some weight has to be given to the fact that the DP leadership is arrogant, entrenched, and not really interested in listening to local activists. I think kideni made a comment above along those lines and I’ve heard a lot of the same thing from other disaffected DP activists. Those folks are bitter, burned-out — they’re never going back to the DP. Over time what remains is a party of sycophants. Odd thing is, some of the DP elected officials are really good — but the ones I’ve met in Milwaukee seem to do the minimum required to stay in the good graces of the Party so they can spend more time doing their jobs. How crazy is that?
I’ve read similar criticisms about the DPVirginia. I haven’t kept up with the details of the state party enough to know how valid it is, but one has to wonder about it based on recent results and the way some of the campaigns were run – e.g. trying to out-Republican the Republican on being “tough on crime” and such like. :-/
In my gut I think it has something to do with our legislature basically being part time, it being illegal for them to fund-raise while the legislature is in session, and the pay being so low (< $20k/yr) while people sometimes spend millions trying to win races. But I see that our system isn't that different from other states, and full-time is no guarantee, of course.
Non-partisan redistricting should help over time, but too few care about details like that, and those that do want advantages for themselves so it’s hard to change things for the better.
It’s a tough problem. It’s hard to see campaigns run so poorly with such (often) bad candidates, but it’s hard to criticize if one isn’t willing to do more than donate small amounts of money and kibitz about it (as I’m not at present).
So, I give to my local party more often, but do give to the state party as well. Things aren’t going to change for the better without resources.
Thanks for the report and for being in the trenches. Good luck.
Hi Vida. This is a great post, thank you.
I don’t have anything new to report about Ohio. Our candidate for governor collapsed which hurt the whole ticket. They’re hoping they can win one statewide race and two state supreme court seats.
I went to a Teamster rally in Toledo last night because I was invited and I had a work-related appointment in the area at 4 so just stayed on for the rally, later. Marcy Kaptur was there. That’s all I have to say at this time :)
Also, good luck with the plan. I see this morning that Walker is distancing himself from Chris Christie. I always think they’re nervous when they do the “I don’t rely on anyone from out of state” thing. Maybe he thinks he’s vulnerable on the plutocrat/big outside money/corrupt line of attack?
One good thing: Scott Walker will never be president. He’s just kidding himself with that.
I tend to agree although I’m not as sanguine as Omnes. I can picture him getting nominated, and at that point all bets are off. This is the country that elected George Bush twice after all. On the other hand, cynic though I am, I just don’t think the country is ready to elect a lying, sneaky, sweaty little shit-weasel like Scott Walker. Yet.
Hey, we’ve got a flawed candidate, running reluctantly on an issue we bolted on to her. What could possibly go wrong? But thanks — fingers crossed!
@rikyrah: No base outside of the city of San Francisco. No high-profile cases while in office. An amazing aversion to publicity (ironically exactly what you want in an attorney general, but not so good for climbing the ladder higher). Maybe 1 in 100 Southern Californians know who she is, and the majority of the state’s population is in the south.
She’s simply not a viable candidate. And that’s a fucking shame.
I’m in Southern California, I know exactly who Kamala Harris is, and I would love to vote for her for governor. I think you’re vastly underestimating how well-known she is and how popular she is with voters in the more liberal parts of the state.
(Just moved from CA-28 to CA-30, FWIW.)
@I’mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet: Wisconsin has a full-time legislature, so no, it doesn’t improve things.
Who picks his nose in public!
I went to high school and college in Wisconsin, so have many buddies there, and this is the attitude I have gotten from them as well. All this nonsense about how Dems “aren’t as engaged” in this election as the TeaHadis is just that.
@kideni: I live on the east side as well. Two weeks ago, I was parked at a red light on Willy Street and someone started banging on my window. I opened the window and an older man asked with urgency, “Where did you get your Mary Burke bumper sticker?” I told him I got it at the South Park office. He tried there, he said, but they were out of them. Hopefully, there’s enough excitement to get people to the polls. I’ve signed up for two canvassing shifts. But, yeah, Madison is a bubble.
@pkdz: The DPW is terrible about bumper stickers and yard signs. Yes, such things don’t vote, but they do show enthusiasm, and that can give a psychological boost. The Republicans never seem to run out of stickers and signs, but Democrats have to scrounge. Hand-painted signs are great and can have great impact if done right, but that’s a lot more labor from your volunteers. Some friends and I got together on a bulk yard sign order because we were tired of seeing empty yards, and we just gave them away to people who lived in highly visible locations.