Monday, November 10, 2014

Why Wisconsin Democrats Are In Disarray And How To Fix It

When I was a young man, my grandfather told me that he almost always voted for Democrats.  He
said that they were the party that stood with the working people, with unions, for equal rights and for more democracy.

Indeed, as I look back on my life, I can't help but note that when times were good, Democrats were in charge. I would get raises if not chance to move up in the company or move into a better job.  My taxes would go down and I had big dreams.

But when I would get laid off, take a pay cut and see my taxes go up, Republicans were in charge.

So when it came to elections, I would take a close look at both candidates, but would usually vote for the Democrat, even though I never joined the party.   Their candidates reflected closest to my values and had plans that would make things better for everyone and not just a select few, like the Republicans wanted to do.

But then things started to change.

While there were still good Democrats to support and vote for, they seemed to becoming more scarce.  Many Democrats started to forget what made them popular and kept them in office and started top embrace the corporate agenda that the Republicans hold dear.

This retreat from their tradition values escalated after the protests of 2011 ended.

We had an alarmingly large number of Democrats that were willing to sell out their constituents in regards to things like school privatization and food stamps.

We had people like Senator Lena Taylor that not only was feeding at the education profiteers' trough, but feeding into the NRA and going along with concealed carry and the Castle Doctrine.

Most alarming was Chris Abele, whose only value that could be progressive would be his support of marriage equality.  But when it came to other traditional Democratic values, Abele was actively opposed to them.

In the past four years, Abele has tried to bust public sector workers twice; sang the praises of Act 10; he actively fought against a living wage; he destroyed representative government in Milwaukee County; he attacked fellow Democrats, including State Senator Chris Larson, County Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic and other county supervisors; he donated money to rabid Teapublicans like Dale Kooyenga and Joe Sanfelippo and even held a fundraiser for Deanna Alexander.

Yet the leadership of the Democratic Party - namely Mike Tate - did nothing to hold him accountable. Even worse, they actually honored Abele by having him  speak at one of their dinners.  Fortunately, the unions were present to hold him accountable even if the party was unwilling to.

It's not like Tate and the Democrats couldn't hold him responsible. After all, President Obama did so when he came to Milwaukee to celebrate Labor Day with us.  At the request of the unions and the Milwaukee Area Labor Council, Obama made it clear that Abele was not invited to participate in the day's events.

Things culminated last week when the Democrats got their butts handed to them again - the third time in four years - on Election Day.

Now, Tate was not responsible for Burke's horribly ran campaign or for her decisions to take the wrong stance on some key issues.

But he was responsible for clearing the field of other candidates and taking away any other choices for the people to support.  And yes, Tate was pushing for Burke even before she was an officially declared candidate.  He met with me while her candidacy was just a rumor and red flags were already popping up.

Obviously, he did not listen to my concerns at the time.  Just like he is not listening to the concerns of the people now:
Tate said he would make a decision on running in the new year. He said if he does run again he expects he would win, but if he doesn’t it would have nothing to do with Tuesday’s election.

“I think that we’ve done a tremendous job of building the party infrastructure,” Tate said.

“I have not had a single party leader or single party member or anyone active in the campaign (say), ‘This wave that swept across 30 states was your fault, you need to step down,’ ” Tate said
Tate is obviously not telling the truth. Plenty of party members are calling for him to step down, as illustrated in the petition drive Jeff Simpson had already reported on.

And even if they hadn't called for him to step down, there is nothing keeping Tate from doing the right thing on his own initiative, as his counterpart in Ohio did.

The most clear example of how far the Democrats have drifted from their origins is presented that when one considers how Tate led them to yet another bloodbath in the same election that several referendum questions that included raising the minimum wage, expanding health care and lowering costs and getting corporate money out of politics all passed with resounding success.

If the Dems had stuck to what works and improved their messaging, they - and the state in general - wouldn't be in the mess they are in now.

Tate needs to do what's right for his party and for the future by resigning now.  His failure to do so only shows that he is more worried about himself and about preserving the party machine instead of the party and its people.

Then, and only then, can they get back to be Democrats instead of Republicrats and get about winning elections and restoring the state.


  1. It makes me wonder why the others at the DPW haven't called for him or others to step down. It's not working. We certainly are not getting our monies worth.

  2. There is no mystery why Abele enjoys such influence - he's essentially the only large direct donor to the State Democratic Party. Take a look at the balance sheet links posted by the commenter Lufthase (scroll all the way down):

    Clearly the State Party intends zero reform. Breaking away into a new Progressive party seems the only logical step.

  3. This exactly parallels my experiences in the Manitowoc Party with first Bob Ziegelbauer and then his chief hatchet man DINO Jim Brey, now apparently the young Mayor Nickels who was feted by the party a year or so ago as the Second Coming. Zig didnt draw the headlines of Abele because he is in a small pond here but in many ways was much worse as a dual office holder. Brey curried favor with him and said during the 25th asm primary here, "Act 10 was good for the city of Manitowoc!" When I wrote a blog poking fun at him for that he and the Mayor engineered a coup in the executive committee to get me kicked off. The committee rejected it at first but they recrafted it as a restructuring an removed ALL of the at large members. In the first election since that time Manitowoc shifted 24 points red compared to the recall. Now they are searching for a new chair. Good luck with that!

  4. Messaging is a problem. Yes, we need to be united, consistent, and true to our ideals. But I suspect the average Republican voter doesn't care about any of that. They don't care about schools. They sure as hell don't care about the poor. The world is divided into "makers" and "takers" and you know what side they think we're on. The prevailing theme is that Democrats "raise taxes." I believe that's the only thought in the heads of thousands of Republicans when they go to vote, based on their anger at the other side, the "takers." We'll never win these votes based on rational argument.
    So how to win? Hit 'em in the pocket book. Scream from the tallest building and highest mountain how Walker's very own WEDC has lost millions of dollars they can't account for. Scream about the thousands of dollars Walker's close personal friends have stolen from veterans. Every veteran should be steaming mad about Walker's craven cronyism. The one issue that will get a Republican's attention is MONEY. Waste of money. Theft of money. Unaccounted for money.

  5. Make the democrats scream. I see larson did the right thing this morning, but I will give the Dems no more money till Tate is gone....and maybe not even then. Mary Burke might have been ok if she wasn't forced on us by the 3 time losers. they probably still think they have a sure thing because we'll keep sending money and voting for the few of them that remain in perpetuity....after all, what choice do we have?

  6. Dems need to follow the republican way, don't answer the media question until you call out a false ad as a big lie, they need to be bold; call Walker a liar for saying things like 500 million surplus. Call FactCheck liars for the corporate owned media when they play with words.
    The democratic message is not explained in a sound bite, they might think about using some Ross Perot style charts.