Thursday, February 16, 2017

20 Steps Out Of The Wilderness

By Jeff Simpson 

There has been many columns, posts and articles lately with people's ideas with what need to be done to turn around the Democrats fortunes.   Here is a sampling:

The first, is a story about why the Dems should let Joe Manchin be Joe Manchin and leave him alone, no matter that he stands for nothing.  The author, Anthony Bejarano, feels there are bigger fish to fry than trying to primary Manchin. While I do not necessarily disagree with him, I prefer to focus on Wisconsin at this point(Bejarano, does point out the WI races of Tammy Baldwin and Scott Walker). 

Secondly, our friend Jake over at the Economic Funhouse, weighed in recently also:

  What the party and candidates need to be stressing is a larger, central theme out there of "A better America/Wisconsin" that includes ALL of these issues, with improved economic and political opportunity and fairness being the centerpiece of the campaign. 
The reason this doesn't happen seems to be an institutional problem within the party, and was illustrated this week in an excellent article by Dave Gold in Politico Magazine titled "Data-Driven Campaigns Are Killing the Democratic Party." Gold says that while data and demographics are important to the professionals in party offices, and gives a livelihood to many a political consultant, what matters more in winning elections is the ability to connect to voters in ways the voters understand and react to.
Go read it allm, Jake makes some excellent points(and bookmark his blog)! 

Finally, Mayor Citizen Dave came up with his road guide for the party: 

The idea that working-class voters are too dense to understand their own interests is condescending, counterproductive and wrong. The notion that Democrats have policy papers to answer every need misses the point that politics is not about 10-point plans but about emotions and perceptions and narratives that help people make sense of their lives.
Democrats are not just losing because of gerrymandered lines on a map. They are losing because they are not connecting on an emotional level and they have conceded the narrative to the Republicans. A Republican will tell you a half-true story that resonates; a Democrat will show you a totally accurate graph that does not. 

Everyone has an idea, so let me share mine.

First let's take a look at the landscape:

The next election is November 2018, a mere 21 months away.   Scott Walker has already started running with his budget.  He did not put some of the money back into education because he cares about the kids.   Scott Walker did it to appear moderate, and has seen the popularity of public schools so he wants to make sure that people think he is their friend.

Scott Walker's plan has not gone unnoticed by the two majority leaders, who are both sick and tired of "waiting their turn" behind Scott Walker's blind ambition.   Scott Fitzgerald and Robin Vos both have their sights set on being able to occasionally occupy the Governors office themselves while traveling the country on the Wisconsin taxpayers dime!  

That means there will be a three way battle for this budget, to see who can look the most gubernatorial.   While Walker's strategy is to appeal to the public education crowd, the Scorobin couple have no loyalty to public education and have already promised their souls to the road builders of WI.  

What we have to overcome is this:

(The Democratic) party that spent more than $1 billion last year, lost more than 1,000 statewide and congressional seats during Obama's presidency, and has the least power in 75 years. 

Now let's look at how we do that(in no particular order): 

1.  The establishment Democrats have to get over the fact that Bernie dared to challenge Hillary Clinton.  
It is a party primary.  It happened.  I used to be of the opinion that the Hillary supporters owed the rest of the country an apology for putting up such a horrible candidate that she could not even beat The Donald.  I realized that is not coming and moved on.  However I still see many Hillary supporters blaming Bernie Sanders for her loss.    

I am not here to re-litigate the primary but I do want to point out something.  The Hillary supporters are dyed in the wool Democrats.  They were Hillary supporters since the 90's, loved her career, intelligence and were excited for her to be the first female President.   

Many of the Bernie supporters on the other hand, were not dyed in the wool Democrats.  Sure there were some Progressives that were excited for a populist to run in the Democratic Primary finally,  but for the most part Senator Sanders brought in a huge section of people that have been left behind by the economy.    It does not matter if it is the Bush economy or the Obama economy, there are people all over the country who are struggling in this economy and no one else was addressing them.  They were sick of politicians, and wanted someone to shake the system up.  Bernie was that man and so was The Donald.   All the wishing in the world, would not have made many Bernie supporters vote for Hillary,   

2.   Stop writing off whole groups or people and whole areas of the state.   

The screenwriter of the movie, Hell or High Water,  Taylor Sheridan, addressed this point specifically, not only in his movie, but also in many of his interviews(emphasis mine):  

“Hell or High Water” is set deep in West Texas, in community where there are no social services, Sheridan says. Planned Parenthood is three states away, so they don’t understand why funding is going there. And money meant for highways doesn’t make sense because their highways never get fixed.
“All these things, when you study them, start to explain the political leanings that have nothing to do with ideology. It has to do with ‘how can I control this bubble right around me that’s imploding?'” Sheridan told TheWrap’s Editor-in-Chief Sharon Waxman at a screening of his film Wednesday night.
“We can’t assign beliefs to people who don’t have a voice to express them. And we can’t assume what someone thinks,” Sheridan said. “Those assumptions have created the situation we’re in today.”
“Joking about the flyover states; we sit there and talk about diversity, but we’re going to lump people in an entire region together and sit there and attack them and assign beliefs to them in counties where the average income is $33,000 and we’re going to align them with the top one percent,” Sheridan said. “We attach all this stuff conveniently to people that have absolutely no connection to it. It’s unfair.”
“I knew these people, and they weren’t what Bill Maher was saying they were,” he said. “This was the base of the Democratic party for 100 years. They felt really betrayed, and these are the consequences of what we’re dealing with now.”
But poverty is poverty, Sheridan added. The superficial dividing lines between race, gender and religion he feels serve only to keep the rich making money and the poor down. “Hell or High Water” aims to bring those affected by poverty and those in power together.
“As soon as we start focusing on the similarities and not the distinctions, then we got ‘em
,” he said.
3.  Understand that the Donald is not fit to be President, resist, but resist with Wisconsin in mind.   

Yes The Donald is an unintelligent orange buffoon. but his incompetence will take care of itself as the rest of the country also helps take care of him.  In Wisconsin, we have bigger fish to fry per say,  but can not ignore the traitorous, incompetent mess that The Donald is.  I recommend that every time you feel the need to speak up against Trump, find a way to tie it into Wisconsin.  It is not that hard.  

Want to discuss the Russian ties?  Point out that Senator RoJo feels the biggest problem is that we found out about the Russian ties,  

Maybe the fact that The  Donald has yet to recuse himself from his business interests and in fact has been making money off being President?   Make sure and also mention that the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, could put an end to that.

Still want the swamp drained?  Do not forget the fact that our very own Reince Priebus is POTUS Chief of Staff who is helping to oversee the repopulating of the swamp.  

Also make sure to get as many pictures of these people with The Donald as possible.  Like this(they will come in handy later):

4.   When it seems impossible, that the world has gone crazy, remember that The Donald lost the popular vote by three million votes (not counting the third party voters).  

There are more of us than there are of them!  

5.  Do not rely on the redistricting case saving us.    

Let's hope it does result in redrawn maps, but we can not rely on that. we have to continue working like there will not be a change at all.  

6.   Do not talk about the redistricting case without emphasizing how much of our money the Republicans are spending to make sure that the unethically drawn maps do not change at all.   

It is going to be ALOT!

7.   Vote in every election and especially the spring elections. 

Make it a family priority.  Model it for your children.  Participating in democracy is something that needs to be a priority for all of us.

8.  Make sure Tony Evers wins his primary and the Spring Election.

This is the first state wide race since the November debacle and to start turning the state around starts with the first step.  This is the first step.

9.  Write a letter to the editor and tell your story!

It does not even have to be partisan,  What is happening in the state that truly effects you?  Share it with others.   Would the ACA repeal be dangerous to you?   Are you a hobby beekeeper and know the consequences of The Donald removing certain bees from the endangered species list?   Has your favorite spot in Wisconsin been polluted or overcome by sprawl?  It is not just negatives either,  If you have a positive story, tell that.   Was your child's education enhanced because of a great teacher?  Did a police officer, fire fighter, or other public servant, go above and beyond to help you?   Tell your story.  

10.  Stop working against Progressive media/blogs.

We all know about the right wing echo chamber and how powerful it can be.  I get asked often why the left does not have one also.   The answer is simple, because the left has been too arrogant.    After the election, both the Progressive radio station in Dane County (92.1) and our friend Sly's progressive political talk show were taken off the air.

How many people emailed or phoned? Deleted Iheartradio app?  Unsubscribed from their mailing list?   Took them off your presets?   Anyone?   These were not cancelled because of ratings,   Imagine the uproar if they suddenly cancelled Vuicki Mckenna's show?

The right also has a system of blogs set up that works with for the Republican Party.  The Democratic Party and most legislators have ignored at best and been outright hostile to many progressive bloggers.   In the last couple years some of the best, most informative blogs have stopped blogging (Root River Siren, Blue Cheddar) and we know Zach just recently moved on from Blogging Blue.

With outlets to get progressive news and information dwindling, now is not the time to hold grudges.  Of course the left leaning blogs are not here to tout the Republican party business hook, line and sinker.   We will save that for Kevin Binversie and Jamie Wigderson.   Progressive bloggers can not and should not be partners but we should be acquaintances.  

11.  Support Progressive outlets.

Michael Crute, of the Devils Advocates, recently purchased 1510 AM and now stream progressive talk all day.  Sly still does podcasts, check him out,   Blogging Blue is still going, Our friend Jake has been on fire lately, Forwardlookout in Dane County is a great source of info, RockNetRoots is a Paul Ryan watchdog, James Rowen is the best blogger in the state if not country,  Malcontends is a recovering journalist out journaling actual journalists, John Peterson at Democurmudgeon was originally Vicki Mckenna's partner but it is hard to spew that kind of hatred and vitriol when you have someone fact checking you in the studio, so he had to go.   Uppity Wisconsin is a great place to check daily and finally Political Capital has biting, informative, anonymous insider coverage of Wisconsin Politics.  

Like these blogs on Facebook, read them occasionally share the articles you are interested in, leave comments, etc...

12.  Talk to people about politics!  Politely! 

It is past time that we stop discussing everything but politics with people.  It is also time that we stop only discussing politics with people who think exactly like us.   Have discussion with neighbors, friends, family, etc.  Do not get frustrated, do not lose your cool and do not be mean.    Explain why you feel the way you do and what facts led you there.   Look for common ground, you will find it more often than you think!

Let's all aim to be Daryl Davis!  

13,  Get over the myth that a candidate from Madison or Milwaukee can not win a statewide election.

Many candidates have won statewide being from Madison or Milwaukee.  Tammy Baldwin, Scott Walker, Doug LaFollette come to mind.   Stop trying to perpetuate the myth that there is a difference between Madison and the rest of the state.  

As someone who grew up on a farm in small town Wisconsin, lived in Milwaukee for years, now lives in Dane County, spent much of my childhood in Cable, WI and have spent most of my career traveling Wisconsin, there might be some slight differences but in the end we all want the same things.  

A strong public school for our kids, a job, a vehicle, healthcare, the ability to drink clean water, occasionally go out to eat and vacation once a year.   The basic human needs are the same.   Let us acknowledge them and work together to make sure we all can benefit and experience these.  

14,.  Stop listening to political lifer consultants and start listening to and talking WITH the people of Wisconsin.  

If you hire Nation Consulting or Mike Tate, or anyone who learned the game under these guys, you are doing it wrong.    I will support any candidate for the Democratic Party Chair who will publicly denounce these guys.   They have been a governor on the Democratic party for years!

There was a great article in Politico recently that consultants and an over reliance on data has helped destroy the Democratic party.

For four straight election cycles, Democrats have ignored research from the fields of cognitive linguistics and psychology that the most effective way to communicate with other humans is by telling emotional stories. Instead, the Democratic Party’s affiliates and allied organizations in Washington have increasingly mandated “data-driven” campaigns instead of ones that are message-driven and data-informed. And over four straight cycles, Democrats have suffered historic losses.
We need to TELL STORIES and tell anyone who says otherwise to take a hike!   The last election cycle was the perfect example of this:

Consider the lot of Bill Clinton. It has been widely reported that in 2016, Bill Clinton urged Hillary Clinton’s campaign to message on the economy to white working-class voters as well as to the “Rising American Electorate” (young voters, communities of color and single white women), but couldn’t get anyone to listen to him in Brooklyn. They had an algorithm that answered all questions. Theirs was a data-driven campaign. The campaign considered Bill to be old school—a storyteller, not data driven.

We also need to mix up the WISDEMS administrative committee, they have been costing us seats!  


Ask anyone a question and it is not their responsibility.  The WISDEMS, blame the ADCC who Blames the WISDEMS who then blame the SDCC who then points a finger at the ADCC who then..... well you get the point.   Before you tell me about laws about coordination, and before I mention that those laws no longer apply to Wisconsin thanks to Scott "John Doe" Walker, but that is not what I mean.  

Have some strong honest beliefs and stand behind them,   Mean them!   For instance , stand for public education and NOT using taxpayer money for voucher schools.  Is it that hard for every Democrat in the state to draw the line on that?  When you have a few that are for vouchers and a bunch more that hem and haw when asked, then the message gets blurred and it effects every single candidate with a D after their name,.  

We covered this here.  Make sure when you meet someone for the first time, tell them you are a Democrat, that before they even know you, they know some universal truths about you!  

16.  Truly become a big tent party.  

There are hundreds of thousands of people in Wisconsin who identify as liberal, progressive, leans left or Democrat but have never joined the party.   They are not the enemy, they are the key to winning.  Yet the Democratic party has treated them like star belly sneetches who just are not as good as us without stars upon thars!  

Knock that off!

I would suggest something that appeals to all.  A sale!   Take a couple weeks sometime this year and offer up membership in the Democratic Party for $5.  Get people involved, have them actually become Democrats then welcome them into the party.

17.  Never make a decision based on what the WISGOP might do.  

I can not count how many times I have heard, "imagine what the Republicans would do with that?"  I do not care.  We are the Democratic party and I welcome anyone on the right to try and take us on regarding the issues.    

18.  We need to diversify.

That goes without saying!

19.  We need to rethink white privilege while respecting it.  

I understand that white privilege is real.  I know, statistics tell me I can drive down the street and not be pulled over because I look like someone who maybe possibly robbed a convenience store a year ago.    We absolutely need to acknowledge the inherent institutional racism that infects our system,

That being said, some white people are more privileged than others.   When you live in a small town outside a medium sized city, the factor that three generations of your family have worked at has closed, your school has class sizes of 30 kids and no art class, and have to do their shopping at Wal Mart, you are not that privileged.  When you have to drive an hour to work, because you finally got a job at the nearest mid sized city but can not sell your house, and make $50k year working 55 hours a week, you are surviving but you are not privileged.  

We need to acknowledge that the economy isn't working for more people than it is working for,  Then address that!

20.  Acknowledge poverty!    

Poverty has increased every year for as long as i can remember.   The more poverty goes up, the less politicians talk about it. It is why the Scott Walkers of the world are allowed to keep dividing and conquering.  We live in a land of great wealth, yet we have thousands of hungry homeless kids in WI.
I know the single mom, living in a motel, doing her best to keep her kids clothed and fed do not vote, but that does not mean they are not there.

 It goes back to telling stories.

"...the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped. "~Last Speech of Hubert H. Humphrey

When we truly stand up for these people, then everyone else will know that we have a backbone and want to improve all of society.  As they say, There but for the Grace of God goes I, many people know that could be us and if we can not take care of them how will we take care of me?  


  1. Really great work here, Jeff. The point about WORKING TOGETHER is especially key, particularly at the top levels (get a coherent, consistent message). Realizing the propaganda war and getting the message out to the sticks is a key part in this (door-to-door FAILS in rural Wisconsin).

    This is also true in that the Party needs to listen to the base. The last 4 elections in Wisconsin have shown that the party bigwigs do NOT know what's best when it comes to winning. Note that the Dems who win swing/Trump-leaning districts are straight shooters like Kathleen Vinehout and Dave Hansen.

    PS- Thanks for the kind words. We all are angry, and we all need to be promoting and coordinating good info to counter the RW lies that pollute this state.

  2. The first thing Dems need to do is speak put against these violent rioters they have on their side.