Just got back from 4 days up North at the family's cabin in Vilas County. It's amazing country up there, and it's sure nice to see things be all green somewhere this Summer. On the 4-hour drive up and back, I saw a few things worth noting from the road and the lake, and figured I'd relay them here.
1. There are a few signs out for the GOP Senate primary in 3 weeks, but the only ones you see are for Hovde and Thompson. Hovde's buying of TV time has clearly put him in as the main challenger to Tommy, and the Hedge Funder's campaign even seems to be taking a page out of Scott Walker's book by planting yard signs in numerous open spaces to give an impression of even bigger support (this is illegal, by the way).
What I didn't see was any indications that Tammy Baldwin was running for Senator. Yes, I know that Tammy isn't being challenged in the Dem primary and her campaign wants to save a lot of $3.5 million she has on hand, but exposure and name recognition does matter in elections. I don't know why Wisconsin Dems cling to this archaic mentality of accumlating money, and then throwing on ads late in the game. The average Northwoodser is barely aware of who the Dems have running, and who Tammy Baldwin is. Russ Feingold taking it easy in Summertime in 2010 led to us getting (Mo)Ron Johnson as a Senator, and I fear another empty corporatist suit like Hedge Fund Hovde might get away with this one if Tammy doesn't go public and forceful soon. It wouldn't hurt the Dems to make a few signs and have Tammy on the tube a bit. Hey Dems, put down the PoliSci textbook and get in the game outstate, will ya?
4. And if the Dems get a strong clean government, anti-inequality message out and into the public eye in rural Wisconsin, I think the audience would be receptive. I mean, look at what they get to see on a daily basis.
This isn't a scared cesspool like Walkershaw County where people live in lame communities with no character and whose "scenery" consists of strip malls and SUVs. One of the special things about most of Wisconsin (much of the 262 excepted), is that quality of life MATTERS, and if the DPW actually gets out into these great areas of the state and plants signs and gets faces in front of the public, they can win big, because "self-absorbed greed and sprawl doesn't really apply in the Northwoods" But the Dems have to make that effort, and so far in 2012, I fear they're not making enough of one.
3. Signs can tell you something about the way things are viewed outside of the urban jungle. I saw a few "Recall Santa, I didn't get what I wanted" bumper stickers, which is an offensive pile of projection if there ever was one (what the GOP has done to try to sabotage Obama the last 3 1/2 years defines this far more than the Wisconsin Uprising ever did). But it also illustrates the Dems' major failing in the recall campaign. The DPW should have been constantly explaining that Walker's and WisGOPs lies and deceptions were the reason this recall was happening, and that their corruption and circumventing of a clean legislative and electoral process were recallable offenses. Instead, the Dems tried to treat the recall election as a normal campaign, with the assumption that people felt the recall itself was OK once enough signatures were verified, and they never went back to explaining how we got to that point.
This allowed Walker and his propagandists to make the argument of "A recall isn't necessary, this is just Dems complaining about GOP policies." And enough rubes and cynics fell for it, allowing for the "Recall Santa" meme to make sense to this group. The Dems' failure to prosecute the reasons for the recall helped to explain the notorious exit poll finding that that 60% of June 5 voters thought there needed to be criminal malfeasance in order for a recall election to be warranted. And since Walker hasn't been criminal charged (yet), it's safe to say there were a sizable amount of voters who kept Walker in power not because they agreed with his tactics or policies, but because they disapproved of the recall election itself.
3. In a related note, I saw that the Portage County GOP put a sign up on I-39 thanking Governor Walker for his moves, and proclaiming "No unions in government!" Ironically, this sign was in Waushara County, probably because Republicans have zero credibility or chance of winning in Portage County (Barrett won the county despite UW-Stevens Point students being home for the summer, and Obama won it by more than 20% in 2008). But this again goes to the DPW's biggest mistake- they just assume the average person will "get it" and they never take the time to explain issues to people. With items like the WEDC scandal (now it turns out that they made a $12 million backroom deal with Skyward before the bid closed, proving that the Walker Admin lied about what they knew), we need independent, unionized civil servants more than ever as a way to check corrupt political hacks.
But how often you ever hear the "clean government working for the people" argument from the Dems over the last 17 months of this uprising? It's one that has huge resonance to the average citizen, who has a gut feeling that government is corrupt and that things aren't working out for people like them who play by the rules, but doesn't have the time or effort to figure out why. The WisGOPs bully their way into the conversation through their ownership of talk radio and ads, and the Dems don't do nearly enough to COUNTER WITH THE TRUTH. So the low-wage earners in rural Wisconsin are fed anti-union WisGOP propaganda like that road sign, get jealous of public employees who make better wages and have better benefits, and are likely to want to tear them down if given the chance, as UW's Katherine Cramer Walsh so accurately pointed out last month.
The Dems should be reminding people that government power and influence deserves the checks that unionized public employees give, and that these citizens should be demanding those same benefits and wages at their private-sector job. (If the DPW wants a primer, feel free to read my post on the subject and use what you need). But instead DPW officials stay silent, asssume the average Joe will "figure it out", and don't directly talk enough with rural, low-wage Wisconsinites about these issues and this situation. With that in mind, it is understandable that these people get suckered into voting for Republicans, continuing their cycle down the drain.
So please, DPW, I'm asking you- GET YOUR CANDIDATES ON TV AND OUT IN PUBLIC NOW. Stop taking people's intelligence and ability to do political research for granted and make them have to pay attention to you. This is what obnoxious Republicans already do to an extreme, and because too few Dems speak up, it fools bystanders into thinking that Republicans have workable solutions (even though they don't). The 2012 general election campaign should have started yesterday for the DPW, and it certainly needs to start before the primary on Aug. 14.