Saturday, March 21, 2015

Hey Dems, listen to Sen Vinehout

This is a great interview with State Senator Kathleen Vinehout on Wisconsin Eye, talking about the upcoming election for a new Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and what the Dems have to do to win state elections in the near future.

The good stuff starts around 7:30, where Vinehout starts calling out the "consolidation of power" within the top reaches of the DPW. She clearly despises the Mike Tate/Jason Rae wing of the party (the pro-corporate, consultant-driven group, based mostly out of Milwaukee). She point-blank says "We cannot win statewide just by turning out Madison and Milwaukee." And I think Vinehout's right. It's no coincidence that Barack Obama won many more counties in 2012 than Tom Barrett did in 2010 and 2012, and Mary Burke did in 2014.

Here's the red-blue map of Wisconsin for Obama vs. Romney in 2012.

Now compare that to the 2014 governor's race with Scott Walker and Mary Burke.

Notice the number of counties in Western Wisconsin that shift from blue to red, and how much deeper the red gets in Northeast Wisconsin. This is where the Party has badly fallen down, and it's even worse when combined with the large GOP majorities that exist in the Legislature today because of this voting pattern.

It's interesting that Vinehout openly says that she feels she was a better candidate than Mary Burke for governor, and would have run if not for her auto accident that messed up her arm in late 2013. Around 20:30, she starts talking about how the Democratic Party needs to be built from the bottom-up, and that there are big-money interests that are trying to control the party and its direction, and around 24:30, Vinehout explains why Scott Walker won Governor's elections in her home county, despite the top issues being "rural schools, health care, and agriculture...and the environment," issues that Walker is weak on compared to what the people in those communities believe in (to say the least).
"What we have is a disconnect between the will of the people and their voting patterns. We can see that in all the referenda that passed around the state, people want us to take the [expanded] Medicaid money, they want us to cover the poor, they certainly want us to help the frail elderly and disabled like Scott Walker's not - he's privatizing Family Care and doing away with the IRIS program. But people want their rural schools, we can see that in referenda after referenda has been passed.

So how is it that we change this? I believe the Democrats have an obligation to reach out to the people that need information to square their opinions with how they're voting. I cannot fault the people in Buffalo County for voting against what they feel are their own values and what they care about if they don't have the information. And I hear so many people from Madison and Milwaukee say "Oh my God, those people are just voting against their own interests." Hey, let's talk about why.

-State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout
And Vinehout goes on to mention that in Western Wisconsin, the Madison-Milwaukee media complex really doesn't sink in, and she describes a "great chasm" of information that doesn't reach people's everyday lives.

While I disagree that the people aren't entirely blameless here (you are ultimately responsible for what you vote for), I agree that the Dems have not done their job in connecting the pro-Dem opinions of the people to Dem politicians. And Dems don't do enough to sell and explain that connection. They could have had a simple message for the 2014 elections that said "If you want Badgercare expanded at lower cost to the taxapayer, and you want your schools and UW System to continue to be funded, vote for Mary Burke." They never explicitly did that, and sat on their backsides and expected people with 20 other priorities in their lives to try to figure it out. And many don't have the time or energy to figure it out, especially in non-presidential years, so they either vote for something they can tangibly know and deal with (guns, property taxes, resentment), or they don't vote at all.

The Dem Party needs to change this outcome, and fast. Certainly this awful Walker budget is a place that can add to engagement and get people willing to hear a new and better direction (take a look at the huge amount of citizens that came out for Budget Hearings in Brillion and Milwaukee this week), and if Dems have any brains, they should be the ones that say "We won't allow this to continue if we're in power." It's not like Scott Walker has a huge base of supporters in the overall electorate- Scotty has never received as many Wisconsin votes in any of his three elections as Mitt Romney did while losing by 7% in 2012, and only once has received more votes than John McCain did in 2008 (and McCain lost by 14%). So while Walker's supporters may be loud (or were), they aren't as many as their yard signs indicate, and it's the Dems' job to get their message out to casual voters and remind them who really shares their values.

Given that Kathleen Vinehout has won 3 elections in swingy territory, and Mike Tate went 0-for-3 in Governor's elections as the Chair of the DPW in office, maybe we should listen to her over Tate or consultant-driven hotshot clones like Jason Rae. I don't know if I'd necessarily follow Vinehout's endorsement of Sheboygan's Martha Lanning for Chair, but I do think it's time for someone with a knowledge of smaller-town Wisconsin to carry the message and organization from the state, because the city-centered, often pro-corporate mentality that has happened to the party in recent years isn't getting the job done.


  1. Wineke is going to win in a landslide-- and I think that's a good thing. He's the only one that knows how to win.

    1. I think Wineke is the best of the group too, because while he's from Dane County, he represented the rural part of the county and Green County in the Legislature, so he knows rural issues and can talk in that language.

      As long as it's not Rae or Smith (who has zero statewide background) I think it's a step up

    2. Yeah, plus he has plain-spoken speaking style that is just what we need.