Sunday, April 9, 2023

Weekend reading - how Ben Wikler and the Wisconsin Dems rolled to a Supreme victory

For weekend reading, check out thus great interview that Capital Times editor Paul Fanlund did with Ben Wikler, the Chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

Wikler put extra emphasis on the Supreme Court race, and ramped up fundraising even before the start of 2023. He mentions that it was part of a strategy where the Dem-supported candidate would be able to jump out and make strong impressions before the GOP and their puppetmasters could slime the Dem (as the GOP machine desperately tried to do in March and April).
“We wanted to make sure that the progressive candidate could immediately get on the air, define the race, and go on the attack,” Wikler said. “The Republicans were slow out of the gate, so it was the reverse of the Senate race last year.” The Republican “independent expenditure machine wasn’t up and running fast enough,” he added.

Wikler called Protasiewicz’s margin “Tammy-like,” referring to Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s 11-point 2018 reelection victory. Like that one, he said, “This election demonstrated the power of a crystal-clear, common-sense message from the progressive candidate and an industrial strength spotlight on the extremism of the conservative candidate.”

But that industrial strength spotlight required money. At more than $42 million, this was by far the most expensive state court election in U.S. history. In the end, Protasiewicz had a $6-million edge, according to media reports.

“I think one of the lessons from the last three major elections here — the Senate race, the governor race, and the Supreme Court race — is that to defeat Republican racially charged fear-mongering, Democrats need a message and at least equal resources to deliver that message,” Wikler said.

The effort on “Democratic infrastructure, and by that I mean independent and grassroots groups and unions, has been running at a fever pitch since 2019. That means that when we come to an election like this we’re building on relationships and trust established over years as opposed to trying to invent it instantly at the last second.”
Let me jump in here and note that the state party couldn't really do this with Mandela Barnes' Senate campaign in 2022, and couldn't directly give money to Mandela's campaign like it could for Governor Evers and Justice-elect Protasiewicz, due to election rules for federal offices. It also couldn't coordinate much on message or strategy, besides getting people out to vote for Democrats in general. And boy did it show in Mandela's underwhelming August-September of "peanut butter sandwich" ads and lack of direct attacks on Ron Johnson, which cost Barnes that race as the GOP lie machine cranked up "weak on crime" and other dog-whistles to plant doubts with just enough voters to allow Johnson to squeak out a 1% win.

The relationship-bulding that Wikler mentions is targeted and divvied up among different demographic groups. Wikler says that paid off big-time with a group of voters who usually don't turn out much in April elections.
To wit, the youth vote. Wikler shared a post-election memo from Project 72, a group created to educate students across 15 Wisconsin campuses about the court race. As the memo phrased it, students in this election “absolutely killed it.” The group knocked on more than 40,000 doors, “every single one of which belonged to university students.”

The group said student turnout approached November 2022 general election numbers. Protasiewicz got at least 75 percent of the vote in every student ward and, in one University of Wisconsin-Madison ward, turnout was 97 percent of November’s, the memo said.
And that was true not just in Madison.\, as this widely distributed video shows.

Janet got 64% in both Eau Claire and La Crosse Counties in the April election, and won the GOP-leaning college counties of Winnebago (Oshkosh), Dunn (Stout), Grant (Platteville), and Pierce (River Falls), along with a bigger-than-normal Dem win in Portage County (Stevens Point).

And unlike DC Dems and much of the state Party for the first part of the 2010s, Wikler understands that you need to keep staff and operations together and rolling no matter if there is an election looming, or if it is not.
As for the state party, Wikler said, “We have built an operation that never stops. We kept 70 staff after the 2022 elections and have grown to 118 as of Election Day, plus 20 paid interns, and I think that scale of operation is unprecedented and unequaled in the country,” he said. “It allows us to even the playing field against conservative mega-donors who write $5 million checks to dark money groups.”
If DC Dems got it as much as Ben Wikler gets it, Republicans would never have a chance to win the White House, and barring a fluky year, couldn't win Congress. We are so lucky that this guy decided to return home and get our state back.

1 comment:

  1. IDK, Afterall it is Kelly's second double digit loss,