[Madison, WI]— Whether it’s having zero credible candidates to run against the proven conservative reforms of Governor Scott Walker or Senator Baldwin saying one thing on Trump’s agenda and doing another to try and save her own career, Wisconsin Democrats are in total disarray. A recent column in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel highlighted just how bad things have become.
Read the full column below or online here.
Schneider: Wisconsin Democrats look like an endangered species
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
April 20, 2017
On the night of April 6, 2016, an exhausted Rebecca Bradley stood before her campaign supporters at the Crowne Plaza in Wauwatosa. Bradley had just been elected to a 10-year term on the state’s Supreme Court, and summed up the experience to her election night party by quoting Winston Churchill: “When you’re going through hell, keep going.”
In the preceding month, Bradley had been through hell. The race had been a brutal one, with the conservative incumbent justice garnering some of the worst media coverage imaginable. In the prior month, opposition groups had dug up embarrassing college newspaper columns Bradley wrote as an undergraduate that took controversial stands on homosexuality and abortion.
Bradley apologized for the pieces, and noted they were written in a fit of despondency over the election of Bill Clinton a quarter-century earlier. But the damage was done. By the end of the campaign, the only way Bradley would have garnered favorable media coverage would have been if she had changed her last name to something more sympathetic, like “Jong Un.”
Yet despite punishing media coverage for a full month, Bradley stood victorious at the podium on election night. It was a moment of clarity for the left in Wisconsin: In races that pit a conservative versus a liberal, voters prefer the conservative virtually every time — even badly damaged ones. In the most recent Supreme Court election, progressives couldn’t even muster a candidate against one-term incumbent conservative Justice Annette Ziegler.
Undoubtedly, much of the right’s success is due to the way conservatives have successfully framed Supreme Court races as “law and order” competitions, where the candidate on the right typically supports tough sentences for criminal behavior and the liberal candidate favors letting felons out on the street.
But the decline of liberals on the court also has tracked closely with the decline of Democrats both in the state and nationally. Since the 2010 elections that flipped control of both houses of the Legislature and the governorship from Democrats to Republicans, the GOP has dominated state elections. (The only hiccup was 2012, which saw Barack Obama carry the state and Democrat Tammy Baldwin win the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Herb Kohl.)
Since the unrest over Walker’s union reforms, Republican majorities in the statehouse and governorship have held strong. This is no doubt the result of a backlash against the ridiculous assault the left launched against Walker and his allies, which saw the state Capitol overtaken by protesters sleeping on mattresses and setting up tents in the rotunda. The unsuccessful attempt to recall Walker from office in 2012 may have had the unintended consequence of galvanizing the state Republican Party against Democrats, sending the latter party into a years-long downward spiral.
While Democrats keep griping about partisan gerrymandering, they have lost sight of the fact that conservative dominance in Wisconsin has been statewide and complete. Progressives are even having trouble mustering up a candidate to run against Walker in 2018. Despite the incumbent’s middling approval ratings, no liberal of consequence has stepped up to accept the challenge.
In fact, things have gotten so bad for Wisconsin Democrats that Baldwin this week proudly tweeted a media account of President Donald Trump agreeing with a “Buy America” bill she had authored. Clearly, Baldwin has recognized that in order to reach the blue collar voters Trump won in Wisconsin, she has to cozy up to a man she once deemed “divisive” and whom she accused of using “fear” to attract voters.
Yet her puzzling Trump embrace has all but proven Trump’s allure to Wisconsin voters. Baldwin has become just another Wisconsinite afraid of losing her job who has turned to Trump for help. For other Democrats across the state, a change of heart will come far too late
Read the column from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel online here.