Jun 5, 2015

Wisconsin Dem Party Chair Election's a Debacle, Could Get Worse Saturday

Gaylord Nelson for governor from 1958.
Will the legacy of Nelson and the founders
of the modern Democratic Party of Wisconsin
be betrayed this Saturday? Stay tuned.
"The Democratic Party began to matter in Wisconsin when young activists decided in the 1940s to stop worrying about patronage and to start worrying about building a political movement," writes John Nichols in The Capital Times.

On the eve of the State Convention of the Democratic Party, patronage is the objective of a faction of the Party: Nation Consulting lobbying firm, (a for-profit Milwaukee outfit whose founder and senior partner is a large contributor to Republicans,) and Nation and outgoing Chair Mike Tate's chosen candidate, Jason Rae.

"The late political journalist Walter Karp, I think articulated this most clearly when he argued that the most defining feature of American politics is the effort of self-interested hacks to keep morally driven reformers out of power," writes Tony Palmeri of the Oshkosh Independent.

Rae, Tate and cohorts drafted the election rules and sited the convention in Milwaukee, Rae's home city, prior to the Milwaukee County Party giving accreditation to delegates based on allegiance to Jason Rae.

Patronage in the form of a Party job is precisely the motivating factor among Rae and his band of happy election riggers, including the late-endorsing and current Chair of the Dane County Democratic Party, Mike Basford, who is looking for a gig after running a disastrous campaign against Madison Mayor Paul Soglin.

Yesterday, Chair candidate Jeff Smith (a late entrant into the election whose name will still be on the ballot) endorsed Martha Laning leaving three serious candidates for Chair: Rae, Laning and Joe Wineke. Smith as late as this week mailed out a glossy 8 1/2 by 11'' piece to delegates promising to turn around the Party from the ground up, a theme Laning and Wineke share, and Rae rejects.

A Laning-voting delegate tells me this morning half-joking there will be a "riot," Saturday and more seriously that acts of civil disobedience and protest against the rigged election are expected.

Another delegate tells me that anyone who tells you, in light of the mounting criticism against Tate-Rae-Nation Consulting, they know who is going to win is kidding you.

Joe Wineke tells me, "I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing and stay out of the drama. Everyone knows the score now."

The state party, if staffed by activists working for the public interest, can be critical in recruiting candidates, grassroots Party building, fortifying county and field offices, and effective communications and message to the press and social media.

In other words, doing what Nelson, Proxmire, Lucey, Kastenmeier, Dave Obey and Snarlin' Marlin Schneider fought for, building the Wisconsin Democratic Party in the mid-20th century through the 1970s from the people, for the people and of the people.

Wisconsin still has lions honoring this legacy such as Baldwin, Feingold, Risser and Pocan.

But this Saturday at the Party convention could be a pretty sad show, at worst a victory by Jason Rae followed by mass resignations of Party members across the state, a best-case scenario a victory for Joe Wineke bringing small town and rural Wisconsin back into the movement against Walker, and a mediocre outcome, the inexperienced but well-meaning Laning beating back the corruption of the self-interested hacks of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

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