The Case Against Mary Burke: Part One

Mary Burke says she has ideas to help Wisconsin’s economy that are based on the best policies derived from solutions offered from the best minds. Her ability to synthesize and apply these conclusions form the cornerstone of her economic platform. The experience at Trek she once touted proudly has been diminished under closer examination. Ms. Burke is the product of nepotism and Ivy League educations, whose resume, like her candidacy, looks good on paper but falls apart in the real world incubator.

Indeed, her candidacy should have been a slam-dunk for Democrats in Wisconsin, even as Scott Walker has proven to be a formidable opponent. His victory in 2010 against Tom Barrett could be attributed in part to a wave of conservative voters hitting the polls in the aftermath of the previous presidential election. But the decisive trouncing of the recall effort solidified his standing as a common-sense reformer and political powerhouse, not just in Wisconsin, but nationally. Mr. Barrett is reduced to fumbling every tired, left-wing policy initiative as Mayor of Milwaukee. If the Democratic Party of Wisconsin is lucky, he won’t try to rise to the statewide political scene again. To even have a chance at bringing down the governor, Democrats needed to amend their strategy of running a loser against a proven winner with real vision.

Ms. Burke is charitable and kind, characteristics Democrats will need a Merriam-Webster dictionary to comprehend. Fortuitously, after waiting in the weeds for a few years following her stint in Gov. Jim Doyle’s cabinet, she re-entered politics, buying a seat on the Madison School Board in 2012. The publicity was enough to get her name in the news and bounce it around the echo chamber of political speculation for those who were paying attention. What was reported on her was glowing. She supports community organizations like Boys and Girls Club and gives generously to education initiatives. Being a member of the Trek empire by birth wouldn’t hurt, either, though Democrats would have to justify suddenly being pro-business in order to wholeheartedly support her.

Her birthright would play well against the Republican governor, who can’t say he’s owned a business or met a payroll, having made a career as a politician. That birthright could also fill an impressive campaign warchest. She’s a she, too, which the Governor certainly can’t match. Plus, all of the other social policies in between would have little bearing on the election. Not to mention, there’s always the fallback of labeling her detractors as sexists, misogynists, and bigots.

As much as Act 10 was about stopping the pandering to union interests, it was ultimately, as Governor Walker argued, about the economy, which has not hurt because of its passage. The only things broken from its passage are the egos of overrated educators whose devotion to their students only extended to their next inflated paycheck. Any other Democrat would crusade on its repeal and dissolution, alongside a public, loud, and noisy reinstitution of collective bargaining rights for public employees. Indeed, the recall primary centered on who was best situated to see to that reform’s upheaval. Running against Act 10, again, would be a losing battle, a scenario with which Democrats in Wisconsin are growing all to familiar.

Ms. Burke the Businesswoman would be adeptly poised to speak eloquently on the matter. Her first statements about it were matter-of-fact: Of course public employees should contribute to their benefit packages. Those statements drew an immediate contrast from the last electoral failure mismanaged by the DPW. It would give moderates in favor of economic reform, and maybe even some Republicans, a reason to pay attention.

In the following weeks, she was pressed on those statements, and had to carefully walk around them, or walk them back entirely. The case that she dug deep and changed her philosophy overnight is weak. That she is beholden to larger political powers and pressures — the same that produced focus groups and surveys and poll-tested ideas that made her the chosen candidate —  demonstrates that her ideas about fixing the economy are empty. They mean nothing.

Like every other initiative born from progressive problem-solving in the last 100 years, social engineering and government control doesn’t work, but those ideas still govern the left’s policy agenda. As a politician with an ego and a need to fundraise, she will be beholden to those interests.

Yesterday, a reader at the Wisconsin State Journal defended Ms. Burke’s character and integrity. He wrote,

Burke is a refreshing contrast to cynical career politicians who play fast and loose with the truth, make backroom deals and then try to buy our vote with a couple-hundred-dollars tax rebate at election time. This election is not so much about issues as it is about character and integrity.

This reeks of the feelgoodery that was likely observed and tested and impelled the decision to anoint Ms. Burke as front-runner: The central issue of the 2014 Wisconsin Governor’s Race is the economy, and Democrats don’t have a leg to stand on for that issue, despite running Ms. Burke as their candidate, whose history and politics were supposed to be all about promoting good business policy for Wisconsin. Instead, a Democrat is slobbering over how nice he will feel casting a vote for someone, reality be damned.

Such confidence in their candidate is a farce. A family member recently chided me for being aggressively anti-Burke, decrying that I’ve never met the woman, and could therefore not make an informed opinion about her. That’s absurd. Ms. Burke is a politician, and she’s also a Democrat. She does not have the political clout to change the reality that most political business is conducted in back rooms, quietly in the unobservable darkness and protection of elected office. Democrats will be Democrats, and Republicans will be Republicans. When they’re not, they’re pariahs in their ranks. See, most recently, Luther Olsen and Steve Kestell’s support of Common Core, and their subsequent marginalization from the Powers that Be in the party.

Ms. Burke says she has ideas to move Wisconsin forward, but they won’t be implemented at the expense of political points or opportunism for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

About the writer: Nik Nelson is publisher of and Founder/CEO of OpenBox Strategies, where he connects political candidates and small businesses with excellent digital marketing tools and strategies.