Disjointed Democrats

Brett Hulsey

The threadbare fabric that has held Wisconsin’s Democratic Party together has unraveled.

From the rogue candidacy of Looney Leftist Brett Hulsey to the difficulty of Mary Burke to unite the Democratic version of the tea party with the party’s mainstream, the party is having difficulty stitching together their menagerie of factions. To further muddle their cause, a coming influx of special interest money and a less-than-stellar slate of candidates will reveal the party’s struggle to make rhetoric and reality meet.

The national Democrats have pursued a strategy of gender warfare, positioning themselves as the party of, by, and for women as opposed to the GOP, a misogynist party a la Mad Men. Single women whose voting patterns are purportedly animated by so-called reproductive rights like unfettered access to contraceptives and abortions are a particular target group for Democrats, and the values-based views of the GOP, from the religious right to the laissez faire Tea Party, do not align with the goals of protecting the rights that The Left has identified as most important to these groups. At the same time, Republican priorities are hyperbolized as an agenda against women, not in defense of legitimate values.

It’s a facelift to make the Democratic Party of Wisconsin line up more closely with the national Democratic strategy, an approach largely based on the “War on Women” narrative which won the 2012 presidential in a large part thanks to the chasm they created in the voting patterns among single, college-educated women. To describe someone as college educated for career purposes is fine, but for voting purposes it’s haughty and vapid.

The Democrats have implemented an affirmative action plan to field as many women as possible for various offices with the goal of advancing their War on Women narrative, including a particularly weak candidate against rising star Sean Duffy. But despite this attempt at a new look the DPW must still front top-tier candidates who don’t resonate with this new approach to the party’s optics, most likely out of the necessity created by a thin bench and stalwarts who won’t go away. In fact, at least on the superficial level on which the Republican Party declines to do business, the Democrats struggle.

John Lehman, a 68-year-old candidate for lieutenant governor, will have to face Rebecca Kleefisch, the young Republican incumbent (and a woman who was not, as it happens, engineered by the RPW with the purpose of appealing to women). Kleefisch is an optimistic leader who has been a cheerful advocate for Wisconsin’s new fiscal direction, a sharp contrast to the bile spitting done by recallista relics still bitter over their failure to nail down Gov. Walker.

Doug La Follette, a 36-year incumbent Secretary of State who spends more time in retirement than in his taxpayer-funded job, will face Julian Bradley, a young black Republican who wasn’t even born yet when La Follette first took office. Bradley is a gifted speaker who talks about the Great Opportunity Party and wants to rebuild the office after 36 years of the office’s decline under his opponent’s watch.

Both executive ticket candidates greatly impede the Democrats’ attempt to re-brand their party and line it up with the national brand. Also complicating this supposed makeover are rising stars in the GOP like Rebecca Kleefisch, Jessie Rodriguez, and Julian Bradley, who all disrupt the carefully landscaped Democratic visage of inclusivity.

Heading their ticket, though, is Mary Burke, a candidate who was recruited and is being groomed and managed not just by the borderline-dysfunctional state Democratic Party, but by the team that put a man as corrupted as Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia governor’s mansion.

Burke is running a shoddy campaign, not shocking due to her brief experience in elective politics. But Burke and her campaign are just a front for a larger effort to brand the greater “movement” she represents, and by contrast what Gov. Walker represents.

The Democrats’ attempt at a rebrand is hapless.

But that doesn’t mean they’re to be discounted. EMILY’s List’s recent pledge to spend millions to defeat Scott Walker is an example of the stakes with which Democratic power brokers view this race, but also how substantively disjointed the Democrats’ message is when it comes to their years of bashing Gov. Walker for accepting money from outside the state.

In one breath the Democrats will denounce the out-of-state money Gov. Walker will collect this year, as they did during the record-smashing election cycle of the recall. They’ll whine about the Koch Brothers, ALEC, the NRA, and other “special interests” that will take a very special interest in this race due to its high profile. The Democrats while shouting memes about Koch whores will be whispering sweet nothings to their own special interests.

In another breath, those same Democrats will embrace a tornado of their own out-of-state help like that from EMILY’s List, an organization that would likely support any regulation on any enterprise except abortion clinics. Republican-supported regulation like that doctors at abortion clinics should have admitting privileges at local hospitals (safe) and requiring pre-abortion ultrasounds (rare) achieve that self-stated Democrat talking point that abortions should be “safe, legal, and rare.”

Contributions by lefty groups, combined with a brutal GOP primary leaving Tommy Thompson bruised and broke, carried extreme lefty Tammy Baldwin to victory in her 2012 Senate win. Baldwin, a far-outlier in the House of Representatives and an appropriate voice for inside the Madison beltline, doesn’t exactly fit the mainstream in Wisconsin.

Democrats are hopelessly stuck in a cycle of hypocrisy that they must spend a lot of time papering over with careful rhetoric. EMILY’s List will spend fortunes to unseat Gov. Walker for opposing free and easy access to abortion via those two measures one will find reasonable if one is truly concerned about making abortion “safe, legal, and rare.” But that platitude is just that for The Left – an empty platitude, dovetailed by incendiary claims that the GOP is doing battle against “womens’ health” as if a woman is nothing more than a uterus surrounded by muscle and a skeletal system. That’s ridiculous, and common sense people know it.

Democrats are eager to launch new rules and regulations for everything from frac sand and iron ore mines to what kind of health insurance average citizens will be allowed to have. But when it comes to regulations that put the same regulatory burden on abortion clinics that Democrats gleefully place on more benign operations like steel manufacturers and furniture companies, The Left has a tantrum and inaugurates Wars on Women.

The real War on Women is being run by the Democrats. Not just the adult women to whom they attempt to appeal in the vainest of manners, but the non-college-educated and/or married women who overwhelmingly turn their backs on Democrats, and the future young women who have not yet been born.

Democrats are also disjointed with labor and local business, problematic because they’re the party who claim to favor small business and the working class while the GOP is for big corporations and seven figure executives.

Democrats like Rep. Ron Kind, who had a keynote speaking slot at the DPW convention, favor massive new laws that hurt small businesses and local economies the most, ship jobs overseas, and put the thumb on middle-class taxpayers, then turn around and claim to be for the average citizen. Kind is now running ads on TV, six months away from the election, touting his supposed record in favor of average people.

But Kind defends the Clinton-era NAFTA and its recent offspring that encourage companies like Mary Burke’s Trek to outsource jobs, causing him problems with his district’s AFL-CIO. He favored the Dodd-Frank financial reform that hurt small credit unions the most, he favored the big government bonanza Obamacare, he favored a federal takeover of student loans allowing the feds to profit off student loan rate hikes – all puts his rhetoric at a juxtaposition to his results.

The real goal of The Left and groups like EMILY’s List is to pander to and obtain as many votes from groups like single and college-educated women, a rising voter bloc among whose life experiences may not yet include building a nest egg and a family. In other words, their values and goals don’t line up with the GOP when taken at face value. As for other groups, like organized labor, veterans, and the elderly, Democrats like Ron Kind must rely on a lazy media and carefully crafted rhetoric to keep their jobs.

At least that’s a perception the Democrats are attempting to exploit, and have done so to great avail in recent elections. But women are not two-dimensional single-issue voters, married and college educated or not.

Just because Democrats put liberal ladies through special schools and run them for offices, and hand-pick women to run for high-profile offices in an attempt to congeal the female vote, doesn’t mean women or any other “group” are a collective who vote in a bloc.

Resistance to this collectivist, cynical two-dimensional view of voters is not futile. The GOP is the party of good old-fashioned opportunity and their honest approach to politics and policy based more on principle than on cold calculation deserves to win the day.

About the writer: Chris Rochester is editor in chief of Morning Martini. He’s an armchair politico, veteran of several campaigns, and communications specialist. He's the communications director for the MacIver Institute. Commentary here is strictly his own.