The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s David Haynes:
In Wisconsin, there are two political parties. There is the Republican Party, which believes in low taxes, limited government and judicial restraint.
And then there is the other Republican Party, which believes all those things except when it comes to highways, social issues and interfering with local governments.
Finally, there is a third organization in Wisconsin political life, a dysfunctional, institutionally inept organization, known as the Democratic Party. After its most recent thrashing by Gov. Scott Walker’s political machine, it is a PINO — a Party in Name Only.
The PINOs hold only 35 of 99 seats in the state Assembly and 13 of 33 in the state Senate. Republicans hold the executive branch, of course, and conservatives have a 5-2 edge on the state Supreme Court.
Maybe, in time, this will pass. Maybe the Democrats’ recent victory in federal court over the GOP’s 2011 slice-and-dice of legislative districts will stick, and maybe that will mean more competitive districts. Maybe Donald Trump will prove to be just as divisive as he seems to be and hurt Republicans everywhere in the mid-terms. Maybe Democrats will become as proficient as Republicans at digital politicking.
But there is this one truism in American politics. To win, you have to actually, ahem, put up candidates.
The Democrats are the organization that couldn’t be bothered to recruit a candidate to take on conservative state Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler or to find challengers to take on Walker appointees for circuit court seats in — wait for it — Milwaukee County, one of the two most Democratic counties in the state.
Democratic insiders have plenty of excuses for this sort of malpractice. They tell me that judicial races are a special challenge coming so soon after a big national race because both money and political talent is scarce. And the Walker machine still roars like a Maserati. No one wants to get flattened.
But here’s what I think:
I think the Democrats are playing the game the way no party should ever play it — they are playing in fear.
And I think that until they figure out 1) what they actually believe; 2) how to sell what they believe to someone who doesn’t live on the trendy east side of Milwaukee or in the baby blue districts of Dane County; and 3) identify smart, capable candidates who aren’t afraid to play smack-mouth with Walker …
… They will keep losing.
A chunk of the blame has to rest with state chairwoman Martha Laning, who is running for another term at the state convention in June and will get a well-deserved challenge. She’s the leader, after all, and she has to own this folly. But it goes deeper than Laning’s perceived faults and, in fact, pre-dates her, according to long-time Democrats I spoke with.
Here’s how one summed it up:
“I’ve been saying this for years: The party has a problem with its message. It gets in silos on issues pandering to its groups. What does it mean to be a Democrat? What does it mean to be a liberal? What does it mean to be progressive? … We have more labels and no general consensus on what the values of the party are.”
This insider told me that focusing on tactics — like winning the redistricting lawsuit or hoping that Trump continues to be, well, Trump, is short-term thinking.
The party needs vision first, then tactics to implement that vision. Hope is not a strategy.
Right now, I have no idea what this organization called “the Democratic Party” stands for.
For democracy to function well, Wisconsin and the nation need two well-oiled, competing political parties to debate ideas, to fight over them, to agree, finally, on solutions that will help the most people. That is not what we have now.
What will it take for Wisconsin Democrats to get the message? Sen. Tammy Baldwin losing in two years? Walker carving another notch in the governor’s mansion?
Maybe the Democrats have to hope for a split of the GOP as in the Progressive Era. Or maybe they are, in the words of David Blaska …
I can do Haynes one better: Whigs in waiting. …
You want brain dead? They’re sticking with Peter Barca as minority leader! (The Nancy Pelosi of losers.) No, it can’t be that Wisconsin Democrats are out of ammunition. Can’t be that they lost the blue collar worker. Pissed off the values voter. Denigrated their guns and religion. Blamed the cops.
It’s got to be gerrymandering. What else explains the Milwaukee daily’s fixation with an arcane concept known as “the efficiency gap.” Yeah, we know, a federal court ruled 2 to 1 that the state has to redraw its legislative boundaries. It will be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court once President Trump (!) fills the Scalia seat.
Excuses, my liberal-progressive-socialist acquaintances, make poor strategies.
Here is how Ann of Althouse, retired UW Law Professor, reads it: The “efficiency gap” …
… helps Democrats overcome the problem of having its voters concentrated in relatively small geographic spaces — that is, cities. It would make an equal protection problem out of a pattern of human behavior. It’s basically the same problem Democrats have with the Electoral College: Their voters aren’t spread out enough geographically. This is a terrible problem for Democrats, but I can’t believe the Supreme Court will inscribe their mathematical fix into constitutional law.
Madame Althouse notes that the U.S Supreme Court has never found any redistricting to be unconstitutional political gerrymandering.
Even Journal Sentinel reporter Craig Gilbert (“More evidence of a skewed GOP map“) acknowledges that Democrats are more concentrated geographically in urban areas, such as Milwaukee and Madison, meaning their voters are less efficiently distributed across districts statewide.
What great advantage did this supposed gerrymandering provide? Before redistricting (2010 election), Republicans won the State Assembly 59 to 39 (with 1 independent who voted with Republicans). The so-called gerrymandering rendered their advantage in the next election to 60-39 — putatively a pickup of one seat. The Senate was 18-15 in the election before “gerrymandering.” It remained the same in the next election. And somehow, Republican Scott Walker won statewide elections in 2010, 2012, and 2014.
It’s the maps, it’s the maps! Truth is, Wisconsin Democrats are feckless.
The necrosis extends to Democrats at the national level. Democrats are low on energy, ideas, and imagination, Politico reports.
The Democratic Party is in crisis, hollowed out at the state level, and desperate for new ideas, bold leaders and a cutting-edge plan of action against Donald Trump. The race for Democratic National Committee chair is bland and bloodless. The seven candidates are downplaying differences and offering conventional ideas they all agree on.