After the Wisconsin State Senate voted overwhelmingly to give a quarter of a billion dollars in corporate welfare to the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks so that they can build the new arena that the NBA is forcing them to do, I’ve come to the conclusion that Milwaukee is why Wisconsin progressives can’t have nice things.
Over the past quarter of a century or so, Milwaukee has become a cesspool for Wisconsinites’ taxpayer money being wasted on state government policies, supported by both Republicans and Democrats, that have little or no actual benefit to the vast majority of Wisconsinites. First, it was school vouchers, which was first implemented in Wisconsin in 1990, but the Wisconsin school voucher program originally only covered Milwaukee (it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that vouchers were expanded statewide in Wisconsin). Next came the corporate welfare package for Major League Baseball’s Milwaukee Brewers, which gave them taxpayer money to build a new baseball park, which became Miller Park after naming rights for the park were sold and opened in 2001. Now, the National Basketball Association’s Milwaukee Bucks are about to get their own corporate welfare package for their new arena in Milwaukee. In all three of these cases, both Republicans and Democrats supported these policies, which have little or no benefit to the vast majority of Wisconsinites.
How the Bucks got such broad support for corporate welfare for a new arena in the Wisconsin State Senate looks to be, at first, shocking, since scientific polling has shown nearly 80% of Wisconsinites are opposed to corporate welfare for the Bucks. However, the Bucks had two advantages to overcome public opinion being against them: support from the political elite in Wisconsin and a well-organized campaign by a vocal minority of Wisconsinites to give the Bucks taxpayer money for a new arena. Unlike the National Football League’s Green Bay Packers, which have a very large national following, and baseball’s Milwaukee Brewers, which have a large following in Wisconsin, the Bucks have a relatively small fan base.
However, from an electoral standpoint, the Democrats who support the Bucks corporate welfare deal are in big trouble…if anti-corporate welfare progressives can organize effective political campaigns against those Democratic elected officials who sided with the Bucks owners. There is growing opposition to corporate welfare, both in Wisconsin and nationally, so there’s a golden opportunity for anti-corporate welfare progressives to get organized and replace corporate Democrats with progressive Democrats through the electoral process. In fact, in regards to the 2018 gubernatorial election in Wisconsin, if there’s a contested Democratic primary, the battle lines have pretty much been drawn. For all intents and purposes, a competitive Democratic primary for Governor of Wisconsin in 2018 is effectively going to be between a pro-corporate welfare Democrat supported by the Milwaukee-area political elite and an anti-corporate welfare Democrat supported by the activist progressive base of the party, if such candidates run. The anti-corporate welfare Democrat should ideally run against Milwaukee, but not in the same way that a Republican would. The anti-corporate welfare Democrat should talk about a bipartisan political elite giving Milwaukee taxpayer money for corporate welfare for wealthy sports team owners, religious welfare for private schools, and other policies that are of little or no benefit to the general public. At the same time, the anti-corporate welfare Democrat should advocate for progressive policies that benefit the vast majority of Wisconsinites. This message would resonate heavily in both Dane County, the progressive stronghold of Wisconsin, and the rural western and northern parts of Wisconsin, which are the areas with most of what few persuadable voters there are in a statewide general election in Wisconsin. Also, there would be extremely little political risk in running against Milwaukee for a Democratic statewide candidate. This is because quite a few people in the Milwaukee area are strongly opposed to the kind of policies that the anti-corporate welfare candidate is opposing, and roughly 99% or so of the voters in the Milwaukee area have a group grievance with one of the two major parties and vote for candidates in the other major party all the way down the ballot. This kind of campaign would be even more effective for state legislative races outside of the Milwaukee area, but anti-corporate welfare progressives would have to drop the Milwaukee-bashing for state legislative races in the Milwaukee area.