Tag: messaging

Does the Democratic establishment overemphasize student loan reform and college affordability?

Make no mistake about it, the growing student debt problem in this country is one of the most serious problems facing this country. However, I believe that heavily emphasizing student loan reform and other college affordability measures hurts Democrats electorally.

There are two reasons why I believe that making student loan reform and other college affordability measures a key part of a Democratic campaign’s message, as Hillary Clinton has done, runs the risk of being an electoral loser for Democrats. First, most Americans don’t really care about student debt, unless they’re directly impacted by it. Secondly, emphasizing college affordability as a key part of a campaign message only resonates with voters that are directly impacted by student debt (mostly younger voters who are either in college or recently graduated from college), in effect, leaving blue-collar voters, such as poor minorities and white working-class people, essentially abandoned by the political party that best represents their interests, which is the Democratic Party.

Would I suggest that Democratic candidates drop college affordability plans altogether? Absolutely not. Would I suggest that Democrats not talk about student loan reform and college affordability? Absolutely not. In fact, I believe that the student debt problem in this country needs to be seriously addressed, as Bernie Sanders has done with his plan to tax Wall Street speculation to pay for a plan for more affordable higher education in America. However, Democrats cannot afford to abandon poor and working-class voters by overemphasizing an issue that few people in this country seem to care about.

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Martha Laning makes a huge impact in her first week as Wisconsin Democratic chairwoman

It’s only been a week since Martha Laning was elected Chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW), but she has already made a huge impact in Wisconsin politics by being, to my pleasant surprise, a critic of some forms of corporate welfare and a supporter of good government.

On Thursday, Laning sent this letter officially asking far-right Republican Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel to do his job by helping to facilitate the release of official Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) records. As uncovered by audits, the WEDC, a state corporate welfare agency in Wisconsin created by Scott Walker and Republicans in the Wisconsin State Legislature in 2011, has repeatedly refused to comply with federal and state laws, as well as mismanaged Wisconsinites’ taxpayer money. While I’d never support the campaign of someone like Schimel for any public office, it would be the right thing for Schimel to help release records pertaining to the morbidly corrupt and incompetent WEDC, because Wisconsinites should have the right to know how their taxpayer dollars are being spent.

That’s not the first time Laning has railed against some forms of corporate welfare and publicly supported good government policies.

In this interview on Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) stations across Wisconsin, Laning outlined the Democratic strategy in Wisconsin for the November 2016 elections and beyond, as well as gave some of her own opinions on various political issues in Wisconsin and nationally. Laning emphasized messaging heavily in the WPR interview; in fact, Laning pointed out a major flaw in the Democratic messaging that has been used in recent Wisconsin election cycles: many Wisconsinites don’t know what the Democratic Party stands for! Additionally, Laning publicly supported Move to Amend, an organized political movement that is pushing for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution designed to remove the undue influence of money from our nation’s political system, and, to my pleasant surprise, sharply criticized a state tax break for Wisconsin manufacturers that all but eliminated taxes on Wisconsin manufacturers, even emphasizing how tax revenue funds things that are commonplace in society, such as roads, the judicial system, police departments, and fire departments. Regarding the 2018 gubernatorial election in Wisconsin, Laning strongly suggested that “several” potential candidates would at least consider running for Governor of Wisconsin as a Democrat, although she declined to name any potential candidates. Laning also strongly implied that she would prefer whoever Wisconsin Democrats nominate for governor in 2018 to emphasize “building strong communities”, “opportunity for all”, and “fairness”.

Needless to say, this is not what I expected from Martha Laning when she was elected to lead the Democratic Party in a critical swing state. I was expecting Laning to be a backbencher of sorts as DPW Chair, mostly working behind the scenes and rarely issuing public statements of her own about political issues. Instead, Laning has, to my pleasant surprise, publicly railed against preferential tax breaks for large businesses and has strongly supported restoring Wisconsin’s once-proud tradition of good government. Will I agree with every single thing Martha Laning does as DPW Chair? Likely not, as I’ve never agreed with anyone 100% of the time. Do I think that Martha Laning will be a wonderful DPW Chair? She’s certainly off to a great start!

Democratic Party of Wisconsin officials release the party’s own autopsy

A 22-member Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) committee, led by DPW Second Vice-Chairman Jeff Christensen, released its own internal report on the 2014 midterm elections in Wisconsin yesterday. You can read the full report here; it’s a 14-page PDF file.

According to the DPW Administrative Committee, here’s what I’ve interpreted as being the main points in the report:

  • Since 1990, Wisconsin has become an extremely polarized state, with a very strong two-party system and the top-of-the-ticket race in November general elections in Wisconsin having a huge impact on downballot races.
  • The DPW should provide more support to candidates in officially non-partisan local elections in order to build a bench of Democratic candidates for state legislative and statewide elections.
  • The DPW shouldn’t meddle in contested primaries unless it has a very good reason to do so (such as scenarios involving known Republicans/conservatives running in a Democratic primary or a candidate who is clearly unfit for public office running in a Democratic primary).
  • The DPW leadership should explain its proper role in the political process and management of the party more effectively.
  • The Republicans’ message in Wisconsin is to effectively paint the Democrats as the “party of government”, even if Democrats aren’t in power.
  • Democrats should rebut the Republicans’ talking points more effectively.
  • Democrats in Wisconsin have focused too much on attacking Scott Walker and not enough on promoting a positive message of any kind.
  • To use terminology that was used in the report, Democrats in Wisconsin have “played nice in the sandbox”, leading to Democratic candidates who are too defensive.
  • While Democrats should focus heavily on tailoring a positive message to rural voters, both rural and urban voters in Wisconsin regard education, infrastructure, and jobs as three important issues.
  • Election fatigue is becoming a major problem among Democratic activists/volunteers in Wisconsin.
  • In regards to the DPW’s field operations, the DPW should find various ways to optimize voter turnout.
  • Three programs created as part of the “72-county strategy”, regional field organizers, Spring Forward (support for known Democrats running in officially non-partisan local elections in Wisconsin), and Red-to-Blue (support for Democratic state legislative candidates in Republican-leaning or heavily-Republican areas of Wisconsin) should be expanded.
  • The most important point of the report is that “the path to a new progressive era (in Wisconsin) is entirely possible”.

While some of these points are specific to Wisconsin, some of the points also apply to state-level Democratic parties in other states as well.

The report strongly suggested that the DPW should run statewide candidates who can run on a positive, progressive message, as well as relate to both urban and rural voters. However, the report didn’t suggest any potential statewide candidates for future elections in Wisconsin, and there aren’t that many Democrats in Wisconsin who could pull off such a campaign. Lori Compas, who was the recall organizer and Democratic candidate in the 2012 recall attempt against Republican State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, is the first person that comes to mind for me. However, I don’t think that Compas is interested in running for public office again at all. The second person who comes to my mind is Kathleen Vinehout, a state senator from the west-central part of Wisconsin who was the third-place candidate in the 2012 Democratic primary in the gubernatorial recall election. Vinehout nearly ran for governor last year, but injuries sustained in an automobile crash prevented her from running for governor. There’s probably a few others out there as well.

Additionally, while the DPW’s report didn’t touch on any of these points at all, I do have several suggestions of my own:

  • Democrats in Wisconsin should run against income inequality, preferably by using “1% vs. 99%” messaging and supporting ideals such as raising taxes on the wealthy and ending tax breaks and other forms of corporate welfare for businesses.
  • Democrats in Wisconsin should run on progressive ideas and values, and, even more importantly, they should explain how progressive policies would benefit all or the vast majority of people.
  • Democrats in Wisconsin should stop speaking favorably of Republicans, as well as stop ignoring and criticizing progressives.
  • Democrats in Wisconsin should emphasize restoring local control to counties and municipalities over issues that are best dealt with at the local level.
  • Progressive-minded Democrats in Wisconsin should, as much as possible, distance themselves from fellow Democrats who are opposed to progressive ideals and values on many issues, most notably Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele.
  • Democrats in Wisconsin, should, if possible, use the own words of Republican elected officials and candidates against them.

One thing is clear from the DPW’s autopsy: The DPW, in its current state, is one of the weakest state-level Democratic Party organizations in the entire country. A Second Progressive Era in Wisconsin is certainly obtainable, although it’s going to require progressives to hold the DPW leadership accountable to many of the points they made in their own report on the 2014 elections, as well as require Democrats to run progressive candidates who can appeal to a wide coalition of voters.

Jeff Smith outlines what he’d do if elected Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairperson

Make no mistake about it, Former Wisconsin State Representative Jeff Smith has an actual plan of what he’d do if elected Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) Chairperson, and he’s going to run the party as a progressive organization whose main goals are helping progressive-minded people vote and promoting progressive values across the entire state of Wisconsin.

Smith, if elected to lead the Democratic Party in the state that will likely decide control of the White House and the U.S. Senate in next year’s elections, has promised to:

  • Work with whoever is elected to be the new leader of the DPW County Chairs Association (DPW CCA)
  • Direct county-level Democratic organizations in Wisconsin to help voters obtain Voter IDs in order to allow them to vote (Wisconsin’s discriminatory Voter ID law will go into effect at the next election of any kind held in Wisconsin)
  • Implement new DPW messaging based on recommendations by Scott Wittkopf of the Forward Institute
  • Provide proper support for Democratic candidates, campaign managers, and volunteers in Wisconsin
  • Open year-round DPW field offices in every region of Wisconsin
  • Help county-level Democratic organizations in Wisconsin maintain a strong online presence

Notice that Smith made absolutely no mention of Scott Walker in his press release. That’s because Walker is no longer trying to hide the fact that he doesn’t care about Wisconsinites, and that provides a great opportunity for Wisconsin Democrats to lay out their own vision for Wisconsin’s future.

Jeff Smith is the only one of the five candidates for DPW Chair who, at least to my knowledge, has laid out a highly-detailed plan for rebuilding the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, and that’s why I encourage DPW Convention delegates to vote for Jeff Smith.

Virginia feminist Erin Matson schools Senate Democrats on women’s rights and political messaging

Erin Matson, a Virginia progressive activist and reproductive rights supporter, sharply criticized U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) for including “defending a woman’s right to choose” on a survey that was sent out by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), which is led by U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT). Matson responded by saying that Democrats should “stop defending and act to expand abortion access!”.

You can view Matson’s response to the DSCC survey here. Here’s what Matson said about Democratic messaging on reproductive rights, as well as a few other important issues, on her blog:

The voter priorities suggestions are instructive. We can — and should — raise the minimum wage,reform campaign finance law, regulate Wall Street and big banking, and expand health care coverage. These are all positive goals, and activist goals at that. (Beyond the abortion whopper, WHICH WE’LL GET TO NEXT, notice that the only other negative statement of priority refers to “protecting” Social Security and Medicare. Figures. Expansions to these programs would disproportionately benefit women, since women tend to live longer and have fewer savings.)

But “defending a woman’s right to choose” is laughable because people are faced with a reproductive health care crisis today in large part due to very new laws that restrict the human rights and dignity of women.

Abortion clinics are closing, y’all. Terrorist group Operation Rescue claims that three out of four abortion clinics that were open in 1991 are no longer open today — and that 73 clinics closed last year.

So when Harry Reid sends out a mailer in early 2015 saying we need to “defend” a woman’s right to choose, I frankly wonder what the Jupiter he is talking about. How much is left to defend? The financial and logistical barriers to abortion created and approved by elected officials of all parties means this country is filled with women who can’t “choose” their way out of a one-way street.

While Democrats and reproductive rights supporters aren’t currently in a position to actually implement any reproductive rights measures at the federal level, Matson is right in that there really isn’t a whole lot left for pro-women’s rights Democrats to defend when it comes to reproductive rights. Since Roe v. Wade became law of the land over four decades ago, Republicans and anti-abortion Democrats have enacted restrictive legislation at the federal and state levels of government making it harder for women to get the reproductive health care they want or need. Not only is it getting harder and harder for women to get an abortion, it’s getting harder and harder for women to access basic reproductive health measures, such as contraception. Democrats need to start talking about expanding reproductive rights in this country, not merely “defending a woman’s right to choose”, as Democrats talking about merely “defending a woman’s right to choose” makes it sound like Democrats aren’t really interested in making it easier for women to access reproductive health procedures.

Sadly, this is only one example of Democrats absolutely sucking at political messaging.

PROVISIONAL ENDORSEMENT: Jeff Smith for Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairperson

I’m provisionally endorsing Jeff Smith’s campaign for Chairperson of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW). Please note that my endorsement of Smith for DPW Chair is only a provisional endorsement and not a full endorsement at this time, since I’m only endorsing Smith provided that a potential candidate for DPW Chair, Lori Compas, does not enter the race for DPW Chair. If Compas runs for DPW Chair (which is not likely, since it’s been a while since she stated that she was considering a run and hasn’t said anything about whether or not she’ll run since then), I will pull my endorsement of Smith and endorse Compas instead, while, if Compas does not run for DPW Chair, my provisional endorsement of Smith will automatically become a full endorsement of Smith.

Smith has some excellent ideas for reviving the currently moribund Democratic Party of Wisconsin, which is barely relevant in Wisconsin politics nowadays due to current DPW Chairman Mike Tate and others in the failed Democratic establishment badly mismanaging the state party, and making the party, whose list of former statewide elected officials includes people like Gaylord Nelson, Bill Proxmire, Pat Lucey, Tony Earl, and Russ Feingold, great once again. Some of Smith’s ideas include more support for Wisconsin College Democrats chapters to help the party reach out to young voters more effectively, making the DPW’s messaging more progressive, and making the DPW less dependent on political consultants who are more interested in getting payoffs from the party and its donors than doing anything to actually help Democratic candidates.

Mike Tate, who is not running for re-election for DPW Chair, is one of many individuals in the DPW who are responsible for the DPW being in so much disarray. Tate was the one who hand-picked corporate hack and Jim Doyle crony Mary Burke to run against Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker last year, and, in the process, Tate single-handedly turned Burke, who tried to run for governor as a political outsider, into the ultimate political insider, which destroyed what little chance she had of defeating Walker. Sadly, that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Tate’s mismanagement of the DPW.

While I’m not a Wisconsin resident (I live in Illinois, and we could certainly use better, more progressive Democratic leadership here, although trying to pry the Illinois Democratic Party out of the hands of Mike Madigan is nearly impossible), the election for Chairperson of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin has massive national implications, because Wisconsin could very well determine which party wins control the White House and the U.S. Senate in next year’s elections. Of the candidates currently running, I believe that Jeff Smith is the best candidate for DPW Chair, and that’s why I’ve provisionally endorsed Smith’s campaign. This year’s DPW Convention, which will select the next DPW Chair, will be held on June 5 & 6 at the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino in Milwaukee, and DPW members who are selected as delegates to the state convention by their home county’s Democratic Party chapter will be able to vote for DPW Chair.

A tale of three Wisconsin Democrats on economic messaging, part two

You may remember a blog post I wrote late last year on here in which I compared the political messaging of three Democratic members of the Wisconsin State Legislature, State Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, State Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, and State Representative Melissa Sargent, when it comes to so-called “right-to-work” legislation, which is actually wage theft legislation since it allows non-union employees at a shop in which wages and other benefits are determined by a collective bargaining agreement between organized labor and management to effectively steal wages and other benefits without paying for them in the form of union dues.

Now, that Wisconsin Republicans are formally pushing to implement wage theft legislation in Wisconsin, I’d figure I’d analyse the press releases that Barca, Shilling, and Sargent sent out earlier today.

Here’s the key part Barca’s press release:

“Governor Walker has called so-called ‘Right to Work’ legislation a distraction and apparently that’s exactly what he wants. By rushing to pass Right to Work in less than a week, clearly the governor and Republican legislators want to distract from how destructive their budget is for Wisconsin’s workers, students and middle-class families.

“Wisconsin is already lagging behind most of the nation in jobs and wage growth and ‘Right to Work’ would only make things worse. In fact, the average worker in Right to Work states makes between $5,000 and $6,000 less than the average worker in other states. And calling an extraordinary session will make the budget disaster Republicans have created worse since we’re already scheduled to be in session the following week anyway. What’s the emergency?

Here’s the key part of Shilling’s press release:

Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling released the following statement regarding the call for an extraordinary session of the Legislature to take up so-called “Right to Work” legislation:

“It is absurd that Republicans would fast-track legislation to interfere with private business contracts and lower wages for all Wisconsin workers at a time when our state is facing a massive $2.2 billion budget crisis.

Here’s the key part of Sargent’s press release:

“Let’s call this what it really is. Plain and simple, this is a wage theft bill,” stated Rep. Sargent.

[…]

“It is important that the treatment of our workers reflects the challenges and dangers that they face on a daily basis. This proposal would also suppress wages for the true profit creators, the workers, which are already growing at a slower rate than the national average, and further polarize our state,” continued Rep. Sargent.

“People struggling to find work and stay in the middle class do not need this divisive legislation. Instead, we should be supporting workers’ rights and helping to build the economy. I know that workers deserve the freedoms that unions provide. The freedom to take a sick day if they need to get well or help take care of a family member, the freedom to earn a family sustaining wage, and the freedom to work in a safe environment are things that I will always fight for.”

While Barca and Shilling are talking about the negative effects of wage theft legislation, such as driving down wages and interfering with negotiated contracts, they’re still primarily referring to the legislation as “so-called right-to-work” legislation, which does nothing more than reinforce the right’s absurd talking point about union busting and wage theft. Sargent, on the other hand, is referring to right-to-work legislation as “wage theft” legislation, which reinforces the notion that such legislation allows non-union workers to effectively steal union-negotiated wages and benefits without paying for them, is referring to workers and consumers as “profit creators” (after all, without people earning salaries, there’d be nobody to buy goods and services and help businesses prosper), and is talking about the various freedoms that unions and workers’ rights provide. I find Sargent’s messaging, which is recommended by the Forward Institute, a Wisconsin-based progressive think tank, to be far more effective than the messaging that most other Democrats use.

Democratic Party of Wisconsin praises likely Republican presidential candidate and misogynist employer Jeb Bush in a tweet

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin, which is supposed to be promoting Democratic candidates for various offices in Wisconsin, sent out a tweet praising Jeb Bush, a likely candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in next year’s presidential race who recently hired a rabid sexist to run his campaign’s technology operation should he run for president:

While I admire transparency in politics, I find it highly inappropriate for a state-level Democratic Party organization to use its social media accounts to praise Republicans, which is far too common in the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. Past examples of Republican praising by Wisconsin Democrats include U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, 2014 Democratic Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke, and 2014 Wisconsin State Senate candidate Martha Laning, among others, running TV ads praising Republicans, as well as numerous Democrats and many progressives praising former Republican Wisconsin State Senator Dale Schultz. Also, for the DPW to praise Jeb Bush for transparency is absolutely asinine, especially when one considers the fact that, in the document dump that the DPW apparently referenced, Jeb revealed the social security numbers of many Florida residents, which is a major violation of people’s privacy.

The DPW’s pro-Jeb Bush tweet and the culture of Republican praising that is far too commonplace in the Democratic Party of Wisconsin is one of many reasons why Mike Tate, Jason Rae, and Chris “Boss” Abele, which is what I like to call the troika of Wisconsin Democratic politics, as well as the rest of the joke of a “leadership” team has failed Wisconsin Democrats on many levels and absolutely sucks at political messaging.

The “Party of Israel” insults Jews

Judging from this CNN article on the new, secret “Comms College” run by the Republican National Committee (RNC) for Republican communication staffers, it’s not going well for the GOP.

For example, RNC communications director Sean Spicer said this about how the GOP planned to reach out to Jewish voters:

…How many Jews? You wanna do a Rosh Hashanah thing or something on Israel? You name it.

Using Rosh Hashanah, a major, two-day Jewish holiday celebrating the new year according to the Jewish calendar, for political grandstanding would be seen as downright offensive by Jewish people. The fact that the same Republican Party that has criticized President Obama and other Democrats for not being big enough shills for Benjamin Netanyahu and his government in Israel thinks that using Rosh Hashanah for political grandstanding is appropriate proves once again that they absolutely suck at campaign messaging.