Tag: party building

What Democrats here in the United States can learn from a major progressive victory in Alberta

The Rachel Notley-led Alberta New Democratic Party (Alberta NDP), which ran on a platform consisting nearly entirely of progressive ideas and values, is projected by CBC News to win a majority of seats in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, and, therefore, is projected to be the governing party in Alberta’s provincial government. Both the Canadian federal government and each Canadian province uses a parliamentary system to determine control of government.

The Alberta NDP’s platform is very progressive on nearly every issue they gave a position on in their platform, especially when one considers that the Canadian province of Alberta is about as right-wing as the U.S. state of Texas is. The NDP’s platform included planks supporting increasing the minimum wage to $15/hour, getting the undue influence of money out of politics, enacting stronger ethics laws, improving access to health care, investing in public education, raising income taxes on Alberta-based corporations and the wealthiest 10% of Albertans, investing in child care, providing for the safety and well-being of Albertan children and women, and, surprisingly for an oil-rich state, investing in renewable energy.

The NDP’s victory in Alberta speaks volumes about how the corrupt, corporate Democratic Party “leadership” here in the United States is failing progressives and the American people on many levels. Very few Democrats are willing to openly run as progressives, and, as a result, the Democratic Party often has trouble winning races outside of states and constituencies that strongly favor the Democrats to begin with. I would strongly encourage Democratic leaders to take a look at how the Alberta NDP won big in tonight’s provincial elections and use the NDP’s Alberta victory as a model to win back both houses of Congress, as well as many state and local offices.

If progressive-minded people can win in Alberta, progressive-minded people can win anywhere!

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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.

Joe Wineke proposes brilliant plan to rebuild the Democratic Party of Wisconsin

With Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) Chairman Mike Tate leaving office later this year, there’s two candidates already running for the office of DPW chairperson.

One of them is Jason Rae, a Democratic National Committee (DNC) member from Milwaukee. There are several red flags that pop up in my head when I think about Rae’s candidacy. First off, the fact that he’s a DNC member means that he’s associated with a national party that lost complete control of Congress over the past four years under the failed leadership of Tim Kaine and Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Secondly, Rae’s Wikipedia page states that Rae’s lifelong goal is to be President of the United States (this is sourced to a 2004 Boston Globe article that is behind a paywall), which tells me that Rae is more concerned about gaining more political power for himself than actually building the Democratic Party in Wisconsin, a critical swing state in modern American politics. Thirdly, Rae, unusually for a candidate for a state party office, has a full-fledged campaign website, and, while I like the use of online resources to campaign for party offices, Rae’s campaign platform is full of the typical Mike Tate-style talking points that Wisconsin progressives have had to put up with for the past six years, such few specifics about how he’d run the DPW and a ton of empty rhetoric about reenergizing the party and winning over rural and suburban voters, two things that the DPW has been terrible at under Tate’s failed leadership. Last, but certainly not least, the front page of Rae’s campaign website is a splash page that includes a link to donate money to his campaign for DPW chair, which tells me that Rae is trying to buy the DPW chair, and I fear that, if Rae is elected, he would run the party in a corrupt manner.

The other candidate in the race so far is Joe Wineke of Verona, who served two largely successful terms as DPW chair from 2005 to 2009 and is running for a third non-consecutive term. Not only does Wineke have an actual winning track record, he also has a detailed plan to rebuild the Democratic Party of Wisconsin from the bottom up, which is how a political party should be run:

First…let’s quit playing defense all the time.

The public agrees with us on the issues, but we are constantly letting Republicans define the message, and by definition, defining us.  We do that by playing offense.

Second…we do that through messaging.

Message matters.  We need to create an “Opportunity Agenda” based on putting people first.  Our “Opportunity Agenda” will be based on economic, educational, and equal opportunity for all.  In musical terms, we must create a symphonic message based on these themes.  Variations to our symphonic theme will be based on:

  • Economic Security: People know they are falling behind.  We, as Democrats, have not given enough people the belief that we will help them succeed.  Supporting the working class is paramount to their security.  Better wages, reducing student loan debt, support for the right to collectively bargain, making housing more affordable and attainable need to be key to that effort.
  • Educational Opportunity: Democrats need to stand behind public schools.  Let the Republicans side with the rich and powerful on this issue.  We need to remind people that public dollars should go to public schools…period.  Rural schools in Wisconsin have reached a crisis point.  If we quit playing on the edges and show the public whose side we are on, we can win this issue.  We are currently losing it.  I believe that the Democratic Party renaissance will begin in rural Wisconsin and the issue is education.
  • Equal Opportunity: Political parties must stand powerfully behind core issues.  Equal opportunity for all, whether one is straight, gay, black, white, Native American, or anything else must be defined by Democrats.  Republicans have been allowed to pander to prejudice for too long.  Let it define them and define us.

If handled properly, the core issues of the “Opportunity Agenda” will rise to a message crescendo that will help lead us to victory in 2016 and beyond.  Of course, there will be other issues that will matter in our fight to reclaim Wisconsin, but it is far better to stick to a handful of powerful issues than to get bogged down in a hundred battles at once.

Third…we need to rebuild our Party from the bottom up.

Neither a “top down” Party, nor a “top down” message, resonates with average people.  We need to create a better message, more effectively using modern communication mediums on social media, like Facebook and Twitter.  I propose the creation of a Social Media Advisory Council within the Party to create a daily message based on our “Opportunity Agenda”.

Fourth…there is an old saying that states, “You can’t beat somebody, with nobody”.

When I was Chair, we fielded a variety of candidates in every legislative and local race we could, not just competing in the “so called” competitive seats.  Not to mention, we were pretty darn successful in doing it, filling the vast majority of seats for the Assembly and Senate.  In 2014, we left 31 of 60 Assembly Republicans off with “free rides”.  If I am elected Chair, those days are over.  We won’t win a lot of those seats, but we might just steal a few.  In addition, it is a smart way to build a local party base that will likely increase our percentages in GOP counties enough to get a few more percentage points at the top of the ticket.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (MJS), a bastion of media bias in Wisconsin, published this piece about Wineke and Rae entering the race for DPW chair which featured Rae’s announcement prominently and only made a passing mention of Wineke’s announcement. Given that MJS has long been in the tank for Scott Walker and other Wisconsin Republicans, that’s a clear indication that they think that Rae will continue Tate’s legacy of being an asset for the Republicans.

While I don’t live in Wisconsin, it is indisputable that Wisconsin is one of the more important states to the Democratic Party, mainly due to Wisconsin being a swing state in recent years, which is why I’m writing about the DPW chair race.

While I do have a few qualms about Wineke, such as the fact that he was once a corporate lobbyist for AT&T, Wineke is, in my opinion, the best candidate for DPW chair among those currently in the race because of his winning track record and solid plan to build. Because there is the possibility that one or more other candidates could enter the race, I’m not going to publicly endorse a candidate for DPW chair yet.

 

Who will emerge as the Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s standard-bearer?

Currently, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) lacks a true standard bearer of any kind. This is because Democrats have virtually no power in Wisconsin state government: not counting federal offices like U.S. Senate and U.S. House seats (Democrats hold one of the two U.S. Senate seats and three of the eight U.S. House seats in Wisconsin) and officially non-partisan offices like state superintendent (which is held by a de facto Democrat who is ideologically center-left), Democrats are in the minority in both chambers of the Wisconsin State Legislature and, of the five officially partisan state executive offices, only the nearly powerless office of secretary of state is controlled by Democrats.

Steven Walters of WisconsinEye (basically a Wisconsin version of C-SPAN) named a long list of Democrats in this column for Milwaukee-area webgazine Urban Milwaukee a couple of weeks ago, some of which could emerge as a standard-bearer of the DPW:

  • State Senate Minority Leader-designate Jennifer Shilling: Shilling, who is from La Crosse in the western part of the state, was recently elected to be the new Democratic floor leader in the Wisconsin State Senate after the previous Democratic floor leader, Chris Larson, meddled in a Democratic primary in a state senate race in the southwestern part of the state, which pissed off progressives and led to an ultra-conservative Republican winning the general election. Shilling has represented the La Crosse area and rural areas to the south of La Crosse in the state senate since winning a 2011 recall election. I don’t expect Shilling to have a ton of influence on the state party beyond the Democratic state senate caucus, although she could emerge as a regional standard-bearer in the western part of Wisconsin.
  • U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin: Baldwin, who is from Madison, is the highest-ranking Democratic elected official in Wisconsin. However, Baldwin hasn’t shown any interest in building the state Democratic Party organization, and she has mostly been a backbencher in the U.S. Senate in her first two years in office. Walters implied that Baldwin could have a considerable amount of influence over the state party, including having influence over whether or DPW Chairman Mike Tate runs for another term, in the coming years.
  • Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairman Mike Tate: Tate has been the DPW Chairman since 2009. However, Tate is absolutely hated by the progressive base of the party, and he’s built up a losing track record in the six years he’s been on the job. Additionally, Tate could decide not to run for another term as DPW Chairman, in fact, there have been high-grade rumors that Tate will step down at the end of his current term in June of next year, but Tate has been trying to deny those rumors in recent weeks. Tate is too tainted to be a standard-bearer of the state party.
  • Former Governor Jim Doyle: Doyle, who is from Madison, was Governor of Wisconsin for two terms from 2003 to 2011, and is now a partner at the law firm Foley & Lardner, which is now represented in Wisconsin state-level politics by a Republican lobbyist. Doyle has played a mostly behind-the-scenes role in the state party since leaving electoral politics, and Doyle remains unpopular in Wisconsin, even with many in his own party, so he’s not going to re-emerge as any kind of standard-bearer of the party.
  • U.S. Representative Ron Kind: Kind, who is from La Crosse, has represented much of the western part of Wisconsin in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1997. Kind is one of two Democrats (the other being former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold) who are believed to be considering running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Ron Johnson in 2016, in fact, Walters indicated there is a gentlemen’s agreement (or a de facto one) that Kind runs against Johnson if and only if Feingold doesn’t run against Johnson. Kind is already the standard-bearer of the Democratic Party in his region of the state (he’s built up a ton of institutional loyalty that has allowed him to win re-election by larger than normal margins despite having a centrist voting record that would normally result in Kind drawing progressive primary challengers, something that Kind has been able to avoid). However, Kind has repeatedly turned down opportunities to run statewide in recent years, so I doubt that he’d actually run against Johnson.
  • Former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold: Feingold, who is from Middleton in the south-central part of the state, served three terms in the U.S. Senate from 1993 to 2011 and is now a U.S. State Department envoy. Feingold reportedly plans to return to Wisconsin sometime early next year, and he could run for his old U.S. Senate seat. Feingold is still very well-liked by the progressive base of the party, although Feingold is not a party-building type of person that could become a standard-bearer of the state party.
  • U.S. Representative Gwen Moore: Moore, who is from Milwaukee, has represented Milwaukee and nearby suburbs in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2005. Moore has never shown any interest in building the state party outside of the Milwaukee area, where she’s been a standard-bearer of the Democratic Party in that part of the state for years.
  • U.S. Representative Mark Pocan: Pocan, who is from Madison, has represented much of south-central Wisconsin in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2013. As Walters noted, Pocan is more interested in building the Democratic Party at the national level than the state level. While Pocan is one of several individuals who may run for U.S. Senate in the event that neither Russ Feingold nor Ron Kind run, he’s not going to emerge as a standard-bearer of the DPW.
  • Madison School Board Member Mary Burke: Burke, who is from Madison, has been a member of the school board in Wisconsin’s second-largest school district since 2012 and was the Democratic Party’s nominee for governor this year, losing to Republican incumbent Scott Walker. Burke has publicly stated that she’s done with statewide politics, so her influence over the state party will be minimal, probably limited to donating money to Democrats.
  • Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ: Happ, who is from Jefferson in the south central part of the state, was the Democratic Party’s nominee for attorney general this year, losing to Republican candidate Brad Schimel. Happ has kept a very low profile since the November elections, but, if Happ were to run for re-election to the Jefferson County DA’s post, she would probably be the #1 Republican target in the entire state in 2016. It’s not clear as to exactly how much of a role Happ wants in building the state party, although she’s never struck me as a party-building type of person.
  • State Senator Bob Jauch: Jauch, who is from Poplar in the northwestern part of the state, is retiring from the Wisconsin State Senate after having served seven terms from 1987 onward. Jauch may have some limited influence over the Democratic Party in the northern part of the state, but that would be it.
  • State Assembly Assistant Minority Leader-designate Katrina Shankland: Shankland, who is from Stevens Point in the central part of the state, has represented much of Portage County in the state assembly since 2013 and is only 27 years old. Shankland has indicated that, despite representing a very progressive district, she intends to develop a centrist style of leadership that could alienate progressives, possibly hindering any effort by her to become a standard-bearer of the DPW.
  • State Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca: Barca, who is from Kenosha in the southeastern part of the state, has represented parts of Kenosha area in the state assembly since 2008 and is the Democratic floor leader in the state assembly. Prior to that, Barca was the U.S. Representative for the Janesville/Racine/Kenosha region of the state for less than a full term from 1993 to 1995. Barca has quite a bit of influence over the state assembly Democrats’ campaign efforts, but his influence over the state party doesn’t extend beyond that.
  • State Representative Evan Goyke: Goyke, who is from Milwaukee, has represented part of Milwaukee in the state assembly since 2013. Goyke unsuccessfully challenged Peter Barca for state assembly minority leader after this year’s elections. Goyke is probably on the outs in the eyes of the party establishment, so he’s, more than likely, not going to have any role in building the state party.
  • Dane County Executive Joe Parisi: Parisi, who is from Madison, has been the county executive of Wisconsin’s second largest county since 2011. Walters indicated that Parisi wants to play a bigger role in the state party’s future, but it’s not clear what role Parisi wants to play.
  • Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson: Nelson, who is from Kaukauna in the northeastern part of the state, has been the county executive of Outagamie County since 2011. Prior to that, Nelson was the Democratic Party’s unsuccessful nominee for lieutenant governor in 2010 and served in the state assembly from 2005 to 2011. Walters indicated that Nelson wants to play a bigger role in the state party’s future, but it’s not clear what role Nelson wants to play.

Additionally, some other individuals who Walters did not name could emerge as the standard-bearer of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. I’ll go ahead and name some of them:

  • State Representative Chris Taylor: Taylor, who is from Madison, has represented parts of the Madison area in the state assembly since 2011. Taylor has a very large following among progressives in Wisconsin, although she declined to run for statewide office this year and has, in recent months, kept a somewhat lower profile than early on in her career in the state assembly. However, Taylor is rumored to be considering a run for governor in 2018. It’s not exactly clear as to how much of a role Taylor wants in the future of the DPW, although she seems to be very ambitious.
  • State Representative Melissa Sargent: Sargent, who is from Madison, has represented parts of the Madison area in the state assembly since 2013. Sargent is very well-respected among Wisconsin progressives, and she has been very vocal on a number of issues in recent months. More importantly, Sargent is very ambitious and appears to be interested in playing some sort of party-building role in Wisconsin.
  • Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele: Abele, who is from Milwaukee, has been the county executive of Wisconsin’s largest county since 2011. Abele is rumored to be considering a run for U.S. Senate in 2016 and is a large DPW donor, however, he’s absolutely hated by progressives for a large number of reasons, and he’s seen as a divisive figure within the party, which will hinder any attempt by Abele to put his stamp on the DPW.

Additionally, there’s the possibility that some little-known political figure could come from total or near-total obscurity and emerge as a powerful force in the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

It will be interesting to see who, if anybody, emerges as the Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s standard-bearer in the coming months and years.