Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Wisconsin Dems Need 3 Seats To Take Back State Senate. They Have 2... But Vote Thief Kathy Nickolaus Is Holding Back 10 Precincts In Waukesha Co.


Today was supposed to be an accountability day for native fascists who have infiltrated and taken over the Wisconsin Republican Party-- as well as Republican Parties all over the country. Scott Walker's unrelenting class warfare against working families and against democracy itself was responded to by massive grassroots organizing and an unprecedented get out the vote effort. Before the polls closed in Wisconsin, another special election in New Hampshire was won by a Democrat:
"Bob Perry's victory tonight is a complete and total rejection of Republican House Speaker Bill O'Brien's reckless job killing agenda. In a historically Republican district, New Hampshire voters turned out in the middle of summer to send a loud and clear message to the out of control Republican majority. Its relentless attempts to make cigarettes cheaper but college more expensive, slash women's health care, and kill jobs by taxing hospitals must stop immediately.

"New Hampshire voters have seen enough of the radical Free State agenda this year with bills that would allow guns in schools and courts, would remove support for our United States' Constitution out of the oath of office, and would eliminate public kindergarten."

At 8pm local time the polls closed in the 6 Republican Wisconsin senate district seats. AP called it for Republican incumbents in the 2 reddest districts right off the bat: Cowles and Harsdorf, and Fred Clark ran strong against Luther Olsen but missed out. So to win back the state Senate Democrats Sandy Pasch, Jennifer Shilling and Jessica King all needed victories. Shilling was the first Democrat to win, with a 55-45% victory, with big wins in La Crosse and Richland. Soon after, Jessica King beat Randy Hopper thanks to voters in Winnebago who gave victories to Ron Johnson and Scott Walker last year coming to their senses this year. Early on I saw that the uber-corrupt Republican machine in Waukesha-- where stealing elections is what they do as a matter of course-- was holding back 10 precincts there in case Alberta Darling needed them in her close race with Sandy Pasch. Pasch is way ahead and I'll update that race as soon as the results are in. Why Kathy Nickolaus isn't in prison is an affront to democracy.

This morning Greg Sargent started the day by telling Wisconsin activists what they had already achieved. "Dems and labor," he wrote "have already succeeded in one sense: They reminded us that it’s possible to build a grass roots movement by effectively utilizing the sort of unabashed and bare-knuckled class-based populism that makes many of today’s national Dems queasy."

As Chris Bowers pointed out yesterday at Kos, the path the pushback against fascism took in Wisconsin was an especially steep one. These 6 districts are not exactly Democratic-friendly territory.
1. Despite narrowly winning Wisconsin in 2004, John Kerry lost five of these districts. In our top two target districts, currently held by Luther Olsen and Randy Hopper, Kerry lost by 13 percent and 15 percent, respectively.

2. Obama won Wisconsin by 14 percent, but only won one of these six districts by more than 4 percent. Outside of Kapanke's district, even during a landslide, the best Obama could do was 50-52 percent.

3. In addition to these being difficult districts, recalls themselves are extremely difficult. In the entire history of the United States, only 13 state legislators have been ever recalled. Nationwide. Ever. We are trying to pull off three or more in a few months.

4. Finally, while Democrats had a monetary advantage when Obama edged McCain in these districts three years ago, thanks to Citizens United now we are getting outspent. Daily Kos commenter Korkenzieher, who lives in one of the recall districts, explains what the monetary advantage buys for the other side:
Anyway, you wouldn't believe the shitstorm of blatant lies they're hurling at Pasch. She hates veterans. She hates children. She hates the whole community, except, of course, for illegal aliens. These are ads being run on every media outlet in Milwaukee, and this is just for one race in the Milwaukee suburbs. Now consider how much cheaper it'd be to run those same ads in small-town, northwoods or dairy farm Wisconsin. Honestly, Wisconsin is always a battleground state in presidential elections, and the stuff being thrown at Pasch alone exceeds anything the wingnuts threw at Clinton, Gore, Kerry or Obama in the last few presidential elections. It has an effect. It confuses people.

UPDATE: Vote Tampering In Waukesha... Again

Wisconsin Democratic Party chair Mike Tate following evidence of election tampering in the 8th State Senate District race: "The race to determine control of the Wisconsin Senate has fallen in the hands of the Waukesha County clerk, who has already distinguished herself as incompetent, if not worse. She is once more tampering with the results of a consequential election and in the next hours we will determine our next course of action. For now, Wisconsin should know that a dark cloud hangs over these important results."


Tate's changed his mind about taking vote thief Kathy Nickolaus to court! He issued this disappointing statement:
"Though we believe that Sandy Pasch was able to battle Alberta Darling to a virtual tie, on her turf, we will not pursue questions of irregularities. Those heat-of-the-moment statements came in light of the uncertainties that arose from a recent election, known too well.

The fact of the matter remains, that, fighting on Republican turf, we have begun the work of stopping the Scott Walker agenda."

(Barring unforeseen circumstances, of course!)


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At 11:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Moral Victories, they so don't count. If ever a party should get something, it's the Progressives who have racked up more moral victories than I can count. Remember the guy that beat Lieberman to win the Dem primary? Yeah, so who got to do all of his destructive votes and campaigning to legitimize McCain and the right wing? It wasn't Ned, now was it?

All these races that we just keep coming up short after pouring tons of money and time and effort, makes you wonder if we will ever actually win and have an impact that actually counts. Because all these moral victories just keep piling up, and accomplish nothing but perpetuating the hope that we will win the "next" race that actually makes a difference. Because Walker is going to shove more poisonous crap down the throats of Wisconsin's working people and liberals and progressives, and the left won't be able to do a damn thing about it.

And that is all that matters to the gop, having the votes to pass the ALEC agenda regardless of all the stern lectures and letters, they keep getting elected. When does it stop, people, when? When I'm dead? I won't care then.

Duckman GR

At 5:30 AM, Blogger 14All said...

Anonymous here has exactly the opposite of the attitude that has helped the Republican party be so successful in gaining and maintaining power. Losing doesn't make *them* wonder "will we ever actually win and have an impact that actually counts." It just makes them more determined than ever to win next time.

What has been accomplished in Wisconsin has only been accomplished three times in the history of this nation. Only a hang-dog Democrat or a troll would turn that into an essay on how we should give up.

At 6:45 AM, Blogger Anthony Kennerson said...

As much as I would love to counter Anonymous, he does make some legitimate points.

Gaining 3 seats in some of the most dominantly Republican seats was always going to be a stretch, and recalls are notoriously difficult to accomplish in the first place. (And, remember that the two wins were in a swing district and in a district where the incumbent was weakened by personal moral and ethical issues.)

Nevertheless, the prevailing tone of much of the liberal blogosphere was absolute certainty of the proverbial "progressive" wave that would sweep through and claim every Republican office...because "The People" were fed up with Walker's reactonary agenda and were ready to act.

Problem was, Walker and the Repubs had people, too, and they were able to mobilize them to defend their policies and privileges. Not to mention, they had a virtual pipeline of cash, thanks to Citizens United and the earlier "Defund the Left" campaigns, that they put to effective use.

And, of course, they had Waukesha County as the backup plan.

Anonymous is actually correct about one thing: "moral victories" do not build a movement. You don't get extra points for effort or enthusiasm; all that counts ultimately is the Scoreboard..and in the end, progressives fell short.

And, the Right will be able to use this victory to further consolidate their power and reduce that of the Left so that they can roll back even the "moral victories" gained last night. (Two Dem seats remain to be decided with recalls next week, and the Repubs may actually be favored in one of them.)

Rather than curse Kathy Nickolaus to the moon or scream about "Wait 'til next election", perhaps progressives might want to take a hard look inside themselves and wonder why their best efforts still manage to come up short.

Maybe the TeaPubs aren't just a cardboard fabrication of the Koch Brothers, but a real, live, active base of middle-class voters who, for better or for worse, accept on their own terms the conservative agenda as protecting their perceived interests.

Maybe progressives are so trapped inside their hermatically sealed ideological bubbles -- that everyone either thinks like them or simply doesn't exist -- that they aren't willing to engage honestly with people who might not agree totally with them, but could be persuaded with the right policies the meet their needs.

And mostly, maybe progressives need to understand that only down-and-dirty, grass roots, door-to-door organization behind a policy agenda that is principled, easy to understand and support and defend, and flexible enough to appeal to as vast an populace as possible, will build a movement that will last beyond the next election.

Say what you may about ALEC and the Tea Party, but they have a distinct agenda that's easy to follow and understand (if reduced to sound bytex), they're willing to go to the wall to defend that agenda, and they certainly have both the cash AND the foot soldiers to sell their poison to the public.

The only cure for the Left against this is to organize from below, prepare for the long haul, understand that they won't win all the time, learn from the losses to get stronger, and simply keep digging and grinding. Also...as important as electoralism is, remember that the system is fundamentally rigged against you, and sometimes you simply have to go against it from other angles...nonviolently, of course, but directly.

This isn't about giving up...this is about fighting the long term war smarter, and learning from your defeats. Anything worth winning won't come cheap or easy.


At 8:13 AM, Anonymous mch said...

Great comment, Antony.

At 9:53 AM, Blogger Thomas said...

Agree with anonymous -- moral victories mean little. A lot of effort and money was spent on something that was always going to be an uphill battle. I read tweets yesterday saying "great, turnout like a midterm election" when turnout the last midterm precisely didn't do the trick; have to wonder to what degree people have been kidding themselves.

A road not taken was to call a general strike back in February/March -- shut down Madison for a day, make the GOP policies actually cost their WI supporters money. Yes, that would have been risky, but organizers would have had a lot of immediately mobilized people at their disposal, instead of a months long momentum-leaking slog. I support the Walker recall effort for lack of a viable alternative at this point, but let's not kid ourselves, it will be an uphill battle too, esp. now that the GOP has held off the first wave.

This being a blog comment thread, I hope this will be taken for what it is -- a point of discussion, not an attack. Things didn't work, this is a time to think what might have been done differently.

At 11:13 AM, Anonymous Bruce said...

It took the Republicans a long time to build the foundations for what they have now. Their fascist agenda didn't appear overnight. Even FOX lost huge money for years. They have been persistent and organized and still are. We should be, too. We're making gains at a faster pace than they were so let's stick to it or we'll pay dearly with the loss of our freedom and our country. Let's not be Pinochet's Chile or Hitler's Germany.

At 3:23 PM, Blogger Lotus said...

A few observations:

Only in the world of the already psychologically defeated would picking up two seats in a 33-member legislative body be regarded as a mere and pointless "moral victory."

Yeah, the hope had been to win a majority and that didn't happen but the practical, political, fact remains that the WI Senate had been split 19-14 and now it's 17-16 - which means it now takes only one GOPper to be sufficiently spooked by what they have seen and are seeing to throw a roadblock in front of Gov. Walkalloveryou's further plans.

(This assumes that the Dems being recalled will both win, which I do predict.)

"Moral victories" don't build movements? Bull. Moral victories are the only thing that ever has. No movement starts out winning - it takes years, even decades, of "moral victories" (or what I call "successful losses") to build winning movements.

(Let's not forget that what the right wing is doing now does not start from some hypothetical pure zero baseline; rather it is undoing what it took those on the left several decades to build, built over active and often enough violent opposition. And the current power of the right did not appear out of nothing and nowhere but rather out of decades of effort, effort which at times seemed to many to be utterly pointless because it was so extreme, so "out of the mainstream.")

And we'd do better now if only we would "engage honestly" with the "TeaPubs?" That if only we'd convince ourselves that that movement is composed of ordinary, reasonable, middle-class folks who would be on our side if only we could show them how ordinary and reasonable we are, that we'd start sweeping to those beyond-moral victories? That strikes me as being much more "hermatically sealed [in an] ideological bubble" than the non-existent notion that lefties think that people who don't agree with them "don't exist."

Finally, the beginning of the statement "only down-and-dirty, grass roots, door-to-door organization behind a policy agenda that is principled, easy to understand and support and defend, and flexible enough to appeal to as vast an populace as possible, will build a movement" is right but the ending is all wrong.

You don't built movements by being "flexible" about your principles. (Or, rather, you can but only if your concern is personal power and advantage, which I'm prepared to assume is not the goal of anyone here.) You especially don't build movements by looking to "appeal to as vast an populace as possible."

You build movements by advocating for what you believe in, by arguing for your convictions, and doing it without backing down or up. You don't build movements by joining the mainstream, you build them by moving the mainstream closer to where you are. The essence of political change lies in shifting the consensus, that is, not by appealing to as many as possible but by convincing as many as possible.

The biggest failure of the left over the past few decades has been that of not aggressively and openly advocating our beliefs. Wisconsin was not an outright win, but it was a case of being able to claw back some of what we've lost to our own lack of commitment.

At 4:05 PM, Blogger Anthony Kennerson said...


I never said that it was a total defeat, now...but it can't be called a "moral victory" by any means...especially when the expectation was for at least three seats to be won and the Wisconsin Senate flipped to the Democrats. That was the expectation that was assumed by everyone in the liberal blogosphere, so much that they got caught up in the hype of assumed victory. After all, given the fact that they were competing on the opponent's home turf, relying primarily on their own grass roots against a nationally armed and nationally well funded enemy, they should get legitimate credit for their efforts. In the end, however, they failed to reach the ultimate goal they wanted..and it is no shame upon their heroic effort to acknowledge that.

Also...how does a defeat that strengthens the enemy's ability to consolidate their power, and enables them to impose new and more powerful constrictions on your ability to even compete, ever be interpreted to be anything more than a defeat?? Especially when there is still a real chance that even the significant lesser gain can be taken away within a week's time?? Unless the lessons from this defeat are used to self-analyze strategy and focus, there is nothing "successful" about this loss. It may be a heartbreaking loss by a field goal rather than a rout, but a loss it still is.

Secondly...Larry, please reread what I wrote. I did NOT say that progs/Lefties should engage with the "TeaPubs"; they need to be strongly opposed for the fascists they are. I said that progs/Lefties should engage themselves with those who aren't ACTIVISTS, and those near the middle of the spectrum, who could be persuaded to come out of the sidelines and support our agenda if we would just offer them authentic policy alternatives rather than just refried versions of "Vote for us because Walker and the Tea Party SUCKS!!!" You simply can't assume that the other side won't respond to attack by merely surrendering in the face of certitude and facts; because the TeaPublicans do indeed have a large base of voters who can and will come out in defense of their privileges if they feel themselves under attack. That has to be taken into account in both the strategy AND the expectations of results.

In my opinion, there were constituencies in Wisconsin who were indeed taken for granted by being assumed that they would simply come out and support progressive initiatives...and ended up falling short in numbers in the event. A notable example: In the Prosser v. Kloppenberg contest for the Supreme Court position, it was an open secret that some Black precincts in Milwaukee ended up under polling as compared to the Presidential vote for Barack Obama in 2008...did anyone ever bother to go into those precincts and analyze why the GOTV effort failed?? Was it because the pro-Kloppenberg forces didn't do enough to woo Black or poor White voters to show up in the polls, because there was a perception that ever the pro-union forces were not so willing to address or even acknowledge core issues that affected Black voters there?? Or, did they merely take for granted that Blacks would automatically show up by osmosis? That is a legitimate question that, while not so relevant to this particular election, must still be resolved for "the movement" in order for it to have any lasting growth potential beyond always being a "successful loser".

[continued in next comment -- Anthony]

At 4:54 PM, Blogger Anthony Kennerson said...

[Continuing my response to LarryE]

Finally, on your point about my supposed wrongness of my final point on the need for grass-roots organization and more militant, independent Left political action: once again, you misread my point about flexibility. I don't NOT mean that Left politics should be "flexible" to the extent of merely grafting it to fit whomever they are wooing at the moment. I meant that it should be flexible to the extent that it is amalgamated and consolidated enough to address core issues that benefit the maximum number of people possible.

Indeed, everything what I said was EXACTLY what you assumed I was NOT saying about a movement NOT being on the "mainstream" or attempting to play to a preset "consensus". Indeed, the fundamental reason why I favor an Independent Left that is totally outside of and opposed to the mainstream Democratic Party is in fact to not only change the "consensus", but to directly challenge and overthrow the prevailing consensus that politics is only possible within the endless loop between Democratic neoliberal "centrism" and Republican/Tea Party "conservatism"; and that traditional liberalism has utterly failed to address fundamental issues of inequality and social injustice due to their dependency upon the current broken down political system and the Democratic Party in particular, as well as their faith in the notion that democracy can be reconciled with an increasingly fierce and brutal capitalist system.

Developing that kind of democratic socialist, egalitarian system that transcends the existing malaise is the essential key in rebuilding and growing the Left beyond its current ghetto...and that will require progressives and Leftists alike to do some serious soul searching in regards to strategy and strategic vision...and to refocus on what it means to be a Leftist (whether liberal, progressive, or socialist; unionized or not; worker or unemployed poor; etc.) and whom our focus should be on. Labor issues are certainly important and essential, and the attack on unionism by the Walker/Koch forces that have fueled the protests and political action should be a key issue...but the offensive of the Right is so much more than just collective bargaining or attacking public sector unions. It is just as much focused on curtailing and obliterating the social wages and political rights of poor people of all colors (as seen by the "voter ID laws") of women (the anti-abortion and anti-contraception legislation), and of intellectualism (the anti-public education initiatives). In short, the Right offensive is a multi-faceted attack, aided and abetted by the weakness and culpability of the establishment "center", which prefers a more "death of a thousand cuts" approach which masks their greed behind a slightly more humane patina...and to counter and roll it back will require an equally multi-faceted approach by the Left that allows for diversity of outreach to distinct groups of the oppressed while retaining the overall vision and strategic goal of egalitarianism and social solidarity.

In other words, Larry, we aren't as different as you would assume us to be. We both want the same goal...perhaps we differ a bit in the paths we would take or the tools we would use, but in the end, we both share the common horizon.

I have nothing but respect and admiration for those in Wisconsin who fought and will continue to fight the righteous fight against fascism. And I hope that even this temporary setback doesn't deter them in their righteous campaign to correct the wrongs done to them. The only thing I ask of them and of all other Lefties and Progressives is that they approach their battles without illusions, without delusions that they will win every battle and that the fight is a long-haul marathon, and with the intelligence to understand that nothing worth winning will be easy.


At 7:03 PM, Blogger Lotus said...

Anthony -

The first three paragraphs of my comment were not addressed to you but to the first comment by Anonymous. I was making general observations about all the comments; it just happened that your was the meatiest that required the longest response.

I'm hard put to think of anyone who flat out predicted a gain of at least three seats outside of those directly involved in the campaign, whose statements should have been met with "What else are they going to say? 'We're going to lose?'" Maybe there were such folks, but I didn't come across them.

Rather, that was the hope, the goal, what you were shooting for and if some did get caught up in the excitement and become overly optimistic, the baseline political reality then and now is that the Dems gained two seats in the state Senate. (I do, again, predict that both Dems will win next week but even if I'm wrong, there will still be a net gain of one seat.)

If that does not constitute some kind of "successful loss," one in which you don't gain outright victory but do make progress, then what the hell would? Is there only total victory and abject defeat? Are there no way stations en route from latter to the former?

Next, I'm still mystified as to how the result "strengthens the enemy's ability to consolidate their power," which if it means anything at all means that folks would have been better off - the enemy would have been weaker - if the recalls had never happened and the balance was still 19-14 instead of 17-16.

As for "re-reading" (I do get tired of people who insist their own lack of clarity is the fault of the reader), this is what you said:

Maybe the TeaPubs aren't just a cardboard fabrication of the Koch Brothers, but a real, live, active base of middle-class voters who, for better or for worse, accept on their own terms the conservative agenda as protecting their perceived interests.

Maybe progressives are so trapped inside their hermatically sealed ideological bubbles -- that everyone either thinks like them or simply doesn't exist -- that they aren't willing to engage honestly with people who might not agree totally with them, but could be persuaded with the right policies the meet their needs.

How I was supposed to conclude that meant anything other than progressives should engage with TP folks continues to escape me.


At 7:41 PM, Blogger Lotus said...


With regard to the campaigning around the state Supreme Court election, I think what you said is interesting because I think it points up the basic divide here. First, I note that you are trying to argue for progressives making assumptions by making your own assumptions.

But overall, it seems that you're arguing that progressives think everything will magically fall into place and no real ground-level effort is required because all the "real" people are already on our side. My own, contrary, experience is that progressives are more likely to continually think "We doomed!" and turn everything short of total victory, even if it involves partial gains (such as two additional seats in the WI Senate), into defeats that "strengthen the enemy."

However and all that said, I've left the best for last: While I again think you're blaming me for your lack of clarity with regard to what you meant by being "flexible," I find nothing except nit-picking to disagree with what you said about working outside the established political process and being in it for the long term.

I won't take the time or space here to go into my own approach to activism in general and to electoral politics in particular, but if you're curious you might try this or this or this or the link at "successful losses" in my previous comment.

And as for the issue of "moral victories," I think you owe it to yourself to read this.


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