Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Beltway Democrats' Failure-- Focus: Wisconsin


Over the weekend, E.J. Dionne suggested in the Washington Post that Democratic Party strategists are blowing the 2014 midterm cycle. "Listlessness is bad politics. Defensiveness is poor strategy. And resignation is never inspiring."
Obama and his party are in danger of allowing the Republicans to set the terms of the 2014 elections, just as they did four years ago. The fog of nasty and depressing advertising threatens to reduce the electorate to a hard core of older, conservative voters eager to hand the president a blistering defeat.

American politics has been shaken by two recent events that hurt first the Republicans and then the Democrats. Republicans have recovered from their blow. Democrats have not.

Last fall’s government shutdown cratered the GOP’s standing with the public and confirmed everything Democrats had been saying about a House majority in thrall to a far right uninterested in governing. Then the Obama administration threw its adversaries a lifeline with the disasters that befell HealthCare.gov, empowering Republicans to remount their favorite hobbyhorse. House Speaker John Boehner used the foolishness of the shutdown to insist that there would be no more tea party adventures this year, no matter what Ted Cruz said.

And Republicans have broadened the assault whenever possible. Shamefully but effectively, many of them made Obama, not Vladimir Putin, the prime culprit in Putin’s invasion of Crimea, hanging the word “weak” around the president’s neck. Democrats thought the killing of Osama bin Laden would forever guard Obama from comparisons with Jimmy Carter. They did not reckon with the GOP’s determination to Carterize and McGovernize any Democrat who comes along.
Dionne wanders off into a discussion of Obama's approval numbers and what the White House could do to get back on offense. He makes one important point after another. I'd like to go in an entirely different direction, the bungled job Steve Israel is doing at the DCCC. We've been talking about how the duo-of-failure, Guy Cecil and Michael Bennet, have been dooming the Democrats' hold on the Senate majority. But, now, let's just take a look at one state. How about Wisconsin? Obama won Wisconsin both times he ran, 1,677,211 (56%) to 1,2662,393 (42%) against McCain in 2008 and 1,620,985 (53%) to 1,407,966 (46%) against Romney in 2012. In that same 2012 election, Wisconsin's most liberal congressmember, Tammy Baldwin, won an open Senate seat against conservative former Governor Tommy Thompson 1,547,104 (51%) to 1,380,126 (46%). But on that same day, incongruously, Wisconsin voters elected 5 Republicans and 3 Democrats to the House. How? Why?

Gerrymandering was a big factor. The state legislature, itself horrifically gerrymandered, which controlled the redrawing on the districts, created them to lock in a Republican majority. The Assembly has 60 Republicans and only 39 Democrats, while the Senate has 18 Republicans and 15 Democrats. Even with one Republican senator, Dale Schultz, sometimes voting with the Democrats to protect basic constitutional rights, the GOP can still-- and still does-- ramrod through all kinds of voter disenfranchisement bills. And the state's Koch-owned governor, Scott Walker, happily signs it all. Let's get beyond the roadblocks due to gerrymandering for a moment and look at the state's 8 districts with their PVIs and Obama's % under these boundaries in 2008.
WI-01 (Paul Ryan)- R+3- Obama- 51%
WI-02 (Mark Pocan)- D+17- Obama- 70%
WI-03 (Ron Kind)- D+5- Obama- 59%
WI-04 (Gwen Moore)- D+23- Obama- 74%
WI-05 (Jim Sensenbrenner) R+13- Obama- 42%
WI-06 (Tom Petri) R+5- Obama- 49%
WI-07 (Sean Duffy) R+2- Obama- 53%
WI-08 (Reid Ribble) R+2- Obama- 54%
As you can see, there's only one deep red district that would be a waste of time for Democrats to contest, Sensenbrenner's WI-05 in the western and northwestern Milwaukee suburbs (including northern Waukesha County). But how many districts has Steve Israel targeted this year? None… zero. All the Republican congressmen in Wisconsin have a DCCC free pass to reelection. Israel is refusing to spend any money at all in winning back any Wisconsin seats and he's actively urging Democratic donors to instead spend their money on seats where his garbage conservative are running in far less likely districts, like Blue Dog Jennifer Garrison in an Ohio district with an R+8 PVI and Blue Dog James Lee Witt in an Arkansas district with an R+15 PVI and where Obama won a mere 36% of the vote in 2012.

So far 2 grassroots progressives have mounted credible campaigns despite DCCC intransigence, Rob Zerban against racist Paul Ryan, and Blue America's newest endorsee, Kelly Westlund, who's running against empty suit/showboat Sean Duffy in the northwest part of the state. Last year the DCCC refused to help Zerban against Ryan-- and Rob came closer to beating him than any Democrat since he first took Les Aspin's blue seat when Aspin became Clinton's Secretary of Defense. With no help-- and plenty of interference-- from the DCCC, Zerban still managed to raise $2,265,721. Ryan spent $6,651,221. And Zerban still beat him in Kenosha Co. (his own home county) and Rock Co. (Ryan's home county). Sunday, the country's foremost Ryan expert, Paul Krugman, wrote that Ryan is an expert too, "an expert at sounding as if he knows what he’s talking about." Apparently that's enough for Steve Israel. In regard to Ryan's racist remark implying that African-American men are lazy, Krugman admits there’s no evidence that Mr. Ryan is personally a racist, and his dog-whistle may not even have been deliberate. But it doesn’t matter. He said what he said because that’s the kind of thing conservatives say to each other all the time. And why do they say such things? Because American conservatism is still, after all these years, largely driven by claims that liberals are taking away your hard-earned money and giving it to Those People… [S]ince conservatives can’t bring themselves to acknowledge the reality of what’s happening to opportunity in America, they’re left with nothing but that old-time dog whistle. Mr. Ryan wasn’t being inarticulate-- he said what he said because it’s all that he’s got."

Writing for the Times' SundayReview, Timothy Egan also took Ryan to task for his ugly appeal to gross racism, Paul Ryan's Irish Amnesia. "[Y]ou can’t help noticing," he wrote, "the deep historic irony that finds a Tea Party favorite and descendant of famine Irish using the same language that English Tories used to justify indifference to an epic tragedy. The Irish historian John Kelly, who wrote a book on the great famine, was the first to pick up on these echoes of the past during the 2012 presidential campaign. 'Ryan’s high-profile economic philosophy,” he wrote then, “is the very same one that hurt, not helped, his forebears during the famine-- and hurt them badly.'… You can’t make these kinds of heartless remarks unless you think the poor deserve their fate-- that they have a character flaw, born of public assistance. And there hovers another awful haunt of Irish history. In 2012, Ryan said that the network of programs for the American poor made people not want to work."

The DCCC refusal to engage flies right in the face of recent polling that shows both Ryan and Duffy vulnerable to Democrats running well-funded campaigns. Look at this polling MoveOn has PPP do after Duffy voted to shut down the government:

His approval numbers were already underwater-- 46% disapproving, only 40% approving and when asked "if the election for Congress were held today, would you vote to re-elect Republican Sean Duffy, or would you vote for his Democratic opponent," 48% picked the Democrat and only 45% picked Duffy. After voters were informed that Duffy voted to shut down the government, the results tilted even more in favor of the Democrat. If you don't know much about Kelly, read her guest post here and consider giving her and Rob Zerban a hand in turning Wisconsin blue… while Blue America continues looking for candidates to take on Petri and Ribble.

Labels: , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home