August 22, 2010
Volunteers need not apply
If you are in charge of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, identify yourself and, as my mother instructed, be quick about it. Elections are a just a few weeks off. There isn't much time to change course.
There is a Feingold re-election campaign, a hot race for lieutentant governor, 70 or so Assembly races, and, I almost forgot, we have a gubernatorial contest. They are anything but coordinated. Lots of individuals with their own agendas, their own get-out-the-vote plans, all raising money from the same people.
Is the Democratic Party involved? Not much! The party no longer selects candidates, no longer trains them, no longer gives them a platform. We have, in essence, electoral anarchy. If there is influence it comes primarily from special interests. The Democratic Party has lost the playbook. While the costs of education soar, property taxes continue to escalate despite falling real estate values, unfair taxes persist, payday loans thrive, and unemployment staggers all of us but particularly African-Americans, Democrats are urged, cajoled, begged to give money to candidates in a system that ignores them on the issues except for one: money raising. And we know that campaigns are now so expensive that your $50 or $100 or $200 contributions are meaningless. And when the dust clears, the new incumbents will listen to special interests not the one-time $50 contributors.
What has happened to politics in Wisconsin as we approach the November elections is downright scary. The activists are getting a bit long-in-the-tooth and can't figure out a useful role because their only contact with electoral politics comes in the form of a request for money or a request to sponsor a fundraiser! They are not asked to get involved in campaigns. The expensive campaigns only want paid staff. Volunteers are not as dependable.
Seniors on fixed incomes can't afford to pledge thousands of dollars to contribute to candidates they don't know. Why should working people continue to contribute money to people who ignore their plight once elected?
Young people are, for the most part, not interested and are not recruited because they are not likely to give big contributions. The Democratic Party has gone underground or so it seems. The Democratic Party of Gaylord Nelson, RFK, and Hubert Humphrey has "matured into a "job fair." Over night.
Gone are the big plans--the war on poverty is a distant memory. The commitment to decent wages for migrant workers died with Caesar Chavez. Enactment of the Equal Rights Amendment, once a Democratic Party crusade, is a foggy memory. Civil Rights? A better chance the 14th Amendment will be repealed than there is hope for equality.
So we hope that wealthy people will run and finance their own campaigns. Whoa Nelly!
If a party tells its members that the only thing they can do is give money the party dies.
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I have a clue for you Ed. There is no such thing as the Democratic Party, not in the usual sense of the term political party.
This "party" is far too concerned with internal fights, ranging from minor kefuffles over turf to outright back stabbing of each other to be effective in an election.
It is no wonder that many ostensible Democratic candidates stress their "independence". Sure, they are glad to use the lists of donors etc that sometimes come your way as a candidate of the party but that is about it. If this is your first race on the ticket for something like State Assembly you soon find out that moneymoneymoney is the key to success. You are told this right from the start. Then you are given a few little techniques as to how to raise it and left on your own.
It would appear that the party itself does not really want candidates based on how they operate but that can change very quickly in a primary. Then all those fugglebutt county chairs that are notoriously ineffective suddenly mobilize and become stalwarts either for against you.
Throw in the usual gadflies the party seems to attract and suddenly the Dems are active again but in such a way as to reinforce all the stereotypical dsyfunctional behaviors that are ascribed to the party.
Will Rodgers had it right. He was not a member of any organized political party, he was a Democrat.
Face it. For the most part Democrats win by default and not through any virtue of their own. They are often simply the least worst option available to the voter.
It is the party of the comfortably concerned and the vested interests of WEAC, AFSCME, and the professors.
-Griebnotz Doerkpfester | Egg Harbor, WI | August 22, 2010
No the democratic party hasn't gone underground, it just turned into another republican party. During the regresive policies of the Reagan presidency, the democratic party turned to the right and has been there ever since. Under the Clinton presidency the democratic party pushed through the repeal of Glass-Stengal and NAFTA, all middle class and poor democrates are well aware of the outcome of those pieces of legislation. Under the Obama regime, the assault on our constitutional rights started during the Bush Presidency continues, and includes assination of American citizens at our governments whim. Our democratic Secretary of State supports the overthrow of democratically elected foriegn leaders. The reliance on big campaign donors by the democratic party indicates who the legislate for. No the party hasn't gone underground it turned against it's members for the sake of profiting party leaders.
-Dol O'mite | Oconomowoc | August 22, 2010
People are not leaving the Democratic Party, they don't have too, the party has left them.
-Richard Kanak | cherry Valley, Illinois | August 22, 2010
Let's not bash too much on the Democrats too much, ok? A little background- I was an intern for Obama in Baraboo, I joined the local Democratic party and was soon on the executive committee, and I've volunteered for quite a few campaigns. I'm not unique. But I can't speak for every other county party, nor can I speak for the state party. What I can do is speak from personal experience.
First, the state party- while it has not been as active as Ed suggested, it trains volunteers and helps county parties, both of which help good candidates.
Second, the Sauk county party- right now, we're in the process of opening a coordinated campaign office in Reedsburg. We go to Bobfest during the day and clean up afterwards. Sometimes, we volunteer during the day. We volunteer for our local campaigns. Pretty much, our whole point in existing is to help elect good candidates. My point is that we're all progressives, wether or not we go to meetings.
Third, the campaigns- The only two losing campaigns I've worked on were the two that hardly tried to raise money. I'll agree- money in elections sucks. But, until we get real public financing, it's a necessary evil.
Circular firing squads are a bad idea- especially at a time when religious freedom, social security, the 14th amendment, medicare, and the middle class are under attack from everyone but democrats.
-Carl Byers | Rock Springs, WI | August 22, 2010
Ed, would I have run if I knew what you just wrote? I may be the dumbest Wisconsinite because I decided to run for governor, as a Democrat, thinking that I would get some, not lots, of contributions. The money never came and my personal contribution wasn't enough to purchase media time. I am still optimistic about the process and believe that, some day, we will return to a simpler more democratic status.
-Tim John for Governor | Ocnonomowoc, WI | August 23, 2010
I agree with your blogpost. Although I do appreciate what guidance the state party has given me as a candidate, it is unfortunate that so much in campaigns comes down to how much money you raise. As someone who was a single parent for over twenty years, worked and put myself through school and now as a candidate for the state legislature- I do not have a large personal bank account. I do believe that there are many grassroots, sincere candidates in Wisconsin, but how we are going to be able to win really is a tough question.
I would be very happy to have a strong core of volunteers. I do most of my campaign work hands- on with the help of some good people, but we definitely need more help if we are going to win. SO VOLUNTEERS- YES!! PLEASE APPLY!
I am a Democrat because of my personal belief in working toward social justice and a better world. I am a candidate because I deeply feel that I can make a positive difference in Wisconsin and bring some fresh ideas and hardworking leadership to the position. I think fiscal responsibilty and concern for community can go hand in hand. I believe that everyone should have their voice heard in a democracy and that leadership positions should not just go to the wealthy or other power-holders. The only way we can change the things that we see wrong in the world are to take steps to make a difference ourselves- to set an example. (sounds a bit like Ghandi).
I understand the cynisicm and agree with the philosophy behind it, but I sincerely hope that there are enough people out there that still believe that grassroots work can make effective campaigns and that we all have a fighting chance to have our voices heard.
-Liz Jones- Candidate for State Assembly | Woodville, WI | August 24, 2010