Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Castrated By Money's Grip

Yesterday I argued that Democrats had better grow a pair before even thinking about beating Scott Walker. Today let's turn our attention to why so many Democrats have no balls to begin with.

Despite a steadily growing gap between the rich and the rest of us, Democrats have been unwilling or unable to make the case for ending corporate welfare and other disastrous trickle-down economic policies. At best they have been unreliable champions of working-class causes; at worst they aid and abet those devoted to feeding the rich and paying ransom to the multinationals.

You can see why this is when you pull back the curtain and look at who is pulling the levers and pushing the buttons. Even before Act 10 kneecapped most public sector unions, Wisconsin Democrats were getting $6 from business interests for every dollar they were getting from labor unions.

Democrats in our state used to compete quite successfully for rural votes. Today they are getting hammered in farm country. That should come as no surprise. Democrats have no rural agenda. They rarely talk about rural issues and even more rarely seek to solve rural problems. There is a reason for that, too. We've done the zip code analyses. There are more than 900 zip codes in Wisconsin. Most of the political money comes from just 32 of them. They are all urban or suburban. Rural people don't make campaign contributions. Politicians can't raise money addressing the challenges facing rural communities.

Neither major party is acting in a way that reflects the will of the people. They are serving their masters. They cater to those who butter their bread. This strangles voices on both sides who would speak to how government can work in the public interest and promote the common good. But it hurts Democrats the most.

The Democratic Party is seen as the party of government. That's a curse these days when most people do not believe the government is working for them. Most do not believe elected officials are hearing their voices or doing their will. They are convinced the politicians are doing the bidding of their big donors. And they are right. Good luck winning elections as the party of government at a time when government is almost universally considered corrupt.

In the face of all this, Democratic operatives and campaign consultants keep painting by numbers, pretending to be politically savvy above all else, putting on airs about knowing how the game is played. These insiders keep lecturing candidates about how winning is all about raising money and watching polls and doing TV and raising more money.

I suspect they know this is a path to ruin for their side, but they are too risk averse and not creative enough to innovate. Their savvy pose is a mask. It covers intellectual and strategic bankruptcy. They don't know how to escape the trap they are in. They can't win the money game, but they don't know how to win without money.

The proverbial 800-pound gorilla on the Democratic side has been the state teachers union. Thanks to Act 10, that gorilla just lost over half its weight. WEAC sunk more than $2.3 million into the 2010 elections, but just over $946,000 into 2012 races.

Yet the savvy political players on the Democratic side keep droning on about how the path to political power is paved with money. Never mind that Tom Barrett ceaselessly dialed for dollars and pulled in an impressive $6.6 million, only to be hopelessly outgunned by Scott Walker, who had more than $36 million. Never mind that Democrats took the consultants' mantra to heart and focused like a laser beam on fundraising, hauling in another $6.6 million for last year's state legislative contests, only to have their Republican opponents spend $9.9 million against them.

Never mind that Democrats can't speak their minds and can't act with the courage of their convictions for fear of alienating the donor class. Never mind that this segment of society won't give Democrats nearly as much as they give Republicans even if Democrats do cower before them.

Never mind all that. Wisconsin Democrats, your party's establishment continues to send an unmistakable message about where your focus needs to be and where your energy must be expended. In the nearly two decades the Democracy Campaign has been operating, the Democrats' state party chair has reached out to us one time. That was to ask if we would support legislation he was discussing with his Republican counterpart to increase the limits on campaign contributions to candidates and parties.

As politely as I could, I told him he was out of his cotton picking mind.


Unknown said...

Thank you and everyone who built our orgnization Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. We must talks it up and invite our friends and relatives to be active members. Campaigning with you. Bruce

Anonymous said...

Mike, you have my vote.

Pete Smith