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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Who's going to challenge Tom Barrett from the left?

or, maybe Soglin should file papers after all

by folkbum

As noted here previously, Tom Barrett has spent much of the last few months--and any number of Democrats have on his behalf--dumping on Milwaukee by slandering and demanding control of the Milwaukee Public Schools.

No candidate from Milwaukee can be elected governor, you see, without making certain that they are not viewed as being of Milwaukee. At least, that's as reasonable an explanation as one can draw from Wisconsin's history of not having elected candidates from Milwaukee to statewide office since forever. (Someone who has lived here longer than I have--I started college here in 1992 and stuck around--can probably tell me the last time that happened. But if the Wikipedia can be believed, Lee Dreyfus was the last Milwaukeean elected governor, though he hadn't lived in Milwaukee for years at the time.)

So here's what we're going to end up with: three major-party candidates (Barrett plus Republicans Scott Walker and Mark Nuemann), none of whom will stick up for the state's major urban center, none of whom will advocate for the state's minority population, none of whom will argue that unless we reignite the fires of Milwaukee's economic engine, its idling could drag this state's recovery out for years. (Wisconsin's second major urban area, Madison, has an economy that just keeps racing along, it seems.) Walker will not run a pro-Milwaukee campaign, because he, too, is from here. And Neumann won't because it will not earn him a single vote in a Republican primary.

Sp who's going to challenge Barrett from the left? Who's going to run a progressive, pro-Milwaukee, pro-public education, pro-urban renewal campaign that will force Barrett (and, I would hope, by extension the Republican candidates) to pay attention to progressive issues and stay honest about the needs of Milwaukee's largest city and most desperate economic disaster-in-waiting?

If there is any lesson to be learned from the election two weeks ago in Virginia, it's that running away from the people and the issues that mobilized and energized Barack Obama's voters is a losing proposition. Creigh Deeds was the least progressive candidate from Virginia's Dem primary and he ran hard away from Obama's signature issues like health care reform. Obama voters stayed home, and Deeds lost miserably.

Barrett needs a serious opponent in this primary who can make sure that doesn't happen. Barb Lawton could have been that candidate (though she also had a reasonable chance to beat Barrett--I doubt any other candidate now does). Kevin Conroy is not that person. Kathleen Falk maybe is, but she might not have another statewide run in her. Tammy Baldwin is saving up to replace Herb Kohl in 2012. So that leaves ... who? Paul, are you listening?

Updated to add, from Thomas J. Mertz in the comments, this:
I think there is a larger issue here about who among the Democratic Party of Wisconsin's state elected officials is willing to act on "progressive, pro-Milwaukee, pro-public education, pro-urban renewal..." principles. You could add tax reform and many other things to this list. [. . .] We are at the point where the far right is defining the GOP agenda, the GOP agenda is defining the moderate Democratic agenda and the moderate Democratic agenda is being pushed or defended by "Progressive" elected officials. This isn't good.

What he said.

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