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Democrats remain behind the eight ball PDF Print E-mail
State & Local
Written by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation   
Thursday, 19 November 2015 15:56

donald-trumpMADISON - Do a Google search for the words “Republican presidential debates” and “circus” and you get close to 2 million results. Search for “Republican presidential campaign” and “train wreck” and you get 4 million.

Off the national stage, Republican officials in places like Wisconsin are showing clear signs of worry bordering on panic when it comes to their standing with the public. With good reason. Public approval of the GOP has reached its lowest point in decades. Support for the party hasdropped sharply even among self-described Republican voters.

So far, the Democrats seem content to be the slightly less objectionable alternative. Their strategy largely consists of handing the Republicans plenty of rope and hoping they hang themselves.

There are a lot of reasons why that is a questionable strategy. There is one reason in particular why it is actually a recipe for Republicans winning in spite of themselves. Democrats have lost their mojo in rural areas. They used to know how to appeal to rural voters but evidently have forgotten.

The Democrats have a primarily urban support base that has been whittled down in Wisconsin to not much more than Madison and Milwaukee. The Republicans have a suburban support base. Neither party’s base gets them to 50% in elections, so neither base alone can produce a governing majority. Democrats used to have an urban-rural coalition that produced governing majorities for them, but that alliance has fractured and in its place the Republicans have formed a suburban-rural, rich-poor alliance that has won them control of most statehouses across the country including Wisconsin’s.

Book after book has been written about how the Republicans manufactured this realignment. But it wasn’t just the Republicans’ doing. It had every bit as much to do with what Democrats have made themselves into over the last several decades.

When the Democrats were at the zenith of their power, they were unapologetic economic populists, starting with FDR’s New Deal for the Depression-ravaged masses in the 1930s and continuing right through the 1960s with LBJ’s War on Poverty and Great Society programs. Shortly thereafter, it started to become fashionable for Democrats to describe themselves as socially liberal but economically and fiscally conservative. In practical terms, that meant being for such things as abortion rights, gay rights, gun control and legalization of marijuana while becoming increasingly friendly to Wall Street and royals of global industry. The party has been in decline ever since.

One important reason for the steady erosion of the Democrats’ fortunes is that being socially liberal but economically elitist is exactly the opposite of what most rural people are. They are more socially conservative than your average Democrat, but are feeling vulnerable and exploited and taken advantage of economically.

It is definitely conceivable the Democrats could remain socially progressive and win over enough rural voters to win back statehouses and gain firm control over Congress, but only if they combine lifestyle liberalism with very assertive economic populism. It is not remotely possible to be socially liberal and economically elitist — as they are now — and make any meaningful political inroads in rural areas. Not even if Republicans keep shooting themselves in the foot.

Democrats - 'The lost countrypolitans' PDF Print E-mail
State & Local
Written by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation   
Thursday, 19 November 2015 15:34

dems-flagMADISON - The Democrats have been a party in decline for more than 40 years. That’s not to say they haven’t won an occasional battle in that time, but they’ve been losing the war for that long. It’s been a downward spiral ever since the Great Society era drew to a close soon after the dawning of the 1970s.

Forty years of losing argument after argument about which direction the country should head has had a profound cumulative effect. America is more walled off. More locked upArmed to the teeth. More militaristic, defended to the point of ridiculous overkill. All largely because we are becoming more unequal by the day. That’s what 40 years of trickle-down economics and crony capitalism and deregulation for deregulation’s sake get you.

In its heyday, the Democratic Party was countrypolitan. It isn’t anymore.

Countrypolitan is a slang term most often associated with music. But it can apply to anything — or anyone — that’s a mix of rural (country) and urban (metropolitan). That’s what the Democratic Party used to be decades ago. It is not countrypolitan today and hasn’t been for quite some time now. The Democrats started losing ground when they stopped appealing to people outside the cities.

The Democrats’ decline will continue until they get serious about exploring why rural and suburban people currently are sticking together to support right-wing values and policies, how they could be persuaded to part company, and how rural and urban interests could be reunited.

The Democratic Party has much to gain and little to lose from such exploration. It can’t sink much lower. But lower- and middle-class Americans in both rural and urban areas stand to gain the most. Policies benefiting them don’t stand much of a chance of becoming the law of the land as long as the vast wealth of a few holds policymakers in such an iron grip.

For there to be a chance of commoner-friendly thinking being reflected in government actions, a new coalition of commoners needs to emerge, one that packs enough punch to stagger the reigning political champion — money. Legions of diligent campaign finance reformers are watching helplessly these days as old safeguards against government corruption are stripped away and the floodgates are opened ever wider, allowing more and more money to flood into elections and lobbying. They are powerless to stop political inequality from breeding still more political inequality.

Growing political inequality then produces greater economic inequality and sustained social inequality. And the more government is seen working for just a few at everyone else’s expense, the more the masses despise government. The more government is despised, the easier it is for a wealthy and well-connected few to control.

This vicious cycle is the 99%’s quandary. And the Democratic Party’s.

Preventing our nation from becoming more stratified, more walled off and more fractured depends on breaking the vicious cycle of political and economic inequality. Today’s Democratic Party appears to be at a loss about how to do it or even what to try. Democrats would do well to start by reacquainting themselves with the forgotten countrypolitan formula that worked so well for them from the 1930s through the 1960s.

The Sun Rises in Milwaukee PDF Print E-mail
State & Local
Written by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign   
Wednesday, 18 November 2015 16:58

milwaukeeMADISON - I refuse to be gloomy!

Yeah, I know, we took a big hit on the GAB bill and the campaign finance bill. But I’m hopeful that things will turn around.

And one of the reasons I’m hopeful is that there is tremendous pro-democracy work going on around this state. For example, at the very time that the State Assembly was rubber-stamping these horrendous bills, I was at an inspiring conference in Milwaukee, where 150 pro-democracy and issue activists came together to chart a promising way forward. I write about it here:

Dark day in Madison, sunny dawn in Milwaukee

While I was in Milwaukee, our research director, Mike Buelow, was looking into a recent court decision that will handcuff the ability of the DNR to regulate high-capacity wells, which are siphoning off our water to factory farms. There’s one big factory farm that may benefit the most, as Mike reported here:

Milk Source, a big Walker donor, wins in judge's ruling on wells

Mike Buelow also uncovered all the money that employees of Johnson Controls have been giving Scott Walker, who doled out WEDC loans of almost $2.5 million to the company, which is now laying off workers:

Love triangle:  Johnson Controls, Walker contributions, and WEDC

By the way, I’m going back to Milwaukee tomorrow night to talk about “The Assault on Democracy in Wisconsin, and How We Can Fight Back.” So please come see me if you can.

Here are the details: I’ll be speaking at ATU Hall (Amalgamated Transit Union), 734 N. 26th St, at 7:00 p.m. this Thursday night, Nov. 19.

And please tell your Milwaukee friends about it, too. It should be fun, and I promise to be hopeful.

Wisconsin Report Card Provides Info on Progress, Problems PDF Print E-mail
State & Local
Written by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District   
Monday, 16 November 2015 18:24

teacher-maleA report published by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX) tracks statistics reflecting the economy, education and quality of life in Wisconsin. It's not rocket science, there's a lot of room for improvement.

Last Updated on Monday, 16 November 2015 19:01
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