Are Democrats’ hopes for Barrett too high?


I apologize for engaging in a little bit of MSNBCism but I’d like to take a few moments to reflect on the potential of Tom Barrett’s gubernatorial candidacy.

In many ways, I see the hope and excitement surrounding Barrett as similar to Obama’s rise leading up to the 2008 election. Going into the campaign season, Barbara Lawton, like Hillary Clinton, was the Democrat to beat. Many Democrats had doubts about her candidacy (they might have won out). They assumed she would be too easy to vilify and associate with the Doyle administration, and that her pet interests, including women’s rights and environmentalism, would not translate into a winning coalition in a general election. She was too “establishment.”

Just like Obama was the anti-Hillary, Barrett is the anti-Lawton. Obama was much cooler than Hillary. His coolness came from his charisma, his speaking ability, and his novelty. Barrett’s coolness comes from the ass kicking he took at the state fair this summer. I’ve emphasized this ad nauseum and I’ll say it again: one act of simple heroism can do a lot for a politician, especially considering how cowardly and calculating the political profession is assumed to be.

But a lot can change in a year. Democrats let go a big sigh of relief this week when Barrett declared. They finally have a viable candidate. But Barrett’s ass kicking isn’t enough. He has to be exciting and distinguish himself from Doyle – aggressively. He needs to make clear that he’s a Milwaukee reformer, and not a member of the Milwaukee establishment.

Especially against Walker, who considers himself the Republican who cleans up the big-city Democratic mess, Barrett will have to make clear to voters that he is not beholden to the interests that typify big-city candidates: the teacher’s union, public sector workers and perhaps most importantly, minority interest groups. The Republicans are not above using racially charged rhetoric against Democrats.

Barrett needs to emphasize the successes he’s had in Milwaukee. He cannot go through the motions of a typical Wisconsin politician. He needs to relate his experience in Milwaukee to what he plans to do for the state. He needs to take risks and criticize some of the things Democrats have done in the past. Perhaps most importantly, he needs to go negative against Walker. He should cast Walker as an extremist who is not bringing “change” but destruction. He should blend attacks on Walker with the themes of compassion and community – issues on which, because of his record of defending grammas from drunks, he  has a certain amount of credibility.

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4 Responses to “Are Democrats’ hopes for Barrett too high?”

  1. lukas Says:

    I definitely agree that Barrett need to go negative against Walker. Walker has done a terrible job as Milwaukee County Exec. However, I don’t think buying into the Republican line that public sector workers and teachers are bad is a good thing. Although with Barrett’s attempt to take over MPS, he might be well on his way of distancing himself from teachers.

  2. capper Says:

    I disagree. If Barrett is patient, Walker will go negative on himself. As Mr. Carver is aware, I am keenly watching Milwaukee County politics, and Walker is about to have the world cave in on him in a month or so.

  3. lukas Says:

    Maybe I’m being pessimistic, but Walker’s recent behavior isn’t much of a departure from his previous behavior. And yet he is still in office. I don’t know if you can count on all of Walker’s mismanagement coming out in the media.

  4. Chris Liebenthal Says:

    No, not in the MJS controlled media, but there are other means to get information distributed until it gets to the point where the MJS cannot ignore it anymore.

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