When the Dream Defenders ended their 31 day occupation of Florida Governor Rick Scott’s office they went back to their respective communities with a specific goal in mind: to register  61,550 new voters for the 2014 elections. Scott won the 2010 election by exactly that margin.

At a press conference announcing the initiative, Dream Defenders Executive Director Phillip Agnew said:

“ We intend to register the people that are forgotten: the black, the brown, the indigent, the poor, the LGBTQ community and we will meet them where they are, in the classrooms, in the mall, at the club, on the corner, at the bus stop. So when the time comes again for us to move on issues like the school-to-prison pipeline, like Stand Your Ground, we won’t have to sit on the floor again.”

Scott Walker won the 2010 election by roughly 70,000 votes. He won the recall election by roughly 170,000 votes.  So we have a lot of work to do between now and November 2014, but I think we can do it. Actually, I know we can.

All across Wisconsin hundreds of thousands of low income voting age adults are seeing their taxes go up and their health care costs increase as the result of Scott Walker’s budgets, while the wealthy and corporations are getting tax cuts. Changes to the Earned Income and Homestead tax credit programs, and Walker’s refusal to expand Badgercare with money available under the Affordable Care Act, is punishing working families at a time when jobs are still in short supply, prices are rising, and wages are stagnant. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.  It’s a situation the Wisconsin Budget Project has called “ Robin Hood in Reverse .”

I strongly believe that it’s within this income demographic that we’ll find the votes we need to defeat Scott Walker. I can tell you multiple stories of conversations I’ve had with low wage, working class people over the last two years that have led me to this conclusion, and I’ll be happy to elaborate on these in the comments below, or perhaps in a future post.  But how do we find these voters, and what do we say to them when we do find them?

There are 99 Assembly districts in Wisconsin. I have no doubt there are at least 2,000 unregistered, or non-midterm, low income voters in every one of them.  That’s 198,000 potential new voters. I live in the 73rd Assembly district, the northwestern most district in the state, and here’s what my wife and I would be willing to do.

We’d start with a petition that calls on Walker to keep Badgercare eligibility for parents of minor children at its current level of 200% of the federal poverty line, and to further accept the federal money available under the Affordable Care Act to expand Badgercare to childless adults up to 138% of the federal poverty line. Our petition would also call on Walker to use the savings from accepting the money, 120 million dollars, to restore both the Earned Income and Homestead Tax Credit programs.

And since Phillip Agnew said he and the Dream Defenders would meet people  where they are , so would we. We’d take our petition and, just after the first of the year, we’d start knocking on doors in trailer parks, public housing projects, and low income neighborhoods in Spooner, Minong, Solon Springs and Superior. I can guarantee you from both personal and professional experience that we’d find a lot of people very interested in our petition.

After several weeks we’d arrange a meeting with a couple of dozen directly affected people and our representative, Nick Milroy, and ask him to introduce a bill based on our petition demands. We’ll call it the Budget Fairness Act. We’d invite the press. If the press won’t come (I have no doubt Nick will) we’d use social media to broadcast the meeting. We’d publish letters to the editor about the petition. We’d get a story or two in local papers.

Then we’d knock on more and more doors, building our core group of organizers constantly and expanding our outreach throughout the spring and summer of 2014, until we’d found 2,000 petition signers who’d either never voted in a mid-term election or never voted at all and who would be, through our education efforts about Walker and his budgets, plenty pissed off that millionaires are getting richer while they’re getting poorer.

Then, just a few weeks before the election, we’d go into full Get Out The Vote mode and do our absolute best to get all 2,000 of them to the polls for the candidate that has their best interests in mind, presumably, the Democrat. It’s that simple. We just need to replicate this strategy across all 99 Assembly districts.

Is this a large scale undertaking? Of course it is, but most of what we need to do it is already in place. If the Dream Defenders think they can register 61,000 plus new voters to defeat Rick Scott, surely United Wisconsin can find 170,000 to defeat Scott Walker. They/we managed to gather 900,000 signatures to trigger a recall election, so there’s no question they have a huge database of names and contact info for thousands of volunteers. And announcing a statewide issue campaign to mobilize upwards of 200,000 new mid-term election voters could prompt financial support from progressives around the state, and the country, who would love nothing more than to see Wisconsin rise up yet again and, this time, defeat Scott Walker.

And we already have a prospective Democratic candidate for governor, Kathleen Vinehout, whose alternative budget includes expanding Badgercare via the ACA and restoring the Earned Income and Homestead Tax Credit programs.  If we make enough noise I’m confident Mary Burke, and the DPW, will both get on board what we’re doing.

Think about it for a minute. Walker made history when he won the recall election. Do we want to let that stand?  Is that the way we want this to end? I don’t think the Wisconsin Uprising is over just yet, not by a long shot.  We can write the final chapter in this particular bit of history in November of 2014, and if we’re successful it would reverberate across the country and turn conventional political wisdom on its head. We just need to dig deep and find the resolve, the commitment, and the determination to make it happen.

Let’s do it.


41 Responses to Defending the Dream and Defeating Scott Walker

  1. nonquixote says:

    Thanks Steve for the thoughts and links.

    Also to be considered in a sense as valued partner the Forward Institute,


    where Scott Wittkopf is chair. Most of you will recall his excellent research and analysis presented previously at,


    No War but Class War (and that is what we are engaged in)

  2. NQ,

    Thanks for the thanks. I dearly hope some organization in Wisconsin takes this effort up. My wife and I can’t do it alone.

    • Cat Kin says:

      There are quite a few organizations raising money for various Liberal causes in Wisconsin. It’d be great if we could get all of them united on something like your plan. Then they might do some good for a change.

  3. Cat Kin says:

    Sounds like a plan, Steve. Kathleen would be a great help if we can get her committed to a primary. But she is protecting her Senate seat, and I don’t blame her, so she won’t commit until January. Being a small business man who has served small business for decades, I favor including small businesses in our recruiting, as these people simply don’t realize how badly people like Walker and his gang are screwing them while Liberals and unions are being blamed. I have to say also, the unions have thrown Obama and progressives, including small business, under the bus with their rejection of the ACA and this is IMHO a consequence of greedy union leadership who still want those lucrative insurance deals. This means your plan will be very important if we are to overcome the apathy that’s set in since the Walker recall.

    • Cat Kin,

      The AFL-CIO has made Walker one of six repub governors they’d like to oust. If they see signs of life amongst the rank and file members and non-union working class people they’re more likely to pull out all the stops.

      While I hope Kathleen decides to run this strategy could still be implemented with another candidate, as long as she could agree to the petition demands. I doubt Mary Burke would disapprove.

      While I don’t disagree with your views on how Walker is treating small businesses, what’s distinct about what I’m advocating is that we’d have a democrat saying out loud what she would do for working, near poor families. I think the response from average folks would surprise everybody. A lot of people don’t want to just hear about what’s wrong with Scott Walker, they want to know what a democrat will DO for them.

  4. Duane12 says:

    Thank you for your effort and a plan. The names supporting the Recall is certainly a base or starting point to registering new voters and ensuring an adequate turnout.

    Also, I call your attention to Walker’s advertisement on the Packer game today and the fact that the emphasis, seemed to be selective on economic issues, but ignoring the big picture of low or slow job growth.

    What are your thoughts on “false advertising?”

  5. Duane,

    Didn’t see the Packer game.

    I don’t think we can compete with Walker’s false advertising TV budget, so we need to actually get out and talk to people in their neighborhoods. A lot of us are going to have to get out of our comfort zones and do things we find initially uncomfortable, like organizing door to door, if we’re going to be certain to defeat Walker.

    United Wisconsin’s list would first be invaluable in finding the volunteers we need to do that.

  6. AJ says:

    Steve, I like your plan. The demographic you are talking about is exactly who needs to turn out to vote in November 2014. 99 assembly districts is how to win this too. Some of the worst turn out in the state happens to be in our most democratic districts. The other districts we need to change the voter electorate to overcome the gerrymandering.

    Talking to people about issues that directing effect them like badgercare is vitally important. Going early and giving these people information on how to register to vote is important.

  7. AJ,

    You raise an excellent point. Low turnout in solidly Dem districts. We need to ratchet those up. I also think there’s a good chance this strategy could flip some districts currently thought to be Repub safe, as well as strengthen those Dem districts currently viewed as vulnerable.

    What we have the opportunity to do is historic to a degree well beyond Walker’s ” historic” recall win. I have no doubt that if Fightng Bob La Follette was alive today he’d be commenting favorably on this post.

    Pardon my grandiosity. 🙂

  8. Ryan Kelleher says:

    This is a great plan. It not only can be done but it has to be done. These crazy politicians in power don’t represent the majority of people in Wisconsin and so it is our duty to give those without a voice a chance to speak up and have a say. Lets get it done.

    Thanks Steve.

  9. nonquixote says:

    As I contemplate where best to focus my efforts, I am starting with encouraging, then asking my preferred candidate what I can do, and, I’m watching for a coalition of groups to officially announce partnering, which I don’t foresee happening publicly, before January (and maybe not ever). I’m not in a position to know anything that several likely, similarly motivated groups might be contemplating about 2014.

    One thing I feel certain of (based on past observation) DPW will not be asking anyone how DPW could be of service to another group or “their pick” for a candidate or to another coalition, or even to a committment to doing anything but promising small, “d,” agenda attention. Partly because of campaign law, but mostly out of their self-interest in retaining control of issues, candidates, money and power and a status quo of capitalist domination of we the people. Their self-interest will prove counter-productive to the goal of removing Walker at just about every stage imaginable. I see that as a persistent problem needing to be overcome and wasting resources. DPW is only interested in what you can do for them, and not the other way around. Take a look at their website, red to blue obligations for allowing/accepting you to join them as a potential candidate.

    However, on the brighter side, I cannot imagine that there is not similar party disaffection in some R circles, looking for other choices than bowing to the regime mentality their past party loyalty helped elect, and who now have more than small regrets about it. I voted for zero the first time. FWIW.

    No War But Class War

    • AJ says:

      nonquixote, I choose to volunteer my time at the county party level. At this level my input is taken seriously and by being a member I always have a vote. The DPW isn’t perfect, but it will not change unless more activists get involved at the local county party level and vote to change the DPW at the state convention level.

      The outside organizations do help, but in my view they are less transparent than DPW. Also a lot of the organizations go after the same voters DPW does, in fact that duplicates DPW’s effort instead of bringing in new voters. Steve’s post is about United Wisconsin taking a leadership role, where DPW has left a void of bringing in new voters who are low income.

      • nonquixote says:

        I applaud your actual involvment, AJ. My experience, assisting with the recall, updating 1000’s of VAN entries for our county, 100’s of phone calls, managing an office for weeks at a time, attempting to get even small party failings discussed, i.e. constructive criticism, (for instance, county leaders never producing an agenda for a meeting), was met every time as a threat to their authority. Newsletter suggestions were filtered by one un-elected party member and if that person did not want it included it was not included, you received no reason or debate. Gatekeepers to block criticism of party policy or direction. Slate of officers presented at annual meeting, chosen by committee of then current officers was the only option for filling end of term officer positions. No other nominating process. Re-writing local constitution with gender neutral language, was too much to even consider important in the least. As I mentioned in a previous comment, total surrender of all party resources to OFA (not the current shape-shifted one) with no prior discussion among party rank and file, for 2012 presidential. Simply, here peons, get with the program.

        See my comment at the Tommy GTAC post about the latest serious D failure to inform the public or party. http://bloggingblue.com/2013/09/16/tommy-gtac-bites-the-dust/comment-page-1/#comment-136951

        Democratic Party structure/leadership, will never again get a minute of my time or a dime of my money. Barrett already had a job when he stepped ON the recall primary. Too many wanna-be stake-holders in a piece of 1% largess in D leadership enshrining the status quo. A gubernatorial candidate without official party affiliation would get twice what I would otherwise be willing to give in support. Quote from at least two county leaders, “We are only interested in electing D candidates, and you want to discuss issues and policy?” Seriously?

      • AJ,

        Your point about various organizations going after the same voters is one of the most frustrating things canvassers find when they go door to door. The lists that the DPW, the candidates campaign and union PAC’s use have tremendous overlap and it gets to the point where you don’t even want to finish your list because you know someone has already been there, maybe multiple times.

        I’m convinced that if we’re going to win in 2014 it’s absolutely crucial that at least one major organization with a statewide reach break from that pattern and find new voters.

    • AJ says:

      nonquixote, I choose to volunteer my time at the county party level. At this level my input is taken seriously and by being a member I always have a vote. The DPW isn’t perfect, but it will not change unless more activists get involved at the local county party level and vote to change the DPW at the state convention level.

      The outside organizations do help, but in my view they are less transparent than DPW. Also a lot of the organizations go after the same voters DPW does, in fact that duplicates DPW’s effort instead of bringing in new voters. Steve’s post is about United Wisconsin taking a leadership role, where DPW has left a void of bringing in new voters who are low income.

  10. Joanne Brown says:

    Hello all you commenters, whoever you are! Kathleen Vinehout will be at our house in Madison on Thursday, September 26, from 5:30 to 7:30 if you’d like to meet her and talk to her about messaging, coalitions, strategy, etc. This is a “Meet the Candidate” opportunity (see the Facebook page) and we welcome people who are interested in her candidacy for governor to come. (I’d also love to meet some of the frequent bloggingblue posters, myself!) Here’s the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/578994768824799/


  11. PJ says:

    Fantastic, Steve! Thank you for putting this together. Now, we’ve got to put it into action. Some thoughts:

    1. Have you contacted United Wisconsin yet? United Wisconsin might be able to get the logistics going faster.
    2. What do we need to do first to get this ball rolling? 99 people? One to spearhead efforts in each district?

    • nonquixote says:

      Answer to your #2, PJ is obvious. If able and willing to do so, you need to say, I (you) will help in such and such county or district. Sign me up, I (you) will take responsibility to do supporting work.

      Not intending to curb anyone’s enthusiasm, but you nor I are yet officially part of Steve’s group (the WE you refer to in your question) if you don’t first volunteer your efforts to be part of it and say so. Otherwise your question is moot and a waste of digital space. Vacuous cheer-leading, nothing more.

      Not meaning to pick on you personally or anything like that, I (personally) am not able to join Steve’s plan yet, though it is a seriously practical and clear strategy for grassroots pressure on D establishment lethargy.

      • PJ says:


        Thank you for your input. We will agree to disagree with what I or anyone else needs to say in terms of commitment. There isn’t a framework or coordinating body yet established. The coordinating body would be the appropriate place for such a declaration. I’m treating this thread as a brainstorming session and a vehicle to generate enthusiasm – with the hope of establishing that coordinating body.

        We will agree to disagree on your intent and your meaning. Your commentary is corrosive. If indeed you do find this a thread for declaration and you have chosen to declare non-participatation then perhaps you need say nothing more. You’ve affirmed it is a good plan and declared that you will not be participating. Your purpose is ostensibly achieved.

        Or if #2 is obvious to you, perhaps offer your thoughts on how to get the ball rolling. If you have no suggestions in this arena perhaps your purpose is complete.

    • PJ,

      The first thing to do is to get as many people as possible to send an email to United Wisconsin urging them to take this up. Wouldn’t hurt to include a link to this post.



      The second thing we can do immediately is to quit fighting amongst ourselves on this blog, which I pledge to do.

      • nonquixote says:

        I hope no one detected any animosity from me at 8:44 am, absolutely none was intended. I made a positive suggestion, declare you are ready to step up to the plate and partake of the work.

        I used a posed question as a vehicle to say exactly what you are saying here, Steve, getting involved means committing to action. One says, “I am here to volunteer,” if they are ready to join or engage.

        PJ, that you imply that I didn’t make a positive suggestion about what to do as a first step,

        Or if #2 is obvious to you, perhaps offer your thoughts on how to get the ball rolling. If you have no suggestions in this arena perhaps your purpose is complete.

        clearly translating to butt out, or just STFU nonquixote, I’d appreciate you sticking to your prior promise of not responding to me anymore. Yes, truth is generally corrosive to small mindedness and prejudice.

        • PJ says:


          I have apologized to you, and I have apologized to you sincerely. You are not obliged to accept, however, an attempt is being made here to curb the infighting. I hope you will join in that effort. If you recall I said “consider yourself persona non grata.” I should have been more clear, admitted, and apologies for not being more clear. Persona non grata would be an indication that I did not want you to respond to me, not the other way around. I am the second person who has asked you that.

          I am apologizing to you again because left as it stands, tension remains. And, I was in the wrong. With that said if your comments seem negative, I will address that negativity and I will be more cognizant of sensitively addressing that negativity.

          I’m unconvinced that there can be any harmony in an environment where a pledge has been made to curb the infighting and more than one commenters have pledged not to respond to one another. My guess is no. Tensions will only continue to build. So, let’s work this out.

  12. PJ says:

    I pledge to quit fighting too. I also apologize to NQ for any offenses that I have given in our exchanges. It was careless and thoughtless of me. I apologize. Sincerely.

    • nonquixote says:

      Graciously accepted PJ. I realize we are rarely at cross purposes to desired goals, I also realize the gap between accurately assigning blame for problems inhibiting the achievement of those goals. I was typing my previous comment as you must have been posting this.

      Not an excuse, my desk has multiple, monitors, six windows, three programs running, work, research and compulsory communication, plus intermittent phone talk with the best severely over-priced (free enterprise ISP) with no competition, wholly inadequate to the tasks.

      Just got ready for a face to face meeting. Thank you.

      • PJ says:


        I was typing my last comment before reading yours. Multi-tasking I understand. Happy that you’ve accepted my apology. it was sincerely offered.

  13. PJ says:

    Your suggestion for a emailing United Wisconsin is an excellent a starting point, Steve.

    Another thought is perhaps we can also brainstorm on compiling a listing of groups that might lend their effort in some way to the Budget Fairness Initiative. I thought Move to Amend might be a good resource to get on board if they were willing, but I’m sure with as many voices as we have here we can come up with a lot. That list would be good for future networking expansion.

  14. Duane12 says:

    Steve, yes and yes.

    We should also consider some have constraints limiting physical activity or prior commitments to other political venues or action. But a word or two of encouragement here, now and then, is a good thing too.

  15. Zachary says:

    Steve, I like your ideas, and I think they’re a very valid way to turn things around. However, the devil is in the details, so to speak, and the tricky part is actually putting your plan into action.

    I absolutely agree with you that there are votes to be had for Democrats, but we’ve got to engage those folks who’ve either sat on the sidelines or who’ve voted against their economic self-interests and reach them in a way that they’ll understand why it behooves them to vote Democratic.

  16. Zach,

    A lot of these folks are already voting democratic in presidential years. They don’t vote in mid terms because they don’t understand what they’re for. I’ve heard that a lot over the last couple of years. And they don’t understand the connection between cuts to the programs they depend on and state government. They also don’t realize their employer has to give them time off to vote.

    With all due respect I think you’re succumbing a bit to a stereotype. I’m saying a lot of the voters we need are already registered and voting democratic, just not in mid term elections, out of ignorance more than anything else. And when they voted for Obama it was FOR him, not against McCain or Mitt Romney. We probably can’t turn a lot of these voters out by telling them to vote against Scott Walker. But if we have something concrete that a Dem will do for them, like the petition I described, I believe they’ll come out.

    • Zachary says:

      Steve, if you can figure out the secret to motivating those voters who don’t typically vote in midterm elections to get out and vote, I’d reckon you’ll be a very rich man.

      • PJ says:

        I suspect there isn’t one secret to motivating midterm voters, but many. A reason to go to the polls with a concomitant belief that voting will make a difference is key. Believing one cannot effect change is a devastating apathy – it kind of saps the whole notion of what it means to be a citizen from our cultural heritage. The flip side of apathy, of course, is caring or empathy/sympathy. One has to care in order to be motivated. I would imagine motivating voters who don’t vote midterm is a multilateral strategy. Seems Steve has hit on at least one portion in that complexity.

      • Zach,

        Getting rich wasn’t my goal but you’ve certainly intrigued me. 🙂

        What if the democrats started talking about something other than the middle class? PJ has explained the core of it. A concrete reason to vote, an explanation that they’re part of a statewide effort and their vote will count, and then someone who seems to actually care about their plight willing to blind knock on doors in poor neighborhoods to explain all this.

        I worry that the last part will prove to be the most difficult.

  17. PJ says:

    Definitely, midterms are always challenging because these are elections that don’t seem to connect to anything tangible. Perhaps a concomitant message in the Budget Fairness Initiative is articulating a brief civics primer – what midterms are for and why they are important. Perhaps this is a message that needs to be reinforced afterward as well and repeated thereafter.

    It’s also easiest to begin with what we have – and that would be Democratic voters. Steve is right. Democrats need something/someone to vote FOR. Lacking a cohesive agenda or a candidate at this point, I think Steve’s hit on a good message for foundation building.

    Logistically, obviously the ultimate method is the one Obama refined in 2008 and 2012. It would eliminate the canvassing issues that Steve mentioned and would provide the most tailored (and probably most accurate) demographic information. Accessing it would probably mean involving the Democratic Party.

    Maybe those who are involved in the DPW can use their contacts there to suggest how the DPW might proceed in taking up the Budget Fairness Initiative?

    At this juncture, contacting United Wisconsin seems a good proactive move we can do right now. Perhaps the Democratic Party will want to involve itself at some point – I should think it would.

    What we could do right now is get the skeleton of a petition sketched out.

    Another thing we can do right now is isolate the bare bones of Steve’s petition and flesh out talking points. One of Steve’s questions was what do we say once we reach people – we could answer that now, here on this thread. We can pool our collective experience, brainstorm and refine.

    • PJ,

      We can’t eliminate the canvassing part, and we’re not actually canvassing. What I’ve proposed is that we organize this demographic. This only works if we have enough volunteers to walk poor neighborhoods, talk to people, listen to their concerns and the details of their struggles, and then arrange a meeting so they can speak to their elected representatives, and later hold a rally or demonstration advocating for the petition demands. That’s why I wrote that we need to start early in 2014.

      My firm belief is that low income presidential year Dem voters won’t respond to mailers and TV ads blasting Walker, or pro-Dem mailers and TV ads talking about strengthening the middle class.

      If we won’t do what I’m describing we actually run the risk of losing presidential year Dems who will be forced off of Badgercare or the waiting list and into a private health insurance plan via the ACA. They’ll be prone to blaming Obama and the Dems, instead of blaming Walker, because they simply won’t know they could have kept their Badgercare if Walker had taken the money.

  18. PJ says:


    What I meant about Obama’s platform is it eliminates the problem of canvassing overlap that you alluded to – making the organization of this demographic more targeted and faster. But never mind that platform – that’s not even an issue unless the Democratic Party wants to take it up.

    I agree with you regarding the Anti-Walker message. We need it, but that won’t do it alone. We need a competing agenda that not only resonates as a message but actually responds to the lives of the people. Absent that I think your attention to Badgercare and low income voters is spot on.

  19. PJ,

    If United Wisconsin raised enough money I’m pretty sure they could buy access to the VAN, voter activation network, and the DPW doesn’t need to get involved. But I’m not sure the VAN has income information so walking poor neighborhoods will still be required, and that’s the only way we find new voters to educate and register.

  20. Jud Lounsbury says:

    Hey Steve — heard you on Sly. You were great. Loved your perspectives.

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