Former college Republican makes his case for Tammy Baldwin at Milwaukee office opening

Tammy Baldwin’s Milwaukee Senate Campaign Office officially opened its doors Monday evening, and I’m glad I went, and not just because of the photo ops and the Brownie Bites. Hanging out with Democratic greats like Congresswoman Baldwin and Senator Herb Kohl (among many others) was nirvana for a political nerd like myself. But the best part of my evening was listening to Ethan Erickson, a college Republican-turned-Democrat, make his case for Tammy Baldwin for Senate.

I struck up a conversation with Ethan following Representative Baldwin’s press conference, as we were packed into the hallway. I asked him what compelled him to attend the event, and he laid out his rationale, along with the political history that shaped it. As a Roman Catholic who grew up in a Republican household mere minutes from Governor Scott Walker’s home in Wauwatosa, Ethan probably wouldn’t have been caught dead at a Democratic event prior to his political conversion. In fact, not that long ago he was so conservative that he was the “token” Republican in his Government class at Cornell University in high school.

But Ethan’s worldviews started to change, in part, after he began to study Industrial Labor Relations in college. The more he learned, the more he realized that he could “no longer defend” Republican principles and policies, as he said they contributed to inequality and poverty in this country.

Ethan did not take his decision to switch parties lightly. Being Roman Catholic “carries with it interesting political connotations” and while he “doesn’t have a problem” with gay marriage, the issue of abortion is “complicated” for him, which is why he espoused Republican values until he found himself supporting Barack Obama at a mock political convention a few years back.

That’s around the time Ethan realized that “there is a whole other side of Catholicism” that includes “the importance of standing up for the poor” and “worker’s rights.” Said Ethan, “It’s a terrible indictment of this country how we’re treating the least amongst us.”

Ethan is concerned that, unlike in the 1930’s, when “the reaction to having global and financial crisis was that we actually made reforms that…solved the crisis,” nowadays “it seems that whatever attempts have been made to solve the crisis have been under attack, making it worse and worse.” Ethan said he supports Tammy Baldwin for Senate because, instead of “blaming everyone else,” she “represents the best chance of standing up for the New Deal Roosevelt values,” and that “if we connected with that FDR sensibility” it would “go a long way” toward helping Wisconsin workers hurt by the recession. “If she were in the Senate, she’d be…standing up for the…kind of values that Ted Kennedy and Wellstone really championed.”

Ethan also appreciates Tammy Baldwin’s views on the importance of unions. He told me that unions provide an “immediate way of bringing people out of poverty” by “making sure they have a living wage, health care, pension, and dignity at work.”

Ethan, himself, plans to look for a job as a union organizer upon graduation, and says he’ll run for public office at some point, so that he, too, can help shape public policy. So much of public policy, he said, affects opportunities, and government policy can provide opportunities to those who have not been “blessed” with them, as he was. When asked to respond to the Republican assertion that people should be able to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, he replied, “You can’t pull yourself up by your own bootstraps if you don’t have any boots in the first place.”

Amen, Ethan.

Photo op- Senator Kohl

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13 thoughts on “Former college Republican makes his case for Tammy Baldwin at Milwaukee office opening

  1. Unless he’s a plant. I just mentioned yesterday the GOP adroitness in recruiting from the ranks of College/Young Republicans. I would not put it beyond these guys to install a ringer. You know, like how they disparage Alinsky’s so-called liberal playbook Rules for Radicals yet study it in minutia and adopt its tactics?

    1. I hear what you’re saying, and I guess anything’s possible, but I highly doubt Ethan is a plant. He allowed me to record our entire conversation, and listening to it…I just have a really hard time believing that’s the case here, based upon the things he told me…

  2. Great post, Lisa! As a Roman Catholic, I’ve often struggled reconciling my church’s teachings on the right to choose, birth control, and same-sex marriage with my own beliefs, and I was interested to read about Ethan’s struggles with some of those same issues.

    1. Ugh. Zach appropriately played the positive reinforcement card. Sometimes I get too used to the role of opposing viewpoint commenter.

      Lisa, you’re doing a great job and I look forward to your future posts. I promise to resist my tendency to contrariness.

      1. Jim, I’ll admit my knee-jerk reaction was to think he might be some sort of plant, but having re-read Lisa’s entry, I’m satisfied he’s undergone a transformation.

      2. Don’t worry, I can handle contrarians.

        Remember, I’ve been blogging since April as Waukesha Wonk,, and I’ve been attacked numerous times by my adversaries and by those on my own team as well. I’ve survived unscathed and I’m still blogging. 🙂

  3. I doubt this guy was ever a Republican. It is an old chestnut to claim you were once a lifelong (fill in the blank), but now I am (fill in the opposite political party). It gives the illusion that a particular political is loosing favor with its base. Certain politicians do attract members of the opposite political party, Tammy Baldwin is not one of them. When someone speaks glowingly of a human piece of filth like Ted Kennedy- it is a safe bet they never were a Republican.

    If he is in college now- and supported Obama at a mock political convention a “few years ago”- he has either been a college student for a very long time (read: not to smart). Or, he is grossly exaggerating his credentials as a College Republican. Perhaps you can contact the College Republicans at his college- I am sure they can verify he was ever a member.

    The Democrats seriously erred in anointing Baldwin- Ron Kind is much more electable. Kind’s career is every bit as undistinguished as Baldwin’s, but he is much more centrist & very likable.

    Thank you for allowing me to express my opinion.

    1. Hi Scott,

      Ethan was a Republican throughout high school and was outspoken in his high school Government class (the “token” Republican). When he arrived at Cornell University, he was “in a period of transition” and became more of a Democrat when he began his studies in Labor Relations.

      Note the use of “college Republican” in the title. If he was a member of the group, College Republicans (which he was not,) I would have capitalized the “c”.

      Hope this clears that part up.

      You’re always welcome to provide feedback; I try to respond when I can, and when people treat me with a certain level of respect, as you have here.


  4. I don’t believe Ethan is a plant. This happens all the time. A not-too-committed young Republican goes off to college and begins to listen to various marxist professors. It is hard to struggle against the leftist flow in the classes. By Thanksgiving of his first year he comes home and informs his family about his conversion.

    1. Wingnut, I wonder if the young man in the video below (who will speak at the Pro-Walker rally in Wauwatosa next weekend) will follow in Ethan’s footsteps?

      Side note: At least my post cites specific reasons as to why Ethan was a Republican, whereas the young man in this video says nothing about the policies which inspire his conservative beliefs. It’s all flash, no substance.

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