Mike McCabe: After The Finger Pointing

So the effort to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker, which came to a conclusion with Tuesday’s election, was unsuccessful.

As I’ve written elsewhere, I don’t feel compelled to do a comprehensive post-election analysis, in part because I’m exhausted but also because I don’t presume to be an expert. There are many, many folks out there who have some really insightful thoughts on how Gov. Walker was able to survive the effort to recall him, and one of those folks is Mike McCabe, the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

In a blog entry posted on Wednesday, McCabe took aim at what he sees as the failure of the Democratic Party to really lead by making the case to all Wisconsinites that they can “think big” and do great things to help all Wisconsinites.

For years now Democrats have not plausibly made the case that they will deliver better health or retirement security or higher pay to all. Only the state’s few government workers have so benefited from the Democrats’ toil. What is the modern equivalent of the GI Bill that offers every family a path to vocational training or an affordable college education? Where is the digital age’s equivalent of rural electrification or the interstate highway system?

We have one party that is scary and another that is scared. If one is paralyzed and afraid to lead, people will opt for the one willing to act even if the actions are overly extreme for most people’s tastes. It doesn’t mean they hold that party in high esteem or fail to see its faults. The truth is most people hate both parties. The ranks of the politically homeless are growing fast. More Americans refuse to align with either major party than at any time in the last 75 years.

In defeat there is still opportunity for the Democrats. But not if they continue to ignore the law of universality and fail to muster the nerve to really lead. And not if they remain resistant to the obvious remedy for their brand problem. The Democratic Party is the party of government, and most people hate the government. Why? Because increasingly they see it as corrupt, run by people they view as crooked. They don’t believe government is working for them, and if it’s not going to work for them, then they’d prefer to keep it as small as possible.

One party is seen as standing for big government, the other for no government. But neither is seen as truly working for the people. Both are seen as captive parties that owe allegiance to their big donors and ceaselessly cater to those wealthy interests.

For what it’s worth, I think Democrats (nationally as well as here in Wisconsin) need to start offering big ideas on how they’re going to improve the lives of voters, instead of nibbling around the edges. Half measures and a muddled message won’t get the job done – we need big ideas and a clear message.


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