Eric Genrich: Look back to move progressive politics forward

At the risk of getting a little fixated on the subject, this is a great opinion piece by Democratic State Rep. Eric Genrich on how to move the Democratic Party in Wisconsin forward in the face of further losses in the 2014 general election.

So how can we turn the tide and restore our state’s politics to a progressive trajectory that’s in keeping with our best traditions? I think it’s helpful to look back to the history of our party (as John Nichols suggested previously in these pages), specifically to its re-founding, which occurred almost exactly 65 years ago at the Hotel Northland in Green Bay. Here were gathered some of the giants of post-war progressive politics, people like Gaylord Nelson, Pat Lucey, William Proxmire, James and Ruth Doyle, and so many others. They assembled as the Democratic Organizing Committee, an unaffiliated political organization intent on reforming the ineffectual and antiquated Democratic Party of Wisconsin, a party that was more focused on patronage than progressive change.

At the Hotel Northland in 1949 were the three strands that would join to form the future Democratic Party of Wisconsin: former capital “P” Progressives, “sewer socialists” from Milwaukee, and New Deal Democrats. These three groups represented what was best about Wisconsin’s pre-war politics, and here the participants committed to unifying those traditions and forming a modern, progressive, competitive party to do battle with the state’s then-unbeatable GOP. They articulated a forward-looking platform and constitution to guide their efforts, and then they worked like hell to carry it out. Thankfully our party has grown since these early days. It’s far bigger, stronger, and much more diverse, but we can draw real inspiration and guidance from the vision, backgrounds, and selfless dedication of our founders.

Interestingly, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and the site of its founding have some something in common — they’ve both seen better days. Thankfully for the Northland and the city of Green Bay, the hotel is in the early stages of a full renovation that will restore it to its former glory. Much of what made the Northland great still remains. Its foundation is strong; its distinctive attributes have been maintained; and its rehabilitation is supported by a strong community of people. Sound familiar? What differentiates the Hotel Northland’s situation from that of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin is the presence of a thorough plan and a core group of individuals who are dedicated to seeing that plan through to completion. I don’t say that to criticize our chair or the party staff. I say it to recognize that they cannot do it alone, and they cannot do it without a fresh articulation of party principles that speaks to voters in clearly progressive terms. They cannot do it with a meek and meager economic message that fails to recognize and address the real struggles of working people. To recapture positions of power within our state Capitol we will need the sustained effort and input of every Democrat in the state, especially those of us who have been elected to office, in a shared and unrelenting campaign to express what we want to do, how we would do it, and how it would benefit the people of Wisconsin.


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17 thoughts on “Eric Genrich: Look back to move progressive politics forward

  1. The problem is the many ambitious young dems that really believe they are part of the tradition of the Progressives and Sewer Socialists, but also align themselves with Chris Abele who would be seen as a pariah to Wisconsin’s progressive heroes. The Party cannot move forward if it continues to be funded by people that share Scott Walker’s economic views.

  2. “I say it to recognize that they cannot do it alone, and they cannot do it without a fresh articulation of party principles that speaks to voters in clearly progressive terms.”

    Had the pleasure of meeting Eric and his wife on two occasions and I see that as far as party he still hasn’t heard what I expressed both times. The PARTY IS NOT LISTENING to voters, but intent only on continually speaking.

    How that becomes formalized into a party structure that is continuing official ties to the DNC. IMO might be the place to begin a change. Short and sweet, it won’t happen until that change is made.

    Not surprised to see no comments at the linked article.

    1. Seems like awfully weak tea from Genrich. I wonder if this signals a continuation of current leadership and control by mediocre insiders.

      1. Emma, you had one misspelling; it should be “leadership-less” referring to the current cat in control.

    2. Sorry, comma, not a period after *DNC,* and perhaps more important than listening to D voters, seek the thoughts of non-voting former/past D voters and definitely, the DPW should break with the DNC.

          1. No, I still vote. I don’t know what you mean about harassment. Only trying to help. But if you only want to hear from former Dem voters who agree with you, just say so.

            1. Non-voting has a couple meanings. I posted this link to a dictionary yesterday for the term *context* and how a quote of mine was deliberately taken out context. Funny that person had no response to this being pointed out.


              I was already quite positive about your answer to my second question. Thanks for confirming my evidence based intuition.

              Insinuate whatever you want to with your last sentence, you’ve never sought anyone’s permission to comment before, much less mine?

              There is a thread topic, it appears you have completely missed it.

            2. Denis- There’s nothing that you’ll say that’ll be remotely connected to reality, so no, we don’t really care what a trailer-trash troll like you thinks. You never were a Dem anyway- your parents may have been, and that’s why you may have voted that way, but that’s because your parents had self-respect and respect for work. Unlike you, who feeds off envy and badly needs attention like the mediocre adolescent you are.

              1. I wish this wasn’t about me but you made it so Jake, so let me clean up your mistakes. Mom was and is a conservative but I didn’t know that or care until I became interested in politics, much later. Dad died when I was in 8th grade so I have no recollection of his politics but I do recall he was very Catholic. Thanks I guess for the kind words about my parents, neither of whom it sounds like you know. As for me, I was apolitical til college when I turned to the left. I went on to get a Masters in Social Work in my twenties. Gradual shift to conservative sometimes libertarian leanings thereafter. So if you or non want to know how that transformation happened, I will be happy to share. Not sure what you mean about feeding off envy but whatever. No need for the hostility. People ought to be able to disagree about stuff, even passionately, without it being personal.

                1. (Warning: Off Topic)

                  As you brought me into your comments to Jake, no I don’t care at all about your political transformation process, the results exhibited are pathetic enough.

                  So you may have had some early religious indoctrination. Then this may ring a bell (for you and Scooter:

                  “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

                  I truly have zero faith you will be following your own 7:57 pm pronouncement.

  3. The Democratic party has to return to its blue collar roots and stand for policies that result in improving the lives of workers. The demise of unions, only 7% of private sector jobs are union affiliated, has resulted in no voice for workers and economic greed replacing shared wealth from capitalistic endeavors. The bottom line for corporate balance sheets no longer includes worker well-being but now only CEO and stockholder satisfaction. Consequently with no organized voice or semblance of power workers have been left behind and only government can step in to support workers. The Republican party has sold Wisconsinites on the evils of organized labor selling falsehoods about public employees and pitting them against the private sector. People have been so caught up in this battle that they’ve lost sight of how present day government has rewarded business and corporate donors with legislation that tilts the playing field far to the advantage of those who have abundance. The typical Wisconsinite needs to wake up and see that the legislators they elected to serve them have abandoned them in favor of those special interests and businesses who contribute large amounts to the Republican party.

    1. BTW, nice description of the uni-party representing the 1%. Elected Republicans are fully owned and Democrats are fully rented. Divide and conquer was not a Walker original thought.

      Aside from one or two, “…the legislators they elected to serve them have abandoned them…” one might even argue, NEVER served them/us in the first place, and from day one, year one, chief culprit was/is POTUS. Pick any issue.

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