Guest Blog: In strong defense of Mike Tate

What follows is a guest blog by Graeme Zielinski, former Communications Director for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

I’ve seen that there are some knives out for Mike Tate.

I just worked on the Illinois governor’s race, where we were wiped off the face of the earth in a PLUS-EIGHT DEMOCRATIC STATE by the same monied wave of destruction that encountered Democrats across the country.

In Wisconsin, we had a preview of this unholy pottage of dark money and partisan craving, in the 2010, 2011 and 2102 Scott Walker cycles.

Mike foresaw this and anticipated the wound of the union movement by trying, with all his might, to expand the girding of the progressive base. He’s freaking smart and applies this in ways we need.

My opinion? His view of how to win should be endorsed, followed and copied. His view to concede not an inch to the Scott Walker agenda needs vocal fuel. This is an existential moment, and he understands this in a way that some social media patrons might not.

I don’t always agree with Mike and I stand to gain nothing in his defense-but I think his way is the right way, and I know he cares as much as I do about the might of right in Wisconsin.


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32 thoughts on “Guest Blog: In strong defense of Mike Tate

  1. Graeme, could you ask Mr. Tate, “where are the Walker emails?”

    No way Scott Walker wins a second term if those are released.

    Mr. Abele, who is planning on running against Sen. Johnson in 2016, sat on those emails. If Mr. Tate cared as much about Wisconsin, as you claim, and is as smart as you claim, why wasn’t he going public in JANUARY, urging Mr. Abele to release all of them? By June, when they STILL hadn’t been released, Mr. Tate should have intensified his public efforts.

    IMHO, Mr. Tate’s an order taker from the national Democrats, aka Hillary in 2016. IMHO, they figured Wisconsin’s ten electoral votes were easier to get if Scott Walker was still Governor.

    You wrote: “the same monied wave of destruction that encountered Democrats across the country.” Yep, and as you sell know Mike Grebe and the Bradley FDN are at the center of that “monied wave.” I’m betting there are plenty of reference to them in the emails. If Mr. Tate wants to keep his job, I can think of no better way than to get the emails out NOW. His failure to do that only widens speculation that he and his staff are in the Walker emails.

    OT, removing Mr. Tate is only half the problem. Replacing him with someone better is imho an even tougher task.

  2. As it is this isn’t convincing in the least. What is Tate’s view on how to win? This is no more than Graeme Zielinski telling us all to trust his opinion. This is hardly a strong defense of Mike Tate.

  3. Giving Graeme Zielinski any free space to write anything is not in the best interest of the Democratic Party. In past days this blog has pondered the question of how does the party move forward and meet the needs of the time given the issues our state faces. But if we are to meet the call of history that now meets our party here we must absolutely reject the low-brow and unprofessional manner in which Zielinski did his job. He made a name for himself but hurt the party in the process. Throwing one-liners and being a magnet for controversy is exactly the opposite direction we should be headed. Zielinski has a duty I suppose to Tate, his protector when the antics prevailed, but if you want to address those who made too much money (as in the case of Tate) let us also include Zielinski who had own inflated paycheck from the party given what he provided in terms of sheer embarrassment.

    1. Gregory, Graeme is a friend, and I absolutely disagree with your assertion that giving him space to write is not in the interest of the Democratic Party.

      You may not agree with some of the rhetoric he uses or the points he’s trying to make, but there’s plenty of room for dissenting opinions.

  4. Soooo, Tate must be busy #winning. Couldn’t drop by one of the few liberal blogs to give his own side?

    Tate is “freaking” smart!!! Thank you for that gripping analysis. He’s so super smart that Wisconsin has never had so little power in Wisconsin well, ever. He’s a FREAKING GENIUS!!!!!!!!11!!ty

  5. This is either too public a medium for GZ or not public enough (tough call, really) for he never specifically states how Tate planned to overcome the dark money/hyper-partisanship they were up against for the fourth time. And what we’re left with is a very clear memory of outsized Walker yard signs staked off highways and busy streets, major state events with no Democratic Party presence while the Republican Party booths enjoyed constant streams of drop-by’s, an aggressive selling on one side of trickle-down/austerity/corporate hand-out’s and an anemic-selling of minimum wage, education, start-up investment, high-tech infrastructure-spending, etc. The discussion on the blog in general seems to be wisely moving beyond one person and onto building a new vision. I particularly think the commenter advocating the State Party break away, re-branding, and aggressively seeking out a different type of leadership and candidates is interesting. To that I would add a close study of the Franken campaign and a physical move of the Party headquarters out of Madison as it’s an echo-chamber where good ideas die and fresh faces are anesthetized.

    1. I like your take, I’d move the HQ to Appleton, birthplace of the Republican Party, home of Eugene McCarthy. Might as well challenge the thickest population of Republican voters who won the thing for Walker this time. IIRC, Teddy Roosevelt (R) started the Progressive movement in the early 1900’s, and had a bit of a falling out soon thereafter with Taft and his supporters, whom were not quite in agreement.

      I’ll neither attack nor defend Mike Tate. I (as my more and more feeble memory serves) believe mentioning in the last two days, the problem is bigger that the scape-goats being marginally created in the state leadership. Nationally there are no longer two parties (rinse repeat). Spent parts of the last two days reading and suggest others have a look at a couple of deeper perspectives. Don’t have the schedule but I overheard at the grocery, game day is tomorrow. Longest piece at the top, simplest read at the bottom.

      Short take, Democrats didn’t distinguish themselves from their opponents in the least. Harped on messaging from day one (ask my local D Assembly candidate). A quote that came up from several different sources this past week, which I failed to bookmark so I can’t attribute but will paraphrase: “Given a choice voters will chose a real Republican over a pretend Republican every time.” Progressive voters largely stayed home nation-wide, nobody running represented them (I did say shorter explanation).

      1. NonQ, the game is in like 30 minutes. You’re going to miss it. And Ripon is the birthplace of the Republican Party but yes, moving HQ to Appleton would be a bold, take-it-to-the enemy move. But those links you posted are excellent. All BB readers should take a look and while many will find Pollock unpalatable, he’s worth reading.

        1. Thanks Emma,

          And I should have said home area of Joe McCarthy, oops. I worked for Eugene back in the day (high school introduction to politics). Pretty much quit following football as I became more of a pacifist and studies of cumulative brain damage affecting even HS players are now known fact. This from a college football scholarship recipient.

          To those links, neither progressivism nor democracy automatically flourishes under capitalism, far from it. Capital owns government at the moment, one of the most important things anyone can do this week to preserve any semblance of a democratic republic would be to phone your US representatives and demand public disclosure of the draft TPP and to refuse the POTUS fast-track authority. State politics is totally a moot point if the TPP is passed.

  6. So the defense of 2014 is the same as 2010, “it was bad everywhere it is not our fault.” Of course this ignores the fact that while it was a national GOP wave in 2010, the Democrats in Wisconsin did significantly worse than everywhere else and that wipe out, under Mike Tate’s leadership, resulting in the almost hopeless situation (no hope of gaining control of either the Assembly or Senate anytime soon because of redistricting) that Democrats in this state are in right now. All indications are that Wisconsin under preformed again. That means while Democrats did bad around the country, Wisconsin Democrats did even worse.

  7. The one thing I’d really like Mr. Tate to answer for is the number of legislative races that didn’t even have a Dem on the ballot. (I’m sorry, GZ, but conceding 31 seats from jump street is more than “an inch.”)

    I get that the districts are gerrymandered and that resources are finite, but what would it take to make sure every legislative race has (1) a Dem on the ballot, (2) a website, (3) a couple hundred yard signs, and (4) one or two direct mailers? Larger expenses like ad buys and big GOTV ground games can still be prioritized to “winnable” races, but not showing up at all is not a good look.

    Indulge me in some arithmetic and assumptions… If you look at Assembly Races where Dems got absolutely blown out (e.g., Dist. 73 & 99), the losing Dem still got 6,000 to 8,000 votes. Throw out 50%, figuring these are folks who would have still voted for Burke/Happ and just not voted in a GOP-only Assembly race, and you’re looking at 3,000 to 4,000 votes/district. Multiply that by the 29 Assembly races with no Dem on the ballot, and you’re into the 6-figures and awfully close to the Walker/Schimel margin of victory. My point is uncontested races, even if they’re ridiculous long-shots, depress turnout and hurt our statewide candidates.

    Perhaps most alarming to me is Assembly Dist #33, covering a big chunk of Jefferson Co including Ft Atkinson. This is the district in which Susan Happ resides, and when she voted on Nov 4, there was no Dem candidate on her ballot to represent her in the Assembly. There are progressives in Ft Atkinson, and this area somehow managed to vote Happ into the DA’s office, but we couldn’t field an Assembly candidate? In another fun twist, this district will be represented by the former chair of the Walworth Co GOP, who heard opportunity knocking with Steve Nass leaving to run for Senate and got himself an apartment in the district about 4 months ago. With no Dem running, there was nobody to call out this opportunistic carpetbagging.

  8. Can’t buy it Graeme. The failure of Dem messaging is total, and goes directly to Tate’s leadership, or lack thereof. Mary Burke believed in expanding Medicaid and minimum wage, yet many places that backed those referenda also gave a majority if votes to Walker, and that’s not acceptable.

    In addition , 51% of Wisconsinites in exit polls said they thought Walker is ethical. With literally decades of evidence to counteract that, it is ridiculous that Walker’s shady ethics and GOP lack of decency could have been allowed to be ignored.

    The results and current situation are unacceptable, and as lufthase points out, Dems are still out of the picture in way too many parts of the state. If Tate wants to be a behind-the-scenes fundraiser or organizer, he may be OK there. But he can’t be running the party.

  9. Tate’s messaging is consistently flawed. Instead of building up our candidates, he spent the entire time tearing down the opposing party. If you look at his official statements/party press releases, he spent 2/3 of the time talking about Scott Walker and Brad Schimel instead of Mary Burke/Susan Happ. He somehow decided that the way to win was to harp on why we shouldn’t vote for Walker, instead of why we should vote for Burke.

  10. I like GZ, but not am not what he’s trying to say here besides that he supports Tate.

    He brings up IL where he was, but what about MN where I am? MN and WI are more analogous to each other than WI and IL. What’s the difference?

    And that still doesn’t address my concern about Tate and the rest of the cartel at the DPW of having too much influence over who are candidates are.

  11. Less negative campaigning in commercials, state clearly what you’re for. Don’t waste attack ads back on accusations and instead answer them in official writings in papers. In fact, don’t even show images of the conservative, only their names. Connect them to big money and attack them on their record but not in a scary voice but from the candiate’s mouth themselves. They have to personally say what they stand for, not some voice over. Focus on what Democrats stand for, sell yourself on the issues that win. It’s shown all over the country that these are things that the majority support. More of the candidates talking personally in the commercials, right at the cameras.

    More GOTV on your feet, not on the phones. This includes the candidates going from door to door even in rural and conservative areas such as the suburbs. Stop wasting your time with the opposing party and focus on your candidates. They can be sold.

  12. If no one else will say it today, I will.

    Graeme’s commentary would be like a Bears fan saying this morning “We’re still in the right direction, and Jay Cutler is still the QB to take us to the Super Bowl, and Mel Tucker just needs another year as DC to get the team to buy in.”

    The difference between sports and politics- any Bears fan that tried that VS would be laughed out of the room, because the underperformance and failed results speak for themselves. Why don’t we view Mike Tate’s tenure the same honest way?

    Just like how Mark Trestman might be a good X and O guy, but clearly has lost the team as head coach, Mike Tate may be a good organizer or strategist, but he can’t be running the state party

  13. I guess it’s normal to do Monday morning quarterbacking, what went wrong?, Tate?, Democratic Party?, etc. which we’ve read now for almost a week. It’s a valid exercise.
    I would remind all that is was 2 short years ago where the Tea Party, Republicans, etc. were no longer relevant after election, etc.
    Have things really changed that much in 2 years nationally or locally? I’d say no. Some of the fast moving perceptions on blogs have, but, in reality not much has changed. Deep breath everybody….

  14. Emma is right on with her recommendations about NQ’s links, especially the Matt Stoller piece on Naked Capitalism.

    I like a lot of what Wineke said but he stepped into the chairs position at exactly the right time, 2005-2009. He may have largely surfed the waves of 2006 and 2008 rather than engineered the successes he claims. If he’s going to run for chair he better understand that this isn’t 2006.

    1. Agree, have tremendous respect for Matt Stoller and nakedcapitalism.

      I follow Matt on Twitter at @matthewstoller .

  15. I wrote to Mike Tate and Mary Burke’s campaign asking why they weren’t focusing their ads on raising the minimum wage. Such a no brainer to bring NEW voters to the table, especially younger ones. I work at a job center and my co-workers and I couldn’t believe she didn’t make this her centerpiece. The people I canvassed with and made calls with, for Mary Burke, said the same thing. But I guess she did mention it in the debates because if there’s one thing young people are glued to their seats for, it’s the debates. Mike Tate didn’t bother replying although he managed to send a million emails begging for money to help pay his six figure salary. He needs to go.

  16. In true liberal fashion, when you have repeated failures, instead of addressing the problem, double down and continue to support failed policies, candidates, and “leadership”.

    I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by this seeing as this party has never cared about results, only how many people they can con into believing this crap. Do whatever that makes us feel good and we’ll try to sell it in a good way even though a 3rd grader realizes that its a disaster.

    Mike Tate and GZ should continue their amazing success for the Dem’s in Wisconsin. Please, by all means, continue to bang your moronic drums and sing like fools in the capitol. Maybe even convince the Democrat senators to run away and hide with Jay Cutler in Illinois? The Democrats have seen one disastrous election after another in this state because instead of acting like adults and debating Walker and the Republicans on the issues, they have acted like school yard children. The voters of this state saw right through the attacks on Walker on now he won….again.

    MT and GZ have been the best thing that has ever happened to the republican party in Wisconsin.

  17. Graeme, what you don’t realize is that the primary reason why Democrats here in my home state of Illinois did so poorly is because Pat Quinn legalized fracking, gerrymandered congressional and state legislative districts, handed out tax breaks to big businesses, and did a lot of other things to piss off progressives.

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