Some thoughts on DPW Chair Martha Laning’s recent “controversy”

Earlier this week, Dan Bice of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
wrote about a secretly recorded video that showed Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Martha Laning attempting to imitate the speech patterns of Democratic State Rep. David Bowen (who is also the First Vice Chair of the party) during remarks to the Door County Democratic Party in July.

Predictably, the right-wing outrage machine (along with a smattering of folks from the left) sprang into action attacking Laning, but to some (including David Bowen) the “controversy” was much ado about nothing. Asked to comment on Laning’s remarks and her attempt to imitate his speech patterns, David Bowen said, “There is nothing wrong about our Democratic Party embracing diversity,” adding, “It’s what separates us from our Republican counterparts, who at many times oppose it.”

Over at Cognitive Dissidence, DFL has a writeup with his/her thoughts on the situation which is worth reading (here’s a snippet).

We are giddy!! For the first time ever, we at Data, Facts and Logic are seeing white DPW members– especially past consultants, staff, and their closest friends– up in arms about what they saw as a racist video. The video was taken at an event where DPW Chair Martha Laning spoke. She detailed how exciting it had been to be at a speech by President Obama, watching it with a largely African-American audience, imitating what she had heard David say and how he said it.

Never mind that the offense taken was mostly by white people. Never mind that most of these people have had years– raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars of working people’s money over that time– without doing a thing to improve the lives of people of color who mostly vote a straight DPW ticket. Never mind that these people crying crocodile tears were some of the same who tried to sabotage the Laning/Bowen campaign and even the delegate nomination process in some counties so that their preferred candidate would win. Never mind that when Jason Rae stood up in front of a group of mostly African-American Milwaukeeans and said he knows exactly how they feel because he’s gay and experiences what they experience, none of these born-again crusaders for racial justice corrected him. (The comment did not go unnoticed by attendees. It definitely cost Rae votes.)

[. . .]

The Martha Laning video will hurt her in these early days. We at DFL can’t excuse or explain Laning’s ignorance about why this imitation shouldn’t have been done. It’s still the first time we’ve seen a Wisconsin DPW leader get publicly enthusiastic about working with the African-American community in Wisconsin. So far, she seems to mean it. Most of us will take a sincere but stilted attempt at working together over no attempt at all. It’s not tactics, it’s not strategy, it’s action. We’ve got work to do. Get out from behind your keyboards and do it, if you mean it, or at least get out of the way.

I’m going to be honest – I cringed a when I heard the video of Laning attempting to imitate David Bowen, and while I doubt she had any malicious intent in her heart when she did her impression, it still seems to me she could have made her point without the need for an awkward attempt at imitating David Bowen.

While I appreciate that there’s going to bit of a learning curve for Martha Laning when it comes to her new role as DPW Chair, she’s going to have to do better if she wants to be effective as the Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.


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2 thoughts on “Some thoughts on DPW Chair Martha Laning’s recent “controversy”

  1. As a former Chairperson of the Door County Democratic Party I can assure your readers that I would have had something to say during the meeting. I would not have sat and wondered if anyone else was offended. I would have stopped that when it happened and called it out for what it was. We all need to be more clear about what we should or should not condone.

  2. The bigger story here is not so much what Chair Laning said or how she said it. I take it that the Door County Democrats were not excluding anyone from attending the speech. No background checks to allow only recall signers into the venue for the evening. No checks to see if you had donated cash to the party or to a particular Democratic candidate in order to gain entry. A friend up north said this was the public library meeting room with the double doors wide open. Any venue where the “Gov” was or is appearing to speak ever held like that?

    Cog Dis write up does bring up some facts as to DPW’s rank ineffectiveness in addressing or taking a public stand on local issues. Bayfield and Wood counties under attack by industrial ag and Kewaunee Co suffering with emergency health crisis, residential well water contamination and the DPW has not supported local efforts to fight corporate induced environmental sacrifice zones that supposedly should fly in the face of Democratic principles.

    The party headquarters doesn’t even respond to simple email questions and suggestions.

    Dan Bice must have had orders from headquarters to attempt something FAUX newsy to appear “balanced,” with this piece of pretty much nothingness in the range of political importance.

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