Christian Schneider is a reporter for the College Fix and author of “1916: The Blog.” He is formerly a columnist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and served briefly as spokesman for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation in the Scott Walker administration last year.
Those spending any time at all on political social media have no doubt seen conventional wisdom that Hillary Clinton lost in 2016, in part, because she failed to visit the swing state of Wisconsin in the last few months of the campaign. It’s a point that has spawned a million “where’s Hillary” jokes, but it isn’t necessarily true.
For one, Clinton did visit Wisconsin several times during the campaign, just not in the closing weeks. She campaigned frequently in the state in both 2008 and 2016, losing big in primaries each time. It’s not as though Wisconsin voters didn’t know her.
Nevertheless, the Democratic National Convention decided to troll Clinton this week, picking Milwaukee as the site for the party’s quadrennial soiree in 2020. Not only are Democrats going to make sure their nominee sets foot in Wisconsin; they’re also bringing the whole cast of characters.
But as was the case with Clinton, mere physical presence likely won’t be enough to win Wisconsin voters over. Taking precedence will be what their candidate stands for.
In making the Milwaukee announcement, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez suggested convention-goers may eat some vegan bratwurst and drink some “damn fine union-made Milwaukee beer at the end of the night.” But vegan bratwurst — more accurately described as “tofu crammed in a sock” — is about as authentically Wisconsin as the actual proposals the slew of Democratic candidates have thrown around so far.
Take, for instance, the Green New Deal, which would hammer Wisconsin’s agriculture- and manufacturing-based economy. Any proposal ridiculous enough to make House Speaker Nancy Pelosi roll her eyes will have about as much support in America’s Dairyland as skim milk. (Which, in the immortal words of Ron Swanson, is “water which is lying about being milk.”)
Voters might also look askance at a $33 trillion Medicare-for-all plan, when 95 percent of the state’s residents are already insured. Among the accomplishments of Gov. Scott Walker (R) during his tenure was expanding coverage to record levels; throwing out that progress in favor of an untested, budget-annihilating genuflection to European socialism might not be what state voters have in mind.
In 2009, when Democrats controlled both houses of the state legislature and the governorship, they proposed a single-payer health plan in the state. The result? A Walker victory and full Republican control of the Assembly and Senate.
Perhaps the greatest irony is that Milwaukee became a necessary convention venue specifically because of the work Republicans have done in the state over the past eight years. In 2008, Barack Obama won the state by 14 percentage points. By 2016, on the strength of reforms passed by state conservatives, Wisconsin went to a GOP presidential candidate for the first time since Ronald Reagan in 1984. And now, Democrats want it back.
In fact, much of the reason Milwaukee became such an attractive place to hold a convention was due to the work of Walker and other state Republicans. The Democratic National Convention will be held in Fiserv Forum, a new arena that Walker approved just four years ago.
Interestingly, many of the same state Democrats who will feature prominently at the convention next year are the same who marched against Walker’s Act 10 public union reforms eight years ago, predicting doom for the state. Instead, the state has become so attractive, it will be a national showcase of success for the same party that opposed Walker at every turn. In essence, Democrats are beginning this marathon at the 24th mile — crediting them with making Wisconsin a prime spot for a national convention is like crediting the historic success of the “Star Wars” franchise to Adam Driver.
And those government union reforms that Democrats ripped the state apart in an attempt to rescind in 2011 and 2012? New Gov. Tony Evers (D) has introduced his budget plan and hasn’t laid a finger on them. It seems Perez’s suds-based pandering to unions during his announcement might be six years too late.
Of course, like most big cities, Milwaukee is beset with problems, such as crime, joblessness and poverty. And like most big cities, it has been governed by progressives for decades. The city’s current feckless mayor, Tom Barrett, has never seriously been challenged since he took office in 2004.
In the 1980s, faced with high taxes and greater regulation, employers began fleeing the city, leaving large swaths of the city devoid of economic opportunity. To combat that phenomenon, state lawmakers implemented the nation’s first private school choice program — a successful move that Democrats would surely reverse if now given the change. The Democratic convention might be a very inhospitable guest, indeed.
Those issues aside, there is no doubt that in the middle of next year, Milwaukee will be a caloric Armageddon, gleefully stuffing delighted Democrats with beer, cheese and encased meats. The city will be thrilled to have them there. It is their ideas that Wisconsin voters might want to keep away.