Sunday, August 16, 2009

Ron Kind: Affirmative Action Case (or, Why a Woman will be the Next Governor of Wisconsin)

That's right: the handsome, athletic, Harvard-educated, middle-aged, white dude Congressman from La Crosse is Wisconsin's biggest affirmative action case this week ... and here's why:

There's really no other way to start this off but to admit that I know very little of Ron Kind's world. His district is on the other side of the state and I get very little information from that corner of Wisconsin. This is completely my fault since, short of Prairie du Chien falling off a cliff and doing a bellyflop into Iowa, I probably wouldn't care about anything in Western Wisconsin. Nothing personal, I just don't have any ties there.

That said, I'm still kinda surprised to hear Ron Kind's name being bandied about as a potential Democratic nominee for Governor. Kind may have his sights set on the gig for all I know, but why on Earth he would want it is beyond me. He's a congressman, and a fairly popular one at that. He strikes me more like the type of guy who would lie in wait for a senate seat. (BTW, I would love to see Kind-Paul Ryan senate race someday.) Maybe he wants it, maybe he doesn't -- I can't say for sure.

But I do get the impression that his name is being floated about because there is, shall we say, a dirth of sack among the potential Democratic contenders. I don't like playing the "gender card" but in this case I think there exists a certain degree of sexism at play in both how this story is being told and what people are expecting from potential candidates. Both Falk and Lawton seem to be afterthoughts in many of the media accounts I've caught thus far (except for Rob Mentzer, who's been Lawton Watching for some time now) and I can't help but wonder if various observers are including Kind just to get some gender balance in the discussion.

You know, because a woman could never realistically be Governor...

This is really a mistake that I believe has a lot do with Wisconsin lacking much female representation historically. Yes, there are Reps. Gwen Moore and Tammy Baldwin, both of whom are deft and able leaders, but they represent areas of the state that are distinctly unlike the rest of Wisconsin. Women are under-represented in the state Senate and Assembly and tend to get steamrolled (Judy Robson) or are crazy (Lena Taylor) or are embarrassments to their districts and elected body (Mary Lazich). Peg Lautenschlager is about the closet thing women in Wisconsin have had to a credible state-wide candidate in the past and, well, you know the rest of that story.

So in a way Wisconsin is kinda conditioned to brush off women as real threats to defeat male candidates for higher office, but in this case it would be a mistake to do so. Kathleen Falk is nothing if not tenacious. She knows how to throw a punch and will do it too. That will come in handy if she runs against Walker, who shows no signs of running anything but a negative campaign that is constantly on the offensive. Barb Lawton is an effective retail politician who can work a room with the best of them and knows when to turn on the charm.

Here's the bottom line: If you want to win Wisconsin these days, you have to win Wisconsin's women. Period. Both Falk and Lawton know this. If Walker is aware of this he sure does have a funny way of showing it. Obviously, Falk and/or Lawton would appeal to women by virtue of being women themselves -- and Walker would be in a position where he would have to ease up on his attacks lest women start to coalesce around his challenger, whom they perceive as being picked on by one of "the good old boys." That means Walker is suddenly put into a position that requires tight-rope walking, something he has shown little talent for in the past.

Women in Wisconsin are desperate for a leader of their own and they'll jump aboard the first candidate they see with the talent to play with big boys. Falk and Lawton are two tough broads that can crack skulls with the best of them. Anyone who underestimates them does so at their own peril.


Alex said...

You might not realize it since you're from Oshkosh, but the reason people aren't taking Falk more seriously as a gubernatorial candidate is that there is a lot of Falk fatigue in Dane County, and without a big margin in Dane County, a Democrat can't win.

In the 2006 primary, Lautenschlager actually beat Falk in Dane County, Falk's political home base, by a 60-40 margin. She then went on to underperform in Dane County in the general election by about 5 percentage points compared to Doyle, which is a big reason why she lost.

In 2009, her most recent re-election race, she only won by a 60-40 margin, despite facing an extreme right-winger. (To put it in perspective, Doyle won the county by a 70-27 margin and Obama won 73-25.) A number of places that normally go heavily Democratic, like Cottage Grove, Cross Plains, DeForest, Mt. Horeb, Sun Prairie, and Waunakee, went for Falk's right-wing opponent, some by fairly large margins. Many of these votes were not so much pro-Mistele as they were anti-Falk.

I think the reason people are thinking Kind over Lawton is probably because of the perception that Lawton is really far to the left, that she would be similar to Tammy Baldwin. Kind is the most similar to Doyle not only in that he is a white male, but also because of his ideology.

Maybe you know more about Lawton than I do, being from the Fox Valley. In any case, Lawton better start defining herself (and Walker) soon--you know that Walker will do everything he can to define her as a crazy left-winger who would be "far worse" than Doyle.

Anonymous said...

Holy Crap
what's with that cavalier Western WI shit?
and "nobody" over there? Christ, man! wtf???!

Okay Ron Kind (handsome, my ass. he's got that creepy plastic Ken Doll look that makes ppl suspicious)
Okay Kind if "popular" bwahaha yeah among the clueless and the lazy. Like he's fully embedde - the devil you (or the party) knows.
And people with childish trust and little in depth reading of news stories and that good old "I want to beleive" thing going - sure they put out Kind signs.

But WOW there is an undercurrent of resentment for that crappin Blue Dog. Awhile back it was outright rage. The war votes, the "Net Neutrality" fiasco, a rep of unresponsiveness (arrogance?) that plastic smarmy thing. I wouldn't use the word popular, it's surface popular like "it could be worse" or "better than a Republican".
Even a guy I know who worked for Kind doesn't really admire/like Kind and maybe even thinks he's a dick but did it for the resume. (not realy admirable IMO but whatever)
But I'd say there's ahuige differnce between being a fixture and being actually popular. Like Russ, Russ is really popular here, like true love among his supporters. Kind can't even dream about inspiring that "kind" of following. In fact I rarely have seen the name Kind spoken aloud without an accompanying eyeroll.

a meeting I went to once is a nice example of both Kind and human nature. During the net neutrality fit, he was billed as coming to EC to "explain himself". Then last minute - oops too busy, sends a mealy mouthe aide instead.
BEFORE the aide enters the room - rage. Peeple all pissed off, ranting and honest, demanding answers. Then the Dem party chair sez "okay, but we owe him support, so put a lid on all this" The Important Man's Aide walks in, everyone looses their balls and it's just like he's their fave teen idol or something. Pretty gross. Keep in mind the meeting was supposed to be a gritty Q and A thing. Now it's a dickless wonder convention.
Yes, I went ahead and challenged the wee lad anyway and yes ppl were annoyed at me.
So he ain't really massively POPULAR here, he's just powerful and that feeds upon itself and tends to hold a guy in place.
but Kind for Gov?

When pigs fly baby!!!
Unless he can work that Eyroll thing into a catchy campaign thing like Obama did with the word "Change". But then a stadium full of folks doing a Group Eyeroll may not have the same exhilarating effect as The Wave, not sure....

My suggestion for slogan is -

Ron Kind...pffft!

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