This past weekend, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) and Democrats from all over the state came together for their annual convention, and if there’s one word to describe the overall atmosphere in the convention hall, that word is “united.”
Speakers from the bottom of the ticket to the top, headlined by Secretary of Labor Tom Perez as the keynote speaker, spoke about the energy injected in the Presidential campaigns by both Senator Bernie Sanders and Secretary Hillary Clinton. More importantly, they spoke about coming together in unity when our nominee is decided, and espousing the slogan of the 2016 convention:
Unite. Vote. Win. And the crowded convention hall agreed.
In contrast, the Republican Party of Wisconsin completed their convention several weeks ago, and there was no mention of Donald Trump, the presumptive Presidential nominee, outside a few fleeting mentions from two congressman. Governor Scott Walker and U.S. Senator Ron Johnson both avoided the name altogether. The convention hall didn’t even put up his sign.
Congressman Mark Pocan made sure Wisconsin Democrats had no trouble saying Donald Trump’s name, as well as the names of the two remaining Democrats in the race.
In other words, Republicans are more divided over their one candidate than Democrats are over our two.
The keynote address at the GOP convention was given by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who hails from Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional district. Unfortunately, there’s no real way to know if Trump was discussed by Speaker Ryan in his keynote, as it was closed to the press.
Democrats at the DPW convention embraced their candidates quickly as DPW Chairwoman Martha Laning set the tone:
“Laning said Friday at the beginning of the Democratic Party convention that there has been a vigorous debate about how to achieve the party’s goals. But she says, ‘Now it’s time to turn the page and unite, vote and win in November.’
Her comments came after delegates were shown a video highlighting President Obama’s tenure and also the campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
Laning says ‘The time is now for us to begin to come together and remember that we’re all Democrats because of our shared values and goals.'”
Besides the many calls for unity at the top of the ticket, Democrats did not forget about the many statewide races down the ticket, as Wisconsin is playing host to two of the most contentious congressional battles in the country. Former Senator Russ Feingold is in a grueling rematch with Senator Ron Johnson, and Feingold has been polling very well recently, after maintaining a consistent double-digit lead in the respected Marquette Law School Poll since September of last year.
The other big race is in the 8th Congressional district, where incumbent Republican Reid Ribble is not seeking another term. This opened the door for Democrats to steal the seat with the right candidate, and everyone from regular party members in the district all the way up to the DCCC believes they found that candidate in Democrat Tom Nelson, a well-respected legislator on both sides of the aisle that is currently serving as Outagamie County Executive.
If the incumbents win in all other districts, a win by Nelson would lead to Democrats splitting the state’s eight congressional districts with Republicans, a feat that felt almost impossible after Republicans gerrymandered the state so badly that it’s currently being fought in federal court.
The excitement of these two races makes Wisconsin more of a battleground than ever, adding to the tension of the Presidential primary and setting up a scenario that would break the GOP into pieces. But last weekend, Democrats in Wisconsin showed Republicans what it means to be responsible voters and take our elections and our candidates seriously.
As we say in Wisconsin, “Forward!”