When Mike Tate was elected to be the chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, he was the youngest state chair in the nation. He also had been given a state where the Democrats controlled the governor's seat and both houses of the state legislature. Liberals also had the majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Now the Republicans have a stranglehold on both houses, Scott Walker has won three times (including the recall), conservatives control the Supreme Court and we lost a US Senate seat when Russ Feingold lost to Ron Johnson.
To make matters worse, Tate starting kowtowing to Chris Abele, son of billionaire John Abele, co-founder of Boston Scientific. Abele the younger, despite labeling himself as a Democrat, is anything but. Abele has led the way in trying to bust unions; actively fighting living wage laws; decimated representative government in local government; set up Milwaukee's mental health system so that it is run by a non-elected board with taxing authority; privatized other service and have sold off public assets for a song in no bid contracts.
For all of his undemocratic actions, Tate saw it fit to honor and praise Abele, calling him "a great leader" in the Party. Even then, Tate could not figure out why people were feeling alienated and turned off from the party.
Tate refused saying he still had work to do. I'm not sure what that work was, since the only partisan election coming up this year doesn't even have a Democrat running. It's been speculated that Tate wanted to milk his six-figure salary for all its worth, he wanted to make sure he lined up another job first and/or he wanted to pave the way for his heir apparent.
On Thursday, Tate announced that he finally made up his mind not to seek reelection.
Since then, three people have formally announced that they are running to be the new chair of DPW, with more names expected to come out:
One is Jeff Smith, a former state legislator. Smith is one of the Democrats that lost his seat during Tate's tenure.
Another candidate is Joe Wineke, who was the chair of the DPW before Tate. While Wineke has some good ideas, he was also the guy who hand-picked Tate to be his heir apparent.
The third candidate is Jason Rae, a party insider who is the establishment candidate. He apparently had insider information that allowed him to garner the support of many of the other party insiders long before Tate made his announcement. Needless to say, his announcement has met with a cool reception among the rank and file.
Adding to the fun, the party leaders are apparently taken aback by the fact that Rae isn't being warmly accepted and have circled their wagons around him. When confronted with the concerns of the voters, the leaders response has been to insult, mock and then block anyone who questions them.
Is it any wonder that they can't win elections? Some wholesale changes need to be made and I'm not sure what good waiting until June will help any.
The really sad part of all this is that from talking to friends, Wisconsin is not the only state where the Democrats have lost their way.
The Party as a whole will have to decide which is more important - the survival of the establishment or the survival of the party itself.