I know this story is nearly two weeks old, but it's an important one, so please pay attention.
Typically, a race for the state supreme court doesn't attract a lot of attention. But in Wisconsin, the race for a seat on that state's supreme court became a proxy for a fight between progressives and tea party conservatives nationwide and the progressives almost won. That's all the more surprising since in the February primary, the incumbent Republican Justice Prosser got 55% of the vote and the Dem challenger, Kloppenburg only 25%. That 30% gap evaporated in the wake of the bill backed by Governor Walker to reign in the teacher's unions. The left declared war and decided to make the April 4th vote a referendum on Walker. A Kloppenburg victory would also have shifted the balance of power in the court to the Democrats with the likely result that Walker's bill would be nullified.
The usual suspects on the left poured in money and help to push Kloppenburg along. Millions poured into the state, largely from left wing groups. And that's not all:
“Republicans have awoken a sleeping giant in the electorate which will be felt in upcoming recall elections in Wisconsin and in 2012 elections nationally,” boasted Adam Green of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee[.] Members of Green’s group made nearly 97,000 telephone calls urging Wisconsinites to vote for Kloppenburg, and the group has been raising money for recall campaigns. “This is only the beginning,” Green asserted.Initial election results showed a very narrow loss for Prosser. But an error was discovered in Waukesha County where they failed to record the results from city of Brookfield. Prosser ended up ahead by a thin margin of 6,744 votes out of nearly 1.5 million cast.
And Democracy for America, a group founded by former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, which is working with the PCCC in Wisconsin, sent out a fundraising email within minutes of the unofficial tally asserting “We have the momentum — now it’s time to shut them out! … we need to hit them hard — right now — while the energy is highest and deal a fatal blow.”
It never should have been that close.
When are we going to learn?
Reflecting on the lessons learned from the November 2010 election, I wrote the following on December 1, 2010: "Don't Congratulate Ourselves Too Much for 2010 Election Win: 2012 Won't Be So Easy.Democrats well funded permanent political infrastructure gives them huge advantage over GOP/Tea Party volunteers and ad hoc organization!" In that post, I analyzed the reasons why we lost a number of close senate races in states like Nevada and Colorado where the polls showed us with an edge. The bottom line? Republicans rely on an outdated model of volunteer activists. Democrats have a well funded PERMANENT progressive political infrastructure using paid operatives. Every two or four years GOP volunteers fold their tents and go home. Progressives never stop organizing.
The Wall Street Journal ran a piece in November 2008 showing that Democrats had hired up to ten times the number of professional field staff as the GOP to work in key battleground states.
Here's the chart from that article:
Conservatives simply cannot afford to keep fighting with one hand tied behind our backs and relying on volunteers to get the job done. As I said in that December post we need to develop a more permanent grass roots political infrastructure which includes funding an army of activists in key states.
Business as usual won't work in 2012. Let's take a page from the progressive playbook and upgrade our grassroots efforts now while there is still time. Waiting until 2012 will be too late!