Sunday, March 24, 2019

Why is Ben Wikler running to lead the Democrats in Wisconsin?

As I was recently saying, Wisconsin matters in presidential politics.

My friend Ben Wikler is vying to lead the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, the state where he and his wife are raising 3 young kids in our hometown, Madison.

When Wikler announced his campaign last month, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported:
MoveOn senior adviser Ben Wikler announced . . . he is running for chairman of the state Democratic Party.

Martha Laning this month announced she would not seek another term this summer. She was first elected in 2015.

"I'm running for chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin because I believe in the power of grassroots activists," Wikler said in a statement. "It's time to supercharge our party in every corner of the state to fight for our progressive agenda, defeat Trump, and win Democratic victories up and down the ballot." . . .

He worked on political campaigns starting in high school, helping Democrats including [now-Senator] Tammy Baldwin [and then-Senator] Russ Feingold. . . .

Under Laning, Democrats lost the presidential election in Wisconsin for the first time since 1984. The party bounced back last year, with Democrats winning all statewide races.

Democrats remain deep in the minority in the statehouse — a situation Democrats attribute to Republican-drawn districts that favor the GOP. Wikler said he wants to recruit and train high-quality legislative candidates so Democrats can chip into the Republican majority and if a Democratic wave comes, take advantage of it.

"You have to run hard everywhere," he said.
Click the SoundCloud thing below to hear Wikler (interviewed by Jessie Opoien of Madison's Cap Times) talking about some of his formative experiences, including his leadership in the fight against global AIDS, that led him to running for Chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party.

(One of the questions in the interview is now out of date because it was about him running unopposed; shortly after the interview was recorded, State Rep. David Bowen announced he's also running.)

Wikler and Opoien don't just talk politics; they also talk about other aspects of Wisconsin, like cheese.

And if you have the same reaction I did to the interview, you'll come away from it saying: "MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice?!"

The interview starts a minute and 33 seconds into this. (The embedded thing might not work for you if you're on a smartphone — in that case, you can listen at this link.)

I've known Ben Wikler for over 25 years. We don't agree on all issues; I consider myself a political independent, while he's a solid Democrat. But I've spent hours and hours having civil discussions of politics and policy with him, not on social media but in person, one on one. For years, we worked closely together on a monthly student publication in high school.

So I wasn't surprised in 2014 when I heard Howard Dean, the former head of the Democratic National Committee, say during a TV appearance with him: "I happen to know Ben, and he's one of the smartest people under 35 in the entire country." (He's now 38.)

If you know Ben, you know he's an incredibly hard worker who's passionate about putting his progressive ideals into action. I'm confident that Ben Wikler is the right person to lead the Democrats in our home state.

This is the campaign website, which has a bio of Ben here. If you want to donate to the campaign, or volunteer, follow those links. If you want to be a delegate to support Ben Wikler and his running mates, Felesia Martin and Lee Snodgrass, at the convention in Milwaukee on June 1 and 2, here's how. (Note that you must be an official member of the party by May 18.) Or if you want to volunteer at the convention, go here.

UPDATE: Ann Althouse, a retired University of Wisconsin law professor who's also my mom, links to this post and says:
I myself am not a member of any party, and I don't contribute to any candidates or even endorse them. . . . But I like linking to John's blog, and he certainly does know Ben very well. I know Ben very well too. That "monthly student publication" they worked on got edited right here in the house where I still live. I've had long conversations with Ben, from when he was a teenager, and he's just an all-around fine person.