Updated: Oct 31, 2021
No one knows better than Russ Feingold, who is staying neutral in the Democratic primary, how hard it will be to beat Trumpist Senator Ron Johnson. He did, however, note what any Wisconsin-based reporter will tell you. Commenting on Tom Nelson's work ethic, Feingold called him the "hardest working candidate in Wisconsin." Tom, is well-known in the state; he was once majority leader of the state Assembly and he's awed everyone by winning 6 times in a red area (the Fox Valley) where Democrats are rarely competitive. He's the Outagamie County Executive now. But he's not the front-runner for the nomination. You can contribute to his campaign here or by clicking on the 2022 Blue America Senate thermometer below.
The front runner in the primary is Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes. Great name, but not such a great candidate. He's kind of a lackadaisical progressive, not really committed or even willing to run on progressive values, just passively "for" them. Tom is running aggressively on Medicare for All, taxing billionaires, lowering prescription drug prices, raising the minimum wage and the Green New Deal. When cornered and forced to address those issues, Mandela says he's for them. That was enough for most progressive organizations and he garnered endorsements from most of them. Instead of a real debate, now all we get is this slick launch video about "lowering health care costs," but not about solving any problems. And his emails are basically empty pablum written by DCCC/DSCC pros and careful not to say anything definitive. This one sounds pretty good... until you think about it:
"Wisconsin families deserve the opportunity to get a job that pays the bills and allows them to live with dignity. They deserve a quality education, health care as a basic human right, clean water and clean air, and the right to make their voice heard at the ballot box."
Almost anyone could say the same thing. I went through his tweets and found exactly one supporting Medicare-for-All, a policy that still needs to be sold to independent and swing voters. Progressive Democrats need actual advocates who aren’t afraid to stand boldly for justice-- for what’s right-- not those trying to appease the mythical centrists.
I looked at him closely for Blue America and couldn't see a path for him to beat Johnson. If he wins the primary, the Democrats are in trouble; everyone knows it and no one wants to talk about it. If he wins the primary, the Republicans will talk about his personal short comings all day, everyday, rest assured. But, because he has most progressive organizations locked up, he's completely taken the progressive vote for granted. Now he's starting to take the whole primary for granted as well.
Fact is, he's been running as your average DSCC/DCCC milquetoast centrist whose message is indistinguishable from a Jeff Jackson, Cal Cunningham or Amy McGrath. Medicare for All or the Green New Deal are conspicuously absent from his emails or tweets and any kind of messaging campaign. Instead we got this launch video about “lowering health care costs.”
The two other frontrunners in the race-- multimillionaires (and not in a good way) Alex Lasry and Sarah Godlewski-- would be catastrophic as general election candidates and catastrophic as senators.
Recently I talked at length with Tom about what to do about economic malaise that appears to be setting in. His solutions were very clear: "Break up corporate monopolies, aid small businesses, and revive the family farms that fed millions without poisoning the earth. That means strengthening anti-trust laws, instituting new and modern regulations, and stocking the Justice Department with attorneys that will aggressively pursue bad actors. It’s not magic. It doesn’t require some special spell or mystical powers. We just need to finally gin-up the willpower and guts to stand up to the relentless bad-faith lies funded by billionaires and self-interested business lobbyists."
And, yes, Tom was a Bernie delegate last year.