Wisconsin has one of the most crucial Senate elections this year-- an opportunity to replace one of the worst wing nuts in Congress with... with, with, with... that's what we're here to talk about today. First of all, in way of a disclaimer, let me remind you that Blue America has endorsed Outagamie County Executive, former Assembly majority leader and pro-labor populist Tom Nelson for the Senate seat. You can-- and we hope you will-- contribute to his campaign here.
A Bernie delegate who has won six times in a red county, Nelson recently appeared on The Young Turks to discuss what makes him the best candidate to go up against Johnson.
Although progressives needn't consider uber-wealthy corporate shills like Alex Lasry and Sarah Godlewski, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes would like progressives to think he's a progressive while he pitches himself as a "moderate" to Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. That's not a healthy place to be and it invariably leads to one of two hideous scenarios:
a general election loss
a Sinema/Manchin-grade member of Congress
More so than the other politicians in the Senate race, Barnes is turning people off with his non-stop flip-flopping and an astounding lack of political courage. Former Macon, Georgia Mayor Teresa Tomlinson wasn't talking about Barnes when she told me this-- but she described him to a T: "It’s fear that cripples the Democratic Party. Fear of our policies, fear of who we are, and fear of the Republicans. Yes, fear is what has politically cost us in the last many election cycles. One cannot lead if one is afraid. The thing about leadership is that people want their leaders to be brave. They care less about what you think on the issues than whether you have the moxie to fight for them and the strength of conviction to tell them what you really think... That’s what the Right can’t stand about The Squad. Those women are fearless about their beliefs. They refuse to be bullied, and that is dangerous to the Republican playbook of shaming scared Democrats into milk toast, mealy-mouthed, baby-splitting positions that are equivocal and stand for nothing. American voters revile those who won’t tell the people what they think. Even if you don’t support the policies-- or certainly some of the statements-- of The Squad, you can’t deny that you appreciate that they unabashedly tell the world what they think."
Nelson stated in a recent interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, that Barnes is "inconsistent; he's changing his positions. Voters don't know where he's at." During the Our Wisconsin Revolution forum held last Friday, Nelson noted that Democrats need to nominate a candidate not afraid of explaining their stances to media and made reference to the fact that Barnes, the outgoing Wisconsin lieutenant governor, frequently dodges press interviews: "We need to have someone who... does not hide from... the media or refuses to talk about or explain their flip-flopping on issues."
And that weak tepid "support" for Medicare-for-All during Friday's Our Wisconsin Revolution forum was just sad. The Wisconsin State Journal contrasted Barne's mealy mouthed me-too-ism with Nelson's full blast advocacy. "Nelson said, 'I support Medicare for All. I do not support just a pathway to Medicare for All. I don’t bury it in one sentence on Page 10 of a supposed economic plan,’ referencing Barnes’ statement that he supported ‘building a path to Medicare for All’ on the fifth page of a small business plan Barnes released this week... Barnes said he supports a Green New Deal 'that works for Wisconsin,' while Nelson said he’s the only candidate who has been campaigning aggressively in support of a Green New Deal. 'What might be right for California or Florida might not be right for Wisconsin, so when Mandela gets to the Senate he’ll evaluate all the options being proposed,' Barnes spokesperson Lauren Chou said in a statement. 'He will be looking for legislation that creates good paying jobs in Wisconsin by curbing greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning to 100% renewable energy as soon as possible.'" That's the kind of cowardice Tomlinson was talking about when she described a lack of political courage. More from the State Journal:
Nelson’s comments Friday followed a more explicit callout last week on progressive show The Young Turks, where he said Barnes was “entirely confused” after distancing himself from the “Abolish ICE” and “defund the police” movements that he appeared to support in the past. Last week, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Barnes denied being part of the Abolish ICE movement despite once posing for a picture holding an Abolish ICE T-shirt.
If wobbly Mandela Barnes is the nominee, it will be a dream come true for the Wisconsin GOP and a guarantee of a third term for Ron Johnson. Yesterday, the Free Beacon showed exactly how they will eviscerate him in the general election. "Wisconsin Democratic Senate candidate Mandela Barnes," wrote Alana Goodman, "struggled on Tuesday to name any policies he helped implement as chairman of the state's climate change board, telling an audience of college students at a climate change event that he would 'need to get back to you' on that. Barnes, who currently serves as state lieutenant governor, often touts his leadership position on the Governor's Task Force on Climate Change on the campaign trail. But he seemed caught by surprise when a student journalist asked him how many of the board's policy proposals released in 2020 have actually been enacted, during an event on Wisconsin's Climate Action Plan at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls on Tuesday... Barnes appeared stumped as he shuffled through his notes, according to a video of the event posted by the Republican research firm America Rising.
"I'm really, really jogging my brain here," Barnes added. "I'd be happy to get back-- you're from the paper. I'd be happy to get back to you on more [unintelligible]. I'm just really trying, I should have had these written down."
When reached by the Free Beacon, a spokeswoman for Barnes declined to provide a list of policies that were implemented but sent a link to an August article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. According to the report, the state legislature approved a task force proposal to increase environmental-protection grants to farmers and additional funding to the state's water-quality program.
Barnes attended the event to specifically discuss the Governor's Task Force of Climate Change's 55 policy proposals, which the board published in December 2020.
...Barnes has often cited his work as chairman of the Governor's Task Force on Climate Change as a qualification for dealing with environmental issues. His role is mentioned prominently in his campaign website biography.
"Governor Evers recognized Mandela's expertise and years of work on environmental issues by appointing him as chair of the Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change," says Barnes's website. "The Task Force brought together a diverse coalition of farmers, environmental advocates, Indigenous leaders, and business executives to produce 55 concrete strategies for how Wisconsin can begin to address the climate crisis."
I reached out to Nelson this morning to ask him what he makes of this Free Beacon report and he told me he found it very concerning. "Climate change is an issue we have to get right and we have to nominate the candidate who can best advocate for real solutions and get the job done. My record is clear. We built one of the nation's first net-zero general aviation facilities and did it ten years ago; we partner with local farmers on a cover-cropping program that among other things keeps dangerous methane in the ground; and we will be opening a $25 million state of the art methane recovering facility at our landfill later this year. This is to say nothing of my work in the assembly to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act. We came up short but laid the groundwork for legislation like the Green New Deal."
Again, please consider contributing to Tom Nelson's campaign here or by clicking on the Blue America 2022 Senate thermometer just above.