By Edward Kuharski
Photos by Nicole Desautels Schulte
The Dane County chapter of the Democratic Party held a candidate debate and straw poll at their monthly meeting Tuesday, April 10. It was a well-attended event held in the Conference Center of the Concourse Hotel in Madison.
There were several curious aspects to the gathering in addition to the many curious potential voters who came to size up who might best be up to the job of reliably returning the governor’s office to something recognizable as a public trust.
The Poll Tax and Voter Preemption
The first of these curious aspects was the “preemptive straw poll.” In a brilliant stroke of tone deafness, the Dane Dems decided to follow the Publishers Clearing House marketing model rather than use this as an opportunity to illustrate what inclusive democracy actually looks like. Attendees were urged to “vote” in the straw poll, but the franchise was only available to paid and signed-up members of the Democratic Party. So much for that big tent thing, so much for “try before you buy” and so much for the chapter having any curiosity about what is in the minds of undecided, independent voters like myself, much less any remorseful Republicans who might be looking to help the cause but won’t just vote for any candidate the DPW pukes up.
Can we say “preaching to the choir in the liberal echo chamber?”
To ensure that no new information would inadvertently issue from this forum, the straw poll was conducted before and during the candidate Q&A, rather than after. This effectively reduced the likelihood that anyone’s candidate preference might be unduly influenced by actually listening to the candidates and watching how they handled themselves in front of actual people. I’m sure this protected favored candidate Kathleen Falk from any awkward impression that she may not be a “slam dunk” with Dane County voters.
Can we say “disinvite the independent voter that our state is noted for?” (Remember how people like Russ Feingold and Dave Obey got elected and reelected?)
Curiouser yet, Dane County chapter Chair Mike Basford actually asked members who “only came to vote” to do so before the forum and then to leave so others could fit in the too-small room. Is it customary here in the heart of the nation’s “Laboratory of Democracy” to come to a candidate forum to cast a perfunctory vote and then hightail it out of there without hearing the candidates? If it wasn’t important to actually hear candidates, couldn’t the straw poll have been done more efficiently and without such a needless carbon footprint — perhaps by phone or online? Was is not important to actually attend the forum because loyal party members have already been told whom to vote for? That would be remarkably similar to the 27 “kamikaze” freshman Republican Assembly members who have been told “don’t think, don’t get out of line, don’t worry about reelection — we’ve got a nice private sector job waiting for you if you do as you are told.”