Will the Dems Fail (Again) at the Grassroots in Wisconsin’s April 4 Supreme Court Race?

Photograph Source: Royalbroil – CC BY-SA 3.0

The 2024 races for the White House and Congress may be decided Tuesday, April 4, in Wisconsin.

And the Democrats may be set to blow it by spending millions on media buys while ignoring grassroots organizing.

The hotly contested election is for the vacant swing seat on the Wisconsin state Supreme Court.  The outcome could ride on how many voters of youth and color turn out to cast ballots.

And while the Democrats have so far outspent the Republicans on media advertising, their general unwillingness to support grassroots organizing could easily lose the seat….and much more.

That puts this race at Ground Zero in the bitter dispute about where progressive should focus their electoral efforts leading up to 2024—-by sending money and other support to the Democratic Party and its candidates…or by directly supporting grassroots groups focussed on getting out the vote, as they did in creating the “Georgia Miracle” that secured two very unlikely US Senate seats in 2020-2.

In this April 4 Wisconsin election, groups in the vanguard include the Center for Common Ground (centerforcommonground.org) , Souls to the Polls (soulstothepollswi.org) and others.

The conflict often boils down to the progressive critique that the Democrats use donor money primarily on media advertising, from which their consultants get kickbacks.

But they fail to do the grassroots campaigning that builds decisive turnout among voters of youth and color…and that might have otherwise won 2022 US Senate races in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin, among much more.

Should that same failure guide Democrat “strategy” in 2024, a Republican White House and Congress could well be the outcome.

At immediate stake in Wisconsin is the state Supreme Court, which has for a dozen years been dominated 4-3 by hard-right conservatives.

Now one conservative has left, making the split is 3-3.  The Court soon stands to determine a wide range of vital decisions in this bitterly divided swing state, many with national impact.

Wisconsin voted narrowly for Donald Trump in 2016, then narrowly for Joe Biden in 2020.  In 2022 it re-elected its moderate Democratic Governor Tony Evers, but also re-elected its horrific MAGA Senator Ron Johnson.

Wisconsin progressives bitterly argue that Mandela Barnes could have won this seat if the Democrats had supported the kind of grassroots organizing that won two Senate seats in far less liberal Georgia.

In part due to its GOP-dominated Court, Wisconsin’s heavily gerrymandered districts have given the Republicans six of the state’s eight Congressional seats.  The GOP controls 21 state Senate seats versus 11 for the Democrats, and 64 assembly seats versus 35 for the Ds.

All that could change if the Democrats take that crucial swing seat on the state Supreme Court and force the state’s horrifically gerrymandered districting maps to be equitably re-drawn.

The Court could also ease voting restrictions imposed by the far right legislature, allowing more voters of youth and color to get access to the polls in the 2024 general election.

Such moves could net the Democrats two or more additional US House seats while protecting young and black/brown votes that could swing the state and thus, in a close national race, the Electoral College.

Statewide the Court’s highest profile issue centers on abortion rights, which a progressive court majority could protect.  And then there are gun control laws, educational funding, environmental protections and so much more.

The dominant electoral reality now is that despite millions being spent by both sides on media, very few voters know this election is happening.

In a recent Green Grassroots Election Protection zoom call (www.electionprotection2024.org) a prominent organizer warned that in some samples, more than 90% of Wisconsin’s African-American citizens were unaware of the vote or its stakes.

Thus the legendary Center for Common Ground (www.centerforcommonground.org) struggles to inform and mobilize turnout among citizens of color using phone banks, post cards and face-to-face campaigning.  In concert with the Georgia NAACP, such tactics turned the Peach State’s 2020-2 US Senate races.

In Wisconsin 2023, the Democrats may already have spent some $9 million on media buys promoting the candidacy of Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz.  Republicans pushing former far-right state Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly are now receiving a massive influx of out-of-state corporate cash, and are expected to quickly outspend the Dems.

But GOP operatives have also boasted of depriving thousands Wisconsin votes from urban citizens by using a wide range of all-too-familiar suppression tactics.  Wisconsin Elections Commissioner Robert Spindell has openly bragged that “we can be especially proud of the city of Milwaukee, casting 37,000 less votes than cast in the 2018 election, with the major reduction happening in the overwhelming Black and Hispanic areas.”

Those suppressed votes could easily have put Mandela Barnes in the US Senate, and could also be decisive in the April 4 Court election.

The US census saysWisconsin is about 7% Black, 3% Asian, 7.5% Latino, and 1% Indigenous. About 70% of the black population lives in Milwaukee.

The Center for Common Ground, Souls to the Polls, the Workers Center for Racial Justice , Voces de la Frontera and other grassroots groups are “taking it to the streets” independent of the regular Democrats, whose resources could vastly impact the turnout if diverted from media buys to grassroots Get-Out-The-Vote campaigning.

You can participate from any state by going to the CFCG’s website (centerforcommonground.org) and signing up to make phone calls, send postcards and more.  Souls to the Polls ( soulstothepollswi.org ) does on-the-ground “relational campaigning,” ie door-knocking, street canvassing etc.

Make no mistake…this is the first major battle in the effort to save American democracy in 2024…and could well make all the difference.

Join in now!!!

Harvey Wasserman wrote THE PEOPLE’S SPIRAL OF US HISTORY: FROM JIGONSASEH TO SOLARTOPIA.  Most Mondays @ 2-4pm PT, he co-convenes the Green Grassroots Election Protection Zoom (www.electionprotection2024).  The Mothers for Peace (www.mothersforpeace.org) could use your help in the struggle to shut the Diablo Canyon nukes.