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Identity politics driving Madison Democrats


Publication:Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date:Sep 15, 2011; Section:Opinion; Page Number:8A    

Identity politics driving Madison Democrats

But will Baldwin lose statewide?

     Can congresswoman Tammy Baldwin win a statewide election to succeed Herb Kohl in the Senate? As far as the Democratic primary is concerned, undoubtedly.

    Her qualifications are twofold. One, she is tied for the most liberal member of Congress, according to the National Journal. That’s fitting for someone who represents the city of Madison. It’s unlikely that it works for the rest of the state, but it works for the Democratic Party.

    Her other qualification is her sexual orientation. Baldwin is openly lesbian. For most of us, that rates a shrug of the shoulders and we would go back to worrying about her first qualification.

    Did I mention that she is one of the most liberal members of Congress?

    Nonetheless, in the strange world of Democratic politics, Baldwin’s sexual orientation is an issue, if not the only issue. It’s a statement of some kind, a possible landmark moment to have a candidate possibly become the first openly homosexual member of the United States Senate.

    Money will be pouring in from all over the country to fund her historic campaign. Every Democrat trying to establish their credentials as being in sync with the party’s left wing will endorse her so later they can claim, “I supported lesbian Tammy Baldwin for Senate.”

    Normally an open Senate seat would attract a plethora of candidates. Does anyone really think congressman Ron Kind is going to “stand in the way of history” by running in the Democratic primary? Does former congressman Steve Kagen really think he can win in Milwaukee and Madison against Baldwin?

    I’m betting against either of them entering the race.

    Baldwin’s run for the Senate set off a hilarious contest in Madison of who can better identify with the homosexuals in their potential constituencies.

    State Rep. Kelda Helen Roys decided that she is going to run for Congress to replace Baldwin. Unfortunately, Roys discovered that she is tragically heterosexual. I’m not sure how she broke the news to her husband.

    Roys decided to create an Equality Caucus at the state Capitol to support “full equal rights for LGBTQA people, including the right to marry.”

    This prompted the Wisconsin State Journal to report that Roys “is married to a man.” That’s some deep analysis at the Wisconsin State Journal.

    Roys’ declared opponent in the Democratic primary is state Rep. Mark Pocan. The Wisconsin State Journal did not report Pocan’s marital status but did report he is “openly gay” when he replied, “I think I live the Equality Caucus every day.”

    Roys had the good sense not to reply back that some of her best friends are gay.

    Hopefully, the escalation of which candidate can better identify with the aggrieved minorities that make up the Democratic primary will not result in Roys or Pocan wearing blackface before this is over.

    Outside of Madison, the appeal by Democrats to identity politics may not have the desired effect on general election voters. In 2006, nearly 60 percent of Wisconsin voters passed an amendment to the state constitution banning gay marriage.

    If you recall, 2006 was a very Democratic year. Wisconsin gave control of the state Senate to the Democrats and re-elected Gov. Jim Doyle. This means that within the 60 percent of the voters that approved the amendment banning gay marriage, a significant number of them were Democrats.

    When analyzing the general election next year for the Senate, the question inevitably comes up whether Baldwin’s sexual orientation will hurt her chances. It’s even implied that bigotry on the Republican side might hurt her campaign.

    That’s nonsense, of course. Not that I’m going to deny that such bigotry does exist. It does on both sides. But inasmuch as it exists on the Republican side those voters would never vote for Baldwin, the most liberal member of Congress, regardless of her sexual orientation.

    No, where the Democrats should be focusing their concern is on the Democrats that in 2006 demonstrated that they are not like the Democrats in Madison. Whether it’s bigotry or just a dislike for the gay rights agenda, those Democratic voters may be the reason why Baldwin will not win election to the Senate.

    (James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)


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