A Week of Evers Bashing Reviewed

We are nothing here at YSDA if not honest. Sometimes brutally so and even when the brutal honesty reflects poorly on our founder and editor (i.e., me).

This past week I’ve posted three pieces in which I heavily criticize Gov. Tony Evers for signing what is, inarguably, a thoroughly Republican budget. The responses are in, and I’d say a fair characterization of them is a resounding, “eh.”

The three columns, Dems Need Alternative to Evers, This Budget Wasn’t Bipartisan and The Need to Take on Vos, all did pretty well in terms of overall readership. Not spectacularly well; just a good deal better than average. That was aided by the fact that some of them were picked up by other sites, including WisPolitics, UrbanMilwaukee and The Wisconsin Examiner. And I refitted the first piece for my regular weekly blog in Isthmus.

I got a total of 17 responses, if you count likes on social media, comments on websites, personal emails, informal conversations and one letter to the editor. The score was 12 that were basically (if not enthusiastically) positive and five that were, in fact, enthusiastically negative.

This is, you might say, underwhelming. I did not tap into a groundswell of dissatisfaction with the governor. Based on the comments I did receive, I’d say there are a few reasons for this.

Tony Eves is a good man. I wish he were a stronger governor.

The first is that Democrats remain steadfastly committed to practicality. I was struck that even Rep. Francesca Hong of Madison, who is as far left as you can get in the Democratic caucus, is quoted in Ruth Conniff’s piece in the Examiner as saying she was glad that Evers signed a budget that she voted against.

Democrats just want to win, and they see Evers’ practicality as a sign that he might be able to win again next year. I get that and, generally speaking, I think it’s a very positive thing. It’s why I voted for Evers in the crowded Dem primary in 2018. I thought that his moderation and his low key persona gave us the best chance of beating Scott Walker and, by extension, Donald Trump. I think that turned out to be correct; I don’t think any of the other Democrats in the field could have eeked out that 30,000 vote margin of victory.

And that very blandness even helps him within the party to this day. You might think he’s not dynamic, you might think he isn’t inspiring, you might think he doesn’t fight for anything; but you don’t think he’s a jerk. He’s a good and decent guy. He’s not unlikable. He’s impossible to hate.

Those are two fine reasons to stick with Evers: he might win again and he’s a good man.

But there’s a third reason that is not so positive: resignation. What came through strongly in the criticisms of my columns was a sense that, in any fight, Robin Vos would prevail. And that’s what I take issue with. That’s why I still think — the lack of enthusiasm for my take on this and Evers’ $7 million in the bank notwithstanding — that somebody should take Evers on in a primary.

Let me deal with some concerns that I’ve heard about that idea.

Won’t a primary drain Evers’ resources? No. Wisconsin is too important nationally and, anyway, the state party is easily out-fundraising the Republicans these days. The nominee will have no problems with money.

Won’t a primary give Republicans a road map to attack Evers in the general? Just the opposite. The Republican playbook these days is to call all Democrats socialists — which, in Evers’ case, is just ridiculous. If Evers survives a primary, he can point to the fact that he had to fight off a challenge within his own party.

Won’t a primary dampen enthusiasm for Evers in the general? Hardly. Democrats are still fired up from the Trump years and, keep in mind that the Republican candidates in their own primary will have to move to the nutty side of crazy just to get the nomination. Dems are going to rally around whoever the nominee is.

So, I don’t think there is any harm in a primary. In fact, it’s likely to even benefit Evers should he survive, which, odds are, he would.

Finally, I doubt seriously that some criticism coming from a former mayor and in a blog that gets maybe 160 views a day can possibly do any damage at all to a candidate with $7.3 million in the bank and the entire Democratic Party infrastructure behind him.

But, in the final analysis, here’s the thing: Do you really thinks it’s impossible to have both an electable candidate and somebody who will really stand up to Vos, who will demand that Vos work with a Democratic governor as an equal? If you think that, then you take a dimmer view of the current state of the Democratic Party then I do.

(And, in fact, just this morning comes a story that suggests that the Wisconsin Supreme Court may well side with another set of Republican gerrymandered maps, lending more credence to the argument that Evers should have vetoed the budget and held out for a nonpartisan redistricting commission.)

Look folks, I’m not going to do anything that will give the Republicans a better shot at taking back the governor’s office. If Tony Evers is the nominee again I will vote for him without hesitation. And the moment that I think that I’m actually helping the Republican cause by raising the hopes among Dems that we can do better, I’ll stop.

We’ve got a full year before a primary, should one develop. Let’s not rule out the chance for a choice this soon.

Welcome to the 150th consecutive day of posts here at YSDA. Thanks for reading!


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

3 thoughts on “A Week of Evers Bashing Reviewed

  1. This essay has the same sense in the psychology of a NFL team that fields a competent quarterback, who is winning most of the big games and demonstrating leadership, while the management talks about who they might draft #1 at QB, or who they might sign to compete at the position. Sometimes, you have to acknowledge that you have a leader on the field, and support him/her. My view is that the WI Dems need to really rally around the governor, and show some steadfast support. We have a winning team, and the state is no longer a national embarrassment and is leading the nation in some ways for the first time in a while. Nothing would please the toxic GOP more than seeing the Dems going after Gov. Evers. I say, let’s do something unusual and really support the quarterback, and let him win some games


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