Less Kind-ness

Congressman Ron Kind isn’t running again. That’s bad news for Democrats and democracy.

“We’re seeing fewer and fewer of those type of people willing to serve who don’t believe that politics should just be a constant combat sport where the goal is just to destroy people on the other side,” Kind said at a press conference in La Crosse yesterday where he made his announcement.

Ironically, he dropped out of the race on a day that spurred hope for those who don’t think politics needs to be so brutal. The Senate passed an infrastructure bill on an overwhelming bipartisan vote after months of negotiations between moderate Senators on both sides of the aisle and center-left Pres. Joe Biden.

But Kind isn’t in the Senate. He resides in the even more partisan House, where the infrastructure bill will stall out for awhile at the insistence of the hard-left. Progressives will hold it hostage until they get their much bigger $3.5 trillion package of social spending through. I’m for some of that spending, but I think it’s a strategic mistake not to pass the infrastructure bill now. For one thing, it would create a sense of momentum for Biden. And for another, Democrats have an interest in getting some of the road and high speed Internet projects completed by, oh I don’t know, say, the first Tuesday in November of 2022.

Rep. Ron Kind

Kind was in for a knife fight and he made it clear that he just wan’t up for it. “I’ve run out of gas,” he said. His opponent, Derrick Van Orden, has already set a nasty tone and, since this district would be key to control of the House, you can bet that national groups would pour in money to attack Kind’s reputation. Van Orden was at the January 6th insurrection. He’s that kind of guy.

While Democrats said nice things about Kind, I know that some were furious with him for throwing in the towel in a key district. But he may have done them a favor. If he wasn’t up for the fight, his chances of survival after he eked out a three-point victory last year when Van Orden was underfunded, were not so good. A fresher combatant — someone like State Sen. Brad Pfaff — might have a better chance of keeping Van Orden out of Congress.

Kind might still run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Ron Johnson, but when a guy says that he’s out of gas, that doesn’t exactly sound like fire in the belly.

Here’s the most regrettable thing. More and more, the Wisconsin Democratic Party is becoming a party focussed on Dane and Milwaukee counties. It’s a venomous cycle. As the party loses people like Kind, who can win in rural districts, it becomes ever more focussed on Madison and Milwaukee and, therefore, less able to recruit people who can win in places like rural Southwest Wisconsin.

Even with fair maps, Democrats can’t win and sustain majorities at the state or national levels by just running up huge numbers in the big metro areas. They have to have candidates, policies and messages that play to a wider, less ideologically pure, audience.

If the Democrats ultimately lose Kind’s seat, it won’t just likely mean they lose control of Congress for the next term. It will continue a retreat to deep blue enclaves of intense liberal echo chambers that will make it all the harder to regain a foothold outside of them. And that’s the unkindest cut of all.

Welcome to the 175th 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.

8 thoughts on “Less Kind-ness

  1. As long as Kind appeared to be truly a stand-by-his-convictions guy, he won votes from across the political spectrum. But when it became obvious that he would not be allowed to deviate from the national Democratic political agenda driven by Pelosi, no matter how comic, and he could no longer be trusted to reasonably represent the views of the people in his district, that support began to melt away. And I say that as a centrist who has lived in Kind’s district and voted for him in the past. Kind’s cave-ins to DC Democrat’s complete fiscal irresponsibility were strength-sapping body-blows to his credibility. But for many I’ve talked to, the last straw seems to have been Kind’s participation in the impeachment charades, epitomizing his total loss of independent thinking and action. Hard to have any “gas” left when you’ve sold your soul to a cause you can no longer believe in.


  2. Ron Kind’s district went Trump in 2016 and by an even larger margin in 2020. Like David Obey before him, Ron Kind saw the writing on the wall. (Not that Democrats believe in walls.)


    1. At the same time worth noting that given Dane County’s rapid population growth over the past 10 years – especially relative to the rest of the state like the Driftless area – that part of Mark Pocan’s 2nd District will have to but cut off and add to a neighboring District prior to the next election. Could very well be the 3rd making it a bit bluer. Iowa County for instance, currently part of the 2nd, voted for Biden by 14%


  3. I’d love to see Kathleen Vinehout run for Kind’s seat if she’s not permanantly retired. She repeatedly won her deep purple/light red State Senate District and still lives in the area. I thought she was the most underrated candidate in the gubernatorial primary a couple years back.
    To your larger point regarding the concentration in Dane and Milwaukee, I wonder if Tom Nelson from the Fox Valley or Sarah Godlewski (originally from Eau Claire) has any chance in the Senate primary (assuming Kind doesn’t run himself – although he’d almost certainly be the best candidate).


    1. I like Tom Nelson a great deal, but right now I’d rate him a long shot. Sarah Godlewski has a much better chance. At the moment, it feels like Mandela Barnes is the front runner with Sarah maybe second.


  4. Yes the biggest tool at our disposable to increase competitiveness of the house seats would be unpacking the 2nd Congressional district.


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