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.
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.
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