Bice Opens the Door to Questions About Barnes

This was coming. Let’s see how far it will go.

Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes has been running away with the Democratic nomination to take on Sen. Ron Johnson. It has been clear for some time now that the only way any of his three main challengers can catch up is to make the case that he can’t beat the hated Johnson in November.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel political columnist Dan Bice has now opened the door for them to make that case. The other day Bice reported on Barnes’ apparent support for two unpopular ideas: defunding the police and abolishing ICE. Barnes now rejects both positions, but it’s clear that he flirted with supporting them in the past. He’s even pictured on social media holding an Abolish ICE tee shirt, a shirt he is on record as having requested. It’s even in his size.

Here’s the obvious case Barnes’ opponents can now make: ‘It doesn’t matter what he says now. The evidence is out there that he has supported some hard-left, deeply unpopular causes. In fact, he even once was a national committee person for the hard-left Working Families Party. Republicans will use all that in Johnson’s campaign, making Barnes a weak candidate to carry our party’s standard. Democrats must beat Johnson, and Barnes is just too risky. So, take a look at me!’

You think this won’t show up in GOP ads?

But that is a case Alex Lasry, Sarah Godlewski and Tom Nelson must make for themselves. Bice’s column only goes so far. It creates a buzz among the chattering class (we carry our Chattering Class Club Card proudly here at YSDA), but one or more of these three will have to hammer it home in their media campaigns.

That won’t be easy because, especially in a Democratic primary, attacking a Black candidate is a risky proposition. But if they don’t do it, they cannot win. Simple as that.

Also, keep in mind that Democrats are in an intensely practical mood. They — with good reason — despise Ron Johnson. They want to defeat him at all costs. Barnes is very liberal and very charismatic. He has the support of Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other progressive stars. But my sense of it is that the majority of Democratic voters will set all that aside if they don’t think Barnes can beat Johnson.

It has been said that Democrats want to fall in love while Republicans just fall in line. But I think that truism has been reversed. Republicans will renominate Johnson, despite his outrageous statements on a host of issues, because he appeals to their most cherished grievances. Democrats may have fallen in love with Barnes, but they’ll leave him at the altar if they’re convinced he can’t win.

For evidence look no further than Tony Evers and Joe Biden. Neither man was the darling of liberal activists, but their very blandness made them look electable, which they turned out to be.

Dan Bice has now invited Lasry, Godlewski and Nelson to make the case that the frontrunner can’t win in November. They can say something like, ‘Well, I didn’t say it! Bice said it!’ Which he did not, exactly, but close enough.

Actually, they will be doing the party a service if they go after Barnes on the question of electability. Because, you know what, if Barnes can’t survive the friendly fire in August he sure won’t come through the harsh enemy attacks in November.

And on another matter… yesterday we suggested that a Republican constitutional amendment to require judges to take into account the danger posed by a defendant when setting bail would pass the Legislature easily. It passed the Assembly yesterday on a 70-21 vote, with about a dozen Democrats voting for it.

Welcome to the 363rd day of consecutive posts here at YSDA. Thanks for reading!


Published by dave cieslewicz

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

4 thoughts on “Bice Opens the Door to Questions About Barnes

  1. As long as Dems maintain their rabid stance against a person who is far more reasonable than the vitriolic brush they paint him with – Ron Johnson – they will continue to turn off people such as myself who do not align with either party. Throw in the far left Dems who seem hell bent on destroying society, with whom Barnes had more than a flirtatious relationship with, and you have a recipe for a Democratic purge in ’22.
    PS – Dave, I suggest listening to Sen. Johnson’s Second Opinion hearing. If you can’t listen to those who you disagree with, you end up having nothing (genuine) to say.


    1. Here’s the problem with that, Michael. Time is short. A person has to triage information. I’m not going to spend time listening to creationists, for example. I put climate and vax deniers in that same category. They just don’t meet the threshold of earning my attention.


      1. You are correct Dave, time is short. Hence the necessity to know truthfully what those we are opposed to stand for. Particularly as we are heading full bore into a totalitarian society, currently driven by Democrats.

        Policies are being created based on stances such as you take here. Policies which are having a catastrophic impact on the lives of many many people.

        Apocryphal attribution, but applicable: “It Ain’t What You Don’t Know That Gets You Into Trouble. It’s What You Know for Sure That Just Ain’t So”


  2. The other Democrats in the race have to test this now, because Ron Johnson is going to tag Barnes with every crazy thing that the Working Families Party, Our Revolution and Bloc have ever said. Lasry and Godlewski are running positive so far and Nelson is relentlessly negative but spends his ammo on Lasry and Corporations, whatever the hell that means.


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