US Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, spoke on campus last Thursday at the Badgers for Tammy kickoff meeting which several progressive student organizations hosted. She spoke about issues at the forefront of students’ minds, including debt from loans to finance higher education, voter participation among young adults, and the future of healthcare.
Baldwin also covered a problem every progressive — not just students — should be worrying about. Her campaign benefits from high turnout among young voters and a re-energized party, but faces challenges from “unprecedented levels of outside spending by the Koch brothers and big businesses.”
“I am totally unafraid to stand up to them no matter how much money they spend,” Baldwin said. But even so, Baldwin is one of few Democrats among prominent Wisconsin legislators.
Republicans willing to spend whatever it takes to keep Wisconsin red will create a difficult path to reelection. As of March, conservative donor groups had poured $8.5 million into Wisconsin in efforts to combat Baldwin’s reelection campaign. Money matters, especially in close elections like Baldwin’s in 2012.
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Wisconsin progressives need to recognize significant opposition to Baldwin exists and the blue wave does not guarantee victory. Many of the narratives that keep the blue wave going involve seats flipping from Republican to Democratic, including Ralph Northam’s successful gubernatorial race in Virginia.
Wisconsin is no exception to blue wave voting patterns, which Rebecca Dallet’s victory over conservative judge Michael Screnock in the Wisconsin Supreme Court election demonstrated. Though $400,000 from the Wisconsin GOP backed Screnock, Dallet still took several districts President Donald Trump won in 2016.
Patterns observed in the blue wave could indicate more Democrats will turn out for the November midterm elections and Baldwin will win a greater margin of victory. But the Democratic Party knows, given the results of the 2016 election, nothing should be taken for granted. Blue wave electoral victory stories focus on flipped seats, but keeping blue seats blue is just as important. With this in mind, the blue wave needs to motivate progressives to keep seats as well as flip them.
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The prospect of having a Democratic governor is very exciting for progressives and, regardless of party affiliation, participation in the electoral process keeps our democracy running smoothly — more or less. But Baldwin needs to be included in anticipatory narratives blue wave hopefuls produce. Voting and turnout patterns may show signs of a higher margin of victory for Baldwin in November, but progressives cannot rely on blue wave energy to make this happen.
Progressives must show Baldwin the same level of enthusiasm lent to other Democratic candidates. After all, the blue wave is only happening because enough individuals are energized and motivated to show up for their candidates and make a difference.
Juliet Dupont ([email protected]) is a freshman intending to major in political science and journalism.