Mike's Response to take the Pledge
I want a new governor and am doing everything in my power to get one, and will continue to do so after the primary regardless of the outcome of that election. I obviously can't support Walker. But the question you and so many other Democrats keep asking is the wrong question. I understand the impulse behind the question and the desire for a party loyalty pledge, but acting on that impulse actually makes it harder to get a new governor. I can think of at least three big problems standing in the way of a Democrat winning in November that are not solved by a loyalty pledge. They are actually made worse.
Two of the problems are not unique to Democrats, but they certainly are formidable obstacles for Democrats. The third problem is very specific to Democrats. The first problem is the widespread belief among voters that politicians always put party ahead of everything else. They see politicians putting concern for their party ahead of the interests of the people and ahead of what's good for the country. They are exasperated by partisanship and the partisan gridlock that makes government so dysfunctional. Demanding that all candidates make a party loyalty pledge reinforces and intensifies these feelings, making that problem even worse. Huge mistake.
The second widespread belief among the majority of voters is that politicians don't listen to them and ignore their wishes, and instead cater to their donors and favorite interest groups and party insiders. Insisting on a loyalty pledge makes this problem worse too. The pledge sends the message that any Democrat is better than Scott Walker. This ignores the reality that in last three elections for governor, the majority of voters in Wisconsin sent a message that they clearly believe there is something even worse than Walker, namely the Democratic nominees in those elections. The "Any Blue Will Do" impulse behind the party loyalty pledge disrespects these voters' decisions. It effectively tells them they are stupid and chose unwisely. That's a horrible message for Democrats to send. And a losing message. Democrats should be saying to these voters "we hear you" and we are going to make you a better offer than we've made in the past. And then we should focus on nothing but making that offer and describing our vision for Wisconsin and America.
The third problem is that a large number of voters out there aren't sure what Democrats stand for. Many are convinced Democrats don't stand for anything. That belief is reinforced when Democrats say out loud they'll support whoever has the D behind the name, regardless of whether it's a corporate Democrat or a stand-for-nothing Democrat or an ethically compromised Democrat. Another big mistake. We need to spend every minute and every ounce of energy talking about what we're for, and what we believe Wisconsin has the potential to become and how we reach that potential.
Outside of party circles, no one has ever asked me if I plan to support the winner of the primary if I'm not the nominee. Nobody outside of the ranks of party activists cares if the Democratic candidates will support each other. They do wonder if there's any candidate out there who can be trusted to look out for them and act on their behalf. They see the government working for a privileged and powerful few and ignoring their needs and wishes altogether. That makes them increasingly skeptical and scornful of government, which makes them increasingly likely to vote for the anti-government party. This is a dilemma and paradox for Democrats. The more Republicans foul up the government, the easier it is for them to win elections. For all the reasons I describe, obsessing over having all the candidates publicly pledge allegiance to the party ultimately plays right into the hands of Walker and the Republicans. I don't have any interest in doing that and squandering such a golden opportunity to win the governor's office. That's why I believe Democrats should stop asking this question about a party loyalty pledge. And that's why I have taken the position I have with respect to the demand for such a pledge.