Paul Soglin is exactly the kind of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wisconsin doesn’t need.
Madison Mayor Paul Soglin announced Saturday that he’s considering running for governor of Wisconsin. This is a total about-face for Soglin, who stated in December that he had absolutely “no interest” in challenging Scott Walker.
So far, there are all of two people publicly pondering a run at the Democratic nomination. Soglin joins Mike McCabe, the one-man army behind Blue Jean Nation and alleged non-Democrat who mostly seems to be good at promoting himself rather than actual, meaningful coalition building. (Editor’s note: Multiple candidates have joined the Democratic gubernatorial primary race since this article was published. )
My response to Soglin is the same as it would be to McCabe: Please, don’t.
First and foremost, the last thing the Democrats need in order to have a real shot at unseating the goggle-eyed homunculus* currently occupying the governor’s office is to nominate a Madison- or Milwaukee-based white liberal dude.
We desperately need a candidate with progressive bona fides who can also speak to real experience in the parts of the state that are not its two biggest cities (and two favorite punching bags of the Republican Party). It was a mistake to re-run Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in the recall election in 2012, and a mistake to run out-of-nowhere and Madison-based business person Mary Burke in 2014. Democrats need someone people from cities and towns and rural areas can relate to, and who has a solid sense of the varied needs of folks from the places that are hurting hardest both economically and environmentally, while also being credible on social issues and/or open to evolution on them. (cough, Kathleen Vinehout, coughcough)
Beyond that, however, despite his radical roots, Soglin has proved himself a pretty dedicated out-of-touch curmudgeon in his latter days as mayor of Madison. From his outright disdain for homeless people and their needs, to his open antagonism of the Common Council (and, often, regular citizens) for daring to defy his every whim, to his attempt to stop the annual Mifflin Block Party (good luck!), and several other confounding and downright obnoxious statements and political moves, Soglin has come to epitomize the cranky aging Boomer who refuses to give up his position and power.
This isn’t to say that All Boomers Are Bad, of course (#NotAllBoomers). I’m a serious proponent of learning from the past and valuing the experience of those who’ve been in the trenches for years. But when someone (especially someone in a position of power) begins to actively resist new and different voices and ideas, and change itself, in favor of an increasingly ossified view of the world? Yeah, they can get out.
And anyway, Soglin has managed the admittedly impressive feat of pissing off people from both sides of the ideological aisle. How he thinks he’ll have any shot at the Democratic nomination speaks either to incredible hubris or insulation from criticism in his inner circle. Or some combination of both.
In his statement in Saturday, Soglin credited the popularity of Bernie Sanders in the state with his decision to reconsider whether or not to run. But folks, Paul Soglin is no Bernie Sanders. You’ll forgive me, too, if I’m just kind of done with White Men of A Certain Age trying to run everything all the time. We are in desperate need of a major paradigm shift—people with different life experiences and ideas at the helm. What we’ve been trying for so long clearly ain’t working anymore.
If Soglin truly wants to do his part to help get Wisconsin back onto a path toward economic and social revitalization, he should honestly consider that the best way to do that is to step aside and throw his vocal support behind a candidate who can help get that done. After everything, Soglin is not without influence or the occasional good idea.
We still have time to find and elevate solid candidates for the Democratic nomination. I really and truly hope that, for the sake of the people of Wisconsin generally, the Dems see through the sham of any Soglin or McCabe (or other same-old “liberal” dude candidate who’s more out for himself than anything) candidacy and choose someone with a real shot at defeating Walker in 2018. It is long, long overdue.
(*shout-out to Esquire’s Charles P. Pierce for coining that amazing and accurate term to describe Scott Walker.)