Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Did Democratic Debate Help Milwaukee?

And did Clinton or Sanders win? Morning-after reflections.

By - Feb 12th, 2016 01:47 pm
The Spin Room. Photo by Jim Cryns.

The Spin Room. Photo by Jim Cryns.

When Fox Business Network came to Milwaukee for the Republican presidential debate last November, the program opened with a paean to this state’s GOP roots, as I reported.  The network noted that Ripon was the birthplace of the Republican Party and Teddy Roosevelt was shot while giving a speech in Milwaukee. All in all it was good publicity for this city and state, a place where “legends are forged,” according to the giddy language of Fox’s writers and where the photos showed us mighty manufacturers, happy cows and scrumptious forests.

It would have been far harder for PBS, which was the host of last night’s Democratic debate, to tout Wisconsin’s history for that party, since for more than half a century, from the 1890s to the mid-1950s, there was no Democratic Party to speak of, as elections were largely between the establishment Republicans and the Bob LaFollette-oriented Progressive Republicans.

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders

Given the presence of Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders on the podium, PBS might have opened with some reflections on Milwaukee’s unique history as socialist-run city, led for 24 years by Socialist Mayor Dan Hoan and 12 years by the last Socialist, Frank Zeidler. These were, it should be noted, “sewer socialists” known for their tight-fisted style of governing. During the debate Sanders noted that there was fat that should be cut from the federal government, but that quick throw-away pales compared to the zeal with which the Milwaukee socialists pinched pennies, refusing to bond for any projects and adopting a “pay-as-you-go” approach so they didn’t have to pay any interest to banks.

Alas, Public Broadcasting Station, which was hosting last night’s Democratic debate on on the UW-Milwaukee campus, is a rather sober bunch, unless they are on the road pricing antiques, and so we got not a word celebrating the splendor of our green forests, Green Bay Packers or green-eye-shade-wearing socialists.

When the city or state did get mentioned, it was all negative. Hillary Clinton, always long on specifics, noted the death of Dontre Hamilton by a Milwaukee police officer, the city’s poverty, and the state’s horribly high incarceration of African Americans. She also bashed Scott Walker a couple times for being anti-union and basically bad. All in all, this sounded like a much happier city and state as seen through the eyes of Fox. Maybe we are turning into a red state.

The moderators were two women, Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff, and along with Hillary, meant the majority of those on the stage were women, the first time in history in a presidential debate. But for those men pining for more gender balance, dead center between Ifill and Woodruff could be seen the head of Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, who sat in the middle of the second row of the audience and was often captured by the camera. Alas, his facial expressions were too ambiguous to tell us who he was rooting for; perhaps the entrance of billionaire Michael Bloomberg as a third party candidate.

Sanders must be an urbanist, as he stayed at the downtown Marriott on E. Wisconsin. Not sure where Hillary stayed (seems like she might be a Pfister kind of gal), but she did have an event this morning at the Harbor House, confirming once again that she is not a red-meat Republican.

As for the debate itself, it seemed like the most liberal Democratic debate I can ever recall watching. But then, most of the Republicans are now to the right of Attila the Hun, which provides some balance. If you liked specifics (especially on foreign policy) and more specifics, Clinton was the winner. If you liked rhetorical sweep and passion, Bernie won. And if you were looking for a strange segue into vaguely relevant history, Sanders’ long eruption about Henry Kissinger was a tad bizarre. To hear Sanders tell it, Kissinger and President Richard Nixon’s opening of trade with China led (oh, about 30 years later) to American companies exporting jobs to that country. I’m guessing that wasn’t a prepared response by Sanders.

The experts, from those at CNN to the New York Times to the Washington Post, all thought Hillary did better. Which, considering how wrong the pundits and polls have been so far, could be terrible news for her. Maybe it’s just as well they didn’t offer their take on Milwaukee.

In the Spin Room

Categories: Murphy's Law, Politics

5 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: Did Democratic Debate Help Milwaukee?”

  1. Stacy says:

    Right, it is a little painful to have your hometown fashioned into a cliche for national consumption.

  2. Todd says:

    I also thought it was strange the Socialist history of Milwaukee was left unmentioned.

    Any way for Urban Milwaukee to look into who was in the audience?

    It was disappointing to find out that UWM students made up only 3% of the audience. And there seemed to be very few minorities in the crowd as well.

    Some fairly well-connected Democrats I know were unable to get tickets to the event.

  3. Matt says:

    All due respect to the MANY white people writing for the site, but for a significantly large portion of this community it is not negative at all to put national spotlight on Dontre Hamilton and the hideous race relations between law enforcement and the black community. I think the white privilege shows when you suggest it is preferable to sweep that shit under the rug. But that has been the white attitude for decades, and it hasn’t really worked out now has it? It is good to have attention on our problems, and it is good to have national leaders aware of this town’s racism. But yeah, maybe it would be better if she shut up and let the white people handle it.

  4. Bruce Murphy says:

    Matt, this story is a satire. I’m not suggesting Dontre Hamilton shouldn’t be mentioned (I personally think it was quite relevant to points being made in the debate) and not suggesting Hillary shouldn’t have bashed Walker. I’m also making fun of the earlier praise of the city by Fox.

  5. Rnprn says:

    It was skewed for Hillary and her corporate cronies.

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