Democrats gathered in Green Bay for their annual state convention.
Wisconsin’s Democratic leaders came to their annual state convention in Green Bay this weekend searching for unity. On Friday night, Donald Trump helped them find it.
With their own presidential candidates still locked in a prolonged primary campaign, Wisconsin Democrats all took turns bashing Trump, a sign of their eagerness to tie the likely Republican presidential nominee to other GOP candidates down the ballot.
“They’re all going to endorse ‘the Trumpster,’” said Assembly Democratic Minority Leader Peter Barca. “The moral of that story is it just goes to show they’ve never met a wealthy special interest they couldn’t support.”
Democratic U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan of Madison began his remarks with a video montage that included several controversial quotes from Trump and ended with a clip of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush saying Trump “needs therapy.” Pocan said it could be a good year for Democrats.
“The ‘Trump jump’ could catapult us to take back the (U.S.) House of Representatives,” said Pocan.
The willingness to repeatedly attack Trump stood in stark contrast to the GOP convention in Green Bay three weeks ago, where most Republican leaders wouldn’t mention him by name.
“We’re not afraid to say the names of our candidates, are we?” asked Pocan, before leading party activists in chants of “Hillary! Bernie!”
“See that wasn’t so hard. But somehow, the leaders of the Republican Party couldn’t bring themselves to say the words ‘Donald Trump,'” he said.
Many Democrats tried their hand at comedy. U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore of Milwaukee delivered her address with a Trump Bobblehead on the lectern. U.S. Rep. Ron Kind took a dig at Trump’s multiple marriages.
“I don’t think a Donald Trump presidency is going to work very well for our country because he will soon leave us for a younger country,” Kind said.
U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin struck a serious tone in her remarks, suggesting Republicans around the country now faced a moral test.
“Donald Trump’s bigotry has no place in Wisconsin,” said Baldwin. “The Republicans have had 17 bad candidates and managed to pick the worst of the bunch.”
Democrats also promoted former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold’s bid to win back his seat from Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson. Feingold made a few Trump mentions during his speech, but he was more focused on “special interests,” saying groups funded by the billionaire Koch brothers had launched a “hostile takeover” of Wisconsin and America.
“It is a merger of big government and big business so that corporate loopholes can be taken out of our pockets to help all the special interests,” Feingold said. “That’s the big goal, and if we don’t stop them, they’ll be well on their way.”
Feingold rattled off a long series of issues he supports, from repairing crumbling infrastructure to supporting Planned Parenthood, paid family leave and changes to the nation’s immigration laws.
“We need comprehensive immigration reform so that the 11 million people who live in the shadows have a legal status and can continue to live and work in the state,” Feingold said. “Beware of those like Sen. Johnson who say ‘we can get back to that later, but first we have to close the border.’ That is an excuse for not taking on the real issue.”
Democrats also heard from U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who noted that public-sector workers had “taken it on the chin” in Wisconsin but had a friend in President Barack Obama.
In addition to Friday night’s speeches, Democrats were poised to approve a non-binding resolution Saturday calling for major changes to their system of superdelegates. The resolution would call on the national party to either end superdelegates or require them to support candidates based on the proportion of votes they win in primaries and caucuses.
It was pushed by supporters of Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders who don’t like that many superdelegates supported former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before votes were even cast in many state primaries, including Wisconsin. Sanders won Wisconsin’s primary but most Wisconsin superdelegates are supporting Clinton.