Four reasons Democrats lost in 2014

It is the morning after the election. 

The sun came up, the dog got fed and, as always, the coffee tasted great. 

Both the loser and the victor gave fine speeches last night.

But there is something different in the air this morning. There is a sense of definition and certainty. Scott Walker won his third election in four years. He will be governor of Wisconsin for the next four years, unless he becomes a presidential candidate and wins in 2016. Now we have a clear opportunity to get some work accomplished together, without the shrill distraction of daily protests and a recall.

No matter your political leanings, you have to respect Scott Walker. He and his family have withstood a lot. He has earned his success. And he has connected with the majority of voters in three consecutive elections, against some of the strongest opposition and inspection faced by a governor anywhere in our country, ever.

Say what you like, but with his third resounding victory he has a mandate. And with it he has a great opportunity to become everyone’s governor, free from the incessant discord of the last four years. 

As for the Dems, they have some heavy lifting to do. There is a need for a new Democratic Party that speaks more directly to the working people of the private sector, and not special interests. (Yes, the Dems curry favor with special interests, too.) 

Face it. Scott Walker reached voters consistently in a way the Democratic candidates didn’t. You can’t lose three elections in a row and blame it on the other guy, or the Kochs, or whine that the sun was in your eyes. You have to own your defeat and search hard for the reasons for it. Here are a few.

First, the Dems underestimated Scott Walker. He is a formidable politician, and any military strategist will tell you that the best way to lose a war is to underestimate your opponent. 

Secondly, the Dems will have to accept the truth that many of their wounds were self-inflicted. The Flight of the Fourteen from Madison will take a long time to live down, because those fourteen didn’t flee for women’s rights or marriage equality or the legalization of weed or to close our abysmal racial achievement gap. They fled town because their cash stream from the public unions was in play. They fled the state for seven percent of the population. There isn’t a bookie in the world who would call that a smart play. 

Thirdly, the Dems have to see outside of Madison. They spend far too much time peering at the state through the 608 prism.

But most importantly, Dems have to reexamine their attitude. Throughout the last four years there has been an unmistakable tone of condescension emanating from them. As in, “How can people vote against their own self-interests?” As if somehow they know what is best for us, the great unwashed masses, while never understanding that it is their own condescension that made for a losing strategy three times in a row.

To this writer, this attitude most manifested itself in the rhetoric about Scott Walker’s education. There was an endless stream of language on message boards that called Scott Walker a “buffoon” or an “idiot” because he didn’t graduate from college.

Of all the Dem rantings, this one bothered me the most. First, because it’s an insult to every farmer, welder, carpenter, plumber or store clerk in the state who doesn’t have a degree. Which, by the way, makes up more than seventy percent of Wisconsin’s population.

And secondly, it is incredibly wrong, not to mention politically stupid, to insult good, hard-working people.

The fact that Scott Walker became governor without a college degree makes me respect him more, not less.

And this is where the Democrats failed. They somehow became effete, when what they really needed to do was spend more time with citizens outside of government—citizens who have more calluses than degrees.

Regardless, here’s hoping the next four years are good ones for our state. And that Scott Walker listens to his better angels and reaches across the aisle, so that all may prosper.

Who knows? With a national play in sight, perhaps Scott Walker will rethink the wisdom of a minimum wage hike and marriage equality.

And Scott, don’t forget the legalization of weed.

Because every American, regardless of politics, likes the Allman Brothers and pizza.

Madison-based television producer John Roach writes this column monthly. Reach him at