Friday, October 18, 2013

"No promises" promise a risky campaign strategy

EDIT: a Correction to this post has been made. Please view the latest I have written on this topic here.

Burke campaign offers few clues on what she'd do as governor

Now that Mary Burke has tossed her hat in the race for governor, her campaign is understandably facing some criticism.

This is to be expected. Every candidate, for every office ever run for, has strategic choices to make. Not everyone is going to agree with those choices, and it creates a debate on how best to win the office for that candidate...or whether that candidate is the right person to run for office in the first place.

Some have offered that opinion already on Mary Burke. While I don’t personally subscribe to that line of thought, there are certainly things I would change about the Burke campaign (even in its early days) were I have the power to do so.

Among the top things I would change? Abandon the “no pledges” pledge. It’s a risky strategy, and it makes Burke look like a novice.

“I get into this race not making any promises,” Burke recently told the Associated Press. And though she also said she would “[make] sure that our public employees have a place at the table through collective bargaining,” she stopped short of saying she would push through a bill to undo Act 10, Gov. Scott Walker’s law that stripped these rights away from state workers.

Such a “no-promises promise” might make sense to some strategists. There’s no way to assume, if Burke defeats Walker, that she’d have an amiable legislature to work with, especially after the redistricting shenanigans that Republicans put into place, making it very difficult for Democrats to take control (even if a majority of Wisconsinites support them).

But the people still want to know: what is she running for? What will she push for once she’s in office? What policies would she sign into law if they reached her desk, and which would she veto? These are important questions that need to be answered.

Mary Burke is a good oppositional candidate to Scott Walker. She’s a business leader who has the credentials necessary to counter his claims that Wisconsin is doing better economically. She’s a woman who cares about the difficult circumstances facing the downtrodden. And she’s passionate about making Wisconsin work again.

Yet for all of her strengths, if people don’t “get” what she stands for, her campaign is going to face some difficulties. For example, those who are unfamiliar with her might try to go to her website, where they’ll currently find a campaign video and nothing on her policy stances. What will people think about this when they try to gather a sense of what she offers as a candidate?

The bottom line? Holding no views is worse than holding controversial ones. This is a risky campaign strategy, one that I worry isn’t an effective one against Scott Walker.


  1. "she stopped short of saying she would push through a bill to undo Act 10". No Dem can do this and it would be foolish to promise it. Does anyone think that the assembly is going to go Democratic in the next decade? The senate hopefully, but not the assembly. That means Act 10 is not going anywhere. NOW, what she can say is that she will listen to labor groups when crafting a compensation plan - but again that plan has to get through JCOER which will still be 12-4 or at best 8-8. Pretending government doesn't work a certain way doesn't it make it so, just ask the House Republicans.

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