Losers never win? A little Wisconsin history lesson says otherwise | Wis.Community

Losers never win? A little Wisconsin history lesson says otherwise

OK, boys and girls, it's Primary Day, or almost.  Time to get over it and get together.  Time for a little history lesson from Uncle X:

I've tried to stay out of the back-and-forth between candidates' supporters, who've come up with some pretty far-fetched theories to support their favorites or undercut their opponents.

Nothing like a little tug of war about who's lost the most statewide elections, or who got more votes one year than someone else did in an entirely different election (like comparing rutabagas with pineapples).

It is true that Tom Barrett and Kathleen Falk each have lost two statewide races.  Both of them in the Dem primary for governor in 2002, and Barrett lost to Scott Walker in 2010.  Falk lost to JB Van Hollen for attorney general in 2006.

And Doug LaFollette?  Although his supporters have short memories, he lost a race for lieutant governor in 1978 and, the last time he ran for anything but secretary of state, in 1988, came in dead last with 3% of the vote in a four-way Dem primary for US Senate.

Only Kathleen Vinehout has no statewide losses on her record -- for one more day.

And Scott Walker?  We may have forgotten that the first time he ran for governor, in 2006, he didn't even make it to the GOP primary before dropping out.  (It's not statewide, but he also lost the first time he ran for the state Assembly.)

So what's the lesson?  No one is unbeatable (although Jim Doyle, for one, never lost an election in his llfe.)

It all means nothing.  That's the real point.  And it is best illustrated by Bill Proxmire (pictured), who served from 1957-1988 as US Senator from Wisconsin.

Back in the 1950s, when the modern Democratic Party of Wisconsin was struggling to make this a two-party state, Prox ran for governor three times in six years (there were two-year terms.)  He lost every time, twice to Republican Walter Kohler.

When Sen. Joe McCarthy died in 1957, Proxmire jumped into the race and defeated the South Side Milwaukee Congressman Clement Zablocki to win the Democratic nomination.  In the general he faced his old nemesis, Walter Kohler, who's already beaten him in 1952 and 1954.

Republicans ridiculed Prox as a three-time loser, but he responded on radio that he would take the votes of everyone who had ever lost or failed “in business, love, sports, or politics” and give the Republicans the votes of everyone who had always succeeded and won everything:

Those pink tea boys who always get everything they want, don't know what it is to get into a fight where the other side has all the advantages big money can buy ... Let my opponents have the support of the man who has never proposed to a girl and lost.  I'll take the losers.  He can have the support of the man who has never owed a note he couldn't pay.  I'll take the debtors ... If all those who have ever lost in love, business, sports or politics will vote for me as one who knows what it is to lose and fight back, I will be glad to give my opponent the support of those lucky voters who have never lost anything...

Proxmire won a fifty-six per cent of the vote to become the first Democratic Senator from Wisconsin in nearly twenty years, and only the third in the Twentieth Century.

 

 

Published

May 7, 2012 - 6:54pm

Author