Fearing Defeat by GOP Candidate Sean Duffy, David Obey Announces Retirement

On May 5, 2010 David Obey (D-WI) announced he will not run for reelection.  Obey has served 20 terms and is the third longest serving member of the House.  For the first time since 1994, Obey faced a major challenge with Sean Duffy. 

This news is significant for all Americans, not just those in WI because Obey was the chairman of the House Appropriations committee and authored the Stimulus Bill.  The committee decides how to spend the $1 trillion in annual government funds are spent.

Obey made his decision to retire after Democratic polling showed he was vulnerable.  His retirement is overdue.  He’s been serving since 1969 which is before Duffy was even born.  Obey is the classic career politician.

Recently the campaign got ugly and desperate when The Democratic Party of Wisconsin sent out a press release on April 14, 2010 attacking Sean Duffy for being a white supremacist and used racial overtones to do it.

The press release stated, “Duffy was scheduled to appear at a Wausau Tea Party event Thursday alongside white supremacist  Alabama militia Col. John Eidsmoe (Eidsmoe since canceled).”  It continues, “But even before not answering questions about the Tea Party scandal, Duffy was not answering questions about his unexplained role at a Wisconsin Dells resort where he reportedly fled the scene after his wife got into a shoving match with GOP rival Dan Mielke. Shortly thereafter, his campaign manager either quit or was fired.” 

Perhaps the worst of the short press release comes at the end from Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate where he is quoted, “For someone who has spent the better part of his adulthood trying to prance around on television, Sean Duffy has been pretty scarce when it comes time to come clean about just who is funding his campaign and just what orders his Tea Party masters have given him,” Tate said. “Maybe he’s trying for a gig on “Dancing With the Stars,” where he can pretend he knows how to rumba instead of pretending to be a timber worker.” 

Duffy for Congress campaign manager, Matt Seaholm fired back with a press release.  It stated, “In response to the baseless claims of racism thrown at Ashland County District Attorney Sean Duffy, Duffy for Congress campaign manager, Matt Seaholm, said the Democrat Party of Wisconsin (DPW) owes the Republican congressional candidate and his family an apology. Today, the DPW and its Chairman Mike Tate accused Duffy, who is married to Rachel Campos-Duffy, a Mexican-American, of being a white supremacist.”

Seaholm said, “Sean Duffy is proudly married to a Mexican-American and together they have six wonderful children.   The DPW crossed the line by blatantly playing the race card and insulting the Latino community.  The Democrats owe the Duffy family an apology and Mr. Tate should resign immediately.”

What then about DPW’s claims of Duffy’s association with Eidsmore.  Duffy’s press release says, “Sean believes the views of John Eidsmoe are abhorrent.  Sean is not scheduled to speak at a Wausau Tea Party event and he had no more knowledge of the speakers than Mr. Tate did.”

Seaholm further addresses the allegations that Dufffy is racist by saying, “But today the DPW continued to play the disgusting race card with thinly veiled insults using Latin terms to smear the Duffys such as ‘majordomo’ and suggesting the 4-time elected prosecutor pretends to ‘rumba’.” 

The Duffy campaign believed that DPW used that language intentionally in an attempt to attack Rachel Campos-Duffy’s ethnicity.  Seaholm said, “It’s no mistake the DPW is using these Latino terms to smear Sean and his spouse’s Latino heritage.  Dave Obey should publicly call on the Democrat Party of Wisconsin to retract their accusations.  What the DPW is doing is truly disgusting and shameful.”

Who is the man who posed such a challenge to Obey?  Duffy is the Ashland County District Attorney with more than a 90% trial success rate.  You might recognize his name because he was on the Boston cast of MTV’s The Real World in the 1990s.  Duffy has also received national attention in the New York Times, Time magazine and many other media outlets.  His wife is also famous in her own right.  Rachel Campos-Duffy is a conservative Republican commentator, guest co-host for The View and author of Stay Home, Stay Happy: 10 Secrets to Loving At-Home Motherhood. 

Career politicians are no good for the country. Term limits are a great idea. If Members didn’t have to worry about constant re-election cycles, they could spend more time on the people’s business rather than on securing their own jobs.

Critical thinkers must ask, is the only way to improve congressional gridlock to clean House?

Are Negative Campaigns a Fixture of American Politics?

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin sent out a press release April 14, 2010 attacking Sean Duffy for being a white supremacist and used racial overtones to do it. Is this an indication that Rep. David Obey (D-WI) realizes he finally faces a serious challenger in the 40 years he’s been in office? Are party officials getting desperate to smear Duffy?

The press release states, “Duffy was scheduled to appear at a Wausau Tea Party event Thursday alongside white supremacist  Alabama militia Col. John Eidsmoe (Eidsmoe since canceled).”  It continues, “But even before not answering questions about the Tea Party scandal, Duffy was not answering questions about his unexplained role at a Wisconsin Dells resort where he reportedly fled the scene after his wife got into a shoving match with GOP rival Dan Mielke. Shortly thereafter, his campaign manager either quit or was fired.” 

Perhaps the worst of the short press release comes at the end from Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate where he is quoted, “For someone who has spent the better part of his adulthood trying to prance around on television, Sean Duffy has been pretty scarce when it comes time to come clean about just who is funding his campaign and just what orders his Tea Party masters have given him,” Tate said. “Maybe he’s trying for a gig on “Dancing With the Stars,” where he can pretend he knows how to rumba instead of pretending to be a timber worker.” 

Duffy for Congress campaign manager, Matt Seaholm fired back with a press release.  It states, “In response to the baseless claims of racism thrown at Ashland County District Attorney Sean Duffy, Duffy for Congress campaign manager, Matt Seaholm, said the Democrat Party of Wisconsin (DPW) owes the Republican congressional candidate and his family an apology. Today, the DPW and its Chairman Mike Tate accused Duffy, who is married to Rachel Campos-Duffy, a Mexican-American, of being a white supremacist.”

Seaholm said, “Sean Duffy is proudly married to a Mexican-American and together they have six wonderful children.   The DPW crossed the line by blatantly playing the race card and insulting the Latino community.  The Democrats owe the Duffy family an apology and Mr. Tate should resign immediately.”

What then about DPW’s claims of Duffy’s association with Eidsmore.  Duffy’s press release says, “Sean believes the views of John Eidsmoe are abhorrent.  Sean is not scheduled to speak at a Wausau Tea Party event and he had no more knowledge of the speakers than Mr. Tate did.”

Seaholm further addresses the allegations that Dufffy is racist by saying, “But today the DPW continued to play the disgusting race card with thinly veiled insults using Latin terms to smear the Duffys such as ‘majordomo’ and suggesting the 4-time elected prosecutor pretends to ‘rumba’.” 

The Duffy campaign believes that DPW used that language intentionally in an attempt to attack Rachel Campos-Duffy’s ethnicity.  Seaholm says, “It’s no mistake the DPW is using these Latino terms to smear Sean and his spouse’s Latino heritage.  Dave Obey should publicly call on the Democrat Party of Wisconsin to retract their accusations.  What the DPW is doing is truly disgusting and shameful.”

Why all the negativity?  University of Wisconsin Madison political scientist Kenneth Goldstein wrote a book about it—Campaign Advertising and American Democracy.  In the book, he argues that negative campaigns contribute to a health democracy because they succeed in engaging voters.  Goldstein says that much of the criticism regarding negative advertising is rooted in the incorrect assumption that Americans are easily manipulated. 

It may be hard to believe, but studies show negative ads help win political campaigns. Refraining from negativity speaks volumes about character, however. Will voters respond? Are negative ads a fixture of political campaigns? These are just a few of the questions critical thinkers must ask.

Is the Only Way to Improve the Gridlock in Congress to Clean House?

On February 15, Democrat Indiana Senator Evan Bayh announced he wasn’t seeking a third term. He cited strident partisanship and the constant gridlock in congress as reasons. It’s true, months do go by and nothing substantial gets accomplished. In an interview on The View he said, “It shouldn’t take a constitutional crisis or attack on the country to get Democrats and Republicans listening to one another and working together.” He added, “Politics has almost become tribal.”

This phrasing of tribalism has been used more frequently instead of partisanship. It means something much more severe. One definition of tribalism is, “the act of assigning assumptive qualities to anyone that one perceives to be not of one’s own group and the rationalizing of divine or benevolent motives behind abhorrent actions undertaken by one’s own group.”

More practical problem solving is necessary. Listening and compromising is necessary for action. There seems to be far too little dialog today. It’s difficult to name people in either the Democrat or Republican party who are willing to compromise. Without compromise, there can be no substantive action and this is hurting Americans.

Perhaps the route of the problem is the pervasive media eager to cover disputes or lobbyists or even special interest groups. What most agree upon is that there is a problem.

It seems Washington, DC changes even the most idealistic people after a few years. We need some enthusiastic new blood of both parties to facilitate real discussion compromise and action. I interviewed Sean Duffy on my radio show, Critical Thinking in the Real World, today. He is running against Rep. David Obey who has served in Congress since 1970. It will be a tough battle as Obey has a great deal of money, clout and connections. Yet, Duffy is willing to take on this fight because he believes Obey is out of touch with his constituents. He also is frustrated by his actions and said, “David Obey believes we can borrow, spend, and print our way out of this crisis. I think he and his friends in Washington are creating a greater crisis. The consequences of government spending for bailouts, budget increases, bloated entitlements and ‘stimulus’ spending will be staggering and unsustainable debt that will act as a dead weight around the neck of our economy.”

Career politicians are no good for the country. Term limits are a great idea. If Members didn’t have to worry about constant re-election cycles, they could spend more time on the people’s business rather than on securing their own jobs.

When I worked for Rep. Steve Gunderson from 1994 to 1996 as my first job out of college, I organized the group meetings called the Tuesday Lunch Bunch of moderates Republicans who then met with moderate Democrats. My responsibilities included delivering them pizza, soda, dessert as well as keeping track of attendance. That was one of Former Speaker Newt Gingrich’s best initiatives. Imagine having 30 to 40 Members of Congress talking together for an hour each week. As Senator Bayh said, that simply isn’t happening now. There was a lot of compromise then even with Democrat President Bill Clinton and a Republican majority in Congress. It is possible to have that today.

I have to believe that both Republicans and Democrats today really do want to make a positive difference. That is at least when they are first elected and before they get over-taken by Washington, DC and all that corrupts. Their ideas might be different, but they have to somewhere in there believe in the common goal–to serve.