Good news, Democrats! There are no more excuses for Mary Burke not to win in November.
Bad news, Democrats! There are no more excuses for Mary Burke not to win in November.
Last night's ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States to block the implementation of Wisconsin's voter ID law through next month's elections felt like the top of Act Three in an underdog sports movie. Here's a deus ex machina giving the lovable losers (the Bad News Bears, the Mighty Ducks, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin) a shot at victory.
The media tries too hard to simplify the myriad factors behind elections into simple, digestible storylines. But these storylines do play a role -- they can motivate voters. Storylines can make people excited or dispirited.
The last two gubernatorial elections in Wisconsin each had big storylines. In 2010, there was the massive anti-Obama wave. In 2012, Walker and friends made the race into a referendum on the very concept of recall elections.
There's no grand storyline for this year's election. Nationally, there is some anti-Obama sentiment, but that is typical, as the president's party almost always loses seats each midterm. In Wisconsin, though, this situation is nothing compared to 2010 when the Republicans could nominate a Popsicle stick in a suit and win. They did, and his name was Ron Johnson.
If there was a storyline over the last month, it was one of mild malaise among Wisconsin Democrats: Burke's "plagiarism" fracas, the small lead Walker built up in the Marquette Law School poll, and yes, the voter ID ruling in early September that had reinstated the law. It all made for an eerie familiarity among Democrats; for a moment, it was almost like Tom Barrett was running again.
Going back to the underdog sports movie analogy, September felt like the bottom of the second act. That's the time in the movie when things look bleakest, when Rudy learns he won't be able to suit up for a football game, or when the Olympic officials won't let the Jamaican bobsled team compete. After all their hard work, the underdogs don't even get a chance to have a fair fight.
In the competitive world of Wisconsin politics, there won't be any miracles. Walker's not going to mess up in the debates and say something really stupid, and he isn't Brad Schimel. The John Doe scandals aren't going to win anyone else over, and John Doe III: The Legend of John Doe's Gold isn't going to start up between now and Election Day.
Frankly, getting the Roberts Court -- a.k.a. the same court that said the Voting Rights Act was outdated -- to defend voting rights was a big enough miracle on its own. It is the Democrats' equivalent of Chuck Norris in Dodgeball.
From now until Election Day, it is all about turnout. Mary Burke is still the underdog; she always has been in this race, but now she and the Democrats will get to compete on a fairer playing field. There's no more excuse to play post-election "if only" games if Dems are disappointed on November 5.
This is real life, not a movie -- paradoxically, those are words most often spoken by characters in movies -- but Democrats have their cinematic moment. Now it's time to see if they can close out that third act.