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April 4, 2020

2/15/2020 7:30:00 AM
Our View
Zunker would best represent Democrats in 7th district race
Gregg Walker and Richard Moore
Publisher and Columnist

As on the Republican side, the Democratic primary for the seventh congressional district this coming Tuesday - the winners will face each other in May to determine who replaces Republican Sean Duffy as our representative in Congress -offers a clear choice.

That choice is Tricia Zunker, the president of the Wausau school board and an associate justice on the Ho-Chunk Nation Supreme Court.

We endorse Ms. Zunker not because we agree with her on many of her policy positions - or any, for that matter - but we believe her nomination is better for the health of democratic debate.

That is to say, our elections produce better leaders when an election contest is a competitive debate of ideas, and as citizens we all deserve to have elections that seriously contemplate the direction of the nation.

For that to happen, we need to have elections in which all candidates along the political spectrum contest ideas and policies that can actually be implemented.

In other words, we need to have elections in which candidates debate the politics of the possible.

Some of those ideas may be good, and some may be bad, but all of them need to be realistic. Otherwise, the other side wins by default, and the wisdom, or lack thereof, within the politics of the possible goes undebated.

In this contest, Ms. Zunker's political positions are within the realm of the realistic and attainable; the ideas of her opponent, Lawrence Dale, are not. It's as simple as that.

To cite just one example, Ms. Zunker says she supports a robust public option in health care. She says, too, that she has talked to many voters who like their private health insurance, and so she is not willing to eliminate it, as Medicare for All would do.

Her public option plan may or may not be good policy, but's it's certainly achievable.

Mr. Dale, on the other hand, wants Medicare for All and the elimination of all private insurance at a cost of about $10 trillion just for the first three years. As Pete Buttigieg pointed out in a Democratic debate, you could take every last cent from every billionaire in America and you would only have $7 trillion - not enough to pay for even three years.

It's not realistic. It's not within the politics of the possible.

A win by Ms. Zunker on Tuesday would pave the way for a real debate between one realistic alternative, a public option, and the more market-oriented approach that the Republican candidate will no doubt favor.

Such a substantive debate would allow the public to test and judge both approaches. Democrats deserve such a debate, and Republicans deserve such a debate, too, for without it the Republican approach would win by default and without any real scrutiny.

That's just one example and certainly not the only one. On issue after issue, Mr. Dale's policy prescriptions descend into silliness and nonsense, not to be taken seriously. Democrats deserve better.

For example, Mr. Dale envisions a utopia right over the horizon. He wants everyone to go college for free. He wants everyone to have free health care. Free, free, free.

And how to pay for it all? Well, be happy. Don't worry.

Oh, and Mr. Dale envisions a network of farmer cooperatives - we are surprised he didn't use the word "collective," but he does claim to be a pragmatist - that will bring prosperity and people to northern Wisconsin.

That's pretty far off the rails, but the most head-scratching part is Mr. Dale wants these to be meat cooperatives. We have no idea why, but he envisions a network of farm cooperatives that would slaughter, process, and direct market high-demand meat products.

So it's meat by government fiat, without any role for markets and market choices. Mr. Dale did allow that the meat component of his economic plan might upset the vegan crowd within the Democratic Party, but, hey, a little government command might take care of that.

The point is, and this might be harsh, but Mr. Dale has contributed nothing of value to a dialogue about the future of northern Wisconsin at a critical time when the region is losing population, poverty rates are high, and many elected officials don't take economic development in the North seriously enough.

His platform isn't helping. Democrats and all of us deserve better.

To be sure, this race is one of only hundreds of federal elections across the nation this year, with many opportunities for substantive discussions about issues. But in a way this Democratic contest is a microcosm of what has been happening within the Democratic Party from the presidential race on down - a withering of serious leaders and the rise of utopians like Bernie Sanders and AOC who could spark the demise of the Democratic Party itself, as James Carville warned this past week.

That would be dangerous for all of us. Maybe things will turn around, and we hope they do.

In the New Hampshire presidential primary this week, Sanders - the Lawrence Dale of the presidential campaign - won as expected, but his margin was narrow over Buttigieg, and another moderate, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, finished a surprisingly strong third.

The real story, though, was that, unexpectedly, the combined vote totals for the moderate candidates - Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and Biden - far surpassed the combined vote totals for the far left candidates, Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and by a margin of 60-40.

Hopefully, it is an indication that moderate Democrats who believe in and practice the politics of the possible are reasserting themselves. That would be a good thing for the nation.

On Tuesday, we urge Democrats here to practice the politics of the possible in northern Wisconsin, and send Tricia Zunker on to the general election

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