Five DNC moments that were ‘virtually’ all Wisconsin

By: - August 21, 2020 12:07 pm
Gov. Tony Evers Photo courtesy of the 2020 Democratic National Convention Committee (“DNCC”), all rights reserved.

Gov. Tony Evers addresses the DNC Photo courtesy of the 2020 Democratic National Convention Committee (“DNCC”), all rights reserved.

The logo for much of the 2020 Democratic National Convention that featured an outline of the state of Wisconsin was replaced, for many events, with an outline of the United States. There was no shortage of complaints that Milwaukee did not reap the benefits of its moment on the national stage  — and calls commenced for a Brew City do-over in 2024.

DNC 2020 logo with United States replacing Wisconsin outline in the zero of D20 (screen capture)
DNC 2020 logo with United States replacing Wisconsin outline in the zero of D20 (screen capture)

Photo courtesy of the DNCC 2020
Photo courtesy of the DNCC 2020

But DNC-2020 showcased some nice Wisconsin moments — most notably Sen. Tammy Baldwin on the (not-so) big stage on the final night before Joe Biden accepted the nomination.

Big effing deal

Baldwin told a story of getting extremely sick and being hospitalized at age 9, when her grandparents who were raising her had to pay her healthcare costs out of pocket as grandkids were not covered. It’s a story familiar to many Wisconsinites, but one she felt important for the country to hear, as the debate over killing or keeping the Affordable Care Act (ACA) still rages in the courts and partisan camps.

I got better. But the insurance companies didn’t,” Baldwin said. “They refused to cover me at any cost — because I was marked ‘child with a pre-existing condition.’”

Then she shifted to the “other part of my story” when she ran for office and “ worked with Joe Biden and Barack Obama to make sure kids — and grandkids, if they’re dependents — can stay on their parents’ health insurance until age 26.

“We got that done. And, yes, it was a big f’in deal. … Here in Wisconsin, our state motto is just one word: “Forward.” This November, let’s move forward and never look back.” (Footnote: Baldwin’s remarks as prepared for delivery did not include the ‘f’in’ but including it harkened back to a charming Biden hot-mic moment when he whispered the phrase to President Barack Obama as he signed the ACA into law.)

Holy mackerel!

And the country was introduced to Gov. Tony Evers and his favorite folksy utterance, “holy mackerel.” Evers’ one-minute speech did not disappoint, ending in “Holy mackerel folks, let’s get to work!”

Afterward, he was asked by the reporting pool if he ever thought during his days as a teacher that he’d be speaking at a political convention? He responded, “Hell no, it’s a great honor.”

‘Joe Bidens’ earn Barnes some love

Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes’ slip of the tongue as he nominated “Joe Bidens” during the state roll call triggered some good-natured ribbing. 

After the camera moved on, Barnes laughed it off, quickly taking to Twitter with a post congratulating “All the Joe Bidens” on their nomination.

Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes casting Wisconsin's delegate votes at DNC 8/18/20. Photo courtesy of the 2020 Democratic National Convention Committee (“DNCC”), all rights reserved.
Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes casting Wisconsin’s delegate votes at DNC 8/18/20. Photo courtesy of the 2020 Democratic National Convention Committee (“DNCC”), all rights reserved.

Proof of Barnes’ cult of admiration in the state came in the form of nearly 200 retweets and comments, even though it was sent from his personal account. 

To quote a few among many expressions of thanks and pride: 

“On a related note, the number of people who have a crush on you has skyrocketed nationwide.”

“I’m obsessed with you and you nailed it!”

“We all wish there was more than one of him!”

“You represented us beautifully. Can’t wait until someone someday announces the nomination of Mandela Barness.”

Who knew messing up was such smart political strategy?


Bronze Fonz, squirrels and burnt brats, oh my! 

Giving Wisconsin potentially as many viewer eyeballs as the convention — well, at least more humorous memorable moments — Stephen Colbert offered his own commentary on our state.

Colbert did his best Evers impression, taking the mackerel bait and declaring: “What a pleasant battle cry. Gee golly gosh, everybody, slap me with a salmon and stick a trouser in my trouts. Time to get this fish on the road.”  (Not clear if his swapping of trousers and trouts was in error.)

Colbert also got in jokes at the expense of the Bronze Fonz, the tradition of Democrats (AKA Hillary Clinton ala 2016) of not visiting Wisconsin, the Milwaukee squirrel census, a virtual tour with yeast fermentation livestream and burnt brats tailgating outside Miller Park. (VISIT Milwaukee sent him a follow-up invitation to film in Wisconsin post-COVID.)

‘DC insider’ Scott Walker

Evers wasn’t the only governor to make an appearance. While it was not on the DNC program, WisPolitics hosted a chat featuring former Gov. Scott Walker, along with Congressman Mark Pocan and a strategist from each party. 

WisPolitics’ Jeff Mayers began, “Welcome to our virtual DNC-week event. We’re not from Milwaukee, I don’t know who’s in Milwaukee, none of our panelists are, but we’re going to talk about the Milwaukee convention, what could have been the effect it’s having, and how the presidential campaigns are going to try to win Wisconsin.”

Rep. Mark Pocan (Screenshot: WisPolitics)
Rep. Mark Pocan (Screenshot: WisPolitics)

Walker argued that polls showing Biden five points or more ahead of Trump should be taken with a big grain of salt, comparing the current moment to Clinton’s August lead in 2016 polls. He  went on to talk about the radical left of the party in Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Pocan’s rebuttal: “If this were at night I would recommend a drinking game every time they said AOC, radical idea or Bernie Sanders, and we would all be sloshed at the end of an hour. But the reality is Joe Biden and Kamala Harris — and that’s a very different ticket.”

Asked by Mayers about the best message to swing voters, Walker responded, “It’s got to be anti-Washington. There are people who feel forgotten — the forgotten women and men of America — and they’re very much the key to winning Wisconsin.” He said it wasn’t necessarily rural or suburban but “mid-sized industrial towns” like Oshkosh, Sheboygan, Racine, Green Bay that politicians need to aim for, highlighting “this sentiment that they’re frustrated with Washington, with the inability of leaders in both parties to get things done.”

Former Gov. Scott Walker (Screenshot: WisPolitics)
Former Gov. Scott Walker (Screenshot: WisPolitics)

Pocan jumped on that answer, saying his analysis was so-2016 when Trump was still an outsider. (He also jabbed that Walker himself is now DC-based. Ouch!)

“Donald Trump didn’t drain the swamp, he dredged it deeper and built the high-rise luxury condo on it,” Pocan mused. He said Walker should know all about how Democrats can do well with higher turnout having “felt it more than anyone” in 2018 (when he lost his re-election race to Evers) when higher turnout hurts Republicans. Pocan blamed a portion of the 200,000 Democratic voter drop-off on voter intimidation in 2016, pivoting to point out that Walker showcased a copy of his own book, “Unintimidated” perched over his left shoulder on his fireplace mantle, in full view of the camera, next to a big flag.

For his part, Pocan said he would counsel wooing undecided voters with a message of competence and confidence, pinning the blame on Trump for bungling the pandemic response, which resulted in his inability to have a Spotted Cow and a fish fry out in public with friends.

Walker reacted with a genuine laugh. “Well Mark, you can come over to our place. We’ll have a beer on the porch and we’ll be far away, whether it’s Spotted Cow or Leinenkugel’s or whatever, but I’ll look forward to that.”


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Melanie Conklin
Melanie Conklin

Melanie Conklin is proud to be a native of the state of Wisconsin, which gave humankind the typewriter, progressivism and deep-fried cheese curds. Her several decades in journalism include political beats and columns at Isthmus newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal and other publications. When not an ink-stained wretch, she served time inside state, local and federal government in communications. She is excited to be back at the craft of journalism as Deputy Editor of the Wisconsin Examiner. It’s what she’s loved ever since getting her master’s degree in journalism from the UW-Madison. Her family includes one husband, two kids, four dogs and five (or more) chinchillas.