Monday, April 20, 2015

Kerry Trask - Messenger of Doom

"Bernie, you are the conscience of the Democratic Party!"  Kerry Trask to me
"Kerry, if your conscience isn't bothering you then it isn't working."  Me to Professor Trask

A shrinking parade
Manitowoc County Dems PR photo: Trask at left
Professor of History (Emeritus) Kerry Trask has many credits to his name.  He was a fine lecturer of early American History.  He can use his stentorian voice to deliver a stirring speech on Democratic and Progressive values.  Together his image and communicative skills should add up to great leadership and electoral success.  As it turns out, not so much...

 While on the right side of all the issues his own political career has been marked by abject failure.  For starters he is Canadian and when he ran for Assembly had only just become a U.S. citizen after being in the country for decades.  This did not go down well with a suspicious working class electorate but his ego told him that all he had to do was show up and impress.

Also, as a UW Professor he has developed a persona of talking down to people and although he is considered a rock star among the party faithful he is utterly unable to talk to ordinary people.  In fact he was remarkably uninterested in doing so.  Though I had set aside my own desire to run that year in order to support him with his higher name recognition he refused my offer to assist him in campaigning in the rural areas.  He lost by more than 3000 votes.

Trask is quite capable of explaining the ironies and moral ambiguities of Andrew Jackson or the Black Hawk Wars but when it comes to the sins of contemporary politicians his insight has been painfully lacking.   In practice, his judgement in sorting out the less than faithful from the hanger-ons and merely ambitious has been non-existent preferring instead to practice an insular form of cronyism leaving most of the Progressiveism for the speeches.  In reality he takes his advice from those he sees as important and successful rather from the moral underpinnings of the party platform he claims to adore.

His management skills are equally non-existent using his volcanic temper to intimidate rather than make his case or solicit support, a particularly problematic approach when in the role of party chair.  Trask's inability to assess people as anything more than obedient students or differentiate between political power and political goals has enabled a train wreck in the county party.  Party policies and constitutional rules have been subject to his own individual interpretation and accountability be damned.  Any opposition to his edicts immediately evoke a scowl.  Dissenters need not apply.

The most obvious case was his allowing lobbyist Todd Holschbach to sit on the executive committee while not so much as applying for party membership.  Though the son of former Dem Legislator Verne Holschbach and working for Nature Conservancy Todd was actively working against Democratic interests by supporting Right To Work Republican Mike Howe for office.  Apparently the pedigree was more important than rules.  Holschbach is still listed as a Democratic office holder on the Manitowoc County Dems website.

Brey campaign photo
I've already documented the Brey debacle and Trask's efforts to undo the election of at-large committee members at Brey's and Holschbach's behest.  According to Trask I had to be held accountable for subjecting Brey to public ridicule.  It is equally interesting to note than when a deliberately and deeply personal attack on me by Brey and the allegedly Liberal Mayor Justin Nickels appeared on the web no such equivalent censure was brought.  In fact Trask dismissed both Brey and Nickels as "... not intellectual giants." and seemed to say that Nickels was not a player in the party at all.  Nickels is currently vice chair here and the apparent golden boy chosen by Mike Tate to prove that his program was working.  Obviously, both cannot be true.

Trask's stories have a strange way of morphing depending on the occasion.  When he sanctioned elections of at-large members he wrote in the newsletter that it was for two year terms.  A year later after being dissatisfied with the results wrote that the terms ended at one year and sent letters of termination to the elected members.

In the end, you have to look at the results.   According to the blog "Jakes Economic TA Fun House" Manitowoc County had the largest pro-Walker swing of any other county in the State - 22.1%

Swings between 2012 Presidential election and 2014 Gov election 
Lafayette- Dem +15.4 to GOP +3.3 (18.7 swing)
Trempealeau- Dem +14.1 to GOP +6.0 (20.1)
Manitowoc- GOP +2.8 to GOP +24.9 (22.1)
Buffalo- Dem +2.9 to GOP +16.4 (19.3)
Richland- Dem +16.1 to GOP +1.7 (17.8)
Forest- Dem +5.4 to GOP +15.1 (20.5)
Kewaunee- GOP +5.4 to GOP +25.5 (20.1)
Jackson- Dem +15.0 GOP +2.6 (17.6)
Crawford- Dem +20.0 to Dem +2.8 (17.2)
Shawano- GOP +10.0 to GOP +30.9 (20.9)

Most disturbing is the fact that Trask ran unopposed.  What this says about the general condition of the Democratic Party should be raising great alarm.  The fact that it hardly raised an eyebrow should have everyone filled with a pending sense of doom.

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