Ta-Ta Tate

Wisconsin Democratic Party chair Mike Tate at a rally on the day enough signatures were turned in to recall Governor Scott Walker.  Photo by Callen Harty.

Wisconsin Democratic Party chair Mike Tate at a rally on the day enough signatures were turned in to recall Governor Scott Walker. Photo by Callen Harty.

Maybe Mike Tate is a nice man. Maybe he has a lot to offer the world. I don’t know him except as the chairman of Wisconsin’s Democratic Party, but in that capacity he has been a dismal failure. It is time for Mike Tate to leave. Maybe he could become a Republican and lead them to sure losses on upcoming election days and help even the score a little bit. He’s had his chance and has completely blown it. It is time for him to bow out gracefully and move on to something else. The Democratic Party in Wisconsin, and the people of this great state, cannot endure more of his leadership any more than we can endure four more years of Scott Walker in the governor’s seat.

Take a look at Tate’s career and then defend the idea that he should be allowed to stay on any longer than the time it takes to clear out a desk and walk out the door.

Below are some of the highlights of Tate’s career.

He was the State Field Director for Kathleen Falk’s losing bid for the governorship in 2002. In 2004, a year before he graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a bachelor’s degree in political science, he was named the Deputy State Director of America Coming Together (ACT). The national organization disbanded in 2005.

Also in 2004 he served as the State Director of Dean for America. Howard Dean had lost several primaries by the time Wisconsin’s came up. Dean had pretty much listed Wisconsin as a must win and indicated he believed that a win in Wisconsin could turn his entire campaign around and lead him to the Presidency. Under Mike Tate’s leadership of the state campaign Dean finished third here with only 18% of the vote. It pretty much ended his campaign and any chance of becoming President.

Fair Wisconsin in its desperate bid to defeat the 2006 Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in the state of Wisconsin hired Mike Tate to lead the campaign against it. The citizens of the state voted for the amendment with just under 60% of the voters supporting discrimination against their fellow citizens.

In 2008 he was the Executive Director of Advancing Wisconsin, a group that funneled money into the 2008 campaign to elect Barack Obama. Obama did win Wisconsin that year, one of the few things Tate has been associated with where his candidate or position fared well. According to an NPR special series called “secret money project” by Will Evans (11/3/08) Tate was quoted as saying that instead of the group fading away after the election he wanted to create “a permanent grassroots field-organizing infrastructure in Wisconsin.” Great idea if it were true. The organization’s website is no longer active and they are no longer registered with the Internal Revenue Service.

After his service with Advancing Wisconsin Tate became the chairman of Wisconsin’s Democratic Party. There has not been much to cheer about during his tenure. Wisconsin lost one of its most popular Senators when Russ Feingold fell to Ron Johnson. Also in that time Scott Walker won the governorship in 2010, became the first governor in U. S. history to survive a recall election, and proceeded to win re-election in 2014. The Democrats put forth Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett against Walker in 2010 and tried him again in the recall. This year the party, under Tate’s leadership, got behind the virtually unknown businesswoman Mary Burke almost as soon as she announced her candidacy. It was clear they had handpicked her and while Tate denied the party was endorsing her they did everything but come out and say it. Party regulars were denied a meaningful primary and never got fired up for her candidacy. She lost by 5%. Madison and Milwaukee voters did not turn out for her.

How many executives with this kind of record would still be in their positions in a corporation? The shareholders would riot and demand a resignation. It is time for the stakeholders in the Democratic Party of Wisconsin to do the same thing. Tate had his time and he had his chance and he has failed.

Let’s close with a couple other tidbits. If his record doesn’t convince you, how about his own words? These quotes are from a WisPolitics e-profile of Tate from November 20, 2006.

  • When asked about the winning political formula in Wisconsin, Tate responded with this quote: “I don’t know that I should be asked this question given my track record.” It’s nice to see that he has a sense of humor about it, but his answer rings true.
  • In answer to the question, “Most people don’t know I’m good at . . .” Tate’s response was, “I’m not really good at very much. I used to be a good golfer now my game comes and goes.”

Mike Tate, ta-ta.  Time to go play some golf. Or just time to go.

About Callen Harty

Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of four books and numerous published essays, poems, and articles. His most recent book is The Stronger Pull, a memoir about coming out in a small town in Wisconsin. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, is a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His play, Invisible Boy, is a narrative with poetic elements and is also an autobiographical look as surviving child sex abuse. All are available on Amazon.com (and three of them on Kindle) or can be ordered through local bookstores, He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he started as an actor, writer, and director in 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History. He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive. Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events. In 2016, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault named him their annual Courage Award winner for his activism, writing, and speaking on sexual assault.
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5 Responses to Ta-Ta Tate

  1. Arcturus says:

    I don’t know if it was soley his decision, but running Barrett in the recall was the single biggest mistake in that sorry litany above. I agree with the conclusion here… It is time for his next “fail up.”

  2. For four years I have been saying this. Every time WI Democrats have asked me for money, I have said that I will donate when Mike Tate is gone from his position. NO ONE has ever bothered to reply. Go away, Mike Tate and leave WI alone. We can’t afford your leadership any more! It has cost us entirely too much!

  3. Pingback: Wisconsin: Care to comment on your post-election plans? : blue cheddar

  4. Chris McDonough says:

    I totally agree Callen. One other thing that I beleive needs to be pointed out, is that the very people who say ad nauseum how important it is to turn out the vote, disrespect voters who are in line waiting to vote by conceding before those people get to cast their vote.

  5. Joe Kallas says:

    I said much of this when I challenged Tate in 2013. People told me it was not his fault and his only job is to raise money.

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