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Monday, January 30, 2023
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An open letter from fly-over country to Alex Lasry

Early last week, Alex Lasry, the 33-year-old son of billionaire Wall Street baron and Bucks owner Marc Lasry, announced his intention to seek the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in 2022. The seat is currently occupied by gaffe-prone Trump loyalist Ron Johnson, so the Democrats will be gunning hard for it come election season.

I want Johnson to be held accountable. He deserves a double digit loss for his servility to Trump and his naked corruption. But Alex Lasry is the last person I want replacing him. To trade a reactionary conservative millionaire for a clueless, faux-gressive billionaire is not an improvement. It is a loss either way.

I worry though because it’s the exact type of screw-up Democrats would make. In a primary that is just getting started, it would be so typical of the national Democratic Party to put their institutional power behind a billionaire New Yorker who has more ties with fundraisers than everyday Wisconsinites.

Many are already using the word “carpetbagger” to describe Lasry. A carpetbagger is an antiquated term for someone who moves to a different state just to run for office. I object to this not because he is not a carpetbagger (by definition, he is) but because it’s the wrong reason to oppose his candidacy.  

We live in a united country where citizens have freedom of movement. Americans cross invisible state borders all the time seeking work, entertainment and enrichment. People should be able to move to a new place, and if they are the right person for the job, represent that place’s interests in government. 

Robert Kennedy was a great senator from New York for the people of New York, even if he was a through and through New Englander. Bernie Sanders may be a born and bred New Yorker but the people of Vermont have overwhelmingly elected him time and time again as their champion in the Senate. 

Americans can move to a new state and become a great representative of that state, but they need to make an effort to understand the needs and the people of that state. It’s apparent that Alex Lasry has made no such effort. In a video conversation this past summer, Lasry expressed surprise that some podunk town like Milwaukee had… schools, bars and even art. Lasry may have thought Milwaukee was some well-kept secret in the provincial hinterlands, but it’s no secret to the million people who live in and around it. The video of that interview blew me away the first time I saw it. 

It seems like Lasry expected his only communication to be delivered via pony express and that his food would only come from what he’d be able to catch fishing in the Kinnickinnic that day. Much to his surprise, the city of half a million people has art galleries and bars just like New York! Who knew?

His painfully out of touch attitude shows he knows next to nothing about Wisconsin. If his knowledge of the state’s largest city was so elitist and lacking, God knows what he thinks of Wisconsin’s rural areas, where bold progressive reforms are needed just as badly. 

I remember when I first heard the phrase “fly-over country” I needed to have it explained to me. Flying where? Why? For the uninitiated, the phrase is a colloquialism for the Midwest or, more broadly, any place that isn't on either coast. It means that these places are only good for flying over on your way to somewhere that matters. 

It’s a phrase that speaks to the disdain or, at the very least, obliviousness some on the coasts feel for the rest of us. In politics, I think it underlines the shallow understanding national political figures have for much of America, even when they are courting our votes. 

Lasry did not call Wisconsin fly-over country in so many words, but his attitude speaks for itself. He has made no effort to get to know the people, the needs and the identity of the state. He arrived in Milwaukee expecting a single crossroads and cornfields and was shocked to find buildings with more than eight stories.  

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If Wisconsin Democrats want to hold Sen. Johnson accountable for his bumbling and shady performance as one of the state’s senators, the last person they should put up against him in the general is a bored rich kid from New York. Democrats in Wisconsin need to shake the perception that they are the out of touch arm of a party of coastal elites. 

The Democratic primary for senate is still a long way away. Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski or any other proud, progressive Scon could grace the ballot come Fall of 2022, but whoever it is should understand Wisconsin and be ready to push her forward.

Philip is a junior studying Journalism. Do you think Lasry should run for the Senate? Does Wisconsin require new leadership from outside the spotlight? Send all comments to opinion@dailycardinal.com.

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