Why Wisconsin State Rep. Mandela Barnes Matters

There’s a reason why very little is written during elections for governor about the running mates of the candidates. That’s because even though lieutenant governor is technically the No. 2 job in state government, everyone knows the office has very few actual duties.

It’s much like vice president of the United States, a position many suspect has been replaced with a life-size bobble head nodding up and down behind the president. The lieutenant governor’s only real job is to go by the governor’s office every few days to make sure the governor is still breathing. During times of adequate gubernatorial respiration, lieutenant governors are free to spend their days however they want.

But Democratic gubernatorial nominee Tony Evers’ running mate Mandela Barnes, an African-American community activist and former legislator from Milwaukee, throws a major twist into all that conventional wisdom. Race has a way of doing that in the Trump era as Republicans openly move from making subtle racial appeals to intentionally inflaming racial division.

Gov. Scott Walker, like most Republicans, has long specialized in coded messages to associate Democrats with blacks receiving welfare. He talks about Milwaukee’s “problems” under Mayor Tom Barrett and advocates punitive work requirements for people who need food stamps to feed their families or Medicaid to get medical treatment.

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