At first I wondered why someone was asking me the question:
"So, what do you think about Graeme Zielinski?"
That was the social media chatter last week after Wisconsin Democratic Party spokesman Graeme Zielinski got into hot water for an insensitive Twitter comment that compared Gov. Scott Walker to Jeffrey Dahmer.
Since Dahmer was a serial killer who murdered 17 people and Walker is just the Republican governor Zielinski's party opposes on most issues, the Twitter comment seemed way out of bounds.
(Yes, more and more Twitter seems to have become the best way to write yourself out of a job, in 140 characters or less.)
Zielinski felt the full brunt of conservative media in town as right-wing radio hosts and bloggers jumped on his words as a form of "hate-speech" that demanded everybody who had ever voted Democratic in their adult lives rebuke the Dem spokesman or have it assumed they agreed with his ridiculous comments. As expected, most Democrats did condemn his remarks.
The few people who asked me for comment seemed to think that I needed to address the racial implications of the Dahmer comparison. Dahmer did prey on mostly African-American men during his homicidal rampage and some family members are still living in town.
I rejected that on the grounds that Zielinski's stupid words had nothing to do with race but did provide a "gotcha" moment for some Republicans who wanted to link the growing scandal to the wide support most Democratic candidates receive from African-American voters.
Even though Milwaukee is 40 percent African-American and 90 percent of that group vote Democratic in most elections, Zielinski's role as the official spokesman for the Democratic Party had virtually no impact on black voters at all.
I'll wager a large percentage don't even know who the guy is.
I do because I worked with him for a time at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. We never worked on a story together but I did have some dealings with him in the newsroom about coverage of some issues where he suggested possible columns I eventually rejected.
Seems like we were seldom on the same page.
During my time as a metro columnist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel who often wrote about politics and the African-American community, I never used Zielinski as a source on any of my columns.
The larger issue is Zielinski's relationships with black media in town, which by most accounts, was less than impressive. Earl Ingram, a former talk radio host at WMCS-AM who dealt regularly with political issues, said he seldom if ever talked to Zielinski about the political concerns of black listeners on his show.
Basically, he said Zielinski wasn't that useful.
"I never used him; frankly, I don't even know how he got that job in the first place."
Zielinski was removed from his spokesperson job today but reportedly will remain on the state Democratic Party payroll. After all the negative attention he's brought to the party with his recent Twitter rant along with previous comments that were almost as absurd, the biggest mystery for some folks is why the guy is still there.
Seems to me it's time for a new voice to represent Democrats, particularly in a city where black voters are a vital force that can't be taken for granted or ignored.
Republicans control the state legislature and do an effective job of using conservative media to tout their ideology. Democrats continue to count on African-Americans in the state's largest city to win elections but don't really have anyone in place to talk to them.
Maybe it's time they had a voice that really mattered?
Eugene Kane is veteran Milwaukee journalist and nationally award winning columnist.
Kane writes about a variety of important issues in Milwaukee and society that impact residents of all backgrounds.