New York Times columnist Matt Bai has an interesting take on two of Wednesday night's convention speakers, former President Bill Clinton and Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren:

"Mr. Clinton and Ms. Warren speak to different audiences and reflect inescapably divergent perspectives on how to confront the epic challenges of globalization and inequality.

"Mr. Clinton is the president who made the sustained case to Democrats that they had to be pro-growth and pro-Wall Street, not just to get elected, but also to build a more modern economy," Bai writes, adding: "He was the one, as spokesman for the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, who told Democrats again and again that they couldn’t succeed as a party that 'loved jobs but disdained the businesses that create them. Mr. Clinton transformed welfare, balanced the budget and declared an end to the liberal era of government, which is why a lot of conservative-leaning independent voters would re-elect him if they could.

"As a Harvard law professor during the Bush years," Bai writes, "Ms. Warren, who is now a candidate for Senate in Massachusetts, came to represent a rebuke of such Clintonian expedience. Her indictment against the excesses of Wall Street and the abdication of centrist Democrats became popular among a new generation of old-style economic populists (most notably John Edwards and then Mr. Obama), who often cited Ms. Warren’s arguments in making the case that the party had to reverse course from the Clinton years and rein in a business community that was prospering at the expense of the middle class."

Perhaps no state better represents that internal party conflict than Wisconsin. Here, pro-business Democrats such as U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, and (to a lesser extent) U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, have supported free trade agreements with nations such as China that populists such as U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin and former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold vehemently oppose.

So what say state Democrats to President Obama, who, despite ripping Mitt Romney for being a "pioneer of outsourcing," has signed into law a number of free trade deals that many in his party say will lead to more jobs leaving the U.S. for foreign soil?

"I really am puzzled why so many of our Democratic presidents take the stances they’ve taken (on trade),” said state Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, in an interview last month. Pocan is the Democratic candidate to run for the Congressional seat that Baldwin is vacating to run for Senate.

"I've seen first-hand the effects from growing up in Kenosha," he said. "I’ve seen the jobs leave the area and it doesn’t make sense.”

When I posed a similar question to Baldwin recently, she appeared reluctant to criticize the president. But she did reaffirm her opposition to such free trade deals.

"Wisconsin is a state that makes things. We are one of the lead manufacturing states in this country," she said. "But our trade policies and especially our failure to level the playing field when our competitors are cheating has hurt Wisconsin.”

Even the location of the Democratic National Convention reveals another painful division within the party. As Joe Tarr from Isthmus reports, some labor activists bristled at the party's decision to hold its shindig in North Carolina, a right-to-work state where only 2.9 percent of workers are unionized (the lowest rate in the nation).

For Wisconsin Democrats, Charlotte, N.C., is perhaps another bitter reminder of President Obama's conspicuous neglect of the Badger State during the labor-inspired recall campaign against Gov. Scott Walker.


Jack Craver is the Capital Times political reporter, focusing on elections, candidates and campaign finance.