Jump to content

Ben Wikler

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ben Wikler
Chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party
Assumed office
July 1, 2019
Preceded byMartha Laning
Personal details
Born (1981-02-03) February 3, 1981 (age 43)
Political partyDemocratic
Elizabeth McCarthy
(m. 2007)
RelativesLynn McDonald (Mother)
Dan Wikler (Father)
EducationHarvard University (BA)

Benjamin McDonald Wikler (born February 3, 1981) is an American politician and the chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin since July 2019. He is a former Senior Advisor at MoveOn.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Ben Wikler grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, where he cofounded The Yellow Press, a student-run newspaper.[2] While a student, he won election to the student senate[3] and launched Students United in Defense of Schools[4] with Peter Koechley[5] to demand increased school funding[6] and succeeded in allowing students to elect a representative to the Madison School Board.[7][8] He also organized protests against granting Coca-Cola exclusive access to Madison schools.[9] During high school he also worked for Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Ed Garvey[10] and on the first congressional campaign of now-Senator Tammy Baldwin.[11]

In 1999, he began attending Harvard University, where he studied economics.[12][13] While a student, he cofounded the Student Global AIDS Campaign (SGAC) and the Harvard AIDS Coalition.[14] He represented the SGAC at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on AIDS in New York City, the UN World Youth Forum in Senegal, and the International AIDS Conference in Barcelona. He also worked for economist Jeffrey Sachs[15] and interned for Russ Feingold.[16] He also served as editor-in-chief of the Harvard Review of Philosophy and contributed to The Onion.[10]

While at Harvard, he joined TeamFranken, a group of students who assisted Al Franken in writing his No. 1 bestseller, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. Wikler took a term off to help Franken "through every step of the process" of writing the book.[17] "When I was staying with the Frankens [to finish the book], we'd get up around 10 or 11 and then work for fourteen or fifteen hours," he told an interviewer. "We'd stop only for meals and a little break before dinner. It was exhausting, but it was also exhilarating, because he's so funny. We were constantly cracking up."[10]


After college, he became a founding producer for Al Franken's radio show, The Al Franken Show, where he assisted with Franken's book The Truth (With Jokes). "It would not have been possible without Ben Wikler," Franken writes. "Ben reminds me of myself when I was his age, except smarter, wiser, more worldly, better read, more passionate, much much taller, and just as funny. Ben was with me every step of the way on this book. I cannot thank him enough."[18]

In 2006, Wikler served as press secretary for Sherrod Brown's U.S. Senate campaign and was the first editor-in-chief of Comedy 23/6, a comedy news website created as a coproduction of the Huffington Post and IAC.[19]

In March 2007, he became Campaign Director for Avaaz, where he helped grow the organization to over ten million members. As Campaign Director, he ran campaigns on climate change, poverty, human rights, and other issues, and also managed the technology and communication teams.[20] He hosted the Fossil of the Day Awards at UN climate negotiations from 2007 to 2009 for the Climate Action Network.[21] In late 2011, Wikler became the Executive Vice President of Change.org.[22]

In January 2012, Wikler and Aaron Swartz[23] launched a radio show and podcast, The Flaming Sword of Justice,[24] on We Act Radio WPWC 1480 AM in Washington DC,[25] in which he interviews other campaigners from the U.S. and around the world. Guests have included Ricken Patel, Zack Exley, and Eli Pariser.

The Good Fight[edit]

In November 2013, Wikler relaunched his show as The Good Fight, a podcast and radio program sponsored by MoveOn.org.[26] The show's first episode featured Senator Al Franken[27] and reached the #1 spot on the U.S. iTunes podcast charts.[28] The Good Fight is an hour-long weekly podcast and radio show that, according to its website, "brings you a mix of comedy, activism, and David versus Goliath battles told from the behind-the-slingshot point of view."

The Guardian referred to The Good Fight as "road signs through political issues that seemed permanently blocked" and Wikler referred to it as a "behind-the-slingshot view of David v Goliath battles."[23]

Guests ranged from unknown grassroots activists to U.S. Senators. New episodes were posted every Thursday, and aired on 1480 AM in DC every Tuesday and Friday at 3 pm.".[29]

Prominent scholar, activist and 2016 presidential candidate Lawrence Lessig is an outspoken supporter of Wikler and The Good Fight. He made a personal appeal on his blog for his readers to support a Kickstarter campaign to fund The Good Fight.[30]

The podcast is currently on hiatus. In a letter to his supporters dated February 21, 2016, Wikler cites family needs as the reason for ceasing production of the podcast, and offers to return Kickstarter funds to any supporter who requests it.[31]


Wikler became MoveOn.org's Washington director in early 2014.[32]

He led the organization's efforts to encourage Elizabeth Warren to run for President, putting him at odds with friend and prominent progressive Howard Dean who endorsed Hillary Clinton. Dean declined to criticize the effort and Wikler, saying, "I appreciate you trying to pick a fight between Ben and I [sic]. I happen to know Ben, and he's one of the smartest people under 35 in the entire country."[33]

In late 2015 Wikler led MoveOn's advocacy on behalf of Syrian immigrants, helping to organize and coordinate efforts by a number of nonprofit groups.[34]

In 2017, Wikler led grassroots protests against the attempted repeal of the Affordable Care Act, helping contribute to the Senate's failure to pass the ACA-repealing American Health Care Act of 2017.[35]

Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin[edit]

Wikler talking to reporters in 2021

Wikler announced his campaign for chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) on February 21, 2019, running on a slate with Felesia Martin and Lee Snodgrass.[36] On June 2, 2019, Wikler was elected chair of DPW.[37] He received 1,006 votes, beating opposing candidate state Rep. David Bowen who earned 233 votes.[38]

Since assuming office, Wikler has emphasized that "Wisconsin is not only a necessary state, but may be the necessary state to stop Trump and elect a Democratic president."[39] He's also highlighted DPW's focus on grassroots organizing: "Unlike almost any other state party in the country, we have a field team of organizers working across Wisconsin to build neighborhood teams and work with county parties to get volunteers out on doors."[40] As of September 3, 2019, DPW's team includes 13 field organizers in every region of the state.[41]

Personal life[edit]

Wikler and his wife Beth[11] live with their three children and dog in Madison, Wisconsin.[42] His father, Daniel I. Wikler, is a philosopher and ethicist at Harvard School of Public Health; his mother, Lynn McDonald, is a psychologist and senior scientist at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research and the University of Wisconsin–Madison.[12]


  1. ^ "Ben Wikler | Senior Advisor, MoveOn.org". MoveOn.Org | Democracy in Action. Archived from the original on February 1, 2016. Retrieved December 28, 2015.
  2. ^ Erickson, Doug (August 28, 2003). "West Grad Works with Comic Franken. Ben Wikler, a Senior at Harvard, is a Research Assistant for Al Franken's Latest Book, a No. 1 Bestseller on Amazon". The Wisconsin State Journal. Madison, WI. Archived from the original on June 10, 2014. Retrieved November 25, 2013. (subscription required)
  3. ^ "Delay Seen in Electing Student to School Board". The Wisconsin State Journal. Madison, WI. June 1, 1998. Archived from the original on December 2, 2013. Retrieved November 25, 2013. (subscription required)
  4. ^ "Schools Falling Apart and Need Money, Students Tell Legislators". The Wisconsin State Journal. Madison, WI. April 16, 1999. Archived from the original on June 10, 2014. Retrieved November 25, 2013. (subscription required)
  5. ^ "Students Attack Budget Caps". The Capital Times. Madison, WI. April 8, 1999. Archived from the original on June 10, 2014. Retrieved November 25, 2013. (subscription required)
  6. ^ "Students Make Anti-Cap Case". The Capital Times. April 20, 1999. Archived from the original on June 10, 2014. Retrieved November 25, 2013. (subscription required)
  7. ^ Burch, Chris (May 26, 1998). "High School Student Representative to be Elected to Madison School Board". Madison, WI: Madison Metropolitan School District. Archived from the original on April 25, 2012. Retrieved November 25, 2013.
  8. ^ Burch, Chris (October 22, 1998). "Ploeser Wins Student Seat on Board of Education". Madison Metropolitan School District. Archived from the original on April 25, 2012. Retrieved November 15, 2013.
  9. ^ Wikler, Benjamin; Rebecca Dilley (August 1997). "A Sweet Deal?Coca-Cola And The Madison School District". The Yellow Press. Vol. 2, no. 1. Archived from the original on November 25, 2014. Retrieved November 25, 2013.
  10. ^ a b c "AlFrankenWeb.com Interview: Ben Wikler". November 13, 2003. Archived from the original on April 15, 2008.
  11. ^ a b "Ben Wikler Blends Progressive Activism with Comedy in His New Washington Podcast | InTheCapital". Archived from the original on July 26, 2014. Retrieved July 16, 2014.
  12. ^ a b "Elizabeth McCarthy, Benjamin Wikler". The New York Times. November 25, 2007. wedding announcement
  13. ^ "Ben Wikler LinkedIn page". Retrieved November 19, 2020.
  14. ^ Wikler, Benjamin M. (March 15, 2001). "Fighting AIDS in Africa". Harvard Crimson. Retrieved November 25, 2013.
  15. ^ "Ben Wikler and Phil de Vellis". HuffPost. Archived from the original on March 15, 2016. Retrieved November 4, 2011.
  16. ^ "Ben Wikler". HuffPost. Retrieved November 25, 2013. biography
  17. ^ Lies, p. 370
  18. ^ The Truth, p. 335f
  19. ^ Siklos, Richard (October 31, 2006). "Diller's Web: Think Cable Of the Past". The New York Times. Retrieved November 25, 2013.
  20. ^ "Changing the World of Changing the World: Pushing the Models of Online Organizing | Berkman Klein Center". cyber.harvard.edu. July 20, 2019. Retrieved November 19, 2020.
  21. ^ "Shock Fossil to Austria, Nordic countries on first day of Copenhagen!". December 7, 2009. Retrieved November 25, 2013.
  22. ^ Hockenson, Lauren. "How Change.org Is Revolutionizing Internet Activism". Mashable. Retrieved November 19, 2020.
  23. ^ a b Raptopoulos, Lilah (July 11, 2014). "Listen to this: Ben Wikler and Aaron Swartz's The Good Fight". The Guardian. Retrieved November 19, 2020 – via www.theguardian.com.
  24. ^ "The Flaming Sword of Justice with Ben Wikler". Retrieved November 25, 2013.
  25. ^ "The Flaming Sword of Justice". We Act Radio. Archived from the original on December 2, 2013. Retrieved November 25, 2013.
  26. ^ Raptopoulos, Lilah (July 11, 2014). "Listen to this: Ben Wikler and Aaron Swartz's The Good Fight". The Guardian. Retrieved December 4, 2022.
  27. ^ "Al Franken Helps Radio Pal Flog New Show - Heard on the Hill". Archived from the original on July 7, 2014. Retrieved July 16, 2014.
  28. ^ "iTunesCharts.net: 'The Good Fight, with Ben Wikler' by Ben Wikler (American Podcasts iTunes Chart)". www.itunescharts.net. Retrieved November 19, 2020.
  29. ^ "The Good Fight, with Ben Wikler - the Good Fight with Ben Wikler". Archived from the original on July 27, 2014. Retrieved July 16, 2014.
  30. ^ "Ben Wikler is no longer 33 (and The Good Fight still hasn't met its Kickstarter goal)". LESSIG Blog, v2. Retrieved December 28, 2015.
  31. ^ "The Good Fight with Ben Wikler". Archived from the original on July 11, 2014. Retrieved July 16, 2014.
  32. ^ Freedlander, David (December 10, 2014). "Progressives: Big Ideas Will Win Us 2016". The Daily Beast.
  33. ^ "Madison native at the helm of mega-successful podcast". Wisconsin State Journal. Retrieved December 28, 2015.[permanent dead link]
  34. ^ "MoveOn Takes the Lead in Nonprofits Advocacy for Refugee Crisis Funding". Nonprofit Quarterly. October 30, 2015. Retrieved December 28, 2015.
  35. ^ Journal, Emily Hamer | Wisconsin State (June 3, 2019). "Wisconsin Democrats pick Ben Wikler as new leader of party ahead 2020 campaign". madison.com. Retrieved September 20, 2019.
  36. ^ "Ben Wikler for Wisconsin". Ben Wikler for Wisconsin. Retrieved April 5, 2019.
  37. ^ "Former MoveOn.org leader Wikler to lead Wisconsin Democrats". AP NEWS. June 3, 2019. Retrieved September 20, 2019.
  38. ^ Reilly, Briana (June 2, 2019). "Democrats elect Ben Wikler as state party chair". madison.com. Retrieved September 20, 2019.
  39. ^ Cohen, Rachel M. (August 2, 2019). "How Democrats Plan to Win Wisconsin in 2020". The Intercept. Retrieved September 20, 2019.
  40. ^ "Wisconsin state parties ramping up for 2020 presidential election". CBS58. Retrieved September 20, 2019.
  41. ^ Reilly, Briana (September 3, 2019). "Battle plans: Presidential campaigns are staffing up in Wisconsin to prepare for 2020". madison.com. Retrieved September 20, 2019.
  42. ^ Elbow, Steven (December 4, 2018). "Democratic leaders, protesters fire up crowd for fight with GOP". madison.com. Retrieved February 10, 2019.

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by Chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party