Soundtrack: The Clash, “I Fought the Law”
With Wisconsin’s historic recall election concluding less than 36 hours ago, what else would I write about?
People are going to spin Gov. Walker’s 53% to 46% recall election victory over Tom Barrett in any number of ways. I remember when President Reagan swept 49 states in the 1984 election, a look at the blue-colored map (Republicans used to be considered the “blue states” until a few elections ago) with only Minnesota being red, it made it look like very few people were opposed to Reagan’s re-election. In fact, 40% were. But that’s what our winner-take-all electoral system looks like, and increasingly, any plurality is often interpreted by the winning party to be a mandate to steamroll the other party with their own agenda.
I think the most remarkable thing about this recall election is the fact that it happened in the first place. Over 900,000 people–nearly one-fifth of the entire state, signed a petition calling for Gov. Walker’s recall. This is only the third time in the 236-year history of the U.S. that a sitting governor has been forced to face a recall election. With a turnout higher than any gubernatorial election in Wisconsin history, 46% of voters indicated that Gov. Walker was not fit to serve out his term. And now, thanks to a successful recall election in Racine County, the Democrats have a majority in the state Senate, though they will have to defend that majority in November.
But honestly, this really needs to stop being about Democrats and Republicans. I owe no loyalty to either party, and truthfully, a lot of independents were involved in the protests and recall efforts.
Rather than let themselves be thrown into the cockfighting ring that passes for modern-day partisan politics, I think people mobilized by the effort to recall Scott Walker should start with creating change in their local neighborhoods and municipalities and develop alliances with neighbors. Especially those neighbors who might not follow the progressive ideological line but with whom common ground can be established.
As such, even though I’m offended every time somebody insists that Madison isn’t part of the “real Wisconsin,” or refers to us as “77 square miles surrounded by reality,” I think it’s also time to take down some of the signs I’ve seen in this neighborhood–such as the picture of Walker’s face with the word “Tool” above it (another on my block, inspired by the grade schooler in the family, refers to him as “Big Meany Butt”) or the sign that openly says that Scott Walker and the Republican state senators supporting him ought not to be served lunch in this town.
I think that most of us speak differently and with more civility when forced to talk to a person face-to-face. This is the type of politics I’m most interested in. Where the biggest difference will be made is with person-to-person contact with people not part of the choir we’re preaching to.