I spent part of this past weekend in Madison, Wisconsin. Family business took me to Chicago Saturday with sandwiched stops to the Capitol City on Friday and Sunday. I wanted to check on the pulse of that vibrant city and to see my UW student-daughter.
Together we went to the Madison Labor Temple on Park Street to watch the Tom Morello/Jackson Browne Get Out The Vote Rally on a flawless Wisconsin summer night (no heat, no humidity, no bugs). Union activist – that’s the only thing driving this recall said Jim Ragsdale of my hometown (Minneapolis) newspaper. How wrong he and so many others have been about what this recall election is all about. I estimated 3,000 people; the young in their Green Bay Packer and Milwaukee Brewer shirts and hats, the college-aged students, the men in three-piece suits who headed over to the Labor Temple after work.
People like me who know what this recall election is all about. It’s about recalling a governor who lied during his 2010 campaign. A man who kept his ideologue-filled agenda from the people and then once in office grabbed and abused power unlike anything in Wisconsin state history. A man who would not listen, because he had all the answers. The sin of pride oozes from that man. People in Wisconsin, and native Wisconsinites who now live elsewhere are angered about his attacks on education (the pride of the state), Badgercare (health care for the poor) and yes, public sector union members. How does that message get out over the 25:1 spending spree waged by Scott Walker’s billionaire backing? It’s hard.
Morello read emails from protesters in Cairo, Chile, and Montreal, each showing support for the fight waged in Wisconsin against the 99 percent. Morello, Brown, and the others (thank god for the Solidarity Singalong) delighted the crowd; Browne with his I Am A Patriot and Morello with Union Town. The chants of ‘thank you, thank you’ greeted Browne when he finished. He looked stunned as he told the crowd, “No, thank you Madison for what you’ve done and what you’ve showed the world.” Browne then hugged Morello as if to say thank you for bringing me here.
The show was stolen, however, by Democratic candidate Tom Barrett who showed up to shake hands in the crowd and bask in the throng of supporters. The evening ended when Morello said to the crowd: “Are we all in this together?” After a resounding “Yes” from the crowd, Morello said: “Then what are you doing down there?” And he invited everyone to fill the stage and join in the finale, World Wide Rebel Songs.
The best report from Madison Friday came from my TA daughter who tried to early vote. She reported that at 3 p.m. the lines were so long you couldn’t tell the front of the line from the back. Far more people, she reports, than were there when she tried to early vote in 2008. She opted to wait till Tuesday. Her polling place is right across the street from where she lives. Typically she is voter #2.
The quick trip back Sunday allowed for brief phone banking at the Union Labor Temple. Only one cranky woman; the rest ready to vote.
Tuesday will hopefully bring an end to Scott Walker and his Wisconsin-tradition busting. It won’t be easy. Those who grab power through lies and deceit never go quietly into the night. There will be Kathy Nickolaus, the partisan hack in charge of counting votes in Waukesha County who could be another prime player in this final act. Yes, I know, Waukesha County will go Republican. In a close race, the question is by how many votes and how many of those will be guaranteed to flip because she is still in charge? I’m just asking. The power really does lie with the people, if only we truly believed that. Get out and vote Wisconsin. It does matter (unless you live in Waukesha County).
Regardless of the outcome Tuesday, the fight continues. Activism is the only constant in the world. Without it, we get the likes of Scott Walker and the others currently in control of turning our country from a democracy into an oligarchy.
Although he didn’t perform Alive in the World for the crowd Friday night, I believe the final stanza from that great Jackson Browne song should be what carries us forward on Wednesday, June 6th:
With its beauty and its cruelty
With its heartbreak and its joy
With its constantly giving birth to life and to forces that destroyAnd the infinite power of change
Alive in the world