Wisconsin’s Marathon Race: How Will It End?

In my newspaper days (which is now more than a generation ago), one of the best copy editors for whom I worked always said, “If there’s a question in the headline, you can bet the story doesn’t answer it.” I would never counter the wisdom of the great Newton Spencer, so don’t look for an answer here as to how the Wisconsin recall election of its uber right wing, Koch brother-backed Republican governor will turn out in two weeks.

It will be a roller coaster ride of emotion as we see the end of what feels like a marathon race.  We’ve watched Scott Walker tear apart a state known for open, transparent government – a state rich with a progressive heritage of working together for the common good.  One thing is certain.  Scott Walker’s view of Wisconsin is not what I remember of my native state.

The crowds cheered in January as the needed signatures were gathered to force the recall election of Scott Walker

I think it’s human nature to be fearful as David takes on Goliath.  Bullies and those who use power to dominate and control others are not an easy target to take down.  I heard fear in the voices of Mike Tate, Wisconsin’s Democratic Party Chair as he made the rounds on radio and TV last week.  And who could blame him.  Yes, Wisconsin has shown the nation that people who join together can do remarkable things against the power elite dominated by insecure men and women whose greed is insatiable.  But the non-stop barrage of 25:1 advertising dollars being spent by Goliath is very real, and it instills fear.

Add to that the fact that Kathy Nicholaus, a Scott Walker buddy and Republican, will still be in charge of counting votes in Waukesha County on June 5th.  The nation was introduced to this woman’s partisan incompetence last year with the Wisconsin State Supreme Court election in April and again in August when the first round of state senate recall elections occurred.  Don’t know who this woman is and how she manipulates and plays with the vote counts that sit on her personal computer?  Check out more here.  Google her name and your eyes will roll as you realize the country will probably once again be up past midnight waiting for her to “tally” the number of votes from this important county in this important race.

Even Wisconsin State Senator Lena Taylor, always a voice of courage in this struggle, worked to put the smile on her face over the weekend on TV.  She turned the conversation to the fact that the recall elections of the 4 state senators could turn the Wisconsin Senate back to Democratic control – regardless of what happens in the governor’s race.  It said to me, maybe we lose the big prize, but we shut down his effectiveness.

I heard someone say last week, we’re not going to ask on June 6th, did the people of Wisconsin play a strong 4th quarter.  Rather it comes down to did they win?  I can’t argue with that.  But one thing I do know is that on June 6th, the sun will rise again, we will start our day and know that regardless of the vote tally, the work will not be over.

If Democratic challenger Tom Barrett wins, we awake on June 6th to a state (and nation) still very much divided by rhetoric that pits one against the other vs. talk of how we are all part of one.

If Tom Barrett loses (tell me again, who is counting votes in Waukesha County?), I know I will head for the nearest hidey hole for awhile.  Others, I’m sure, will feel exactly the same way.  But eventually we will come out and continue to fight the fight that has existed since time began.  Has it ever been stated as well as it was by Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington?

“I guess this is just another lost cause, Mr. Paine. All you people don’t know about lost causes. Mr. Paine does. He said once they were the only causes worth fighting for. And he fought for them once, for the only reason any man ever fights for them; because of just one plain simple rule: ‘Love thy neighbor.’… And you know that you fight for the lost causes harder than for any other. Yes, you even die for them.”

We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the people of Wisconsin for reminding us that we still have a fight left in us as a people and a country.  For anyone who had the privilege of taking part in any of those 2011 winter demonstrations in Madison or has sung songs with the Solidarity Singers under the Wisconsin state capitol dome, you will never forget how your soul came alive.  I could not close any commentary on Wisconsin without remembering my hero Robert M. “Fighting Bob” LaFollette:

America is not made, it is in the making. Mere passive citizenship is not enough. Men must be aggressive for what is right if government is to be saved from those who are aggressive for what is wrong.”

We, the 99 percent, will never have enough money to take on today’s political power structure.  I know the Wisconsin Democratic Party would love financial contributions at this time.  And many of us have already done that.  About all that’s left for those of us around the country who do not live in Wisconsin is to offer up what some call prayers and what I call positive thoughts to the universe.  Let’s keep that going as strongly as we can until June 5th and reassess where we are on June 6th.  I’m still holding out hope that I won’t be in my hidey hole.

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