My home state of Wisconsin is in the national spotlight after the historic recalls last night, and I’m damn proud to call myself a Cheesehead. I’m rolling my eyes at all the headlines and soundbites about how the Democrats lost, fell short, etc. As a former journalist, I know that headline space is tight and that reporting is too often done – out of necessity – with a Magic marker rather than a fine-point Sharpie.
Let’s tell it like it is, though. Yesterday was a huge victory for Democrats in Wisconsin and across the country, and it was more: It was another guidepost on a new path that we are taking this country on. Active Democrats, folks long dormant from politics and folks with no labels at all are rising up to say “enough is enough.” The people are taking this country back from the politicians who are trying their best to give it to corporations and the wealthy.
Look at the massive turnout yesterday in Wisconsin – up to 80 percent in some places. Look at the 10,000 people who rallied in Lansing earlier this year – many inspired to chant “This is our house,” just as Wisconsinites did when reclaiming their Capitol.
We are writing a brand-new story here in the Midwest – a story told by the working class, the middle class, those who believe democracy is more important than ideology and people are more important than profit.
The people are taking over and shoving out the millionaires and special interests and corporations who think they have the right to impose their values on a state that was built on the backs of people who work hard, play by the rules and just want the opportunity to make a good life for themselves and their families.
This is our story. Let’s stop letting THEM decide how to tell it. The truth, my friends, is that the momentum is OURS.
Look at the facts. What happened in Wisconsin earlier this year was historic – crowds of empowered citizens not seen since the Vietnam War era, standing up for the values of the majority. Legislators leaving the state to force a standoff because they knew who they worked for – not oil barons or corporations, but the struggling families of a state hit hard by an economic recession, families who simply wanted an agenda that includes jobs, good schools, and fair wages for their work.
What happened in Wisconsin yesterday was historic – the largest recall in American history. There have been 20 state legislative recall elections recorded in the U.S. since 1908 (1); Wisconsin is holding nine in just ONE MONTH. If you’ve ever been involved with a campaign, you know how much work is involved in just getting on the ballot. Against tremendous odds, and despite the usual Wisconsin Republican Election Day shenanigans, two Republican Senators were recalled yesterday in GOP strongholds.
And what happened today is teeing up history again: the Wisconsin Democratic party today said that based on the strength of yesterday’s passionate turnout and strong Dem showing, the recall effort against perhaps the most arrogant and destructive Governor in the country, Scott Walker, will proceed.
Why does what’s happening in Wisconsin resonate with so many of us in Michigan? Well, part of the reason I love Michigan as much as I love my home state is that folks there are a lot like us. They work hard, they love the Great Lakes and the land, they love to cheer on their sports teams (sorry, Lions fans).
Most of all, they are steeped in the traditions that built our country: Wisconsin was the first state to enact a collective bargaining law. People there believe in basic fairness and workers’ rights to make a decent living. They don’t merely know that unions built the middle class – they’ve lived it. Thousands upon thousands of kids grew up like me, in families that survived on strike pay and sent a kid to college on scholarship. That’s a way of life we have to protect.
Yes, people in Wisconsin are just like us Michigan. Their story is our story. So we can choose to believe the right-wing spin. Or we can be inspired by our brothers and sisters across the lake and take action against our own Governor’s “relentless destructive action” because we know the truth: the momentum is OURS.
Our battles may differ, but our war is the same: we’re fighting for the middle class over corporations, for democracy over tyranny. What happened in Wisconsin – what is still happening, because there are two Democratic senators to defend next week – should serve to galvanize the Democrats, especially with the Republican Party’s approval rating at an all-time low.
So remember that we WON in Wisconsin, and have no doubt: the momentum is OURS. Go!