Wisconsin Recall: We Are What Democracy Looks Like

With less than a week to go in Wisconsin’s effort to collect signatures for the Walker recall, many of us are understandably turning our thoughts to who will run against him in the upcoming election.

Honestly, the first thought that has come to mind every time I’ve considered the question is Russ Feingold. But Feingold has said repeatedly that he will not run for public office in 2012. And although I know that many politicians say one thing and mean another, I think Russ’s resolve is quite firm in this respect. In a mid-December interview with Charles Benson of TMJ4 in Milwaukee, Feingold said he feels more a part of real change now than he did as a senator.

Here’s exactly what he said: “I feel more a part of real change now than I did even as a senator.” Think about that for a minute. What Feingold is saying is that real change comes not so much from elected officials as from the people. You know–€”us.

I’m not saying that it doesn’t matter who runs against Walker. It does. And we do need to talk about that. But before we get going full tilt on that, we need to remind ourselves of something even more important: where real transformation comes from.

Think about who you were, who we were, before Walker unleashed his draconian agenda on the people of Wisconsin last February.

I didn’t know the names of any state legislators but my own. I hardly ever spared a thought for state politics. Whenever there was an election, I did my best to catch up with the candidates and the issues. But it’s not really possible to do that in just a few days. I was woefully out of touch.

When I first learned about Walker’s devastating “budget repair” bill, I firmly expected that people would be angry and would complain for a while and then continue going about their business as though nothing had happened.

But then a miracle happened.

From seemingly out of nowhere, thousands of us—hundreds of thousands of us–€”gathered on the Capitol Square. Day. After. Day. We brought with us our signs, our outrage, our indignation, our sense of fairness, our determination, our sense of humor, our hats and mittens, and our friends, neighbors, kids, and grandparents. The people of Wisconsin woke up and rose up, and anyone who was there will never be the same again.

We have sloughed off our complacency and have our sights firmly set on transforming our state into the beacon of progressive values it has long been and will be again. No politician, no candidate for governor, can do for Wisconsin what we can. It won’t be enough to elect a progressive governor. It won’t be enough to flip the state senate and the assembly. No matter how hard we have worked collecting signatures, no matter how hard we work on the recall election, it won’t be enough if we don’t continue doing the work of democracy.

better in person

I have confidence in the transformation that has taken place in Wisconsin. Our sleeves are rolled up, and they will stay rolled up. We will remain vigilant on behalf of our neighbors and our children, our parents and grandparents. We will not stop insisting that the progressive values we prize most are not compromised. All this because we have learned a lesson we will never forget:

We are what democracy looks like.

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