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.

I woke up ready for this.

Just a quick note-

A twitter friend has offered high speed access just off the square of the Capitol. I’m hauling a lot of gear over and hope to at minimum do audio from there.  If I find some tech-savvy youth-maybe some video too. You’ll get updates on this via facebook/twitter/here.

At 5pm last night there was a big ruckus in the Assembly. Repubs. said the vote was at 5. Showed up early. Voted by voice. Dems ran in at 5 yelling to stop the vote. Continue reading

I woke up ready for this.

Just a quick note-

A twitter friend has offered high speed access just off the square of the Capitol. I’m hauling a lot of gear over and hope to at minimum do audio from there.  If I find some tech-savvy youth-maybe some video too. You’ll get updates on this via facebook/twitter/here.

At 5pm last night there was a big ruckus in the Assembly. Repubs. said the vote was at 5. Showed up early. Voted by voice. Dems ran in at 5 yelling to stop the vote. Continue reading

The Arizona shooting and the challenge of “Drive all blames into one”, a Tibetan Buddhist teaching

Pema Chodron

If I can start calling you names, and get everybody else to call you the same names, it does not end there. I have created a stronger polarization, driving you away from me. I also easily become more combative, and I find myself falling into 2-dimensional cartoonish debates. Not only that. I waste a lot of time on you.

What happens if I sidestep this polarization and Continue reading

Pass the turkey, you LIBRUL

Image is from Mr. T in DC of flickr

I am not with my sister & brothers & mom this Thanksgiving. So I won’t have to face my brother M. as he gloats about Wisconsin’s DOA passenger train and his expanding opportunities to legally kill wild creatures. Of my three siblings, M. enjoys teasing the most. I forgive him, because he is family and he sat next to me on the bed while I sobbed over a dead pet back in 1976. Not that I’ll tell him he has a life-long pass. We will still spar verbally until one of us is too old to care .. or talk.

It’s rather public knowledge in my family and in fact in my conservative community of birth that I am the Madison liberal type. But few people are like my mom. She put up her own Democrat yards signs at the end of our long driveway right across from my dad’s Republican ones. She saves photos of the Obama family, collects Obama calendars and books, and she takes it personally when conservatives call him names. She confronts the Catholic priest on his knowledge of the Islamic faith, and so on. In short, she is the town vigilante, defending all things left-wing. If she were a more social person, she would have rounded up a posse. [A pretty small one.]

Instead of going closer to the 45th parallel, I’ll be staying here in Madison with my boyfriend where I will feed my visiting son. He has been a legal adult for a while, but he is just entering that stage in which he can hear what I have to say. He loves to talk politics and can talk about religion much longer than I can.

His vote for Obama was his first vote for a president. So in his reality, when somebody is running for president, volunteers are everywhere with clipboards asking if you have registered to vote. I warned him that Obama was not Jesus, and that he would disappoint. The disappointment came early. Obama dismissed online comments from people who want legalized marijuana during an interactive “townhall”. In my son’s eyes, Obama had talked a good game on legalizing pot to get more young voters, but then refused to deliver on it or even refer to it with respect. My son was insulted. And for a newbie to politics, 1 promise broken is 1 too many.  My son now says Obama is just another pawn and true power is with the unelected wealthy of the world. I usually tune him out if the next sentences include the word “Illuminati”.

Still he’s not completely tuning out politics. He watches The Young Turks with me online. He’ll watch Fox commentators on YouTube and when I ask why, he’ll say “To keep up on what the enemy is saying”.

So, on this Thanksgiving day, I’m thankful that I can debate politics with family even when they disappoint me and upset me. I am glad we still care enough and are close enough to risk ruffling feathers. I am glad I can call my brother today, and ask him what he helped kill recently – whether it be in the woods or –  on a railroad.

If you’re having trouble finding things to be thankful for, you might like Alternet’s 8 things Progressives Can be Thankful For. And if you have a relative like M., here’s 5 Ways to Deal with your Conservative Relatives this Thanksgiving

A Feingold fan sorts out the Senator’s strategy

Russ and Steve of UppityWis.org at Netroots Wisconsin.

Update 09/30: MoveOn.Org alert-Feingold’s race needs your boost. Consider a donation here today. Thanks.

I was at Netroots Wisconsin on Saturday 9/25. Our hosts were UppityWisconsin blog owners Steve and Lori Hanson who drove down to Madison from Northwestern Wisconsin.

While I have much to say about Netroots, I’ll cut to my report on Russ Feingold.

I was excited to see Russ in one of his signature short-sleeved plaid shirts (Hey. I’m a fan, remember?) We stood to applaud when he entered and when he left.

This is the guy who voted against the Patriot Act. He voted against TARP a.k.a. the bank bail-out. Certainly he may be too pro-gun for most of us. Sure he recently held out on voting for Wall Street regulation with little visible strategy. But this guy is our maverick,  unshackled from corporate obligations.

So let’s play the game “I am Russ Feingold”. Pretend YOU are there to talk to eager writers this close to November and you’re running a against a rich contender somehow capable of both putting a silver foot in his mouth AND remaining the darling of the AARP set and the Tea Party set. (Are they still separate groups?)

Here’s what I’d do.

1) Deny that I’m in the fight of my life. 2) Present myself as incredibly confident. 3) Lay out a convincing plan of attack.  4) Repeat the right phrases. And make those phrases a call to action.

Goal #1: Done. He denied there is an “enthusiasm gap” by proclaiming his 1 day online fund-raising effort the “cheddarbomb” a powerful grassroots success.  In 24 hours, 10,000 contributions brought in $530,000. Point 2-According to Russ, if you poll people who plan to vote in November, he is in a tie with Johnson. But he asked us to consider that if you also ask people who voted 2 yrs ago or who say they “may vote”, he is 20 points ahead.

Goal #2: Not done. His delivery was more forced than confident. Probably just timing. We were getting Russ after 3pm at the end of a very long weekend.

Goal #3: Onto a plan. He proposed that we gear up for a voting MONTH starting October 4th and get voting parties together for absentee voting.  I imagine rounding up friends, driving to city hall, filling out papers, and going out for a beer after.

This could be fun. But it reminds me of rounding up people who are afraid to vote. Has that Selma, Alabama feel to it. So what’s wrong with the regular voting day, you may ask?

Given evidence gathered by One Wisconsin Now, there are Republican Party, Tea Party and Americans for Prosperity plans to suppress the minority and college student vote.  Their technique is called “voter caging”.  It’s designed to confuse the heck out of inexperienced voters. The would-be cagers say they threw out their nefarious plan. Whether that is truth or merely truthiness, the Feingold campaign is taking no chances. Their web site team is planning a head-em-off-at-the-pass & prepping plenty of info on absentee voting.
Goal #4: The right phrases?
a. Oil.
He said Ron Johnson sold his BP stock to fund his campaign. Therefore it’s a campaign supported by oil. I hate to write it because I am a big environmentalist,  but the oil spill is already history. 😦

b. Trade agreements and Jobs.
Ron Johnson called NAFTA “creative destruction”, or in other words, destroying jobs for a greater good.  Russ voted against every single trade agreement. He asked us, “now if you can not get people out to vote when Ron Johnson is asking for creative destruction…” Uhhh. There is logic here. But I hear no call to action.

You would think this would be the meaty part. The healthcare law that Feingold did vote for is really helping people who desperately need it. But opponent Ron Johnson wants to eliminate it.

Healthcare has become the issue de jour for the Ron Johnson campaign. It’s the issue that angered Pewaukee residents who ganged up on Russ at an ugly meeting in January. But instead of healthcare for all – or just “more” – the other side is assured this is money out of their pockets to care for undeserving people. Nameless,  faceless OTHERS.
I pose that the question is can Russ and the Dems get enough individuals who benefit from what kicked in on September 23rd to step forward and give Obamacare credit where credit is due?  Is your cousin getting to stay on his mom’s insurance because of this bill? Is a neighbor’s child going to have the right to be insured even though he’s a hemophiliac –  due to this bill?
How the heck are Dems at this point? Today a Salon writer boils it down to Obama’s administration running messages principally through the Times”.
The New York Times?? It’s time for the trenches. Dirty places like …my car. I’ll be cleaning it out so I can load it up with voters. Care to join me?
Fasten those seatbelts. This campaign is going to be a bumpy ride.