The end is near for Scott Walker and the beginning is here for Tom Barrett.
Sometimes you just get a gut feeling about something and there isn’t necessarily anything to prove it–no data, statistics, science–nothing concrete, yet you know that it is real. It’s a feeling and it’s overpowering. It’s your subconscious picking up on cues from the world around you, perhaps, or your mind registering millions of pieces of information and arriving at a conclusion based on filtering all of it. It’s what we call intuition. It’s not about hope or speculation. It is about knowing.
This is what I am feeling right now about Wisconsin’s recall election. Wisconsin voters are going to take the state back from Scott Walker and his corporate overlords. He is going to lose, despite millions and millions of dollars backing him, despite incumbency, despite his cult-hero status in the Tea Party community. It is not a case of David over Goliath (that would be Lori Compas beating Scott Fitzgerald), but more a matter of right winning over might.
There are signs everywhere in the world in which I move, things that I hear and see that tell me a change is coming. None of them by themselves have much meaning, but added together it all spells trouble for Walker.
There is the co-worker who voted for Walker in 2010 and who likes his policies–but is not going to vote for him because she doesn’t like how he got them through. There are the life-long Republicans who have vowed to work to unseat him. There are the hundreds of early voters statewide. There are the internal Democratic polls that show the race much closer than what Marquette University would have us believe. There are the continued news articles about ethical issues in the Walker administration. There is the fact that there are two debates coming up and Tom Barrett is a good debater and Walker, who doesn’t handle himself well under pressure (see his Congressional testimony), is not. And there is Scott Walker himself, along with his spokespersons and advertising gurus, spreading lies. Wisconsinites know when they’re being lied to and don’t like it. Money doesn’t buy the truth and it can’t buy people’s votes.
Everyone knows a great deal about the candidates in this election. The populace has been inundated with information. This is why there are so few undecided voters at this point as shown in most polls. But it is also why people know that the federal government’s numbers on job losses are real and Walker’s are not (and know that his use of them in July and refutation of them in May is hypocrisy at its finest). This is why they know that the end to collective bargaining had nothing to do with balancing the budget. The Republicans exposed that lie themselves when they separated it from the budget and voted on it as a stand-alone measure. There are die-hard Republicans who will justify it to themselves and believe it, but most of the citizens of this state know better. They may not like unions and be perfectly happy with the result, but they know that saying that the end to collective bargaining was to save money was a lie. This is also why people know that whatever things are wrong with Milwaukee it isn’t all because of Tom Barrett–Scott Walker was the Milwaukee County Executive for ten years before becoming Governor and his policies as Governor have hurt Milwaukee even more than his policies while he was heading the county government. The middle-of-the-road Badger voter knows a lie and knows a liar and Wisconsinites in general respect honesty in government. Tom Barrett may be dull but he is a nice guy and honest, and people know that.
The most important reason why the elction will go to Barrett is that the grass roots movement has not lost its roots. It doesn’t matter how much money the Republicans pour into the race, or how little the national Democrats offer. This race is largely about money, but it won’t be won or lost with money. It will be won by volunteers, by the people who for more than a year have held on and kept the fight going, and those who took a break and are coming back re-energized.
It is about the farmers who create their own handmade signs and post them in fields where corn will soon be growing. It is about a band of people called the Overhead Light Brigade who shine lights of truth over highways where Wisconsin citizens pass by daily. It is about people who sing every day to let the Governor and Legislators know that we have not forgotten and that our job is not done. It is about the protesters who still show up at the Capitol every day, the winter warriors who have maintained through every season. It is about cars honking “This is what democracy looks like” on streets and highways around the state. It is about volunteers making phone calls, stuffing envelopes, and going door-to-door to talk to their neighbors. It is about passionate people creatively campaigning in untold hundreds of ways to get the message out. It is about social networks debunking the lies of the advertisers and spin doctors, spreading the word about privatizing deer hunting, skewed polls, and manufactured statistics. The power of money can’t win against the power and determination of the people.
You can feel the Walker supporters are a little bit scared, which may get more of them to the polls. But the misleading media stories meant to scare and intimidate Barrett supporters into thinking he can’t win aren’t working on the left. They may, however, be working on the right, and cause them to think that they don’t have to vote because Walker is safe, and that’s okay.
The stories about the Democrats and left being splintered are simply not true. All of us have patiently been waiting for this election and all of us who have fought this long are not going to let minor disagreements undo us now. There will be plenty of time to argue about our petty differences later and we all know and understand that. The conservatives who stop by the Capitol and tell protesters we don’t know what it’s like outstate are just trying to scare us. Many of us have traveled around the state. There are Barrett signs and Recall Walker signs in every county. Yes, there are also Stand with Walker signs, but you can just tell that they are in the yards of people who stand with any Republican who runs. Those who truly stand with Walker stand to lose because those who don’t stand with him are legion. The polls have not yet shown how many of us there are. Some of us are voting early. Some of us are anxiously waiting to go to the polling booth on election day and create history. And in the meantime, we are working hard to make sure Barrett wins.
In addition, it feels like Walker’s campaign timing is off. He raised a lot of money and had scads of it to spend, so he started early. The airwaves have been so inundated for so long that even his supporters must be tired of hearing him lie about his record so relentlessly. In the past there have been commercials that I have seen that I thought were cute the first or second time, but which after a hundred viewings make you want to scream and never ever buy the product being offered. This is what Walker’s radio and television ads feel like now. I think Walker has oversaturated the airwaves with his ads, and the Democrats are just now starting to air pro-Barrett and anti-Walker ads which are a welcome relief. They will not be overdone within the next two weeks and there are more coming. The Democratic message is fresh and Walker’s messages seem stale, but he can’t pull them with only two weeks to go. They are going to get even more irritating and chase more people away over the next fourteen days.
I feel all of this and more. I have nothing to back it up. I just know. I knew when my mother signed the recall petition and my sister showed up for a protest for the first time in her life. I knew when I saw 150,00 people standing in the snow to protest. I knew when Barrett won the primary and the other three candidates met him the next morning and held a press conference throwing their support behind him. I knew when I saw the picture of Tom Barrett talking with and shaking the hand of a man holding an “I Stand With Walker” sign. I knew when I saw a couple dozen frat boys with graduation caps at the State Capitol yesterday who all screamed “Recall Walker!” as they were having their picture taken.
I’m still a little scared that something could go wrong, but it all feels just right at this time. I think the one thing that we need more than anything else to ensure the victory is not money or ads, but boots on the ground in Milwaukee. If we can get Milwaukee voters to turn out we will win this thing without a doubt. Anyone who is in that area or nearby and can help register voters, give rides to the polls, canvass, or anything else it could be the difference maker in this race. I am confident the grass roots effort will be there to make sure that happens.