As many of you know, last Wednesday, Wisconsinites turned in enough petitions to trigger a recall election of our Governor.
Yeah, yeah pending a review by the Government Accountability Board and challenges of legitimate signatures by the Walker camp . . . yadda, yadda, yadda.
Seriously though–we got this thing.
Where was I . . . Oh yeah.
For us, this was a big deal. If you see us bumping fists, please understand that it is not the recall we are celebrating. Collectively, we are not happy about this. Most of us wish we had some other–less dramatic–recourse.
Please understand that it is the energy, courage and sacrifice we gave to this effort that we are now honoring. It is the solidarity, and commitment, and discipline, and stamina that it has taken as we have learned–one by one, baby step by baby step—to stand up for ourselves . . . that we are celebrating.
Not the recall itself.
To do nothing (and just bitch about it) would have been a hell of a lot easier. Committing to the recall? That’s crazy. Insane even. In the history of our nation–there have only been 2 other governors that faced a recall election. THE HISTORY OF OUR COUNTRY!!
We’re throwing senators and a lieutenant governor in along with him.
This is unprecedented.
What if we lost? People would just make fun of us! We’d be labeled: wackos, liberals, union thugs, greedy teachers, socialists, bullies, public workers, special interests.
If you’re on the outside looking in–it’s hard to appreciate just how much courage this took.
For us, this started almost a year ago. And make no mistake–it has been a long year. Those in power thought that we would go away after a few days, then a few weeks, then after the initial round of recalls in the summer. But, to our collective credit, we saw this through.
We are seeing this through.
But beyond courage and an iron will, what did it take to get here?
First, we had to wait until this governor had been in office one full year. Then, within 60 days of our start date, we needed to collect 540,000 signatures (25% of the total vote in the last election for governor). Keep in mind, these are not online petitions or signatures. These are real, physical pen written signatures. One per person. 540,000 of them. And it’s winter. It’s cold. It’s snowy. It’s icy. It’s windy. And it’s a personally busy time of year–it’s the holidays.
So let’s take a moment to reflect on (or celebrate–your choice) what we just did:
- We collected over a million signatures to recall Scott Walker (actually we also collected more than enough to trigger recall elections for four additional Walker supporting state senators, as well as the lieutenant governor–for a total of over 1.9 million signatures) . . . but back to Walker.
- The number collected is 185% of the signatures required to force a recall election.
- That is 460,000 signatures above the threshold.
- 1 of every 3 signatures would need to be invalid to disqualify enough signatures to stop the recall.
- More than 46% of the electorate signed. By contrast, in the only other two successful gubernatorial recalls in American history: almost 32% of the electorate signed in North Dakota in 1921, and 23% of the California electorate signed in 2003.
- Earlier this year, 32% of the electorate in Ohio signed the petition to overturn the Republicans’ union-busting SB5.
- The weight of all of the signatures collected is 3000 pounds.
- Stacked on top of one another, the petitions go 125 feet high, which is taller than the wings of the Madison Capitol Building (those are 84 feet high), but not as tall as the dome (that’s 285 feet).
All very impressive, right? And, perhaps . . . meaningless. All any of this really means is that, sometime this summer, we will have another election for Governor (and another 4 state senators). Nothing has changed.
Except maybe our awareness.
Now . . . we are watching. We are present–and we will be for as long as it takes.
And that’s it. You can’t put a label on awareness.
We are not radicals. We are not crazy. We are not liberals. We are not Democrats. We are not union members. We are Wisconsin and all we want is our state back. Most of us are not willing activists. This is not fun for us. Most of us–God’s honest truth–want our lives back.
True these lives will never be the same. Oliver Wendell Holmes said it best, “The mind, once expanded to the dimensions of larger ideas, never returns to its original size.” We are awake now.
So if you see us celebrating–it is only because we are pausing briefly to acknowledge and honor the work, because as we have learned, restoring the democratic process is hard. It’s a lesson we won’t forget. We don’t want to do this again.
But I think we’ve also learned that if we have to, we will. In a heartbeat. We’ve learned what it takes, but we’ve also learned that we have it–and then some.
And we also understand, I think, that we may not win this one. It is clear though, based on the numbers, that collectively we are more aware.
Now that another round of recall elections is immanent, those in power are saying they expected it all along. So what. The recall process itself is no big deal. In fact, they go even further in saying that we should be ashamed of ourselves. That what we’ve done is groundless and wasteful.
If it had an ounce of groundless, we would have failed. If the investment was not worth it–we never would have begun. Don’t talk to us–who have been out on the front lines–about the cost of the recalls. We–better than any–understand the cost.
We paid for it every time we picked up a clipboard and left our families for a day to stand in the cold and the snow. Every time we mustered our courage against those that swore and threatened and mocked us in our own towns.
We would not have attempted this if we did not know–in our bones–that the power in the capitol today has corrupted the hearts and minds of those we have entrusted with it.
Trust, transparency, cooperation, compromise has all been replaced . . . with an infection.
We do this to clear. We do this to restore. We do this to strengthen.
For those left confused and frustrated by it all. Please understand–we know this hurts. We know it’s painful. Removing slivers and cleaning wounds often is. But we have to do this now. The sooner we do, the sooner we will heal.
(A special thank you to Cassandra Green for inspiring this post, some of these words were actually hers)