I spent the last several days in Madison, documenting what was going on, and talking to people. I'm really glad I made the trip down (I live outside Menomonie, WI on a farm) and spent most of the week in the company of other bloggers from Wisconsin. I have a few comments, some links, and some thanks to give out to people. I'm also looking for some ideas from others - so read on.
I run the progressive blog Uppity Wisconsin from my farm in northwest Wisconsin. Monday my wife and I decided we really needed to be in Madison, so we went down on Tuesday. This was a great experience, and I'd like to tell you a little about it from a personal experience, as well as pointing you to some resources you might find useful.
Life in Madison is interesting these days. Take a state capital and university town, and then throw 70,000 people at it milling around on the streets. It's unusual to say the least.
You'd think this would be a mess - and from reading the right-wing media, you'd certainly think it's a mess. But you'd be wrong. There've been no arrests. There have been some tickets for disorderly conduct. By and large the city is every bit as clean and orderly as ever - except for the crowds. When I left on Saturday afternoon there were people absolutely everywhere around the capitol. Filling the square around the capitol. Filling the street around the square. Filling the sidewalks. Filling up State St. - the main commercial street that runs from the University campus up to the capitol. I was in Madison for part of the Vietnam era, and this is palpably different from that. There are lots more people, and they're in an odd state that is part angry, and part partying. They're living in a world that is full of joy and love and fear. I'm with them.
Scott Walker's assault on the working class continues. Offers have been made to Walker to accept the increases in contributions to the pensions and health care that he has asked for, if the legislature would take out the provisions ending collective bargaining. He has refused, essentially saying that if there is collective bargaining, the state won't be able to control what people make, and control the work rules. This is a union-busting plan, not a fiscal plan, and with this refusal Walker has essentially admitted it. As long as he continues to say that everything is non-negotiable, I don't see any end game in sight.
The Democratic state senators have walked out, and are living out of state, denying the Senate a quorum, and essentially freezing the government completely. I know several of the state legislators personally, and I can't think that they're going to be willing to come back solely because life is inconvenient. So I suspect the stalemate is going to continue until Walker and the Republicans are willing to agree to at least some compromises. Failing that, I can only see the state leg remaining shut down till further notice. And the continuation of thousands of people protesting. I'm both distressed by this and invigorated - I've never seen such an outpouring of democracy and concern personally.
Let me talk a little about the more personal aspects of this. Life in Madison is very friendly. People are sharing tables in the ever-crowded restaurants. The restaurants and bars are completely maxed out downtown. I've come to believe that Walker's secret plan to jumpstart the economy is to make people so pissed off that they will continue to roam around the state, protesting, and building up our tourist industry. Restaurants are starting to run out of food (though it is my home state of Wisconsin, so I really doubt the bars are going to run out of beer). People are giving up seats for folks who need them more. People are picking up trash because they don't want to look like slobs to the public. Folks are ordering food for the protesters, handing out cookies and sandwiches, and being kinder than I ever remember seeing. The square is full of families -- mom, dad, kids, babies, dogs -- and there's sort of a party atmosphere (though I'm not there today, and the state is being blanketed with very heavy snow, so I suspect the party is more than a little dampened right now). The police report that they've made no arrests, and have handed out fewer citations for disorderly conduct than they normally do at every Badgers football game. So life is really fairly peaceful, considering. Predictions are that there may be over 100,000 in the capital tomorrow if the roads are good enough for folks to get there.
I spent most of my time in Madison taking pictures, taking video, live streaming as I walked around, and trying to figure out how to keep my batteries charged. I spent a lot of time with bloggers and press people from Madison and Milwaukee all of whom I count as friends, and who I hardly ever see since I run this tiny media empire from the sticks. I want to thank some of them (and I know I'm going to miss some) here, and point you to the work they're doing so that you have a little reference for some of the very-not-mainstream media in the state.
Blue Cheddar @bluecheddar1 - Howdy Kiddo
Blogging Blue - Great work Zach et al
Eye on Wisconsin @cjliebmann - hey Cory
The Political Environment
Uppity WIsconsin @cruiskeen - that would be me and my co-bloggers
Illusory Tenant - Always great legal viewpoints
Emily Mills @milbot - great perspectives
The Blogger Mother
I can't say enough about how helpful Melissa Ryan has been to all of us - and you could do lots worse than following her on Twitter to keep up with things. Follow @
I've set up a Wepay account for the bloggers in Madison - some of them could really use some contributions to pay for the expenses they're running up trying to cover everything - if you like the work they're doing, please chip in here . We're trying to use this money to pay for our expenses, and for the new web page we're working on to aggregate together all our coverage. We're hoping this will be up in at least a crude form in the next couple days.