Today was the third weekend that I went on the recall campaign, gathering signatures as part of an effort to oust District 8's Alberta Darling, head of the Joint Finance Committee, and enthusiastic advocate for all things Walker. This time out I had agreed with friends to bypass the main coordinating office in Shorewood, where efforts have become saturated, and move into the further north range of Mequon, Theinsville, and Cedarburg. These are generally Republican strongholds about 30 miles up the Lake Michigan shore from Milwaukee.
We first set up off of a very busy thoroughfare in Mequon. There were about eight of us, all with signs directing interested endorsers to a side street where we had set up a table in a parking area of a construction zone. We came prepared with a large American flag, and a large Wisconsin State flag, and numerous small flags which we planted in the ground around our table. I love how the Left is laying claim to these patriotic symbols. It drives Teabaggers crazy!
A couple of hours passed with fruitful results when we were informed that we were on private property, and asked to leave. Of course we complied, and were beginning to shift our operations to the edge of the side street, when we were informed that all of the streets were also "private" and that we couldn't be on them either. Our main organizer, Joe, had spoken with the police yesterday and cleared our activities, so he called them again. The police agreed (though they didn't think it would be a problem) that these were indeed "private" streets, and it would be best if we moved to a public area. We shifted a number of miles away, to the Theinsville Public Library. I noted to a fellow crusader how interconnected all of this was: we are organizing against rapacious privatization, and we can't find any public space which allows visibility and freedom of peaceful assembly.
However, the Library - that last bastion of shared public space - worked out wonderfully. There was a big parking lot, and we flagged willing supporters in with our signs, arrows and patriotic banners. We had a steady line for the next three hours. People in support of the recall would simply park without histrionics, and come up and sign. They were appreciative of our efforts, and seemed quite calm and friendly. In contrast, we got even more shouts, middle fingers and arguments from the Darling supporters.
Here is a typical breakdown of the Darling supporter reaction. There are the decent "thumbs down" folks who drive by shaking their heads, as if we are bringing some plague to the region. One step of confrontation up from that are the "single finger" drive-bys, often accompanied by angry shouts. We all marveled at two different instances of "double finger" drive-bys, both birds fully loaded, no hands on the wheel, cell phone in crook of neck.
We noticed that when people want to come up to "talk" it almost always means they want to argue with you and tell you what they think about you. There is a meme on rightwing radio that we are all paid "Obama-organizers" up from Illinois. We heard "go back to Illinois" with some frequency. One gentleman called me a liar when I told him I have lived in Milwaukee for 16 years. I guess I just don't look like his kind of people. I had three other favorite incidents:
1) An older woman stopped in the middle of the road and wanted to talk. Traffic was backing up. Not knowing what her intentions were, I asked her to pull into the Library parking lot. She said, very bitterly, "I don't like what you are doing!" I said, "That's fine, Ma'am, but please don't block traffic." She said "You are telling me to move on because you don't want to hear what I have to say!" I said, "No Ma'am, I'm asking you to move on because you are blocking traffic, and the Policemen we spoke with told us to be sure that traffic was not blocked." She said, "It is your fault that I am blocking traffic. If you weren't here causing this distraction, I wouldn't be blocking traffic!"
2) A man came up to me and started ranting, "Why is it that all of you people look just like you!" (Note: I am 6'3", weigh about 175 lbs, have a greying Van Dyke, was wearing a black leather jacket and cargo pants.) This man stood about 6'1", weighed about 190 lbs, had a not quite so greying Van Dyke, was wearing a black leather jacket and cargo pants. I pointed this out, saying, "Well, sir, the fact is, you and I look a lot alike!" This made him very angry. He got in his car, rolled down the window as he sped away to get the last word, and accused me of engaging in stereotypes. I'm still pondering this one!
3) A large man came up to our table and asked if he could donate money. We told him no, but he could certainly sign our recall petition. He, with feigned confusion, said, "Oh, I thought you were taking donations to support Alberta Darling!" We told him he was misinformed, but noticed he was getting agitated, and getting close to our petition sheets. We've had people steal these, so I moved in quickly, and got in front of him. He started frothing about "working for your money" and let us know that he "was sick of supporting bums like us." I politely asked him what he did for a living. "I make MONEY!" he exclaimed with self-righteous pride. My friend Marc, ever so quick, said "Wow, you're a Counterfeiter?"
There is a growing vehemence on the Right, and it is ugly. One canvasser at another site was sucker punched today. We get constant tirades and indecencies shouted at us. But we also get a lot of love. People brought us Girl Scout cookies, came up and said "thanks," stopped by and chatted, and I think were kind of amazed at the amount of heat we were taking. But, as they say, at the end of the day, the important thing is this: we got 130 signatures, and we had a good, flag-waving time doing it. It is spring in Wisconsin, time for daffodils, forsythia and recalls.