“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don't give up.”...
I have been asked by a few non-Wisconsinites recently how we did it. How did we get so many citizens involved in so many things and keep them so involved? The question itself is hard to answer, because it assumes there was a "we", a group, a planner, a boss, an organizer. Sometimes there were those things, but in Wisconsin, a lot of those labels came after events had already happened.
The real answer is not very glamorous. We just showed up and started talking to each other. A lot of what you've seen over the past year in Wisconsin was spontaneous. Sometimes the showing up was loosely planned via facebook and twitter. Occasionally it was planned meticulously through labor unions, grassroots organizations, and political parties, but those plans mean nothing if people aren't actively looking for ways to engage. There are thousands of badgers who wake up every day and ask themselves "What can I do today to stop Scott Walker?"
We just continued to show up and speak up. Day after day after day after day. At the capitol. On a street corner in a tiny Wisconsin town. On a car bumper. In a living room window. On a highway overpass. At Thanksgiving dinner. At county fairs. In a legislative hearing room. At a PTA meeting.
Things happen when people show up anywhere on a daily basis, but in Wisconsin, the strategy of just showing up is destined to win, and here's why: Beneath everything, Scott Walker is lazy. His fatal flaw is that he doesn't like to work. He consistently deludes himself into thinking he can find a shortcut.
It takes hard work to forge compromises. It takes diplomatic assertiveness, persuasion, handshakes and gentle arm-twisting to advance an agenda as extreme as his without sparking a riot. Walker didn't even try. He was sworn into office and immediately panicked. He saw the hard work ahead of him and said "Screw it. Let's just drop the bomb." So he did. He dropped the bomb, and it blew a hole in Wisconsin's middle and working classes.
But it didn't kill us.
This lazy streak of Walker's has failed him in another way. Scott Walker spent the first 10 months after dropping the bomb convinced that eventually we would give up. Why did he cling to this idea despite all the evidence we would not tire? Because it didn't occur to him that most Wisconsinites are not like him.
Most Wisconsinites are not lazy. Most Wisconsinites don't look for shortcuts. Most Wisconsinites don't walk around with a pocket full of two-headed coins and a deck of marked cards. Most Wisconsinites believe in a day's pay for a day's work, and that's all they want. Not only do they believe in it, they have faith that things will work out as long as we follow that ideal: a good day's pay for a hard day's work. That bedrock, mid-western work ethic is exactly where Walker's bomb landed, and his attempt to obliterate it offended the hard-core sensibilities of real Wisconsinites.
We know that Walker wants a Wisconsin where it doesn't matter what you know but who you know, where it doesn't matter how hard you work but how much money you give to the right person. That will never happen. Given time, people will grudgingly alter their beliefs, but they will die before they deny their faith. That's why it's called faith. It's what you are willing to die for.
So, while we were faithfully building coalitions one conversation at a time, Walker was flying all over the United States collecting bribes from corrupt, out-of-state, one-percenters. While we trudged through scores of boring government memos and reports to do our own citizen journalism and educate other Wisconsinites about Walker's radical, right-wing agenda, Walker did interviews with Fox News and Rush Limbaugh. While we made thousands of personal connections while collecting recall signatures outdoors in winter, Walker surrounded himself with state police, stopped making public appearances, and started tweeting about the Green Bay Packers and hot ham sandwiches to make himself look like a regular guy.
Now Walker sits on a big pile of dirty money. He counts his millions of dollars while the Government Accountability Board (our elections board) counts nearly two million signatures gathered by over thirty thousand volunteers. The recall elections are inevitable. Wisconsinites are even showing up via the G.A.B.'s webcam, watching G.A.B. employees scan petitions, while Walker has decided he can win by taking another shortcut: flood the airwaves with ads full of lies.
Good luck with that, Governor Lazy. I guess I can't blame you. You won't be able to campaign anywhere in public. Maybe it's finally gotten through your thick, lazy skull that wherever you go in Wisconsin, there are gentle but angry Wisconsinites there, and they'll show up. Oh yes, they will show up.
The temperature in Madison on Friday was about 10 degrees Fahrenheit at noon. It snowed all day. About 50 people showed up for the Solidarity Sing Along, a high-spirited protest that has been held every weekday (including holidays) in or near the state Capitol building since March 11th, 2011.