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I'm sure I'm not the only one who woke up this morning, feeling like I'd been kicked in the chest.  Heartbreak; and I'm not even a Wisconsin voter. To have worked so hard, and come so close to defeating the dehumanizing, divisive corporate hate machine that currently dominates American politics.  And then, in the end, to have come up short; and not just by a little.  

But here's the thing: there's nothing new to me about the heartbreak.  My earliest political memory is the 1980 election, the grim look on my father's face as he said, only half in jest, and not for the last time, "Maybe we should move to Canada."  And after 1980 there was 1984, and 2000, and (most painful of all) 2004.  And all of the smaller skirmishes in between.  Of course, we never did move to Canada (well, actually I did for a couple years, but it was school and not politics that brought that about.)

And it occurs to me, as I nurse emotional wounds and try (rather unsuccessfully) not to wallow in the inevitable negativity and brain-dead punditry that follows an election like this one, that in the end, victories and celebrations, back-slapping and acceptance speeches, do not teach you anything.  They do not demand anything of you.  They're fun and great, but no one ever grew, or became more resolute in their cause, through winning.  

It is only defeat that does that.  It is only through adversity that we are forced to take a hard look inside ourselves and reaffirm our commitment to our core principles.  It is only when you lose that you are forced to ask yourself, "Is all of this really worth it?"  And you are forced to answer (and sometimes, it is an effort), "Yes it is."  Why?  Because you have no choice.

Everyone involved in recalling Walker, from the candidates themselves, to the canvassing footsoldiers, to the netroots activists and phonebankers, to the ones who could only send a few bucks or just their best vibes, knew (or should have known) that they were taking a huge risk.  Loss would mean not only heartache, but fallout: a chorus of self-satisfied crowing from the usual suspects in the media, the apparent validation of Walker's out-of-state big money, divide-and-conquer politics.  Risks sometimes pay off; and sometimes they don't.  The only way to guarantee the outcome of an election is to give up, thereby making sure the other side wins.  Wisconsin Democrats didn't do that, and whatever else happens, I hope they feel as proud of their effort as they feel crushed by the outcome.

So, not a diary to say "Oh, it'll be ok."  Or even, "You tried, that's what counts."  But rather to remind anyone who needs the reminder that this is what you signed up for when you became a progressive.  Because, at its core, being progressive means rejecting the easy temptation of corporate money, ignoring the calculated adulation of a compliant media, and rising above the fleeting satisfaction that comes with getting more votes than the other team in the race as much as the fleeting pain that comes with getting fewer.  

Being a progressive means knowing in your heart that, so long as the status quo values money over people, power over righteousness, and rewards individual greed at the expense of whole communities, you haven't yet won.  Whatever victories we do have, whatever mountains we do climb, being progressive requires us always to ask ourselves, "What's the next mountain?"

I am not much of a pundit or political strategist.  So I will leave the reading of tea leaves to others.  I will just say this:

Fooling people is easy.  More difficult is convincing they've been fooled.  (Mark Twain said that, or something like it.)

Likewise, dividing people is easy.  More difficult is bringing people together for the greater good, despite their differences.

Likewise, scaring people is easy.  More difficult is telling the truth about the very real challenges our country (and species) face right now, no matter how insurmountable they seem, and still demanding that we act.

Likewise, enriching the few at the expense of the many is easy.  Much more difficult is creating a world in which prosperity is broadly and fairly shared.

So don't fool yourself that today and the days to come are not going to be incredibly difficult and that the outcome of all of our hard work remains uncertain.  Rather, remind yourself that you chose this.  At some point in your life, you saw two paths: one flinty, narrow, twisting, poorly marked and always in danger of being lost, that leads up and down, from mountaintop to valley to mountaintop; and one broad and flat, paved and well-lit, never straying from the flatlands.  You saw where the easy path leads, and figured there must be a better destination.  You chose the harder and less certain path; and you are not alone.

11:54 AM PT: I'm grateful for the positive response. I wrote this mainly as an exercise in catharsis... I am happy if it has helped anyone else sort their feelings out.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Well said, looty (14+ / 0-)

    We go on because we must. To do anything else is unthinkable.

    "Rick should scat. Mitt Romney needs to be left alone to limp across the finish line, so he can devote his full time and attention to losing to President Obama." -- Maureen Dowd, NYT, 2/29/12

    by wide eyed lib on Wed Jun 06, 2012 at 10:26:15 AM PDT

  •  As the saying goes ... (18+ / 0-)

    you knew the job was dangerous when you took it.

    That doesn't change that the job must be done.

    In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra En théorie, il n'y a aucune différence entre théorie et pratique, mais en pratique, il y a toujours une différence. - Yogi Berra

    by blue aardvark on Wed Jun 06, 2012 at 10:28:25 AM PDT

  •  It's an occupational hazard (13+ / 0-)

    of being a progressive.

    I'm reading Krugman's Conscience of a Liberal and one thing I'm taking away is that all of these fights look the same but in the end the one thing that is true is that our values do end up coming up on top.  It takes time and effort and they will be rolled back but the fact of the matter is that we change the landscape and provide options that help people. In times of what I call "mehness" which is where we are now conservatives shit that they spew sounds great, but when the shit hits the fan there's a reason the countries put a democrat or progressive in charge. They may not be ready for all of our ideas but they know we're the ones to get us out of the mess.  It's our curse in life that once the fog clears and panic subsides it means the republicans can work their magic with the lies and the pitting people against each other.  

  •  The American culture is the problem (9+ / 0-)

    Morris Berman has a trilogy. The middle book is "Dark Ages America: The Final Stages of Empire"

    The book published late last year is

    "Why America Failed: The Roots of Imperial Decline"  In this book he specifically indites our culture.  

    Just one story from the 2006 book, Dark Ages America

    He heard about freedom fries and thought it was a joke. Then he heard that it was proposed by a representative in the House.

    His immediate reaction was: The republic is dead.


    the political parties play the game for the 1% and divert us from the hard problems

    the dems walked away from poverty by 1980

    need to hit the streets with OWS

    up against the power structure

  •  Problem is people KNOW they've been fooled. (6+ / 0-)

    They just will defend to the death their side because to do otherwise is to admit that they were suckered.

    Pride.  Dull, stubborn, ugly, pride.

    Not the GOOD kind of pride, the kind that expands and encompasses.  No, we're talking the kind that puts a bullhorn in the hand blasting RW propaganda...  blinders on...  and a weapon in the spare hand.

    I don't blame Christians. I blame Stupid. Which sadly is a much more popular religion these days.

    by detroitmechworks on Wed Jun 06, 2012 at 10:59:59 AM PDT

  •  Good post. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    looty, ardyess, glorificus, sockpuppet

    I'm from the Elizabeth Warren and Darcy Burner Wing of the Democratic Party!

    by TomP on Wed Jun 06, 2012 at 11:06:35 AM PDT

  •  It's just another beautiful day in Wisconsin.... (15+ / 0-)

    The sky is blue, the birds are chirping, I'm working in the yard...  My neighbors are going about their business as usual.  The world's still turning...


    "Ich bin ein Dachs!"

    by PvtJarHead on Wed Jun 06, 2012 at 11:11:00 AM PDT

  •  I think Occupiers and some liberals (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    looty, ardyess, sockpuppet

    need to learn to be better listeners.

    Establishment Dems are largely to be fought.

    But sometimes, community organizer types like Obama know when a battle is winnable and when it's not.

    And sometimes our repeated losing streak starts to tarnish our brand.

    I think that street activists and the Occupy strain of our Progressive movement are critically important.

    I just think they can be naive sometimes, and I also think they shout better than they listen.

    We need to choose our battles more wisely.

    Losers tend to be viewed as losers, and they tend to keep losing because of it.

    People need to "know thyself."

    Knowing ones real world limitations is a sign of maturity and wisdom.

    That doesn't mean you don't take on a BIG challenge now and then.

    It just means you don't bite off more than you can chew over and over and over and over...

    •  It's very difficult (8+ / 0-)

      to determine beforehand what battles are worth fighting. That's the rub.

      Barack Obama is not a secret Marxist class warrior who wants to redistribute wealth in America. But I'll still vote for him, anyway.

      by looty on Wed Jun 06, 2012 at 11:27:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's where the listening comes into play (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        looty, wishingwell, ardyess, sockpuppet

        Sometimes people like Obama do in fact know better, because they have access to very sophisticated information and... quite frankly... community organizers have experience.

        Sometimes they don't.

        But sometimes they do.

        This may have been one of those times where a little less self-righteousness on the part of Occupiers would have done themselves some good.

        •  Listening to "who", exactly (0+ / 0-)

          And learning "what"?  ...  precisely?

            •  Yes ... and from them, learning "what" ? n/t (0+ / 0-)


            •  You see, I thought you were talking about (0+ / 0-)

              "Occupiers and some Liberals" ... who ought to listening and learning  ...

              And this reminded me a bit of the Republican bigshot who was expaining that bipartisanship now means that Democrats have to fall in line with Republican/ALEC programme.   Which is of course how GOPers see the world.

              But "Occupiers" have been awfully explicit about not being Democrats per se ... although perfectly willing to work and contribute for candidates with the right ideas who might happen to be Democrats -- and pretty sure that no Republicans are likely to have even remotely decent ideas.

              "Liberals" used to have a party of their own ... at least in NY State -- and IT almost always cross endorsed Democrats.

              But the idea that Wisconsin Light Brigaders ought to have "listened" ... and been instructed to be more pragmatic, less aggressive,  perhaps  not even calling  for a Recall in the first place ...

              I have trouble with that.

              It reminds me of that GOP bigwig whose name I've forgotten.

              Seriously, if the Party no longer represents the interests I consider important ... is saying that "the 'Other Side'  is ever so much worse, really it is" ... true as it is ... is it really enough to do more than perhaps come out to vote (assuming the local powers that be don't make it too difficult, our bosses let us, and the weather isn't too bad?)

    •  We need to fight our battles more consistently (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      trumpeter, sockpuppet, Fiona West

      Yes we don't listen but I figure the folks don't figure we are fighting for them because they haven't seen us do it for so long.

    •  Are you suggesting (4+ / 0-)

      that invoking the legal (and justified) recall process was the problem?

      I would disagree, and say instead that choosing not to fight battles of injustice IS the Democratic problem, and not vice-versa.

      Letting R seats go unchallenged. Year after year. Because they are "unwinnable." You cede power when you choose not to fight.

      I'm not taking my marching orders from organized political establishments. I am not their foot soldier.

      •  In any war, you can only afford (0+ / 0-)

        to fight so many battles.

        You spread yourself too thinly, you lose all of them.

        You don't spread out enough, you lose all of them.

        It's a balance.

        I propose we haven't quite found the right balance yet, but I also propose that Wisconsin was an example of spreading ourselves too thinly.

    •  Some battles are worth fighting just because (4+ / 0-)

      they're worth fighting.  

      Walker, your pink slip is coming, unless the orange jumpsuit gets you first.

      by non acquiescer on Wed Jun 06, 2012 at 01:04:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  While the path is harder and less certain it is (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    looty, sockpuppet

    all the more rewarding in the long run when we achieve our goals!

  •  A different perspective (6+ / 0-)

    The Koch brothers and their allies spent how many more millions than progressives?

    The positive thing I took away from this, is that it just got really really expensive for conservatives to buy elections.

    (hint: It's just cheaper to pay your taxes than to buy elections).

    Yeah. Losing sucks. But the cost they bore to win this thing was pretty darn high. That should be discouraging in their thinking of future battles.

    For years, Republicans have stated that Government is incompetent. Now they are in charge, and proving it.

    by B Rubble on Wed Jun 06, 2012 at 11:45:06 AM PDT

    •  I am also surprised when I talk to people who (8+ / 0-)

      have no idea about Citizens United and what that means.  

      In time, I am thinking more will be aware of the effect of Citizens United. People may wake up to the reality that Republicans will owe big corporations for their wins and that Repubilcans will be Owned lock, stock, barrel by the Rich and Corporations. Republicans will owe Corporate America and be owned By the Kochs and Wall street.

      Maybe people will wake up and grow tired of their elected officials being bougth and paid for and owing their rich benefactors.

      Follow PA Keystone Liberals on Twitter: @KeystoneLibs

      by wishingwell on Wed Jun 06, 2012 at 11:58:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  however (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        With all the money spent on Walker, it looks like the Dems outflanked the Koch brothers and will control the State Senate, making Walker moot.

        For years, Republicans have stated that Government is incompetent. Now they are in charge, and proving it.

        by B Rubble on Wed Jun 06, 2012 at 04:02:56 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for the perspective (6+ / 0-)

    I share it.  

    When people complain about how "red" the country is now, I remember and remind folks that it could be a whole lot worse.  The first election I actually worked on was 1972, (even though I was too young to vote).  All that needs to be said about 1972 is McGovern.  He did not even carry his own state.  Then the entire country was "red" again in 1984.  I watched the West Coast go down in flames,  because it was obvious that Reagan had won even before the polls closed and people just walked away.  (Ever wonder why Washington and Oregon vote absentee now?)

    We progressives and liberals have been more or less in the wilderness since then without a voice.  It is soooo different now by comparison.  We have each other and we have a voice.  

    Keep strong!  

    •  Thanks for your perspective (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      glorificus, sockpuppet, Fiona West

      I was alive in '72, but in diapers, so my only memory of that election is the sad look that crept across people's faces when they talked about it.

      Barack Obama is not a secret Marxist class warrior who wants to redistribute wealth in America. But I'll still vote for him, anyway.

      by looty on Wed Jun 06, 2012 at 12:53:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  My first election (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      glorificus, Fiona West

      was 1968 and I remember McGovern from the primaries. I was 6. My parents took me to the polls every time they voted when us kids were little. It was formative.

      I had a blue and white McGovern flower power sticker on my playroom chalkboard until junior high.

      •  I guess I'd have to say (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        looty, Fiona West

        that defeat is in my blood :-)

        "We" didn't win an election in my remembered lifetime (sorry, 1964 doesn't count as I was only 2) until Carter. Then again Clinton. And now Obama. Those are some long dry spells.

        The conservatives have done their work well. I wish we could figure out how to counteract it. Overturning Citizens United would be a start.

  •  1980? (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    looty, ardyess, glorificus, Fiona West, flo58

    My first campaign was in 1968, for RFK, and we all know how it ended.

    But, unlike the rest of the country, we don't give up.  I will continue to work for equality and (real) democracy as long as I live.

    I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

    by trumpeter on Wed Jun 06, 2012 at 12:52:12 PM PDT

    •  Oh, yeah. Losing RFK to yet another assassin, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      trumpeter, looty

      with the loss of Dr. King so fresh.  God, that was a bitter time.  

      Progressives have kept fighting, but I do feel that the wave of movement receeded.  Now it's coming back.  It's been too long.  We can't hesitate now, when literally the future of the Earth as a habitable planet will be profoundly shaped by the choices made in the next 10-20 years.  

      We're fighting for democracy, and for a sustainable society where people can have full, rewarding lives without laying waste to the biosphere.

      Thanks to the Badgers for all you did so admirably.  Take pleasure in winning the State Senate, so Walker can't have his special session to give chunks of the state to the mining companies, or steal the teacher's pensions.  Bravo.

      And -- what's next?

      --------------- --------------- --------------- "Every part of you belongs to you." -- from a story of Virginia under the Personhood law. Read it here.

      by Fiona West on Wed Jun 06, 2012 at 02:36:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  looty, thanks for the lift... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I was really upset last night .. even posted some dark comments ...

    but this morning, I realize it was one battle not the whole war.  And I think there were valuable lessons to be learned from this battle.

    First of all, don't try too many recalls when the voters don't really like the idea ....
    Maybe it would have been better to have combined the earlier recalls with the gov's ... things might have been a little better.

    Secondly, maybe it is better to get a referendum on a particular law than do a recall  on an elected official

    Third, money does talk and it can drowned out facts ... so be sure to get the facts out there as loudly as the money!

    WE have got to do something positive about Citizens United ... we have to band together and get rid of it ...
    we also have to have more secure voting mechanisms

    Give your heart a real workout! Love your enemies!

    by moonbatlulu on Wed Jun 06, 2012 at 12:54:05 PM PDT

  •  This diary about the recall loss and how (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    the repugs operate only reminds me of the following...

    “What good fortune for governments that the people do not think.”

    “The great masses of the people will more easily fall victims to a big lie than to a small one.”

    “Who says I am not under the special protection of God?”

    “I believe today that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty.”

    “It is not truth that matters, but victory.”

    “I use emotion for the many and reserve reason for the few.”

    “It is always more difficult to fight against faith than against knowledge.”

    ...and all of the above quotes are from Adolf Hitler.  

    Will there be better days?  

  •  I'm a liberal. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Otherwise, well said.

  •  Thanks, I needed to hear something like that. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    glorificus, looty

    It's not exactly a consolation, but some perspective, maybe.

    Walker, your pink slip is coming, unless the orange jumpsuit gets you first.

    by non acquiescer on Wed Jun 06, 2012 at 01:06:10 PM PDT

  •  Tipped and rec'd. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I too remember the kick in the chest in 1980.

    This is well said:

    Fooling people is easy.  More difficult is convincing they've been fooled.  (Mark Twain said that, or something like it.)
    The link below is not, IMHO, off topic. It also is not for the faint of heart. It is for the progressive who is ready for the next challenge. I've been reading Dmitry Orlov,, and Jim Kunstler since 2005. This post is the best of all of them.

    If you are stressed out or un-grounded or not ready for more opportunity (the chinese word for crisis and all that) skip this link and work in the garden or on a hobby.

    Reaganomics is the belief that: 1) Unregulated capitalism can produce unlimited goods for unlimited people on a planet with finite resources; 2) We can increase revenue by decreasing revenue.

    by FrY10cK on Wed Jun 06, 2012 at 01:52:34 PM PDT

  •  I didn't have much hope of winning (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and to be honest I wasn't convinced that the recall was the best approach. But I still supported it and donated to the Barrett campaign because I felt that it was necessary to oppose Walker's union-busting ways and the recall was where my people had decided to make their stand and oppose him. The thing for me is, I look at Walker and I see another Reagan or Thatcher. I see collective bargaining gone in most states within a couple of years. States turned into right-to-work states. A hundred years and change of hard-fought achievements of the labor movement reversed. And the response is all to clear: whether we can stop the fuckers or not, we have to make a stand, we have to go on record and let the world know that we oppose the fuckers.

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