Wisconsin has always been a state of political contradictions. We are the state that produced Robert M. La Follette and Joseph McCarthy. The state that gave you Russ Feingold and Tammy Baldwin is the same state that gave the world Scott Walker and Ron Johnson.
When I go up north and people ask me where I am from I tell them Fitchburg or Verona—I can't say Madison because the response in rural Wisconsin is one of disdain for my hometown, the seat of state government and the home of the University of Wisconsin. I was once told, while visiting relatives in the western part of the state, that the University of Wisconsin-Madison is where conservative parents send their kids to be turned into liberals. The urban areas in Wisconsin lean to the left, the rural areas lean to the right.
Why am I telling you all of this? With every diary I write about Wisconsin there are always two to three comments about how Wisconsin got just what it deserved by electing Scott Walker and a Republican controlled legislature. To say that is a slap in the face to every single progressive and liberal in Wisconsin. We did not ask for this and we have fought Walker every step of the way.
Walker won the 2010 gubernatorial election against Tom Barrett 53 percent to 46 percent. Keep in mind this was a wave election. In this same election we lost Russ Feingold in the U.S. Senate and saw Republicans retake the U.S. House of Representatives with a 63-seat gain, the the Republican Party's largest margin since 1938. We saw the GOP flip 11 governorships to the Democrats' six. This was not just Wisconsin, it was a national wave.
When Walker and the Republican-dominated legislature passed Act 10, Wisconsin citizens stood up. Union and non-union workers, students and iron workers marched shoulder to shoulder with teachers, nurses, and prison guards in solidarity against Walker. We slept on the cold marble floors of our beloved state capitol. We marched in miserably cold weather. We saw our 14 Democratic senators leave the state to thwart the passage of this horrible bill. The Republicans used questionable tactics to pass it without the Democrats. Just a week later over 100,000 Wisconsin citizens marched on the state capitol in protest. Gov. Walker ignored us, threatened us, and signed Act 10 into law over our protests. We felt powerless.
We were not without hope. We had the recall election to look forward to to oust Walker from office. What we could not see was the amount of money that would pour into the race from outside sources. Walker could raise unlimited funds and outside groups could pour money in with little to no oversight. Walker was able to run ads for months without a response from the left. He changed the argument from "Should Scott Walker be recalled?" to "Should the recall be used for anything but corrupt/illegal acts in office?" That even though the recall law states clearly that a recall can take place for any reason. With the election being a repeat of the the 2010 election with the same weak Democratic candidate the election was not between Scott Walker and Tom Barrett, it was really a referendum on how recalls in Wisconsin should be used. That was not an argument the left was prepared to have and one which Walker won by the same margin of victory as he did in 2010.
Bashing Wisconsin progressives and liberals and questioning why we allowed this to happen does not help. What happened in Wisconsin is also happening in Michigan and Ohio. It could happen in any state. Instead of questioning us on how we could allow this to happen, or bashing us by saying we got what we deserved, you should be standing with us in solidarity because it could happen to your state next. If you think we got what we deserved, then you are part of the problem, and not part of the solution.