As the nation looks to Wisconsin today, those of us here are all focused on the Walker recall scheduled this summer. For the zillion reasons why, I’ve written a lengthy update, not intended for the casual political observer. The political bantering has reached such a fevered pitch, that in the shuffle the voices of the regular people have been silenced.
To return a bit of that power, I’ve created a non-profit entity WIvoices.org, which is dedicated to providing a stage for people to tell their stories. We are now fundraising for our organization and I often cross post these interviews on Open Salon. The community here has been instrumental in both the development and the networking of our stories. Ardee graciously offered advice on business development, MrsRaptor consistently lent her expertise in the comment section as an elections official, and Steve Klingaman has given valuable advice on Non-Profit development, Old new lefty lending wisdom, and the list goes on.... So many more of you have read our stories attention to these stories brings such empowerment to us here in Wisconsin, send me PM’s or send love our way. We are SO encouraged by knowing that the rest of the country hasn’t forgotten us, and your pressure on the media to provide information makes a HUGE difference!
But today I’m writing strictly for OS and want to update you about the political situation on the ground in Wisconsin. I have some very hopeful news…a long time coming!
- The Government Accountability Board made it official and set the date, June 5, for the special recall election of Governor Scott Walker and 5 other GOP leaders who were recalled by voters.
- A Dane County Judge placed a temporary restraining order on the Voter ID bill, calling it the “single most restrictive voter eligibility law” in the United States. Local elections all over the state, on April 3, will now operate under the previous law. Frustrated by this turn of events, Walker supporters are asking for the Judicial Commission to investigate the judge because they discovered that he signed the recall against Gov. Walker. Furthermore, the judge’s wife circulated the petition that he signed. One side claimed politicking from the bench, the other reminded the public that judges can vote and sign recall petitions under state law. That issue blew over quickly when a second judge placed a permanent injunction on the law. I was able to vote early last week for our local election, as usual, and without a “Voter ID”. Everything seems back to normal, and I left my polling place with a hopeful, empowered feeling that I haven’t felt for nearly a year. This issue will likely land in the WI Supreme Court.
- Because of the success of last summer’s recall elections in Wisconsin, the GOP majority shrunk from 19-14 to 17-16. With this turnaround and with the help of one GOP dissenter, Dale Schultz, the senate was able to stall the fast tracked, and highly contentious, mining bill. The mining bill ignored treaty rights with the Bad River Chippewa Tribe and also environmental laws. The mining company has since left the state, abandoning its plans to continue with the mine.
- The GOP has formed an exploratory committee to determine whether or not they will try to recall one of their own, Dale Schultz, for voting against his party on the mining bill! This is unparalled.
- One of the 4 GOP senators currently under a recall attempt resigned, effectively leaving the WI state senate evenly split 16-16. One year ago, this gap was 5 votes wide, favoring Republicans. Now, after a struggle of sweat and tears, and a dash of luck, the WI state senate is tied and 4 GOP recall elections are pending this summer. We could be looking at a 13-20 Democratic-favored Senate by the muggy, mosquitoey Wisconsin summer. Now that, my friends, is what democracy looks like.
- Immediately following the submission of 1.9 million signatures submitted for 6 recalls, Walker filed claims to force the Government Accountability Board to check the signatures more stringently than previously required. The GOP lawyers demanded special rules for Walker, and the first judge (in Waukesha County, heavily leaning Walker territory) agreed. The GAB responded by requesting more money, staff, and time to complete such an enormous new process. Finally, a second judge overruled the lower court, and the GAB can now conduct itself as usual.
- Then the Walker camp decided against challenging the signatures, citing that they ran out of time. A more likely reason may be that with 933,000 signatures it would be extremely unlikely that they would be able to throw out nearly half of those in order to halt an election. An out-of-state Tea Party group asked the GAB to change the law in order to allow its group to challenge signatures. The GAB refused, citing WI law.
- When President Obama visited Milwaukee recently, Gov. Walker was slated to spend the day together making appearances. However, Gov. Walker can not go anywhere in Wisconsin without a throng of protesters. Every appearance is announced and spreads like wildfire over social media. Any city, town, or Wisconsin village he appears in, so do local protesters. The plan was that the President and Gov. Walker were going to a manufacturing plant, to recognize them and congratulate them because they recently added hundreds of new manufacturing jobs by “insourcing” from China. The problem for Walker, though, is that the state of Wisconsin has lost thousands of jobs under his Job’s Plan for the past 5 months. This plant that added jobs, was due to the work of President Obama’s national Job’s Plan. To add insult to injury for the Governor, the new workers are unionized with well-paying, middle-class jobs. It seems quite obvious that this appearance by Gov. Walker at such an event would have been a public relations nightmare for him. The President, and the national cameras that follow him, would’ve seen this first hand. This global attention is not what Walker supporters want here. So, how did Gov. Walker avoid this? The “flu”, his spokesperson said. He did manage to meet President Obama on the tarmack as his plane was leaving Wisconsin. He gave him a jersey emblazzoned with “Obama1”. It looked like a friendly exchange.
- The most shocking development that has been brought to light has been the seemingly widespread corruption in the Walker camp. In what is quickly being dubbed “Walkergate”, numerous arrests and indictments have surrounded the Walker camp, including Gov. Walker’s top aides and campaign staff. Charges range from campaign finance fraud, stealing money belonging to a state Veteran’s group, illegal email systems and laptops attempting to avoid the “open records” law, to electioneering while on the taxpayers’ dime. Even an unrelated “child enticement” charge has materialized, as investigators pour through suspects’ computers and documents. Some have pled guilty already and will be required to testify in the ongoing “John Doe” investigation that first began before Walker even took office.
- Gov. Walker has started a defense fund and has hired 2 criminal defense attoneys. Under state law, there are only 3 reasons a sitting Governor is allowed to take this kind of action: 1) he’s being personally investigated, 2) he is likely to be charged with a crime, or 3) he has been charged with a crime.
- GOP lawmakers have signed a “non-disclosure” agreement, drafted by lawyers, and are refusing to speak about the new redistricting maps that heavily favor them in the upcoming elections, including the recall election. Normally redistricting would not take effect until Novemenber, however the state governement was attempting to rush the process in order to protect their candidates in the summer recall elections. They are also refusing to say who, or what entity, has written much of the legislation that has come out of the state over the last year. A panel of 3 judges ordered that they release documents that are part of open law; at least 2 of the redistricting maps were ruled unconstitutional due to process and outcome.
- Gov. Walker redirected the federal money from the banks, intended to help homeowners, and used it to balance the state budget instead…outrage ensued.
- Outside money flowing into our state is beyond comprehension. In fact, David Koch is now giving public interviews, stating “we’ve given a lot of money to Wisconsin, and we are going to give a lot more.” It is indisputable that the national GOP political players and supporters have a HUGE interest in the outcome of Wisconsin politics. We are the front line in this national fight for livable wages, transparency, and democracy.
- On the ground news: most workplaces that have lost rights for workers under Walker’s “Budget Repair Bill” are reporting the same thing – increased intimidation and fear at work. Some workers endure quietly in fear, others flatter supervisors. Some bullies among workers and supervisors have stepped into the open. Workers who speak up for their profession are at risk of unjust firing, as “non-team players,” with their recent loss of power. They are also at risk of alienating themselves from fellow workers, who now do not wish to suffer by association with an “agitator”. However, I would say that many workers are just indifferent or apathetic…their lives have gone on “normally”. These workers don’t wish to speak about, or think about, the changes. Some are new workers, who do not understand the full implications. They adapt. And I’m so proud to report that some places of work are voluntarily operating under old rules by including workers in changes and continuing to give them power and voice.
- The day after the signatures against Walker were submitted, some infighting began within the progressive movement, as certain groups immediately endorsed their preferred candidates. But Walker and camp gives enough drama to keep the movement, more or less, cohesive. It is nothing akin to the GOP national party, tearing each other apart. Rather, if feels more like a family squabble from my vantage point. If I were more strongly linked to the political pulse, rather than the grassroots one, I may feel differently about this tiff. I happen to find it exciting to have so many incredible candidates to choose from. To date, a pair of Kathleen’s have declared their candidacy – Vinehout and Falk. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (who ran against Walker in 2010) and Secretary of State Doug LaFollette have also announced their intentions. There will be a primary on May 8. Three people are campaigning for Lt. Governor. Mahlon Mitchell, the leader of the WI Fire Fighter’s union, has campaign ads and is giving speeches when he’s not leading the bagpipers around the Capitol.
- I have to believe that everyone will calm down and get fully behind someone when all of the candidates have had a chance to throw their ideas and records into the ring. However, the pressure that we “all get behind one candidate” is palpable. Certain camps are convinced that the movement is doomed to fail without the right candidate, and each camp has their own favored person. Many grassroots people want a chance to hear from all the candidates before deciding. And, of course, rumors of a “false candidate” run by the GOP is a real concern. This would effectively mean that Republicans can flood the open primary in Wisconsin and all vote for their candidate, leaving the Dems to split their votes among many. So, we will all be pressured to go along with a party favorite rather than voting for whom we feel best represents us, which is counter-intuitive to the entire movement. My newness to the political scene prevents me from guessing how the primary will play out. The general election will be easier because nearly anyone who is anti-Walker will vote for anyone besides him.
Right now, it feels like a tug-of-war between the seasoned political professionals, who hold the invaluable knowledge that comes from experience, and the grassroots newbies, who are driven with the passion that comes from an urgent sence of self-determination. Wisconsin’s future must have a place for both camps at the table and a place for all of those in between. If we believe in the progressive spirit of change, where the actively involved people can shape the future, then we’ll find a way to honor both views.
Then, hope is on the horizon for us all.