Monday, June 4, 2012

Crunch Time

I sit here this morning amazed. Over the past 15 months or so, we have been participants in something completely beyond and outside our experience. Never in our lifetime has there been a progressive movement like this. We're this close to toppling a sitting governor.

I feel like we've come so far. For over a year, the progressives in this state have been running in what now seems like a marathon. With almost no money, against very big money, we've taken the fight to some extremely powerful national interests. We've had to face down an angry, reactionary section of the populace who blame teachers and welfare moms for our country's problems. We've stood together in the elements, the rain, the snow, the frozen Wisconsin winters, and hot summertime parades.

We saw the Occupy movement spring up in New York, months after we occupied our capitol building for weeks on end. Many of their signs matched ours. In my visit to New York last winter, at a bar in Hell's Kitchen, I spoke for hours with Occupy progressives, relating how we did it, who we were, trading stories and advice, sharing our work ethic and our motives. Our progressives have become famous across the country, not because we're amazing, but because we're ordinary.

We're ordinary men and women standing up to power, using every resource in our control to make our state better, expressing the very best in democratic values. We're holding our elected officials accountable as our founding fathers truly had intended. We're moms and dads, college kids, snowplow drivers, teachers, cops, firefighters, business owners, nurses, software geeks. I've heard from so many great progressive people from so many different walks of life.

It's not always pretty. In fact I think some of this has at times gotten very ugly. We've all made mistakes somewhere in the mix. Our state is divided, and in the heat of things, there's no doubt that we've separated ourselves here or there on party lines. I know I have friendships where we just don't talk politics anymore. Somehow we need to pull together again, with love and with understanding, even in the face of anger and disappointment.

I personally believe we can win tomorrow - polls show that turnout is key. I've got butterflies in my stomach today thinking about it. In one sense, everything comes down to tomorrow. In another sense, I think it's important for us to realize that we will be waking up to a whole new state on the morning of June 6th.

My sincere hope for us, as progressives, is that, win or lose tomorrow, we continue to fight, and that we continue to bring our strong work ethic and devotion to bettering Wisconsin. Political involvement has now become the norm for so many of us. I hope that we can remain active for decades to come.

Throughout history, the working class has witnessed defeat at the hands of the powerful. We've also made gains that have been rolled back. But if you ever really stop to take notice, our victories are never fully taken away. When we take three steps forward, they may take one or two back from us here or there. But in the end we will have created an infrastructure that knows how to fight, knows what it means to win, and understands that the health of our state depends on the economic well being of the men and women who go to work every day.

I think of our history as progressives, going back generations. Yes, they made progress, but in the thick of things, while cops were beating them with clubs, while they were on the picket lines, stopping the gears of industrialism, risking their entire livelihoods...was it ever clear that they would win? In spite of this, they pressed on, year after year. And even though our grandparents lost a few battles, they kept on fighting, so that we could have better lives. It's our job to carry their banner for the next generation. No victory is final, and no defeat is the end.

Tomorrow is the end of this race, though, and we need to finish strong. I'll be working tonight, and I hope you will, too. But as you do this with your brothers and sisters, remember that, no matter what happens, we took it to them and we gave them a hell of a fight. Wisconsin will be ours!