Huge Obstacles to Beating Scott Walker in Wisconsin Recall

We Are Wisconsin

Madison    The life-and-death struggle in Wisconsin to turn back the radical and sweeping rightwing program of Governor Scott Walker being waged by progressive forces is entering another set of critical challenges.  The primary to choose a Democratic opponent to Walker votes on May 8th only weeks away with the general election a month later on June 5th.

The Democratic primary is generating very little interest it seems and Walker has already spent millions with a huge bank account raised in readiness assiduously around the country as progressives and unions were mounting the recall petition campaign against him.   My casual observation about the invisibility of the campaign concretized as part of the mountain campaigners are trying to climb to arouse interest in the campaign.

I sat through an earnest and fascinating meeting at the Blatz Brewery building where Caroline Murray, organizing director for Van Jones’ Rebuild the Dream and veteran community organizer and friend, was meeting with union representatives, the League of Young Voters, community-based organizations connected with the Gamaliel network, Wisconsin Citizen Action, and Voces de Frontera and various DJ’s, artists, and others connected to the Milwaukee community, to try and figure out an event between the primary and the general election that might motivate “millennial” young voters to actually connect with the importance of getting out to vote by combining art, culture, and politics.  There was lots of head shaking assent about the importance of motivating these newer voters and a willingness to try new things, but skepticism on the level of buy-in from the community and whether the impact would be equal to the effort.

Talking later to Bruce Coburn, former head of the Milwaukee AFL-CIO, long time AFL, SEIU staffer and friend, as I cadged a ride in the rain to the bus, he was still guardedly optimistic about the residual impact of the We Are Wisconsin movement that had grown up during the initial struggle and recall effort.  He was encouraged by what he had seen of the sustainability and robustness of the efforts in Milwaukee and several other cities, though recognized that energy was flagging in many Wisconsin communities overtime, as is often the case.  He believed the fight was all in, but it was clear that he was deeply worried about progressive prospects for victory in the gubernatorial election.  Nonetheless there was real optimism and hope when he talked about the real opportunity he saw for “independent” political action once the state and federal elections were over at the end of the year, which I could heartily support.

Hard work was being done everywhere and commitments were deep, but this looks like a fight to the wire where once again the odds are against us and every bit of support anyone can muster and offer is needed and necessary.

Scott Walker

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Coming into Wisconsin at Ground Zero of Class War in America

Recall effort in Wisconsin

Milwaukee   I couldn’t resist an invitation to speak at a panel on ACORN and community organizing this weekend at a conference of historians largely because it was being held in Milwaukee and it gave me an excuse for several days to see what was really happening here at ground zero in the class war that the right has declared on workers and regular citizens in Wisconsin and throughout the country.  Social Policy just came out with a Special Report on Wisconsin One Year Later which had piqued my interest and given me a thorough introduction for just how devastating this has been beneath the headlines.  Join me in reading the reports currently on the website.

There is a recall election set now with the primary only weeks away in early May and the general election for Governor in early June.  The speed of the recall has made this a strange campaign.  Watching the road from the airport into Milwaukee was curious because there were no yard signs visible, no billboards, and in fact no sign that there was anything out of the usual happening in Milwaukee.

The offices of SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin are in a re-purposed Baltz Brewery and are new and well put together with pale yellow walls and subdued purpose trim and doors everywhere.  There are names on all of the doors and cavernous conference rooms though it is largely quite as a small training for the election is happening around a large table in the open atrium.  The several stewards and volunteers are being told how “right-to-work” really works and why SEIU has endorsed their candidate for the Democratic primary.

The action is in the field, not the office, and that’s the good news, but predictably there is a breath exhaled after the giant recall effort that still has to be inhaled deeply for the second wind to test the full mettle of whether or not Scott Walker can be stopped here at the sharp point of the conservative surge in the Midwest.

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