We were all rather subdued at work today. The cubicles that are usually full of laughter and happy talk were quiet, with only the minimal phone calls taking place. We huddled in our own little cloth-covered squares, finalized report cards, and mourned the loss of the recall election.
It was our loss as much as anyone’s. We public school teachers were the central target of the Governor’s attack on collective bargaining. We were not the only group that got hit hard when Act 10 passed, but we were the most noticeable and the easiest target for the general public. We public school teachers (now perceived as public enemies) joined forces with progressives all over the state of Wisconsin to campaign for Tom Barrett to replace Scott Walker.
Today I read concession emails from groups on the side of loss. The election was so close, so hard-fought, I can’t call Tom Barrett a loser. I can’t call those who worked to elect him losers or lost, either. We worked so hard and worked so long that I still feel we won a battle, even if our side lost the war.
United Wisconsin thanked their members and supporters by reminding all that it wasn’t easy, but we did it. “We did it with strength, civility, conviction, and determination. For over a year and a half we worked together across this great state to bring about this historic election.” Civility. Conviction. Worked together. The process, the journey, was rewarding in itself.
We didn’t get the results we wanted, but we made Walker and his groupies see that money may talk, but ordinary people are the ones who sing and dance and make phone calls and knock on doors. The Overpass Light Brigade, the Solidarity Singers, sign brigades, door to door canvassing and phone banks – all of these strategies took people power rather than money power.
Tom Barrett’s concession letter referred to democracy as “…the ultimate participatory sport.” He thanked his backers for their passion and spirit. His letter’s conclusion is perhaps the most important. The emphasis is mine, but his words are bold on their own.
“A healthy democracy requires lively debates, but it also requires that we listen, that we roll-up our sleeves, and that we work together to do what is right.”
Listen. Work together. The ground troops, the canvassers and the phone bankers, the sign-distributors, holders of the lights, and singers for solidarity, understand the process of working together. Reaching out to the other side will be the hard part.
For the sake of our state and its progressive tradition, I’ll do my best.