Insider Scoop on the Gov. Walker Recall

Today we have a jubilant guest blog post from my Uncle Brad, who has worked tirelessly to protect worker’s rights and recall Walker since the very beginning of the Madison protests last year. Given how people have looked towards Madison as inspiration for so many peaceful protests and mass awakenings, the results so far are quite encouraging for more systemic change. Here’s Brad Palmer’s inside scoop:

My Fellow “State Street Hippies”

1,000,000!
One Million!!
ONE MILLION!!!
OVER 1,000,000!!!!
That’s a ONE and SIX zeros!

My God, Wisconsin Freedom Fighters–teachers, farmers, janitors, nurses, firefighters, police, retirees, students, unemployed, homeless, accountants, professors, Occupy Madison, all walks of our state, collected over 1,000,000 signatures (we needed 540,208) to recall Walker. That’s more than any recall for an American governor in the history of the United States! Additionally, 845,000 signatures to recall the Lt. Governor, and another 87,000 to recall four Republikan state senators. We did this in 60 days. It wasn’t, as John Nichols noted, just Madison and Milwaukee. It was rural communities, small towns, little burgs….it was all of us. Organizing an undertaking like this is bigger than the Democratic Party, bigger than the unions. It was 30,000 grassroots residents of this state, braving winter weather, death threats, intimidation, attacks, profanities, anger and money. It was, in short, US! WE DID THIS! And Wisconsin’s accomplishment belongs to America as well.

When I got an email at 1:51 this afternoon from United Wisconsin — the largest driving organization of volunteers in this effort — that stated we — WISCONSIN — had collected over a million signatures and turned them into the GAB, my knees literally went weak. I headed for the locker room at work and sat on a bench, awash in emotion. In those brief moments, every memory I have of the rising up for freedom in Wisconsin flashed through my head in technicolor. I remember 30,000 of us marching in the winter. I saw the 150,000 marchers standing shoulder to shoulder with Kathie and me, my daughter and son in law, two of my granddaughters, in sleet and snow, frozen, seeing thousands of signs. We chanted. We stood and heard speakers, including John Nichols, editor of “Nation” magazine. He told us, “We can get a million signatures to recall Walker. But we have to wait 9 months.” We cheered, but we didn’t know what was ahead of us.

We heard Peter Yarrow sing for 100,000 of us. We heard Michael Moore speak on the steps of the capitol. I saw the rotunda, filled with thousands of us; an open mic, “Firefighters for Labor,” “Cops for Labor.” AFSCME, AF of L-CIO. I remember singing with the Solidarity Singers, who still sing songs of freedom and labor and protest in the captiol — “Singing for our lives.” 14 brave Democratic senators heading to Illinois to prevent FatzWalkerstan from ramming through illegal legislation, then welcoming them back to the capitol after the deed was done covertly. Dwindling at times to several dozen of us carrying signs, walking around the capitol in the spring. Walkerville — tents on the square to translate “Hooverville” of the 1930s into 2011. The drive for recall of our own senatorial stooge, Luther Olsen — gathering signatures, campaigning with Fred Clark, knocking on doors, meeting resistance and appreciation alternately. The crushing deflation I felt when we lost that recall election after all the hard work, but knowing the state recalled two of the three conspiritors of Walker’s. Saying goodbye to the foot soldiers we shared the recall campaign with, but strengthening our own grassroots organization.

We attended a LOT of demonstrations in Madison, and participated in our own Portage area demonstrations — something Portage had not seen in my 34 years here. The firing up of the recall office again, with a stronger, wiser, larger grassroots group, knowing WE were now the driving force, taking initiative, doing it ourselves, and knowing that all over this state, people like us were doing the same. Phone banks, recall signature stations, buttons, signs, getting hassled like never before, getting loved like never before. Many of our people gave up family time, weekends, nights, mornings, vacations, retirements; just to do what had to be done — recall Walker, restore our freedom. All of this rushed through my head and became a waking visual dream as I sat there. I was overcome with emotion — good emotion. This war will have many more battles. But the good guys just won one, and won it BIG.

Tonight we attended a “celebration” in Madison by United Wisconsin to thank all the volunteers who made this happen today. I estimate four thousand of us gathered in Monona Terrace Convention Center. “These are my people,” I thought, as I entered the sea of smiling Wisconsinites. We have a much bigger battle ahead. But tonight — just for tonight — was to take a breath and revel in what we’ve done. Mike Tate, leader of the DPW, thanked us and told us that what we did was not only historic, not only watched by the entire nation, but reaffirmed what the power of people can do. He admitted that during the planning stage, the DPW had decided the Satan of the Senate — Scott Fatzgerald — was unreachable. In all Fatzgerald’s arrogant haughtiness, it NEVER entered his empty puppet head that he could ever be recalled. His district is too red, he is the majority leader of the senate, and was safely entrenched. So there was no office in that district, no organization, no DPW.

But someone forgot to tell a diminutive photographer named Lori Compas. She decided she had to try. So with her own home as her recall office, she procured petitions, and went out on her own. She need 17,000 plus. She had 60 days to do this alone. Eventually, she convinced friends, family, anyone she could, to help her. She organized, she persevered, she NEVER stopped, not for a day. With two weeks left in the drive, the state noticed her efforts. Within 48 hours of the deadline, she needed 700 signatures to reach minimum, with no cushion of signatures. Within that 48 hours, volunteers from all over the state poured into little Jefferson, Wisconsin, where a recall office — an empty warehouse — was abuzz with directors, trainers, turf distributors, signature checkers, canvassers — it looked like Eisenhower’s office must have looked on the battlefields of World War II. Someone forgot to tell Lori it couldn’t be done. She got 20,600 signatures, virtually as a one-woman army. Mike Tate recognized her on stage tonight. She deserved every loud roaring cheer she got. She is a warrior. She is a Badger.

John Nichols was the key note speaker. He thanked us all. He quoted Fighting Bob LaFollette, who birthed the Progressive movement, “Democracy is not an event. It is a life.” He told us of Wisconsin’s place in history tonight. He reminded us of the demonstrations, the push back, the rising up of an oppressed citizenry. He reminded us that tonight we deserve a celebration; and tomorrow, we must begin the fight anew.

We are at war, make no mistake. The fight of our lives wages on. I hugged a lot of people tonight, most of them were strangers. One man said he’d hugged so many people he couldn’t remember them all. I told him, “We’re all one tonight.” Kathie’s only description of the event was brief and poignant. “This was awesome. We needed this.”

And as we stood at the end of the program — stood among strangers who will ever be our brothers and sisters, who don’t know “quit,” who don’t recognize, “You can’t win,” who don’t care about millions of dollars against them, who simply will not stop–the Solidarity Singers came on stage and sang THEIR signature song.

“Solidarity forever, Solidarity forever. Solidarity forever, the union makes us strong.”

I always considered that song a great tribute to labor — to the men and women who toiled over generations to till the land of Wisconsin, to build the schools and churches and houses; who worked the factories and made the goods and minded the stores. To have them and their memory corrupted and dishonored by the fiends of FatzWalkerstan is beyond evil. And it occurred to me as I stood witnessing 4.000 fists in the air in unison, singing, “Solidarity forever,” that a “union” is also a oneness of people, a connection that cannot be broken, a family of hard working people who refuse to give in to fear or threats or intimidation. Tonight that union is over one million strong. And tomorrow, we must begin preparations for the biggest battle. Can people power really defeat corporate billions? We believe it, because this is a life, not an event. Tonight belongs to us. Tomorrow is ours to earn.

The war continues. Here in my county, in my town of Portage, even now, the county board is plotting a vote tomorrow to further force sacrifices and punishment, further loss of income and benefits for county employees. Kathie is a candidate for that very board in April. Perhaps they might heed our phone calls and emails, flooding them the past two days — perhaps they may sit up and pay attention to the current state of the governor’s precarious tenure….perhaps not. But here in our county and neighboring counties, we have a grassroots organization that turned a red county blue last summer, a county that attained 200% of its goal in Walker recall signatures. Maybe — just maybe — they might be thinking of how angry Badgers can be when they’re attacked.

Fatzgerald and Grossman said, “They’ll go away in a couple of weeks.” That was in March of 2011. Kathie was asked in an interview by Channel 3 of Madison in March of 2011, “Do you think the protesters will still be here in a month?”

The push back is growing. SOPA has prompted internet blackouts in protest. Occupations continue to stand against foreclosures, continue to demonstrate, continue to occupy, the 99% continues to make a difference and to be heard. Indiana’s monarchical governor, Mitch Daniels, is being opposed by a new organization — of REPUBLICANS. They’re called, “lunchpail Republicans,” who say the current Republikan party is NOT the party of Lincoln. The lunchpailers are running ads AGAINST the Republikan administration in Indiana. Ohio gave Wisconsin a shot of adrenaline with their overwhelming reversal of anti-labor laws.

So tomorrow, we brush off our boots. We gather winter clothing and await the drive in a couple weeks to assist Wisconsin residents whose votes have been suppressed by Walker’s voter ID law. Badgers won’t be stopped. We grow, we strengthen, we unite, we organize. Freedom, democracy, rights….Fighting Bob reminds us these aren’t events, they are a life. I’ve met and connected with thousands of extraordinary people during this class war. I am honored by such bonds. I am humbled by their strength. This Illinois native is proud to be a Badger.

Forgive the emotional tone of this report. It was an emotional day for a million of us. How do we smell now, “Senator” Glen Grossman?

I encountered a five or six year old boy at the celebration tonight, perched on his father’s shoulders. I touched his arm, looked him in the eyes, and said, “Remember this.”

Solidarity Forever!
Union! Unity!
Fight back!

Solidarity!

Brad

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