|Image courtesy of WKOW.com, Madison, WI.|
John Nichols at the Nation tells the story of democracy at work in Wisconsin:
What does democracy look like? How about this: a governor, swept into office on the GOP wave of 2010 with a financial assist from the billionaire Koch brothers, pivots immediately from moderate talk about job creation to radical austerity that divides his state more than any in the Union. He attacks the collective bargaining rights of public workers and teachers. When hundreds of thousands of citizens rally to oppose his agenda, the governor and his allies respond by attempting to bar protests in the Capitol. They reject their state’s tradition of open and transparent government, dismiss criticisms from the opposition—even from moderates in their own party—and begin gerrymandering districts and changing election rules, actions Common Cause and the League of Women Voters recognize as assaults on voting rights. Faced with a serious threat to basic rights and democracy, citizens organize a grassroots campaign to recall and remove the governor, the lieutenant governor, the State Senate majority leader and key legislators.
The task is daunting: it requires collecting more than a million signatures in the dead of winter, and it must overcome a multimillion-dollar attack campaign, along with daily condemnations from local, state and national talk-radio and the Fox News echo chamber. Yet in villages and inner-city neighborhoods, grandmothers with clipboards and high school seniors engaging for the first time in politics brave the snow and cold. They put up with catcalls from Rush Limbaugh listeners who have been instructed that they are nothing but “union stooges.” On the day the documents are due, the people march to the state elections office with brass bands, banners and petitions bearing almost 2 million names—the largest portion of a state’s population ever to demand the removal of a governor and his lieutenants.