Despite the fact that it's pretty obvious I know little-to-nothing about sports, I like to watch them and I like even better to use them as metaphors, so indulge me for a while as I recap some recent events by jumping on the bandwagon of the team I only grudgingly root for: Your Green Bay Packers.
Green Bay, you'll remember, just two years ago struggled through a 6-10 season, causing many people (okay, just me) to grumble that getting rid of Brett Favre was the worst mistake they ever made. Then, the next year, Green Bay ground its way to a playoff spot as a wildcard, losing on the road to Arizona, while Brett Favre and Brett Favre's Minnesota Vikings were one errant throw away from a Super Bowl appearance, causing many people (okay, just me, again) to grumble that getting rid of Brett was the worst mistake they'd ever made.
Then, last year -- and I hope you by now see where I'm going with this, but I once learned the hard way that you can't go wrong by referencing Packer Super Bowl victories*
*(whereas you can go wrong by referencing Sherlock Holmes; it's a long story)
the Packers went through this up-and-down season, with Rodgers being sidelined and the close-but-no-cigar loss to the Patriots and a bunch of injuries and that led lots of people (you know what this parentheses is going to say, right?) to doubt that they'd ever win the Super Bowl, let alone make the playoffs.
We all know what happened then, right?
I trust you see the point. But let me make one more sports analogy, that's a little more apt, but wasn't Packers-related so I didn't lead with it:
Wisconsin, you are Eli Manning and the Giants.
You are thought to be fools, tilting at windmills in the face of a giant corporate machine that cheats to get where it is and is unstoppable and has run over everybody in its way and ground them up and spit them out and also made them watch Randy Moss do things:
and you, you Eli Mannings And The Giants, have just faced off in Round One against the Machine, and you know what?
You didn't do too badly.
I'm hearkening back to the Giants-Patriots* game that ended the regular season of the year the Patriots* went 18-1, losing the only game that really matters in the NFL season and making their entire spread of victories before them a meaningless waste of time.
Nobody cares if you go 18-0 if you lose the last one - that's what we learned, first and foremost that year.
But more importantly, we learned, from watching Eli Manning and the Giants, that you always live to fight again another day if you actually go fight again another day!
There has really never been a more apt sports metaphor than this one. The Giants faced the Patriots* in the last game of the season, a game that was meaningless only to the Giants: the Giants could not improve their playoff position and they could not de-prove it. The Patriots*, meanwhile, had everything to fight for, even though they acted like they didn't care. No team had ever gone 16-0 in the regular season, and the Patriots* knew it, and they knew that by beating the Giants, they could achieve something that had never been done before, but that by losing, they'd be remembered as nothings: a blip on the screen, just another 15-1 team.
The Giants played guts-out and almost beat the Patriots* even though the game meant nothing to the Patriots, and then, when the teams met just a month later in the Super Bowl, the Giants had two big things going for them:
First, the game again meant nothing, really: They'd already lost once and were expected to lose again. They were the underdog: the little brother and the forgotten coach and the old-school blue collar New York Giants against the high-tech, new-wave unstoppable Patriots*, who, again, had everything to lose.
This was the Giants' rallying cry:
And we all know how it worked out for the Giants in the Super Bowl, too.
Again, Wisconsinites, unions, teachers, recallers, people: You are the Giants. You are the Packers. You are the people who must keep fighting because you have nothing left to lose and everything to gain.
I was watching Tweets and listening a bit to Sly on WTDY and hearing other people lose steam and be defeated and talk about going to 2012 to recall Walker, and Sly was taking calls on things we could do that wouldn't be recalling Walker and all I could think was
What are you, a bunch of QUITTERS?
I can't believe anyone was talking about not recalling Walker, and I can't believe anyone was demoralized or thinking that what happened in the recalls last Tuesday was a loss.
You achieved history. It was the largest recall election in United States history, first of all. And in all of American history, nobody has ever recalled more than two sitting politicians at one time, and you matched that, the first time it's been done in 16 years and only the fourth time two politicians had been recalled at once in 235 years. It's never been done before in Wisconsin.
But more importantly than that, you laid the groundwork. No political movement takes just six weeks, or even six months, to get going. The Racist Tea Parties took two years before they had enough momentum to capture one house of Congress, and they're backed by huge money that you Wisconsin union workers didn't have access to. The Racist Tea Party has its own TV channel, helmed by phone hackers and corporate shills who flout election laws, and you still worked faster than they did.
For over six months, you kept the focus on how much damage Governor Patsy and the Hillbillies were doing to Wisconsin, motivating people to vote like never before. As I've pointed out before, Governor Patsy didn't win Wisconsin because he convinced more people he was a good guy; he won Wisconsin because Democrats stayed home rather than voting. You got people out to vote!
Not only did you win two of the four elections, but by winning all three next week you can win 5 of 9, which is a victory overall, because no Democrats will have been recalled. That's your referendum, right there: After next Tuesday, if you continue to fight, voters will have said "We don't like these Republicans as much as we like these Democrats."
But even in the districts where you didn't recall a Bad Republican, consider that you still got people out to vote and showed a lot of strength.
Consider: in 2008, State Senate District 2, during a presidential election, had 60,000 or so votes cast in an uncontested race for a Republican -- almost no votes were cast for anyone else; Democrats didn't bother to run someone in that District, it was such a lost cause.
Three years later, in a special recall election in the summer with only a couple weeks' notice, Democrats got 18,000 people out to vote for a Democrat in that District. Most of that work has been done this year; this year, you put a previously-uncontested Republican district into play.
Senate District 10 in 2008 was won by a Bad Republican by a margin of 12,000 votes out of
98,000 cast. In 2011, the Republicans held onto the seat, but by a narrower margin: less than 10,000 votes out of nearly 65,000 cast.
Senate District 14 -- Luther Olsen's district -- was another uncontested GOP "race" in 2008. That district is so Republican it practically gay married George W. Bush -- but Fred Clark, subject to a vicious negative campaign that more or less accused him of trying to murder voters, got 48% of the vote, putting District 14 into play from here on out, too.
Two previously-untouchable districts were put on the map as potentially going Democrat in the future. Don't think it can't happen, more easily than you suspect, either: these were elections that came out of nowhere with one race on the ballot, with candidates that maybe weren't the strongest possible faces to put up. A good candidate with plenty of lead time can built on Clark's 48% of the vote when District 14 comes around again.
After all, remember Scott Klug? He's the guy Dane County elected before we all went crazy for Tammy. Klug didn't get redistricted out of office, either: he beat Kastenmeier and then kept getting re-elected until he didn't run anymore. I bet when Klug first ran back in the 1990s, nobody thought a Republican could win the 2nd District.
And the Republicans didn't think a Democrat would win those State Senate seats -- but a strong effort showed that they could, on short notice, put up a good fight, and forced the Republicans to spend money there that they could have been using elsewhere, and that's another point.
So so far, you've achieved the historical result of having the largest recalls in the US ever, and you've matched the best possible recall outcomes of the past 235 years, and you're poised to in the Summer Of Recalls 5-4 over the GOP, and you're thinking (SLY, and others) about quitting?
Then consider this: This morning, and yesterday, I saw ads attacking ObamaCare and the creation of panels to help cover Medicare costs. I don't know who was running those ads, but you can bet your Eli Mannings that it wasn't Democrats, and probably wasn't Stephen Colbert, either.
It was Republican money: Koch money, Reince Priebus money, Citizens United money -- money that's not being used anymore to fight recalls and instead can go to bolstering the idiotic campaigns of FOX news shills like Michele Bachmann, turning people against universal health care and convincing them it was all right to monkey with the US economy, and changing the debate.
It's not just about winning elections, after all: It's about anchoring the debate, and anchoring the debate helps you ultimately win elections in a couple of ways.
Anchoring the debate means setting the terms of the debate: You anchor a discussion by setting the outlines of it. In negotiating terms, you anchor something by being the first to give a price. If you're going to buy a car, you anchor the discussion by saying "I'll give you $13,000" and that sets the terms of the resulting negotiation.
Republicans get this. They anchor the debate successfully, every time. That's why the debt ceiling debate never got off the ground as far as revenue increases. Because for six months the GOP said Spending cuts, by the time Democrats got around to responding, the best they could do to push back was close some tax loopholes, and 1,470 millionaires got to get away with not paying taxes this year, too.
Republicans anchored the Medicare debate by deciding to eliminate it: when you start out by saying I'm going to kill you, what's the response? Not "no, we should be expanding it", that's for sure -- and Democrats responded in kind by saying "no, let's not kill it, let's just cut it up a lot and wound it pretty good!"
That's the purpose of the Bachmanns and the Palins and the Santorums that FOX news pays to be professional candidates with no hope of winning: They go out and anchor the debate at this extreme way over here and leave Democrats playing catch-up. Michele Bachmann travels around the country talking about how no Death Panel is going to take away our incandescent light bulbs, and the media covers them because what else is there to cover and people keep hearing about how we're going to have to cut spending or cut more spending and pretty soon, the debate has shifted from "Gee whiz, should we maybe tax those billionaires just 3% of their income?" to "There's no possible way we can use any revenues to keep those kids from dying because we're broke."
And we lose -- because the debate has shifted. And it shifts because the Republicans and their Citizens United money have nothing better to do than fly Michele Bachmann around in a private plane ensuring that no reporters take pictures of her in casual clothes and then pay her to be a FOX news correspondent later on.
So dropping the Recall Walker efforts concedes that victory. Republicans had to give-- and spend -- $1,800,000 just to try to keep Darling and Kapanke in office. That's money they don't have to fight ObamaCare or any other fight. That's $1.8 million that won't be used to kill Medicare.
Drop the Recall Walker effort now (Sly, and others) and you let that $1.8 million be used to defeat something else you love, and you let the focus shift away from what terrible things have been done to something else, too. You'll let the media go back to covering Michele Bachmann, and while we might laugh at her, most Americans aren't. They hear the things Republicans say and that starts sinking in as it's repeated over and over and there's no countervailing voice, saying "Wait a minute, 1,470 millionaires paid NO TAXES AT ALL and we're talking about $(*#&#$* light bulbs?"
And worse yet, with nothing to defend against here in Wisconsin, that GOP money goes out and bolsters that message.
So not only did you already achieve something historic, Wisconsin, but you have an obligation to keep fighting, not just to Recall Walker , but to win the debate in the long run. Walker's the not the real prize, after all. Don't lose sight of that. You've got to Recall Walker just like the Giants had to try to keep the Patriots* from going 16-o because they didn't want to just give up and let evil win. But in fighting to Recall Walker (which you must keep doing) also make sure that you don't lose the Super Bowl -- which you'll do simply by trying to Recall Walker.
By keeping the Recall Walker focus now, you keep people paying attention. You keep them remembering that "oh, yeah, the GOP did suck nearly $1 billion out of the schools and give it to Luther Olsen's wife." You keep them remembering that the changes to the state's pension and health care plans were so dramatic that a bunch of circuit court judges resigned and they can't find anyone to fill those seats, so we have fewer district attorneys prosecuting fewer cases in front of fewer judges and are you feeling safer NOW? You keep them remembering every sneaking stinking thing that Patsy and the Hillbillies did over the past 8 months.
And you keep the GOP from setting the terms of the debate and spending all their money lying to people and tricking them into thinking America is about light bulbs and propping up millionaires.
In just 8 months or so, the GOP has managed to reduce public employees to the point where they need food stamps. The GOP has destroyed America's credit rating and lowered our country to the point where Apple has more money than the United States of America. The GOP has damaged our public schools and threatened to take away health care let America be held hostage to nuclear weapons simply to make a point -- and you're about to let them get away with it.
You're going to let them get away with it because you're going to quit -- forgetting that when you fought back, when you filed those recall petitions and went out and campaigned, you got concessions. The GOP wasn't going to approve $89 million in unemployment benefits; they let them sit for four months, starving out workers until the week before the recalls. You think that's coincidence? It's not. The GOP wasn't going to apply for federal grants for health care -- and finally caved and asked for $90 million in our funds to come back to us... just before the recall elections. You think that's coincidence? It's not.
So don't quit now, and don't listen to people who tell you it's not the right time. There's never a bad time to fight. By pushing Recall Walker, you keep the focus on how bad things are and how much better they'll be. You anchor the debate where you want it. You make the GOP use its money to defend Governor Patsy and the Hillbillies instead of using their money to tear apart Medicare and Social Security and the Affordable Care Act.
If you quit now, you let the cheaters win. Don't quit: Go be Giants and show them you can do even better next time.
Or, if you must, be Packers! It's all the same thing. Just keep fighting until you win.