On the Eve of the Recall, June 5th, 2012
(a speech given in NYC by a Wisconsinite who loves Wisconsin) – Adam Benedetto
To the people gathered here tonight at Kettle of Fish, to the people of Wisconsin, to the, people who have spent the past year fighting for Labor Unions, for Education and for the most basic tenants of democracy! I address you now in a spirit of hope and of a fellow Badger.
For us in Wisconsin the past year has been a nightmare. We have had our Governor work to destroy worker’s rights and deny Wisconsin’s history in the creation of strong Unions, a 5-day work week and Progressive labor laws. We have had our governor destroy our educational systems and attack teachers as people who are grafting the public system for their own private good. We’ve had a governor attempt to roll back environmental laws for mining corporations and worse than that… he has attacked the collective spirit of responsibility that created laws that protect clean water and precious wildlife. For the past year we have had a governor who intentionally pits Wisconsinite against Wisconsinite in order to promote a corporate agenda that leaves the middle class and the poor without access to quality health care, without access to good education, and without the ability to have Union representation in the eyes of the State. These have been hard times for Wisconsin and Wisconsinites in other places … like here in New York City.
Still, we have clung to the Progressive ideas that have historically equated the word Wisconsin with the word Forward. We have clung to it by taking over the capital in all hours of the night and demanding that the people’s house always be welcome to the public. People were told that it was against the law to protest but they protested. They were told it was against the law to hold signs, but they held signs. They were told it was against the law to sing! But the Solidarity Singers risked arrest and made their voices heard.
Across America people asked themselves; “What are those Wisconsinites defending? Why are they protesting? What is Collective Bargining?” Maybe no one else understood but we Wisconsinites did. And to break our spirits Walker just spent more than 30 million dollars. He thought 30 million dollars is all it would take to make his opponents feel crazy for disagreeing with him. He had a point. When every voice you hear on the radio says you’re crazy, when every television host on Fox News says you’re crazy, when every television ad that can be bought is bought with the intention of making you feel crazy… It takes a Badger Type of Crazy to stand up and say, “Women do deserve equal pay for equal work. I don’t care what anyone says.” And it takes a Badger kind of Crazy to say “Campaigns should not be paid for by Corporate Money and rich people from outside of Wisconsin.” It takes a Badger to say “The role of Government is to contain and restrict the power of wealth, monopolies, trusts, and corporations and to ensure that the The Will of the People Shall be the Law of the Land! The spirit of democracy is not found in the money we circulate but in the common ground we agree upon and the identity we strive to achieve as a people. In Wisconsin we have always prided ourselves on being good stewards of the environment, of helping one another in times of need, and educating ourselves to a degree that we may vote in manner befitting a government that was founded during the Age of the Enlightenment.
It is fitting to ask our selves, in this time of Bought and Paid for Politicians, why it is a blessing to live in the Age of Communication when all that is communicated is fear? They scare us way from voting booths with illegal ID laws, they scare us with the threat of arrest during public protests, they scare us with the thought that we may never win. But today Wisconsin did not act out of fear. We voted. And just a few months back we were told by Obama and the Democratic Party not to attempt the Recall… But we weren’t afraid and we collected thousands and thousands of signatures. And we were told by all of the news outlets and all of the media that we could not change anything… but we did. And we were told that no one who is outspent 30 to 1 can win an election but We, not Barrett, may have done that.
We decided to do something beautiful despite the cynicism that injustice creates. For that I am proud to be a Wisconsinite. I am proud of the people in Wisconsin who woke up every day and went about the business of being Progressive Wisconsinites when everyone told them it was impossible. Our critics said the dream of Fighting Bob La Follette had died… but it hadn’t, that dream simply needed some bravery, some optimism, and some voice. Today, win or lose, I’m proud of Wisconsin and all of you in this room. And though the votes may still be rolling in we are here, together, bound by the principles of fairness and democracy —and of course we are all Packer Fans too and that’s important as well.
I am proud of us for being the people with the courage do something beautiful. If you never attempt something beautiful, if you listen to the cynicism and abandon what you feel in your heart is right, then nothing truthful ever comes to exist. What we’ve done in forcing this Recall is beautiful. We have been on the right side of history and we have done it together, peacefully, and with civic respect for one another. Let’s take pride in being Wisconsinites that future Progressives, all over the world, will look to for inspiration.
Win or lose we will have to fight the same battle in November and every other election going forward. If things don’t go our way this time they will eventually because liberals never lose the big arguments — civil rights, voting rights, unions, gender equality — we never lose because we never give up. On Wisconsin!
Thank you for being here tonight. Thank you for loving Wisconsin. Thank you for tipping your bartenders. Thank you for keeping hope alive.