Monday, June 11, 2012

Explaining the Failed Recall to My Preteen

Paid for by billionaires and millionaires
My perceptive and compassionate preteen daughter asked me in the wake of the failed recall of Governor Walker, “Why can’t it be like in the movies where the good guys always win?”

This was essentially my reply to her poignant question.

“Well, dear, unlike in the feel-good movies you watch—where  the grassroots efforts of the hard working, less powerful always triumph for a happy ending—in real-life Wisconsin big money can buy the minds of many so the good guys cannot win. 

You see, honey, those endless Walker ads on billboards, industrial-size yard signs, television, the Internet, and the radio—you  know, the ones that often made me angry because of their lies—convinced enough less-informed Wisconsinites to vote against the good guys.

You must learn now that money matters and greatly influences the real world. Our democracy is becoming a plutocracy—a society ruled by the wealthy. The voices of public school teachers and other middle class workers are being drowned out by rich forces who can afford to buy influence and relentless advertising.  This is not what democracy looks like. 

Paid for by out-of-state donors
I explained to you once that our government was formed around the principles of majority rule and minority rights.  The minority rights stuff is no longer true in Walker’s Wisconsin and across much of America. The plutocrats and their propaganda have been able to convince a majority that it is okay for the minority to shoulder the majority of Wisconsin’s woes.

I know you saw me working hard—with thousands of others—protesting, writing, canvassing, marching, and talking with friends and family over this past year. In the movies, such noble efforts usually convince enough people to support the good guys, but these ordinary efforts were outdone in real-life Wisconsin by the extraordinary advertising paid for mostly by very wealthy people and organizations outside of Wisconsin—who do not like unions, public schools, public workers, public educators, and government (that doesn’t directly benefit them).

Here, take a look at this statistical graph from the Washington Post.  Do you see how much more money Walker had in this campaign than Mayor Barrett?  See how Walker and his bad buddies outspent the good guys by twice as much. This means Gov. Walker essentially had twice the advertising as the good side. This would be like your soccer team playing against a team with twice as many players.  Yeah, this would be unfair. Real life is unfair—unlike in the movies.

Do you remember how your mother and I taught you to think critically about advertising? Well, many voting adults have not learned this skill. In the recall election, enough people were convinced by Walker’s bombardment of ads to keep him as governor. You must learn now, kiddo, to not believe everything you see and hear in advertising (and in the movies). We need you and the next generation to think more critically than the adults in power right now. I am sure if more people understood more than what is said in Walker’s advertisements, more of them would have supported our efforts to recall Walker.

You also must understand another valuable difference between movies and real life.  Heartwarming movies always conclude with happily-ever-after finales.  There are no finales in real life.  The reality in this recall election is that no one won this election. We lost. Walker lost. Wisconsin lost.  The resentment, the injustice, and the radical Tea Party agendas continue.  

Wisconsin remains divided.  Your dad’s favorite president, Abraham Lincoln, once said, ‘A house divided against itself will not stand.’  While many soaked up Walker’s PR campaign in the recall, nearly half (46%) of Wisconsinites did not. As long as Walker is in power, Wisconsin will remain spliced.

Dividing our state might give Walker the illusion he has conquered Wisconsin, but he is mistaken. Do not mistake Walker’s might for right. His isHishappily-ever-after moment will not be ever-after. Thousands of passive people became active in this election. This engagement will live on well past this recall show.  Look at yourself, young one. Think of how much you have learned about politics, activism, and government in this past year.  You have grown from this effort. The lessons learned in this loss will live on in you for decades.   

Let us also not forget that the curtain has not dropped on the criminal story I told you about involving Walker and his staffers. They can stall, but not advertise their way out of a criminal investigation.

I have always been straight with you. You must learn that in real life, unlike in the Disney movies, things can get even worse before they get better. I worry where Wisconsin is headed now. Your mom’s and my work climates will be much more demanding in the coming months as we will be doing more, with less, and for less. I worry about the future of public education and my profession in the hands of leaders who are supported by anti-public education groups. The ripple effects of Walker’s bomb will continue to adversely affect our family budget, you and your sisters’ lifestyles, long-term plans we have made, the businesses we frequent, the employees of those businesses, and the families of those employees. Until Wisconsin gets leadership that recognizes we are all on the same team, we’ll continue to add acts to this ongoing tragedy.

Even though I’ve been dissing on movies for the past five minutes, I do not want to squelch your interest in feel-good stories. Heartwarming movies help us dream of a better world and consequently a better Wisconsin. Do not ever lose your youthful desire for a better society. Do not let others portray your hopeful desires as radical. You are such a perceptive young person. Be proud of your powerful sense of justice. Feel free to dream the American dream of a better society that moves all people forward.”

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