A Cinderella Story for America
The Presidential election cycle has erupted into the perfect storm of political attacks, dueling slurs, and debates and speeches that suggest that the only means to rise up is to pull opponents down, and climb to victory on the spoils. Some of the first outbreaks of this perfect storm of attack and climb, struck the State of Wisconsin in the 2010 election that produced Scott Walker, Jeff and Scott Fitzgerald, while Ron Johnson climbed to power over the debased reputation of Russ Feingold as he was slurred beyond recognition by a litany of attack ads. When the dust had settled, Walker was Governor and the Fitzgerald Brothers held the top seats of power in the state. The first reaction of the victims of the storm was to come out from shelters, survey the damage, and admit that they had not been prepared, they had not been vigilant, they were asleep. Only in retrospect, after a year of protest and activism, did the truth arise. They had not been asleep. They had been fooled. They had been hoodwinked.
The storm was not the work of nature, but the orchestration of clouds seeded with the money of extreme right wing forces like the Koch Brothers, Americans for Prosperity, the Bradley Foundation and a national secret consortium, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that actually wrote much of the legislation that would be rammed through the Wisconsin legislature over the next year in the form of the budget repair, voter ID, and even the boundaries that declare the districts where people vote!
At the same time, the low pressure system that moved through the Milwaukee County Executive’s Office forced the ethics of running for office off the map. After 20 months of the John Doe investigation, we learn that the closest aides and appointees of then County Executive Scott Walker, like Timothy Russel and Kelly Rindflisch, broke the law to make him Governor. They were finally indicted for steeling money from the families of fallen veterans, and running a secret email network for fund raising activities for Scott Walker, right under his nose.
The silver lining
Yes, behind every cloud there is a silver lining. Often, the best of fortunes arise out of the mystic coincidence of chance, luck, or the will of a higher angel. Just such a twist of fate appeared as a rainbow in the aftermath of political perfect storm. This stuff cannot be made up. It is not the result of an orchestrated strategy evolved from the political agenda of a think tank, or Americans for Prosperity, the McIver Institute or even the Democratic Party. The intervention of coincidence cannot be bought or sold, nor can it be predicted or devised. It just happens as it did in Wisconsin, and to add irony to coincidence, it came in the name of an instrument that offers true direction: a compass.
Little did the Democratic party know that the woman who walked into the office to seek support to circulate petitions to trigger a recall election for Scott Fitzgerald. would be the very woman who would announce her candidacy for his office in just a few weeks. After all, she was just an ordinary citizen, a photographer from Fort Atkinson. Lori was told that the war chest for the recall effort was stretched thin, and that funds and manpower could only be allocated to those districts where the sitting legislator was most vulnerable, and Scott Fitzgerald was not one of them. Senator Fitzgerald was a veteran from a strong Republican district, and it was unlikely that enough signatures could be collected to trigger a recall. So, Lori Compas, like the instrument of her namesake, took a bold direction forward. Against all odds, and the advice of paid political operatives, she set up her living room as the office to recall Senator Scott Fitzgerald.
Lori Campas, chair of the Committee to Recall Scott Fitzgerald, announced Friday, Jan. 13, 2012, that petition circulators have collected enough signatures to recall the Senate majority leader.
This IS what Democracy look like
So it was. Right in the middle of the one of the most negative presidential primary seasons in history and at a time when Wisconsin is caught in one of the most divisive climates in recent times, a moment arrives to be celebrated. One woman expresses and unites the determination of many to accomplish the impossible through a good, old fashioned grass roots effort to prove all of the money, strategy, and crony confabulation is nothing. It is nothing at all compared to the voice of common, ordinary people exercising their will under the constitution.
This is one of the most important political events in recent memory and should be shouted from the mountain top to demonstrate that Democracy and politics do not need to be about money, or party, or secret email networks, or negative advertising, or any of the methods most politicians have come to expect. Lori gave us a “compass” to remind us of the true way forward. Be kind, be honest, work hard, and trust in those you love.