As I battled a hangover and tried to make sense of what happened Tuesday night, I started to worry less about Governor Deadeyes and more about what really might be happening here.I argued about this time last year that if the Dems were going to come for the king, they’d best not miss.
And boy, did we miss…
The numbers revealed that even with massive turnout and massive outrage about Walker’s tactics, the election was no different than it was in 2010. In fact, Tom Barrett lost by a wider percentage this time than he did last time.
The people “in the know” saw this coming. About three months ago, I found myself talking to a pretty sharp political reporter who told me that, unless Russ Feingold or Herb Kohl decided to run, Walker would win this thing pretty easily. On the plus side, he noted that Walker would probably lose in 2014.
The scary thought that wandered into my mind last night was this: What if Walker was just the precipitating factor for the anger and hatred Wisconsinites always had toward each other?
In chemistry, a precipitate is a solid that’s suspended in a liquid and can’t be seen until another variable is introduced. At that point, this precipitating factor interacts with the mixture and the solid becomes visible. The idea is that the solid was always there, but it took this new variable to get it to show itself.
Scott Walker is just one person, but he’s one of the more than 1.3 million people who decided that state workers were overpaid, unions shouldn’t get to bargain and that “the spoiled few” needed a spanking.
Those 1.3 million people interact with public employees every day. They see them painting lines on the streets, putting out fires, running state offices and teaching their children. They saw the John Doe investigation building steam. They saw number crunching of jobs that would make a three-card monte dealer blush.
Those 1.3 million said, “Fuck ‘em… Don’t care… And We’re standing with Walker.”
I’m not ascribing this sentiment to money (I still favor spending limits), the individuals running (although Tom Barrett’s next gubernatorial campaign should be run by the Washington Generals) or the general lying (anyone who can be persuaded by a political ad these days is probably too dumb to find a voting booth).
Unless you’re the Jewish son of a carpenter who can change water to wine, there’s no way you’re getting that many people on board for an idea they didn’t already have percolating in their heads.
It frightens me that the people back in my old neighborhood might have always resented my mom for her benefits and state salary.
It worries me that the parents who attended our city school’s carnival and open house with me might have been bitter toward the people who taught their kids.
It hurts me to think that friends and family who have shared barbecues, birthday parties and baptisms might have looked at me and seen a “have” when I was struggling with the same things they were.
Wisconsin has always prided itself as being a purple state, but I don’t think that’s a fair assessment any more. In my view, purple would indicate that we could think some Republican ideas on finances are fine, but some Democratic ideas on social protections are good too. Purple would mean that we could fluctuate between good arguments that make sense, regardless of who was making them.
In this election, polls indicated that 91 percent of the people voting made up their mind on this issue months ago (or longer). The contrasts between who was voting which way created sharp divides.
We weren’t a blended purple. We were oil and water. Shake us up as hard as you want, but we will eventually separate out along a clearly demarcated line.
Barrett and others have now made the mealy-mouthed call for healing, but can we really “unlearn” something like this about our fellow citizens? It’s like finding out your grandfather is a raging racist only after you bring a black friend home from college at Thanksgiving. Can you ever really look at him as the guy who took you fishing and used to find a quarter behind your ear after that?
Healing from a major wound almost always leaves a scar. That scar serves as a reminder of what happened to you.
When you see that scar, you remember who inflicted it upon you as well.
And then a different kind of hurt prevails.