This is not what democracy looks like... this is what tyranny looks like. It's time to officially retire the now irritatingly false chant and begin the next phase of our battle here in Wisconsin.
Where do we go from here? Obviously our primary focus should be on this summer's recall elections. The recalls are basically the last electoral option that remains. It would be foolish to not put forth an extraordinary effort to reclaim the state Senate.
But at the same time there are a few elephants in the room that should be acknowledged. The biggest one for me is the unaddressed problem of our opaque electoral process. It's as if everyone, including most of the local media, just ignored what happened in Waukesha and other counties around the state.
How is Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus still in her office, and why is she allowed to use her own unique software for tabulating votes? Why hasn't the Government Accountability Board done any sort of investigation into the many problems exposed during the recount? Many people feel that the entire process is corrupt, as the machines we use to count our votes are easily hackable. There should be a clear bipartisan push for hand-counted paper ballots, along with other necessary reforms to restore trust in the system and make it less prone to tampering.
Election fraud isn't a conspiracy theory, but a fact. Ideally an investigation into this should have happened after the Supreme Court recount, but there's just not enough time to do so now. Once the summer recalls are over, there needs to be a strong movement for real reform, so that trust can be restored in the system. It's in the interest of all parties involved and anyone who believes in democracy.
Voter fraud, on the other hand, is a conspiracy theory, and the recently passed voter suppression law, also known as voter ID, is something we all need to be thinking about for next year's elections. It's going to take a massive effort to educate people about the new rules, especially in the poor and rural areas of the state that will be affected the most. We often forget that there are large parts of the state that don't have ready access to the Internet and its wealth of information.
So we need an offline informational movement about the new voting rules, and we need to be sure everyone is aware of the consequences of Gov. Scott Walker's budget and policies. Sometimes it's easy to get lost in the Madison bubble and forget that much of the state does not feel as directly targeted by Walker's real agenda of austerity for thee, not me.
But all of what I've written above is based on the naive notion that we're still actually living in a democracy. It's becoming painfully clear that we're a long way from the Wisconsin we all grew up in.
When the Supreme Court ruled on collective bargaining, I was at the Capitol most of the day with my friends and family. Throughout the course of the day I encountered people from France, Bulgaria and England who shared their views with me.
None of them could understand why there weren't more people in the streets, as this was the peak moment in the protest movement, rather than what was going on in February and March. All of them were amazed that only a few people were talking about striking or shutting the Capitol down. And each of them understood that what was happening here was not normal for a functioning democracy.
I explained that many people were in a state of shock, denial or ignorance as to what was really going on. I've spoken with numerous people in the past couple of weeks who keep saying everything that's happening just feels so surreal. I also said that people were tired of protesting and were instead focusing their energy on the recalls. After personally witnessing police brutality in the Capitol on June 6, it made me realize that there is no way we're going to win this simply through protesting and recalls. More direct, nonviolent actions by masses of people are needed.
Wisconsin politics currently feels like a basketball game where we keep waiting for the refs to give us the calls on the touch fouls, while the other team is winning by playing dirty and aggressive. To top it all off, the officials have been bribed so the regular rules don't apply. It's time to step up our game and play hard, or go home.
The time is now to begin the process of educating the public and building the momentum for a possible general strike in order to remove Walker and his confederates from office. Having lived in France for several years, I'm familiar with strikes and massive protests. There's a right time and place for a well-organized strike, and it's the most powerful weapon we have left. They can bring governments to their knees and force a necessary regime change to save our state before it's too late.
In a battle that has no rules, where laws are arbitrary and the Supreme Court is corrupt and dysfunctional, we've been playing far too nice thus far. But for a plan to work, it has to involve more than just public sector workers; a large portion of the private sector must be involved, and it will take time and organization for that to happen.
I say let's focus on the recalls while preparing for what to do afterwards. It's up to the people of Wisconsin to stop the tyranny that's been thrust upon us. We're at the front lines in the battle against the plutocracy we're now living in.
We have a unique opportunity to take all the momentum of the past few months and build it into a new progressive movement. Something massive has commenced -- people are really paying attention to what's going on, not only in Wisconsin, but around America and throughout the world.
We may lose a few battles, but if we are defeated, the whole country will go down with us. We may disagree on tactics from time to time, but it's crucial to remember that we all are fighting for the same goals. If we're united in our fight we will not be defeated. Wisconsin could once again be the state that leads the country Forward.