A protester holds a sign equating Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak during a demonstration at the Wisconsin Capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin, February 16, 2011. (Photo: Narayan Mahon / The New York Times)
Thank you, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, for waking a sleeping giant.
Thank you for the awesomely uplifted spirits of Wisconsinites from Superior to Kenosha and Eagle River to Platteville, who trekked to the state capital to defy your union-busting grab.
Thank you for the caravans from North Carolina and New Jersey and Utah who came to a small city in the Snowbelt to join the cause. They know this is not Wisconsin's fight alone. They know that in fifty states, we all are targets of a nasty national conspiracy to destroy unions and the middle-class society unions have built.
Thank you for those whose signs proclaim, "Former Republican."
Gov. Walker, when you concocted a fake budget crisis to have an excuse to rush a union-busting bill through the Legislature, you showed yourself to be as deaf as the Hosni Mubarak so many signs have compared you to.
I've never felt so rejuvenated as when marching with thousands on cold evenings in Wauwatosa and Menomonee Falls shouting, "This is what democracy looks like." It evoked my memories of long-ago marches for civil rights at home and peace in Vietnam.
My favorite chant, from among the hundreds, came from the dozen high school girls, all smiles and arm-in-arm, who transformed a classic Friday night football cheer into a chorus of solidarity:
"Everywhere we go-o-o-o, people want to know-ow-ow
Who-o-o-o we ar-r-r-r-r-e, a-a-a-a-nd we tell them,
We are stu-u-u-u-dents, mighty mighty stu-u-u-dents.
FOR OUR TEACHERS, FOR THEIR UNION!!"
It's a passionate time to be a friend of democracy in Wisconsin. It's also a sobering time.
We know we may lose this battle. We know sometime the Wisconsin Fourteen - the Democratic state senators who crossed to Illinois to keep the Senate from having a quorum - will return.
We know Gov. Walker, with majorities in both houses of the Legislature, may have the votes to pass his bill, which would strip public employee unions of everything except the right to bargain wages so long as their demand does not exceed the consumer price index.
But only the opportunists see politics as a short-term game. And whether we win or lose this battle, Gov. Walker, you've created battalions of warriors for the war ahead.
You've given birth to a new generation of politically aware young people. You gave us oldsters a refreshing jolt of energy.
You've split America into two camps that are so clearly defined there can be no ambiguity. Either you're with the two-percenters—those who have the most wealth or those who dream of someday having it for themselves. Or you're with the 98 percent whose dream is simply to have a quality job, a quality life and a true voice in their own destiny.
Thank you, Governor Walker. Time to hit the streets again.
Jack Norman is a long-time writer and reporter who now works for the Institute for Wisconsin's Future. He helped to organize the Guild unit at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.