A padded envelope filled with human feces is a Rorschach test, representing either: a state in democratic revolt against the overreaches of a berserker Republican legislature and governor; a Petri dish for the pushback against corporate ownership of government; or the last doomed charge of organized labor bashing its soft skull against the stone walls of a new era of "it's working" conservative austerity.
Wisconsin has become a place where arguments begin with John Adams' "Facts are stubborn things" and then follow with "The Bible tells us…" It's also a place where a leader who disbands collective bargaining is compared to another generation's leader who gassed millions in an attempt to exterminate a whole people. I have no more energy for you, Wisconsin. You beat me.
Fuck you, union leaders. You park your giant tricked-out Teamsters big-rigs, the ones with Ohio plates, around the capitol during the protests, then you waddle to the podium and accuse the governor of recruiting out-of-state money and being out of touch with the common working man. And now, to support Walker challenger Kathleen Falk, the unions have brought the exact kind of shady, no source money into Wisconsin that those on the left decry when it comes from the Koch bothers.
Fuck you, Kathleen Falk for signing a pledge to the unions in exchange for union endorsements. Ew.
Fuck you in your ego, Mayor Tom Barrett. You lost to Walker once already and this election has nothing to with the quality of the Democratic candidate. Millions of dollars have been spent and polling shows the voter needle has not moved at all. This election will be all about turnout, and both parties could run a bag of human excrement and have about the same chances. Fuck you twice, Barrett, for actually using Walker's public employee union cuts to help balance Milwaukee's budget and then having the giant testicles to run against his union-busting policies.
Fuck you, Michael Best and Co. The law firm took truckloads of taxpayer dollars to operate as a kind of legislative wet-works team for Republicans leadership. The firm has GOP lawmakers sign oaths of secrecy about its work on redistricting. Its final plan was found unconstitutional for (surprise!) disenfranchising Hispanic voters and its activities surrounding the redistricting were blasted by federal judges (appointed by Reagan and Bush). By the way, the firm counts as its partner GOP Chair Reince Priebus. (Coincidentally, fuck you, Priebus.)
Fuck you, Twitter tag #wirecall. I liked it better when I thought you stood for "Wire Call." Those following this tag who are not paid to do so should shoot themselves in the face immediately. Those paid to follow it should get drunk tonight and do it tomorrow morning and claim Castle Doctrine. (Fuck you, new Castle Doctrine law.)
Fuck you, "It's About Freedom." Within the last year, both Wisconsin Teatardublican Senator Ron Johnson and Super Union AFSCME (The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) have used the phrase.
Fuck you, Wisconsin Democrats. Your fundraising website that suggests it will help with the Milwaukee County "John Doe" felony investigation into Scott Walker and staff is actually making matters harder for the attorneys and, obviously, tainting whatever results come of the probe. Good work, geniuses.
Fuck you, Vicki McKenna. You launched into this whole business last year by claiming to have heard about rumors of death threats against Governor Walker which turned out to have been posted by yourself. Fuck your conservative Madison radio talk show that begins "a voice of reason in a city of chaos… where everything is beyond parody." Are you shitting us with that? Why do you even live in Madison then? The recall effort you decry every day is the best thing that ever happened to your career. You are a tapeworm of the communications industry.
Meanwhile, fuck you, Wisconsinites who did actually make death threats against Walker and other senators. Your statements are wildly out of line in terms of what the Republicans did to you. Worse, now Walker is able to go out to the nation on fundraising trips and legitimately say that unions "want me dead. I don’t think that’s an exaggeration." Do you understand that kind of anti-union reputation lands the governor $500,000 checks signed with the donors' own boners?
Fuck you, protesters who have no idea of perspective. Walker is a not a dictator. He is not Hitler. This is not Libya, and it is certainly not Egypt. What the fuck is going on inside your heads?
Fuck you, Waukesha County, You are Wisconsin's Mordor.
Fuck you, neverending drum circle.
Fuck you, Ryun brothers. The sons of the famous Kansas Olympian and senator have remade themselves from second-generation Republican movement insiders to anti-establishment Tea Party agitators. One of the Ryun's, Ned, managed to remake himself from a speechwriter for George W. Bush into a small-government limited-spending Tea Party champion just in time for the Obama administration. The brothers control the group American Majority, which has taken a special interest in swaying Wisconsin politics. To head state operations they've brought in fellow Kansan Matt Batzel to run training seminars to teach grumpy old people how to go into newspaper story comments sections and challenge every comment in an effort to create an environment of doubt. American Majority hides behind its 501c3 tax status while it, and Batzel, more or less campaign for Governor Walker and against President Obama. Red State regularly sees a Ryun byline about how "The Left, the Media and Plans to Destroy Scott Walker."
Fuck you, Brian Sikma. An Indianan who brought his flavor of religious fundamentalism to Wisconsin as the communications director for Media Trackers. And fuck you, Media Trackers, one of many new right wing "news" organizations dedicated to de-legitimizing journalists while also running disinformation campaigns that even Hoover would have balked at. In the last year, Media Trackers has worked hard to slander the recall, cast the "mainstream" media as anti-conservative, and paint all of government as unreliable and biased. For example, the organization reported that members of a judicial commission that had ruled against conservative Supreme Court judge David Prosser in an ethics claim were biased because Trackers had found their names on the Walker recall papers. It was later revealed none of them had, in fact, signed anything. Or, during the debate over voter ID, Media Trackers outed a Milwaukee resident—who happened to live in an apartment owned by a Democratic state senator—as a felon who voted illegally. Turned out it he was eligible to vote. Its scoop on a scandal involving food for votes was revelaed to have no basis. Or how about the guy who bragged about signing the recall 80 times, and was, for a while, Media Trackers' poster child for the corrupt recall process? Turned out, he didn't even sign once. Shocking. (After all the hot air, the recall signature failure rate turned out to be just 3.2 percent, far lower than the rate of 10-15 percent for most recall petitions.)
Then there was Media Trackers' "scoop" that Milwaukee activists were giving underage teenage girls cigarettes to sign recall petitions. The story, which oozed the kind of racism one finds these days from any right-wing news source mentioning Milwaukee, was based on a video in which African-American women signing petitions looked too young to be able to vote. Instead of verifying the women's ages first, Media Trackers published its story under the headline "Occupy Bribes Minors with Cigarettes in Walker Recall?" When it was proven the women were of voting age, the story (under Sikma's byline) was "updated" with a note that information "allegedly shows that the individuals mentioned in the below story are in fact over the age of 18. Media Trackers is still pursuing this story…."
Update: Information allegedly exists that Sikma is not a devil-worshiping rapist of young boys. I am still pursuing this story….
Sikma is one of the Ryun's tentacles in Wisconsin. As late as 2006, Sikma was the Indiana director for Generation Joshua, an arm of the Home School Legal Defense Association that aims to involve young activists (especially home-schooled ones) in American politics with the goal of bringing overtly Christian values to government. Ned Ryun was the director of Generation Joshua. Further, something Sikma doesn't put on his "non-partisan" Media Trackers resume, his previous gig blogging at The Madison Project, another Ryun-led organization that raises money for Republican candidates. Its Twitter bio: "We're conservatives who like to win."
Media Trackers, along with organizations like Wisconsin Reporter and The "free market voice for Wisconsin" MacIver Institute, have all exploded as state sources for information in the last year or so. Before mass use of Facebook and Twitter, these organizations, run bare bones and with a few dollars, had no way of competing with mainstream news sources to reach voters. But now, they play newsroom dress up all while creating doubt about any published report. The result is a news atmosphere that where nothing is true because anything can be. Rumors. Outright lies. Fuck it, they'll print it and then do an update later.
Longstanding, award-winning newspapers are now left to offer "the other side" to these reports. The efforts of these espionage organizations reached its zenith last week when demonstrators actually protested the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel holding signs reading "Don't believe the liberal media." The Sentinel both endorsed Governor Walker and has criticized the recalls. Fuck you, brain-dead protesters.
When Palin said "as goes Wisconsin, so goes America," she was right—but not because of any election results. She was right because of how the media environment and political information flow in Wisconsin has changed to one of misinformation and extreme polarization. Wisconsin's unending media elections year is foreplay for what the nation can expect in the general election. In 2008, the internet played a huge role in the election, but it will be nothing compared to how marginalized major media companies are going to feel by November 2012 when, say, a researched, fact-checked news segment by Scott Pelley is given the same legitimacy as a Media Trackers story written after a passing glance at a 20-second YouTube clip. The disclosure statement on Drew Ryun's Red State columns reads, "I launched Media Trackers in Wisconsin and we’re currently expanding into other states." (I.e., Your state.)
Meanwhile, fuck you, judges who did sign the Walker recall. What the fuck is wrong with you nincompoops? Even The New York Post, 50 percent of whose newsroom doesn't even know where Wisconsin is on a map, took time off from blowing Eli Manning, turning on Jeremy Lin and posting pictures of women in bikinis to write "Cheeseheads in black robes." Twenty-nine Wisconsin judges signed the Walker recall petition, an act that put the final noose around the neck of any perceived scrap of judicial impartiality.
And fuck you in your gavel, Dane County Circuit Judge David Flanagan. Demonstrating a complete lack of what "judgment" means, or any sense of self-awareness, Flanagan signed the recall and then promptly ruled for a temporary injunction against Walker's new Voter ID law. Yes, the law is likely discriminatory and should probably have been shelved for further review. But, for fuck's sake, do you understand how it looks when a judge who signs a recall against the lawmaker who signed the legislation rules against that very legislation? Worst of all, your stupid, stupid actions made news services like Media Trackers right for once, which is all they need to claim total legitimacy.
Speaking of judges, fuck you, Supreme Court Justice David Prosser. After winning reelection in April, you celebrated by
choking "applying pressure around the neck" of female colleague Justice Ann Walsh Bradley. Bradley is not to be confused with Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, whom Prosser promised to "destroy." (At press time, Abrahamson remained undestroyed, though still "a total bitch.") Prosser's defense? "Women, amiright?"
But Prosser's personal animosity toward female counterparts just mirrors the state's current stance toward women, which brings me to:
Fuck you, Wisconsin war on women. Just before the recall election was set, Governor Walker signed a slate of new bills amounting to a giant fuck you to women. Starting with a repeal of the state's Equal Pay Enforcement Act, he then repealed the Wisconsin Healthy Youth Act, which stressed “comprehensive sex education." Walker capped it off with two bills forcing women to undergo a physical exam before any abortion (even those done with a pill) and another that bans health-insurance exchange policies from paying for abortions. A Wisconsin man named Francis Grady celebrated the Republican legislature's achievements by setting off a gasoline bomb in a Green Bay Planned Parenthood clinic and then immediately drunkenly crashing his vehicle in a nearby town. Readers, note: Miss America is currently represented by Miss Wisconsin.
And a fuck you to Republican state senator Glenn Grothman, who in the shadow of the Equal Pay Act repeal opined that "You could argue that money is more important for men." You are a vile thing whose existence and repeated election speaks volumes about a majority of your invertebrate constituents.
Fuck you, journalists that signed the recall. In another pooch screw that made the Post ("Cheeseheads With Press Cards"), it was revealed that over 20 journalists for the Gannett press group in Wisconsin had signed recall petitions. The embarrassing "ethics violation" prompted newspapers across the state to issue “disheartened" letters from the editors, which, as Romenesko points out in true journalistic ethics violation irony, all appear to contain identical passages even though they are under separate bylines. But then, if you were faced with competing for legitimacy with the likes of Media Trackers and Wisconsin Reporter, would you give a journalistic shit anymore either? Fuck it, pass me a recall petition.
Fuck you, solidarity tattoos and t-shirts for sale on State Street.
Fuck you, collective bargaining. The whole reason the protests originally began is now a backburner issue that even the Wisconsin Democratic party admits doesn't move voters. The Democrats' strategy for the recall barely even mentions "union" or "labor." The recall of Walker is a basically a giant poll on red and blue sides, another game with entrenched sides, a bizarre contest in which one side will try and paint the other as weak on job creation even while taking credit for America's improved economic climate. I hate to break it to a lot of people I actually know and like, but there are legitimate arguments to be made against collective bargaining in the case of public sector employees.
Fuck you, Koch brothers. I'm not even sure why anymore, but everyone seems to be sure you are evil so there must be a reason. (Please keep sponsoring "Nova" though!)
Fuck you, Wisconsin Democrat Congressman Ron Kind. If you're going to jump on the Koch-bashing bandwagon—and there's room—probably best your campaign doesn't take $16,000 from them. Christ.
Fuck you, Wisconsin lawns and bumpers. Fuck you for being littered with Walker's name. Stand with him or recall him, I don't give a shit. You are convincing nobody but yourselves and giving all of us indigestion wherever we go. Stop it.
Fuck you, Green Bay Packers, and fuck your dropped passes. You washed out against the Giants and stole from us the one potential chance we had in the last year for a feeling of being a single state again. (Just kidding, you guys are awesome and can never do any wrong, but please, get some of those sticky gloves.)
Fuck you, former two-term Democrat Governor Jim Doyle. You are kind of the George W. Bush of Wisconsin.
Fuck you, Senate Republican Leader Scott Fitzgerald. Facing a recall yourself, the leader of the state senate, and a guy who probably would open your fence to let your dog run away, openly told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that there was "nothing to keep the Republicans from messing around" in reference to how Republicans can vote in the open Democratic primary.
Fuck you, juvenile moral equivalency and meta-analysis. Not everything means something. Not every vandalized lawn sign is proof of organized thuggery. Facebook posts are meaningless. MEANINGLESS. Would everyone shut their fucking opinion-holes for just one goddamn second. You are not an expert on labor history. You are not an expert on deficits. You are not an expert on constitutionality and you are sure as hell not an expert on the long-term environmental impact of iron ore or sand mining. And the vast majority of you are sure as shit not experts on what it's like to be a teacher these days. Just shut the fuck up. If Wisconsinites really are always sucking down a beer or a brat or a block of cheese, then the last year has proven that a lot of residents are not polite or refined enough to chew with a closed goddamn mouth. Christ. Fuck.
Fuck you, recalls. Here is how fucking preposterous this has all become. Last year, after announcing plans to recall Walker after a year in office, activists got to work and recalled many of the Republican state senators who had served at least one year. In return, the Republicans ran fake Democrats against the challengers to force primary recall elections, buying the recalled Republicans more fundraising time. In the run-up to Walker's recall, a supporter of the governor filed his own papers before Democrats could, triggering a special, no-limits fundraising period for Walker. Now, a new batch of Republicans senators (including the majority leader) have been recalled and the GOP is again running fake candidates to force recall primaries. Furthermore, activists are now running fake candidates against Walker to force a Republican primary. In return, the GOP is running a fake Democrat in the Democratic primary for governor. Why? "As an insurance policy," said a GOP spokesman.
One of the candidates running against Walker is a well-known liberal anti-Walker activist who has become a central figure during the capitol protests. Arthur Kohl-Riggs, who was critical of the GOP's scheme to run fake Democrats last summer, insists his tactic is different. Reached for comment, he told me it is a completely different situation, that he is "not running as a Fake Republican" because "I don't consider myself a fake Republican, I want to take the party back to its roots. The Republican party was founded in Wisconsin as a pro labor, abolitionist party and I plan to run on that platform." Fuck you, Arthur Kohl-Riggs.
And now Wisconsin is just going to fucking recall every fucking one. Fuck it. Who can blame Republicans for joining the movement. After a northern Wisconsin Democratic legislator voted against a bill that streamlined mining (fully authored by the company seeking to do the mining), plans were announced for his recall.
But there's more! Republicans are even looking to recall their own. Moderate Republican Senator Dale Schultz, who Democratic recallers ignored last summer on account of his moderate positions, is now under threat of recall from conservatives for his recent vote against a mining bill.
Before Palin changed it, the saying was "As goes Maine, so goes the nation." And there may be something to that at hand. Since Maine Senator Olympia Snowe surprised everyone by announcing her retirement due to an unwillingness to deal with the current divisive political climate, two Wisconsin state senators have announced retirement, one Republican and one Democrat. The Democrat, Senator Jim Holperin, had just won a recall election last summer against lunatic Tea Party candidate Kim Simac.
Fuck you, Scott Walker. Fuck you for becoming a figure of any importance whatsoever. No matter what happens to you, you know down deep you are a patsy half-wit who ran from the disaster of your old county executive position to one in the state where you are now a nationally admired conservative leader. Sorry, pal, but anyone who takes a crank call from a Koch impersonator is not a political mastermind: he's a boob nursing an increasingly large bald spot he hopes others don't see. If you win this election, you win; and if you lose you become a martyr against the unions (and win). Fuck you for having no downside. Go become governor of Colorado where you were born. If Americans For Prosperity won't do it, someone will surely organize a bus.
Finally, fuck myself. Like many Wisconsinites with a personal attachment to the state and (maybe unreal) idealized notions of what it was, I'm at fault for letting all of this get to me. I should be fucking fishing.
For too many Wisconsinites, the last year has cost them a state. Their state. Where compromise was a strength, it is now a weakness and the pushy and profane rule. The dream of "Brats not brats" seems impossible to reclaim. It doesn't even matter who wins because it's likely it will all just start over again. The domain RecallFalk.com was registered January 18, 2012 (not by her campaign), the same day Falk announced her candidacy for Walker's position. RecallTomBarrett.com was taken a month later.
RecallWisconsin.com is also registered. But RecallRecallWisconsin.com is still available. Anyone?
Abe Sauer is the author of the book How to be: North Dakota. He is moving to Shanghai. Seriously. Email him at abesauer @ gmail.com.