Late last week I was honored to be invited along with other members of the Madison community to share my first thoughts on the Wisconsin election results - win or lose, good or bad - for publication in the Isthmus. We were supposed to write short pieces of 300 words or less, about our thoughts, feelings, or hopes for Wisconsin after the results were in. Late in the night on Tuesday, June 5th, I wrote this:
I’ve always been a person who doesn’t like to trespass but sometimes you just find yourself over the line.” Bob Dylan, “Brownsville Girl.”For those of us who tell stories, there are just too many metaphors about what has happened here, and Dylan’s line is about as good as it gets. Everything in Wisconsin shifted unexpectedly when Walker was elected, and many are left standing in both the same place and in unexpected territory now that he has been re-elected, again.For those of us in business, everything worthwhile is measurable. In all that’s measurable – jobs, consumer confidence, budget revenue and deficits – Walker fails. When we also look honestly at employee attrition, morale, and prospect conversion, his numbers get even worse.Where Walker is successful is where the Left fails: He says the thing that people want to hear. We on the Left seldom do this. Walker creates sound-bites; the Left writes position papers. The average voter won’t read more than a bumper-sticker.As an athlete, I’m not as strong as I am resolute. Everybody I know can beat me for the first three hours – or days – but beyond that they drop off. I just don’t know enough to stop fighting, mostly. I have a tremendous capacity for punishment.In this last sixteen months, we’ve all taken personal and professional damage that is difficult to measure or accept. Tomorrow, we get up again and do the same thing we’ve done every day since Walker was elected: We fight for what is right, and we will not stop until we’ve won.Forward, Wisconsin. Just one more day.
Honestly, I wasn't happy with this effort. The feelings raging in my heart and soul felt bigger than the space allowed, and the ending felt to me like I had dropped a bow onto a train wreck and called the whole mess "pretty."
I had a short, fitful sleep, troubled by dreams about - of all things - Dante's "Inferno." I woke in the morning with the taste of stale wine on my lips, and wrote this:
Emotion is in general a hard thing to measure. We quantify our joys with arms held wide and our bitterness in teeny-tiny cups. (Sometimes it’s the other way around…) Neither metric is as real nor palpable as the raw feelings about Scott Walker’s re-election seem to be this morning.Wednesday-morning quarterbacking of election results is often a mix of bravado and resolve, which together mask Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Still, losing an election is not a purely emotional experience, but – rather – it is an intellectual one as well.Many of us wake this morning not just with our hearts torn out, but also with the thought that the outcome does not match the known facts: Scott Walker has lied to Wisconsin, has divided neighbors and family, and has measurably taken our economy, environment, and education system into a downward spiral. It took a mountain of out-of-state money – over 70% of his record hoard - to keep him in power. The prevailing online joke is that this was not an election as much as it was an auction.So as I try to quantify the immeasurable today – that is, how I feel this morning - I struggle to avoid hyperbole. I woke in the night thinking that politics like what we’re seeing now inspired Dante to write “The Inferno.” Frankly, today my disappointment spills out from the small cup I would put it in. As I count that which can be counted, I note that while there are five stages of grief, there are also nine levels of Hell.Today, I’m not sure which journey we’re undertaking collectively now here in Wisconsin, through grief or down into Hell. But – fortunately, according to Dante and Kübler-Ross – I know that there’s a way through both.
The truth is that it's really difficult to address intelligently Dante's "Inferno" and Kübler-Ross's landmark treatise on grief in less than 1000 words each. I had tried to take on both in about 300. Frankly, I'm just not that smart.
Then, of course, there was all that wine, which - by Wednesday morning - had already proven to be too little: I woke up and Scott Walker was still governor of Wisconsin, after all.
I sent both pieces into the Isthmus and asked them to choose. Here is what they published, thankfully only online:
Scott Walker has lied to Wisconsin, has divided neighbors and family, and has taken our economy, environment and education system into a downward spiral. It took a mountain of out-of-state money to keep him in power. The prevailing online joke is that this was not an election as much as it was an auction.
So in the end, I'm proud and grateful to be among all of the voices who were asked to contribute to the commentary about this historic election. I am prouder still to have stood among the millions in Wisconsin who for the last year and a half have fought so hard against such an overwhelming onslaught of "that ain't right."
For the moment, that's enough.