Scott Walker has a very busy schedule. I mean schedules. According to a recent report in the Wisconsin State Journal, Walker maintains two separate calendars: One for official state business and one for political campaigning. But given the dizzying pace of Walker’s recall campaign, the line between the two sometimes gets blurry.
For example, on Wednesday Walker held a press conference announcing the rollback of cuts his administration had made earlier in the year to Family Care, a program that helps elderly and disabled people receive in-home care. This would seem to be a clear piece of official state business, but there was something about the announcement that didn’t add up. It stunned legislative Republicans and Democrats alike.
Republican co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee Robin Vos was not pleased with the announcement saying, “Expanding another unsustainable program is irresponsible.” Meanwhile, Democrat Sandy Pasch, member of the Assembly Health Committee said, “I am happy that Gov. Walker finally came to his senses and proposed removing the caps he placed on Family Care.”
Later that evening, the missing piece was revealed: Walker had been ordered to lift the caps by the federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare two weeks ago. So was this a straightforward announcement about a new government initiative or a campaign stunt aimed at currying favor with elderly and disabled voters?
Upon learning about the federal order, Pasch released a statement saying, “This revelation is just another example of how Gov. Walker is clearly more concerned with scoring short-sighted political points than truly helping those in-need. He needs to stop playing political games with the lives of our most vulnerable populations.”
On Thursday Walker jetted off to California to attend a fundraiser in support of his recall campaign hosted by Scott Baugh, Chair of the Republican Party of Orange County. According to Government Accountability Board reports, more than half of the $5.1 million Walker has raised thus far comes from out-of-state donors.
The event was not on his official calendar, but the news circulated around activist networks as soon as it was made public late last week. The trip brings to mind the prank phone call Ian Murphy made to Walker last February disguised as David Koch, and the promise that Murphy as Koch made to Walker:
Murphy: [Laughs] Well, I tell you what, Scott: Once you crush these bastards I'll fly you out to Cali (California) and really show you a good time.
Walker: All right, that would be outstanding. Thanks for all the support in helping us move the cause forward, and we appreciate it, and we're doing it the just and right thing for the right reasons and it's all about getting our freedoms back.
Denizens of Occupy Orange County turned out about eighty people to protest Walker at the fundraiser, but according to one participant, Vern Nelson, “the Scotts moved their little confab to an undisclosed location. This was a last-minute decision, as we could tell when we showed up behind the building, a couple of well-dressed people drove up, a grinning well-dressed man emerged from the building to whisper something to them, and they drove off.”
Nelson interpreted this as a win, saying, “This means we made Scott Walker run away. From us. Sing (to the tune of Brave Sir Robin” from Monty Python’s Holy Grail): “Scott Walker ran away. Walker ran away, away! When MoveOn reared its ugly head, he bravely turned his tail and fled. When Occupy began to shout, the Governor just chickened out…”
Meanwhile back in Madison, protesters were singing their own anti-Walker songs. It was the 250th edition of the Solidarity Sing A-long and to mark the occasion, organizers held a show at the High Noon Saloon featuring the Forward Marching Band, Yid Vicious, VO5 and the Solidarity Singers backed up by the pick-up band, The Learning Curve. The venue was packed with hundreds of joyful, highly energized people.
Thanking Scott Walker for uniting the people of Wisconsin and sparking a grassroots movement has been done so many times by so many people over the past year that it has become nearly void of meaning. But when Chris Reeder, indefatigable leader of the Sing A-long, expressed it on stage Thursday night, it packed an emotional wallop.
That’s because Chris and the several dozen others who sing in the Capitol rotunda every weekday and have done so since last March have forged personal bonds of friendship and solidarity with people from all over the state and all over the world. (See this video made for and sent to Los Indignados occupying the plazas of Spain last sping.)
Marches, rallies and other direct political actions organized by various groups have ebbed and flowed with the course of events this past year, but the noon hour sing in which people gather to express their dissatisfaction with the policies and actions of their government has been an unwavering presence.
The Sing A-long is a creative, defiant and non-violent statement about basic human and constitutional rights and the need for people to hold government accountable to them. This statement and people’s continued willingness to make it has not been accomplished easily. It has been done through verbal and physical attacks by their detractors, as well as through passionate internal disagreements.
The terms “unity” and “grassroots movement” are not just theoretical to this loosely defined, barely organized group of Solidarity Singers. They are deeply felt personal and historical experiences that form the basis of increasingly complex networks of political and social action. That is to say, community. Genuine community in which people begin to realize that collectively we have the capacity to take care of our own and each others’ needs.
So when Chris Reeder thanks Scott Walker, he really means it. And when the folks assembled at the High Noon sang, “Scotty, We’re Coming for You!” they really meant that too.
Rumor has it that well over the required 540,000 signatures have already been gathered to trigger a recall election. But just to make sure, petition drives will continue through January 13, the last day to file with the Government Accountability Board. Recall Walker and Lt. Gov. Kleefisch petition circulators will be amongst the tens of thousands of UW Badgers fans in Pasadena for the Rose Bowl this Monday, highlighting Walker’s cuts to the UW system.
Occupy groups from the region are planning to bring some of their own banners to the Rose Bowl parade. Scott Walker should not be surprised to see his likeness or reference to his political troubles amongst them.
Rebecca Kemble is an Anthropologist who studied decolonization in Kenya. She serves on the Board of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives and as the President of the Dane County TimeBank.