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    Posted August 17, 2011 by
    Madison, Wisconsin

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    Historic Wisconsin Recalls Conclude- Lessons Learned


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     mediaman shares his on-the-ground perspective of the Wisconsin recall efforts of the last few months. 'Democrats can claim the momentum and that their base has been re-energized,' he said. 'Many have protested for the first time in their lives, others have gone to the voting booth for the first time. The passion of middle class rose up to make a difference in Wisconsin. ... These events will always leave a lasting impression with me, as I documented it in images and video. Seeing people do what is right for their futures, their families, and the country is a wonderful thing to witness, particularly when it's done to improve our lives, while having compassion for those less fortunate.'
    - jmsaba, CNN iReport producer

    Wisconsin- Just before the stroke of midnight on August 16, 2011, another chapter of Wisconsin state history was made. Since 1848, there arguably has never been a more tumultuous, popularized political struggle in the state. Never before have there been larger protests, more dollars spent, more tears shed, or more politicians recalled- ever. Without doubt, this was “the season of political discontent,” not only in Wisconsin, but perhaps throughout the entire country.

    What were the lessons learned? With a Republican majority in both the House and Senate in Wisconsin, legislation was rushed through to strip away most collective bargaining rights of public workers. Union and non-union workers protested, the national press covered the issues, and people throughout the U.S. watched intently for the results. Facebook posts and blogs grew in intensity and Twitter feeds were throttled back as comments, tweets, and retweets streamed across the screen at speeds that could barely be read, or for that matter comprehended. In the end, out of nine recalls, the Democrats picked up 2 seats in the Senate, narrowing the GOP majority 17-16.

    But more important than mere majority numbers, is the fact the citizens of Wisconsin became intensely engaged in having their voices heard. Thousands of signatures were gathered to start the recalls and large numbers of people voted in the resulting elections. But perhaps most striking is how citizens were reawakened to vote, maybe for the first time- in an attempt to slow down a political agenda that to some seemed too extreme. The nation watched.

    As the votes were cast, some striking images come to mind. An image of nearly 200,000 protesters gathered at the state capitol in March to have their voices heard.   An image of a family voting together in rural Hamburg Township, Wisconsin, for the first time.  An image of a student, who registered to vote for the very first time- hoping to become an elementary education teacher someday. And an image of this future teacher getting a chance to vote.

    People were engaged in the political process. Yes, it has been a year of historic proportions.  But our most important lesson is that citizens can become engaged on issues that matter. Passionate voices are a powerful thing. And, in the end, perhaps “a family who votes together may in fact stay together.”  A lesson learned indeed.

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