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    Posted June 6, 2012 by
    mediaman
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    Election 2012: Your stories

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    WI Recall - Can the People Be United Again?

     

    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     After 16 months of covering the Wisconsin recall movement through photo essays and stories on iReport, mediaman made one more trek to Madison, Wisconsin, last night to cover the wave of emotions throughout election night. The evening started with hope and a 'highly energized' mood, with teachers rallying in front of the Wisconsin Capitol and later, a group called the Light Brigade held an LED message, which read, 'The people united.' Once the results came in, the mood quickly changed to 'sullen, quiet and deflated,' mediaman said. Now that the recall is over, he isn't sure what will come next. 'Will the recall movement quit or will the people redirect their passion? It is almost like as though a huge air balloon was floating on a blue sky and then it gradually lost all its air and slowly floated to the ground, lifeless and lost.'
    - zdan, CNN iReport producer

    For the past 16 months, Wisconsin has been the epicenter of political drama. Both Republican and Democrat parties went head to head in what many have said is the first true test of the Supreme Court decision of Citizens United, basically giving corporations the right of free speech through financial contributions. But for the state of Wisconsin, the majority of voters chose Governor Walker to lead the state by a 53% to 46% margin. Approximately 1.3 million voting for Walker, and about 1.1 million voting for Barrett. A clear majority for Gov. Walker, but still with a significant number of citizens voting against his policies and strategies. What does this all mean?

    For Walker’s campaign, the message was clear, concise, and disciplined. The GOP political machine was efficient and extremely well-funded. For Tom Barrett, the campaign was long and arduous. It did not start until nearly 1 million recall signatures were collected, and then Barrett had to go through a fast-paced primary. The recall election itself was fast and furious. Barrett’s campaign was at a 7:1 disadvantage in campaign funding. While there were many messages that Democratic voters could relate to, including collective bargaining, women rights, health care, and the on-going John Doe probe, the majority of the electorate disregarded them. For the GOP, the focus was on lower taxes and budget, and less government. In the end, majority of voters chose less taxation, and less public and social services.

    The scene in Madison on June 5th was initially energized and hopeful. The Ed Schultz show was in full force, broadcasting live from the Great Dane right across the Capitol. On the square a group of elementary education teachers stopped to pose for a photo, proudly holding their signs. One teacher said, “I have had this sign with me from the beginning, over a year ago.” Another teacher said, “We have been coming to this from the very start. We are all in special education. We are here because we want to do what’s best for our children.”

    On the Capitol grounds about 1500 people stood in solidarity. The air was filled with excitement. A bagpipe procession of firemen brought roars from the audience, followed by a string of songs by the Solidarity Singers- a group that has been singing nearly every day at the Capitol with anti-Walker and pro-Recall songs. Within an hour it was all over. The exit polling reported by the mainstream media had called the race, while people in Milwaukee were still standing in line. The long road to Recall was over in an instant.

    You could see the pain in their faces. They were tired, dejected, and worn down. This reporter, over the last 16 months has heard countless stories about a friend or family struggling with a medical crisis, teachers feeling vilified, the elderly wondering how they are going to financially survive, and students, asking how they can vote, or have a voice. The stories and photos of the people in Wisconsin will forever leave a mark. In front of the Capitol a group holding LED-lit signs spelling the words, “The People United” assembled, long after the voting results were in. In a sense, those three words pose a question for Wisconsin and the country. How do we move forward, United? For Wisconsin, the majority of the voters have their mandate to move ahead. And what shall become of the other half of Wisconsin? To move forward, both will need to find a way to unite. Without that, Wisconsin will never truly be United.

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