Rather than being content to sit back and cry in their beer over the 2016 election losses, some 200 or more activists gathered in Stevens Point on a cool summer weekend to see if they could fashion a way to restore Wisconsin to its former place as a beacon of progressivism.
For the most part, these folks were supporters of Bernie Sanders in the primaries and their enthusiasm and hard grassroots activities helped to propel the Vermont Senator to easily win the Wisconsin primary over Hillary Clinton. Now they gathered to see if there was a way to re-ignite that enthusiasm and to devise strategies that would lead to saving the state from the ravaging disaster that it has become under the regressive leadership of Gov. Scott Walker and an unfairly elected and backward-thinking GOP Legislature.
The gathering was the founding convention of Our Wisconsin Revolution, one of the statewide groups being formed in some 13 states under a loose national umbrella organization, Our Revolution. The national group is seeking to spread the concept that through organizing on progressive issues, sponsoring worthy candidates for offices at all levels and working at the grassroots our governments at all levels can be restored to serve the best interests of all Americans.
Those who showed up came on their own dime, paying for their own gas and overnight lodging and they were serious about getting things done – not merely getting together in a feel-good session of speechifying and in lamenting over how others screwed-up the 2016 election. To be sure, there were occasional references to the failure of Candidate Clinton to pay attention to Wisconsin voters and the general failure of the Democratic Party; yet, most were happy to lay that aside as ancient history and concentrate on deciding “what do we do now?”
And work they did, convening in the early afternoon of Friday, continuing through a working supper and ending after nine o’clock, with the whole effort beginning again Saturday and ending about four o’clock. First, of course, came the frustrating but necessary business of approving by-laws. The convention almost got bogged down on nit-picking detail, but thanks to strong leadership, the effort was completed with only minimal delay and with apparent unanimous harmony.
Secondly, came the approval of a platform, a chore that found virtually every progressive goodie being added to an already long list of desires. Hardly a liberal dream was forgotten! Thanks again goes to the planners for setting up a tight agenda that forced the chair to call a halt to the process. There are just so many ornaments to put on a Christmas tree before the branches sag and the tree collapses. Not every liberal idea will get enacted, of course, but the platform does give guidance to choosing candidates and stimulating volunteers and donors. The platform was given tentative approval.
Then came the hardwork: devising strategies and action that will bring progressive governance back to Wisconsin.
The planning committee is also to be commended for what appears to be a highly workable and possibly successful structure that calls for development of committees in each of the eight Wisconsin congressional districts; the committees will be charged with organizing voter registration and education campaigns as well as encouraging progressive individuals to run for political office at all levels. To be successful, each CD group will have to recruit activists who are willing to put in time and effort to work door-to-door campaigns, staff phone banks, run forums and do all the grunt work necessary to win elections.
Decisions will have to be made as to what candidates to support at each level; while most hope the endorsed candidates will run as Democrats, the group is open to Third Party and independent candidates.
Some encouraging signs from the Stevens Point conclave came in the diversity in ages among the participants with a goodly number of gray and balding heads among the fresh faces of the young, including an articulate, poised 18-year-old who ran (unsuccessfully) for one of the seven at-large board seats. While there was a heavy concentration of folks from Madison, all parts of the state had significant representation. Few of the participants seemed to be doctrinaire ideologues; rather they were looking to the practical goal of winning elections with truly progressive candidates.
There were some discouraging notes, however. Our Wisconsin Revolution will have to guard against being tagged as a bunch of elitist intellectuals, which will turn off the underpaid working people of the state, many of whom switched to Trump in 2016. There were too few persons of color among the group, nor were there many representatives of organized labor, both of which will be needed to form an effective effort.
Nonetheless, the founding convention was largely successful in building the framework for what could be the beginning of the end of the shameful Scott Walker-GOP control of Wisconsin. Chosen as interim co-leaders were Terrance Warthen, an African-American from the 1st Congressional District, and Sarah Lloyd, who farms in Columbia County and was candidate for 6th District Congressperson in 2016. Both showed leadership and energy during the conference and seem well-suited to provide early leadership for Our Wisconsin Revolution.
Success for the goals of Our Wisconsin Revolution rests upon whether it can stir up interest in enough persons who will be willing to roll up their sleeves to work for progressive change in Wisconsin. That’s the big “IF.”
If you’re so inclined, why not join in the cause? Check it out here and then run – don’t walk – to the next OWR meeting in your area. – Ken Germanson, June 26, 2017.