Another Night on the Canvassing Trail, Another Night of Hope for the Future of Wisconsin
by Ryan Wherley
I received the destination I had been hoping for yesterday when I was sent by my field organizers to the goldmine of anti-Walker sentiment: low-income housing. The individuals and families that live in the apartment complexes on Northport in Madison understand that Scott Walker has come after them with an endless litany of attacks. Walker instituted one-week waiting periods for claimants to receive unemployment insurance while for months heartlessly refusing to accept federal funding for extended unemployment benefits, leaving prior recipients flapping in the breeze of desperate uncertainty. Walker claimed that he wouldn't raise taxes, then immediately instituted cuts to the Homestead and Earned Income Tax credits for people who needed tax credits the most. Walker cut-off state funding to Planned Parenthood and terminated the state's contract with PP for the Wisconsin Well Woman Program, making it far more difficult for thousands of underinsured and uninsured women to receive accessible and affordable reproductive health care, contraception, cancer screenings and overall preventative health care. The legislature in Fitzwalkerstan pushed bills intended to severely lessen tenants' rights, making it easier for landlords to evict, deny the return of security deposits and look into an individual's past history in order to deny housing. Walker's budget included a devastating $1.6 billion dollars in cuts to the public education system, while eliminating the Wisconsin FoodShare program for lawfully present immigrants. Walker signed into law the repeal of the Equal Pay Enforcement Act that protected not only women, but ANY MINORITY who was discriminated against when it came to pay equity. Walker ensured that over 17,000 individuals were kicked off of BadgerCare programs while tens of thousands more are despicably being kept on the waiting list, even though openings exist in the program. And who could forget the appalling attempt to disenfranchise people across the state via the onerous and since-ruled unconstitutional Voter ID law...which would have most greatly affected students, the poor, the elderly, the disabled and minorities.
These are the oft-forgotten members of our society. Their voices need to be heard as much, if not more so, than the middle and upper classes of American society. We always hear politicians nationally and in our own state talk about the right-wing extremists' "War on the Middle Class"...and rightfully so. But we don't hear NEARLY as often about the disgusting attacks that Scott Walker has engaged in on the lower-income individuals of our society. His policies are intended to keep those on the bottom rung of the socioeconomic hierarchy in their present situation permanently. He doesn't care about helping the lower class...he wants to create a permanent lower CASTE. His complete lack of empathy for those individuals whose lives he has ravaged is more apparent with each passing day.
I knocked on well over 150 doors, spoke with somewhere between 60-90 adults and came across ONE...yes, ONE Walker supporter in the bunch. Virtually nobody knew that early voting was taking place at the City/County building in Madison or that Union Cab was offering free rides to and from the polls for ANYONE on Election Day. But they were very eager to vote the Governer [sic] out of office for all of the horrible things he has done to our state and to them in particular. I explained to at least a dozen individuals how to register and received promises from countless others that they would vote early for Tom Barrett and Mahlon Mitchell and remind their friends and family how to vote, as well.
The day renewed my hope for our future generations as long as we keep battling on their behalf. I received friendly waves from little kids all day and night long and gave my "Stand with Wisconsin" Blue Fist button to a polite teenage girl who asked if she could have it, as she proudly pinned it onto her shirt before I'd even left the building. A little boy in the same group who couldn't have been older than 9 years old came up and asked me if I was against Scott Walker. What a fantastic question!! Upon learning that I was, indeed, against Scott Walker, he told me that he wanted to vote and asked how to vote. After I explained that he had to be 18 years old to vote, he furrowed his brow and gave me a pouting sneer. "I want to vote out Scott Walker!!" he whined. I told him that he although he couldn't vote yet, he would be able to someday soon. He worked up a smile and I asked for a high five, which he emphatically delivered before I headed down the steps and back outside.
As the evening drew to a close, I came upon the door of a friendly young man who seemed very receptive to my presence at his door upon seeing my buttons and "One in a Million" t-shirt. After briefly explaining the cause I was promoting, he looked at me despairingly and said, "Unfortunately, I can't vote...I'm a felon." The way in which he said it just caused my heart to sink. However, I considered it my obligation to ask him whether he was "on papers" or "off papers." Stirred by my question, he looked at me and firmly stated, "I'm off." I excitedly informed him that he was MOST-DEFINITELY eligible to vote. "Really?? I thought you had to be off papers for seven years, or something like that!" he replied. Nope, you just have to be off papers, period. A beaming smile now stretched across his face..."I hate Scott Walker!! I'll vote for Barrett...how do I register??" he giddily asked. I broke down the process for him and after learning that all he needed was to take along his electric bill and state ID card, he told me that he would be taking me up on my suggestion to go cast an early vote today at the clerk's office on MLK. "I know where that is. I can't drive, but I can definitely get down there...I don't have anything to do tomorrow!! Oh man, I have other friends who are off papers and didn't know they could vote, either. I can't wait to tell 'em!"
I could barely contain my own excitement at seeing how happy this 24 year old man was upon the realization that he could make his voice heard at the voting booth for the first time and that there were others who he could positively influence to do so, as well. Those that control the system had not gone out of their way to ensure this man knew his right to make a difference through the tenet of "one individual, one vote." I can only imagine how many countless others in Wisconsin have been disenfranchised simply because they have been led to BELIEVE they have lost their right to vote. We shook hands, thanked each other and parted ways, each of us assuredly feeling better about the world than before we had met five minutes earlier. There are so many beautiful moments in this world, but you have to stay alert, keep an open mind and step outside of your comfort zone to find them. If what I experienced yesterday is being played out around the state on a daily basis, we are going to defeat Scott Walker and win this election for the people of Wisconsin on June 5th. Celebrating under the light of the moon on the Capitol steps...what a beautiful night that will be...
|Recall hero Ryan "Wheelsie" Wherley|