I printed out my ticket. I cleaned up a bit and even raised my clothing game to business casual. Then I drove across Waukesha Monday to the Scott Walker campaign announcement extravaganza at the county fairgrounds. What happened once I made it to the first entrance and handed the ticket to a smiling young woman is both appalling and entirely predictable.
The flow of people from the parking lot brought me to the entrance, a temporary shade tent where attendees were channeled by tables through three lines. The friendly woman scanned the code on my printout, said okay as it beeped recognition, and then called me back as she looked at the hand-held gizmo's screen. It's been rejected, she said in a surprised tone.
Then she pointed me to the far row of tables to talk to another aide there. The young red-headed man named Nathan started punching at his pad and looking at the ticket. He wasn't resolving the rejection right away, asked for me email and then said this with his eyes on the pad: "Oh, did you sign the recall?"
"Yes," I said. "Oh, that's it then" he replied.
Others who had been behind me continued to pass through to the main building. Nathan, a cool cat for being in his early twenties, told me I could watch the proceedings from the overflow tent with the people who had no ticket or who got to the event later than me. I pushed him and then he would not make explicit that the rejection was given to any and all petition signers.
As I say, my rejection is predictable. A similar, but funnier, denial happened to Democratic state assembly member Mandela Barnes. The careful managing of a TV bite's backdrop is par for the campaign course.
I have gone to other events in the Waukesha area and seen Walker at least three other times, even chatted with his sons at a rope line once about Wauwatosa East High sports at the Country Springs Hotel. I am a former reporter and news junkie and would attend any event in my neighborhood that garners national attention. Since my neighborhood is Waukesha, though, these events tend to all be Republican deals. However, I am not surprised I did not get in to this Walker announcement Monday because now Scott is in the big time and the place was bristling with police and handlers.
Not a huge deal, then, but I bring it up anyway because it is a good reminder, on the occasion of Walker's official entrance into the presidential race, about some of the core weaselisms of a sadly craven man.
For one, Walker's protective bubble Monday reminds us that Walker never interacts with his constituents the way that many past governors did or as did former and future Senator Russ Feingold in visits to every county of the state. Walker, for example, was in Waukesha on Sunday too, but safe inside the guarded walls of the Valveworks USA factory, to sign the state budget.
His campaign is now relentlessly humping the sound nibble that Walker is a fighter. Walker makes much of this fable that he "stood up" to protestors in 2011. I was at those protests among what seemed like a lot of polite female school teachers and never saw Walker standing up to anybody. He hid in tunnels from those scary schoolmarms, spread lies about the damage done by blue tape on walls and addressed the state only in the call-screener protected airwaves of AM radio.
So much for this "spine of steel" that Robin Vos and others speak of today.
My experience Monday also reminds us about the recall petition on-line data base. The state's GOP
was claiming in the Spring of 2012 that the petitions were riddled with fraud and needed a database to verify the names. As is typical, party elites played their supporters for saps by compelling dozens if not hundreds of outraged right-wing volunteers to do the menial work of entering the mountains of petition papers into their database.
Turns out, there was no widespread fraud and the GOP knew it. Journal Sentinel reporter Craig Gilbert only long after the recall elections were over (and even after his paper published its own on-line database) wrote in passing what by then we'd come to find out through appalling experiences: the actual reason for the on-line database was that it's a handy tool to intimidate political enemies of the GOP. Mark Belling has said the same thing on his radio show.
The misuse of the database has shown Walker at his most vindictive and big-brothery. Remember the case of UW-Platteville student Joshua Inglett whose nomination as a student member of the Board of Regents was pulled in 2013 when the database revealed that he had signed the petition?
People in line with me were shocked when they overheard I had also done this terrible thing of signing the petition. A mousy man in front of me turned and asked why I did it. I just said because I am not as dumb as I look.
My drive across town on Monday was not a complete loss, I'm happy to say. I left the fairgrounds and joined the protesters relegated to the ditch between the grounds' chain link fence and Northview Road. I most enjoyed talking in Spanish with a Mexican immigrant named Marta working for the advocacy group Voces de la Frontera. Marta urged me to think positive when it comes to the United States and its future. She said more people will surely become educated over time and change their views toward immigrants and other problems we face.
Marta, I should have said but didn't, it was because of my fears for the future of education and its redemptive powers that my name is on that database in the first place.