Perhaps it was a sexual-orientation/gender identity anti-discrimination ordinance in the community or in the school district — or both. Maybe it was diversity or inclusion resolution or a ban on conversion therapy or a license for a sexually oriented business or a sex ed course that was far from being abstinence-centered or churches being singled out to be closed down and even drive-in services prohibited while liquor stores and other places of businesses faced no such restrictions.
These things and more have happened as liberals got organized, motivated and mobilized — in particular after Scott Walker became governor and conservatives became the majority party in both the state senate and the assembly. Liberals knew their plans to advance their dangerous agenda at the state level had been derailed.
But one thing liberals never do is quit. When they lose, they don’t go home. They regroup, rethink, get recharged and maybe redirected and come out swinging. When they win, they take advantage of their positions, advance their agenda, and get ready to gain more ground. As a result, since 2011, liberals have gained considerable ground in local government across Wisconsin.
By organizing, motivating and mobilizing, sometimes very quietly but very effectively, they have won elections usually one seat at a time. But that has been enough to make a difference. In some municipalities, they managed to flip boards and councils from conservative to liberal, or they were at least able to make quasi-conservatives uncomfortable enough with accusations of “hateful,” “bigoted,” “unfair,” and more that these elected officials wouldn’t vote against their liberal ideas and policies. We’ve seen this time and again in both small and larger communities statewide.
But as usual, the worm invariably turns. And it seems that this spring, the worm is beginning to turn in Wisconsin. We saw it in the spring election as we looked at the local elections around the state. While true that the more liberal candidate won the race for State Superintendent of Public Instruction, that voting pattern didn’t necessarily translate into the local races on people’s ballots. In fact, liberal incumbents found themselves fairly frequently coming up short a couple of weeks ago.
Wausau School board is a great example. Because of a resignation, this school board had four seats up for grabs this spring. The very liberal school board president was on the ballot, along with a more conservative school board member. The rest of the seven candidates were newcomers. Three of those newcomers ran as trio, giving the voters the message that they were a package deal, in lockstep with each other on the important issues, especially on the issue of in-person instruction.
These three candidates and the conservative incumbent campaigned hard and strategically on that issue — that the schools needed to be opened for in-person instruction. Beyond that, citizens in the community for whom this issue had become very important over the last year, also got organized, motivated and mobilized. They helped the candidates raise money, knocked on doors, made phone calls, and more, with a special focus of making sure people actually voted in this election. When all the votes were in, the three conservative newcomers and the one conservative incumbent all won, sweeping the four seats. The liberal incumbent board president came in tied for last. With this one election, the Wausau School board flipped from conservative to liberal.
Wausau wasn’t the only place; numerous school boards, city councils and town and village boards saw long-time incumbents lose as people at the local level decided it was time to start taking back their communities. In the vernacular, some people are now “woke” and energized in a very positive way right where they live.
We’ve been saying it for years that no level of government impacts our lives more than local government — and it’s 100% true. It’s also true that local government is the level of government where we can have the most impact. When we get organized, motivated and mobilized, really good things can happen right in our own backyards!