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Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins Headshot

Wisconsin and America's Identity Crisis

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Today, in Wisconsin and all across America, folks are feeling frustrated and disheartened. It's hard to know that even after delivering blow after blow to working families, Governor Scott Walker will remain in office.

But we need to remember something: Last night's recall vote wasn't the finish line. It was the beginning. Nearly one million people signed the petition to recall the governor -- a staggering number.

The thousands of volunteers who fought back against Walker's attacks included people who'd never volunteered for a campaign. People who never thought they'd get involved. They found themselves phone banking, collecting signatures, and knocking on doors. Because what's happening hits home in a way it never has before.

Scott Walker hasn't just waged a war on worker's rights; he's waged a war on environmental protections. During his term, enforcement of basic state laws protecting water and air has ground nearly to a halt. He appears to be doing everything he can to choke the state's emerging wind energy industry. Municipal clean water standards have been gutted. He's even tried to dry up funds for recycling programs. The thing is, sectors like water infrastructure, wind energy, and recycling do more than protect the environment. They put people to work.

By rolling back environmental safeguards and stifling green industry, Walker has delivered a one-two punch to his state's residents.

Families in Wisconsin, like families all over America, are feeling the pinch of the shrinking middle class and growing economic disparity. They're feeling it as they try to make rent with a paycheck that gets smaller every day. They're feeling it as they face longer workdays and fewer benefits. They're feeling it as they watch their neighbor or friend wake up to another day without a job to go to. They're feeling it as they watch their grandchild struggle to breathe in polluted air.

It's no accident that attacks on working families and attacks on the environment are coming from the same place. And it's not likely that we will move on and simply forget about Wisconsin. I think we'll look back months and years from now and see what happened in Wisconsin as an early symptom of America's identity crisis.

There's a struggle going on here, and it's not isolated to the Badger State. We may not be reading headlines about it yet, but in every state in America, a similar fight is brewing -- the fight over just exactly what kind of country we want to be.

Are we going to be a country that balances its budget on the backs of struggling families? Gives handouts to the world's richest oil companies, while stripping benefits for teachers and firefighters? Are we going to be a country that puts polluter profits above protecting our kids from asthma? Will we be a country that grants basic rights -- including the right to marry the person you love -- to all of our citizens, or only to a powerful few?

Let's not be fooled into thinking that the mobilization we saw in Wisconsin was an accident or a sideshow. Let's not think for a minute that last night's vote was an answer to the fundamental questions we face about where America is going and who we want to become.

We're in the fight of our lives. And the outcome could not be more important -- it will determine whether or not our children have the chance to live healthy, peaceful, productive lives. Whether America prospers, or falls behind. This struggle isn't going away, it's getting fiercer, and it will continue into November and beyond.

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