Democrats are riding the "blue wave."
In January, now-Sen. Patty Schachtner — a Democrat — won a special election by 10 percentage points in the 10th Senate District, a district Donald Trump won in 2016 by 18 percentage points. Some called the victory a canary in the coal mine for Republicans in November.
During the weeks thereafter, we saw Republicans in an uncharacteristic panic. Gov. Scott Walker and Wisconsin Republicans introduced a number of bills attacking public benefit recipients — resorting back to the tried and true method of conquering by dividing and sowing resentment — and even stooping so low as to effectively hand out $100 checks per child just before Election Day.
Then, undoubtedly concerned about the prospect of a repeat 10th Senate District performance, Walker and Republicans were brazen enough to try to refuse to hold special elections for two legislative seats that had been vacant since December, leaving thousands of Wisconsinites without representation in the Legislature for months. What’s more, rather than complying with Wisconsin statutes and a court order both requiring them to schedule the special elections in the 1st Senate District and the 42nd Assembly District, Walker and Republicans attempted to ram through last-minute, sweeping changes to special elections laws removing the requirement that vacant seats be filled promptly and potentially allowing yearlong vacancies in legislative seats.
Public outcry and the threat of being held in contempt ultimately forced Walker to call for special elections in both the 1st Senate District and the 42nd Assembly District. Less than a week later, we dealt yet another blow to Walker and Republicans when a Democrat-endorsed candidate won an open seat for the Wisconsin Supreme Court for the first time since 1995 and we staved off Republicans’ attempt at eliminating the state treasurer. And just this week, we received the stunning news that Speaker Paul Ryan will not seek re-election.
Yes, Democrats are riding the blue wave. For the first time in months (perhaps even years for some), we’re inspired. We’re energized. And in Wisconsin, where victories have been few and far between and we’ve spent years on defense, we’re not just fighting against something; we finally have something to fight for.
We deserve to be optimistic. We deserve to feel hope. But we must also take caution against complacency.
If anything, Democrats’ recent string of victories means the other side will dig in. Desperation is a powerful motivator, and Republicans are already gearing up to work hard, spend more, and do anything they can to maintain their comfortable majority.
Our recent victories are a powerful reminder that we don't just get a democracy; we choose to make it every day.
The blue wave alone will not be enough to win back our state. We still have to do the work. We still have to show up.
As I’m writing this, there are 209 days until the November election, and there are 209 days’ worth of work to be done. Find a candidate you believe in, stuff envelopes for them, knock doors for them, make phone calls for them, and contribute to their campaign, if you can.
We can’t coast on the blue wave into November. We still have to spend each day putting in the work.
Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, is a member of the Wisconsin Assembly.
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