On an overcast, rainy Tuesday in 2004, some 1.48 million Wisconsinites trudged to the polls and voted to re-elect George W. Bush president of the United States.
To the state's credit, about 1.49 million other Wisconsinites voted for John Kerry, so the state's 10 electoral votes went to him, even if the election didn't.
I remember thinking on election night just how inconceivable it was to me that someone could vote for a man who led the nation into a war whose rationale was thoroughly debunked.
Americans were getting killed in Iraq due to a poorly supported but greatly hyped allegation that turned out to be flat wrong. And here enough people were apparently OK with that to re-elect the falsehood's cheerleader-in-chief.
Which brings me to the announcement Monday that those collecting signatures to recall Gov. Scott Walker have surpassed the 300,000 mark, giving them more than half the 540,208 they need by Jan. 17 and proving there's a constituency for everything.
I know this and other hyped milestones in the march toward next year's obscenely expensive, special-interest-driven gubernatorial do-over are just part of keeping the recall troops energized.
Nevertheless, it's a rallying cry premised on the power in numbers.
The 300,000 signers — like the tens of thousands who protested at the Capitol in the spring — are meaningful to the anti-Walker crowd largely because they speak to an ingrained psychological reflex that more is better, and popularity denotes worth. Or, in this case, 540,208 people can't be wrong.
So in addition to George W. Bush's vote total in 2004, I thought I'd throw out a few more large numbers, just to test that notion.
• In November 2006, 1,166,571 Wisconsin voters passed an amendment to the state constitution to "protect" marriage, thereby discriminating against couples who've done nothing worse than love and commit themselves to someone of the same sex.
• In November 2010, political novice Ron Johnson, who ran on an anti-government platform, won a U.S. Senate seat with 1,125,999 votes, despite running a company that's taken government money and relied on government to provide health insurance to some of its workers.
• In April, despite having lobbed some decidedly injudicious insults and threats at a fellow justice, Supreme Court Justice David Prosser was re-elected with 752,694 votes.
It's one of those weird ironies of life that majority rule is both a linchpin and a drawback of representative democracy. A man who dragged the country into an unnecessary war got a second term in the White House, and a man who's done nothing worse than employ conservative principles to balance the state budget is facing recall.
It brings to mind another memorable episode from the 2004 election — when in a debate Kerry pointed out the obvious flaw in one of Bush's most vaunted selling points: his "stay-the-course" "certainty" in world affairs.
"It's one thing to be certain," Kerry said, "but you can be certain and be wrong."