On Doing the Right Thing

It’s taken me a couple of days to collect my thoughts about the recent local elections, and I think I’m now in a clear-headed enough place to jot a few things down.

I think the core of my politics has stayed largely the same since reaching adulthood. But over time I’ve learned to connect politics to a deeper sense of morality.

Notions of right and wrong can certainly be subjective but, in politics, the moral stance is usually quite obvious, even if one chooses not to acknowledge it, in my opinion.

In the D8 race, one candidacy prioritized issues of social justice, workers’ rights and others important to those struggling in our community; the other talked a lot about economic development and issues of student safety. One candidacy had the support of Progressive Dane, labor unions, community leaders and activists; the other had the support of the College Democrats, College Republicans and campus media. One candidacy counted students of color as part of its core base of support; the other relied on a very homogenous group of students to achieve victory. One candidacy did its best to tap into the spirit of resistance awoken by the great protests in this state; the other maintained a very firm line on prioritizing the traditional ‘student issues.’

I can’t really say what is in the mind and heart of my onetime opponent, Scott Resnick, but the issues, tone and supporters of his campaign indicate a complete ambivalence regarding marginalized people in Madison. As for us, the motivation for our candidacy can be summed up in the answer we always gave: To make a difference in the community.

One of the many funny moments during the day-long battle for votes at Gordon Commons came after a particularly heated exchange, when one of Scott’s volunteers began harassing a member of our campaign team. It got rather ugly, if hilarious, for about a minute. After this unfortunate incident, I turned to Scott and said, “I really do like you personally, but some of the people supporting you are just pure evil.”

“I know,” he said. “I know. I wouldn’t disagree.”

It was a startling thing to admit, although I guess a candidate can’t exactly choose all of his supporters. But then it occurred to me that I had nothing but positive things to say about every individual and organization which supported, volunteered and contributed to our campaign. Indeed, I was very humbled during the entirety of this race to be embraced by the agents of progressive change in this city. I’m truly sorry for Scott that he didn’t feel the same way about his own people.

Unrepentant progressive candidacies, as our was, tend to annoy a lot of professional pundits, as many of my PD friends know firsthand. But going into this race, I knew that we would face not an insignificant amount of criticism, lies, distortion and, at times, utter hatred. This was understood from the beginning, even if unfair and ad hominem attacks can sometimes be hard to take. Regardless, I am very proud of the fact that, unlike the other side, we always took the high road, ignored the personal and absurd attacks and only focused on the reasons for which we were running.

And again, I think our reasons were the right ones. I am also very proud of the fact that we never watered down our message and maintained an “unabashedly progressive” stance in everything that we did. Doing so doesn’t win one powerful friends, but not doing so would have made our candidacy completely meaningless and not worth anyone’s time.

Ultimately, it’s hard to say what we could or should have done differently. The media bias was inevitable (although probably not a decisive, or even important, factor), the College Republican/Democrat forces are a tough thing to overcome and the unexpected, massive turnout completely changed the landscape of the election. Ultimately, it’s worth pointing out two things:

  • In the dorms, which essentially comprise two wards, or half of the district, it basically ended up a tie – we lost by 38 votes at the Witte/Sellery ward (Gordon Commons) and won by 1 vote at the Lakeshore/Chadbourne ward (Union). Scott’s margin of victory came from Langdon and the Spring Street area, both of which have large, locked buildings and inaccurate information on the voter file – meaning many people from these parts of the district were never directly reached by either campaign. For whatever reason, areas where universal direct contact was difficult or impossible were areas in which we did relatively poor.
  • The number of Prosser voters, much higher as a percentage of student voters than I would have anticipated, was much higher than the margin of difference between the two candidacies. Certainly, many of these were under-votes, but given the last-minute College Republicans endorsement of Scott (conveniently issued on the day of the election, before anyone could call him on it), many of them went undoubtedly went to the non-progressive candidate. It’s probably safe to assume that we received approximately 0 Prosser votes. In truth, it’s hard to say what the outcome of this race would have been had the Supreme Court race not also been on the ballot.

Nonetheless, there are many, many things that progressives can learn from this campaign for future elections, the details of which I won’t bore readers with here. The point is, there is always room for improvement.

Ultimately, as I said countless times during this campaign, whether we win or lose, we did the right thing. This is truly where the satisfaction of any political endeavor should come from – not from the result (the power, not us, is usually the victor), but on the value of the work itself. Had we not been so uncompromising in our message, perhaps we would have fared better electorally, but it would have bankrupted this aforementioned value.

On a final note, I want to say this: Regardless of the very real political differences I had and have with Scott, I want to wish him the best of luck on the City Council. If nothing else, I think he will represent D8 with competent and hard-working representation. Also, his quote from the Daily Cardinal article is worth pasting:

“The story that will never be written is that the two of us became pretty good friends out of it,” he said. “The two of us would run into each other at midnight before doing lit drops and sit there and talk for an hour.”

This is all very true, and I can honestly say that I have a deep respect for my erstwhile opponent on a personal level. It’s a shame, perhaps, that political differences so often have to turn into personal ones, and I’m certainly not perfect in this regard. However, I did make an effort to say ‘hi’ to Patrick M, a blogger who I’m told has written some not-so-nice things about me as of late, a few days ago, and his response was pretty odd: An awkward wave and blatantly obvious shock and even fear that I would acknowledge his presence in the flesh-and-blood. (Here’s the thing, if you’re going to slander someone to the point of stalking them, you should probably find the courage to at least say a few words to that person’s face.)

Anyway, regardless of the setbacks of PD/progressives (well, technically, PD actually went from 3 to 4 seats on the Council, despite losing 3 of its elections), there are always reasons to keep the faith. Paul Soglin won the Mayor’s race and so the Committee system should be restored to fairness and there are many encouraging things going on here on campus, too – positive ASM election results, emboldened resistance to the NBP, the fall of the stale, male and pale faction (or the Good Ol’ Boys, as some have aptly called them) in ASM, and a lawsuit which calls them out for their corruption and real – as opposed to manufactured – theft of student money for private political purposes.

So long as there are so many good, hardworking progressives in this community – people who involve themselves in politics because they want to make the world a better place and for no other reason – I don’t think I can ever fall into disillusionment.

Peace and solidarity,



About introspectivejourney

A UW-Madison student, activist and writer. Hopelessly idealistic, tirelessly introspective, socially inept, slightly insane.
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