Let's be gracious in defeat. Congratulate Scott Walker on his victory, and take him up on his offer to be more inclusive after he survived Tuesday's recall election.
But let's also remind ourselves that the governor should be more inclusive, not just because it's the right thing to do, but because Wisconsin continues to be a progressive and independent state, not a conservative Republican stronghold.
Seventeen percent of voters who voted to retain Walker said they planned to vote for President Obama in the fall and, in fact, exit polls showed Obama with a strong 51%-44% lead over Mitt Romney.
Let's also remind ourselves that not even two years ago Democrats controlled both houses of the legislature and the governor's office. Three times our state elected Russ Feingold to the U.S. Senate, and Dave Obey enjoyed a long career and powerful influence in Washington.
Less recently, but still relevantly, we're the state of Gaylord Nelson, a liberal icon and the founder of Earth Day. We pioneered a host of progressive policies like workers compensation laws and environmental protections. Social Security was invented by John Commons at the UW.
But what we need to keep in mind is that Wisconsin represents a very specific and different kind of progressivism. It's progressivism mixed with a strong shot of independence. We're not a Republican state, but we're not really a Democratic state or union state either. We're not lemmings. We like practical and independent leaders. We're not red or blue, but a deep shade of purple.
One of the reasons Scott Walker won is that Wisconsinite's sense of fairness told them that a public official should be allowed to finish out his term and be judged on his full body of work. Sixty percent of voters thought that recalls should be reserved for malfeasance or criminal wrong-doing. I generally agree, although in this case I thought that the fact that Walker didn't mention collective bargaining during his 2010 campaign was sufficient reason to recall him.
So, for progressives I know, these look like dark days. But our state's history and political culture suggest that what just happened isn't all that inconsistent with who we are, and that's not all that bad. Better days are ahead.