We are Wisconsin and we are winning! I came up with that slogan for the March 5 rally at the state Capitol that featured Michael Moore. I believed it then. I still do.
Optimism was easy to maintain back then, when the rallies were getting bigger week after week, despite the bitter cold. The national spotlight was on Madison. Rock stars, movie stars and the venerable Jesse Jackson stood by our side in solidarity.
Those were heady times. We had never seen anything like it before, because nothing like it had ever happened. Walking into the Capitol was like entering a living democracy museum. We were full of hope, confident that victory was within our grasp.
But it's now months later, the weather is finally warm, and the rallies are no longer happening every weekend. Wisconsin is no longer a media staple, and Walker is telling Fox News it's only a matter of time before his union-busting bill becomes law.
He may be right.
Walker, in fact, never campaigned on ending collective bargaining. When he "dropped the bomb" and announced that he was putting the National Guard on call, he knew there would be a fight.
The people of Wisconsin proved that we are capable of fighting back. Walker looked to be on the ropes, while his opposition grew stronger by the day. And the GOP's agenda of cutting taxes for corporate interests while cutting benefits and services for the poor remains deeply unpopular.
If an election were held today between Walker and Tom Barrett, polls indicate that Walker would likely lose. The majority of voters don't think eliminating collective bargaining is needed to resolve the state's economic problems.
But none of this matters. Walker is a monomaniac, steadfast in his resolve, convinced beyond all doubt. And that is something his opponents must keep in mind.
When Walker got caught on tape revealing his ethically challenged playbook to a fake David Koch, we were certain there would be repercussions. But Walker rode out the storm and kept his eye on the prize of undermining the political functionality of our public-sector unions.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has admitted as much. What we've seen in Wisconsin is part of a national strategy to defund the left and take down Obama in 2012. Both sides know that. It's politics, not economics, stupid.
Sometime later this month, the budget repair bill will likely be attached to the budget proper, subject to an up or down vote. Ending collective bargaining is not a fiscal matter, as the governor admitted, but that will not stop the GOP-controlled Legislature from sticking it into the budget bill and ramming it through.
Much emphasis is being placed on the recall elections soon to be held in the six Republican and three Democratic Senate districts. The Dems and their allies hope they can muster the votes to flip the Senate.
But there's a danger in putting all our hopes in the recall basket. If the budget-repair bill becomes law prior to the elections, it will take more than a Democratic Senate to repair the damage.
Effectively thwarting the Walker agenda will require a mobilization beyond anything we accomplished during those snowy days in February and March. Some are beginning to talk again of a general strike. Already we've seen a tent city, Walkerville-redux, form near the Capitol. But the movement is far from unified.
I sense the frustrations, the tempers boiling. There are random, irresponsible calls for violence, the cathartic expression of which would play beautifully into Walker's hands. Even nonviolent direct action, if poorly conceived, could cost votes in a closely contested recall election.
The same resolve that kept the protests peaceful in the early days is just as necessary now, perhaps more so. Impatience is the enemy. We are in this for the long haul.
Many of the signs brandished at the protests have ridiculed Walker and his allies. But in fact, we are up against master strategists. These guys are good. They should not be underestimated.
It is more important than ever that we think strategically. What are our goals? How can we best achieve them?
Michael Moore was right. We are the "sleeping giant" that has been awakened. For some of us, it was the first time we found the courage to stand up for what we believe. Others in the movement are more seasoned.
But for all of us, what started out as a pocketbook issue quickly became a struggle for the soul of our state. Retreat is not an option. We will not go back to sleep.
We need determined vigilance and a healthy dose of patience, maintaining confidence in the rightness of our cause. The arc of history, as Dr. King proclaimed, does indeed bend toward justice.
After all, we are Wisconsin. And we are winning.
Tag Evers is the owner of True Endeavors LLC, a local concert-promoting company.