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The Recall is the Greatest Popular Democracy Movement in Wisconsin History

The recall petitions that will be filed today, seeking the recall of Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, will weigh 3,000 pounds.

That's a monumental message for the governor and his minions, as well as the pundit class that so doubted the depth and breadth of the Wisconsin democracy movement.

Today, we will learn exactly how many Wisconsinites have petitioned for the recall of the governor who attacked labor rights, voting rights and our open government tradition.

A total of 540,000 signatures were required — 25 percent of the turnout in the last gubernatorial election — to trigger a recall.

There is no question now that this figure will be exceeded. The only question is this: How great will the number be?

If it is 640,000, that will be more than the total number of Wisconsinites who participated in a gubernatorial election from statehood in 1848 until women were allowed to vote in 1920.

If it is 740,000, that will be more than voted for the winning candidate in any election for governor from 1848 until 1952.


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If it is 840,000, that will be more than voted for Robert M. La Follette, Phil La Follette, Gaylord Nelson, Patrick Lucey, Lee Sherman Dreyfus, Tommy Thompson or Jim Doyle in the elections that elevated each of those men to the governorship.

If it is 840,000, it will also be more than the combined number of voters who participated in the 2010 Republican and Democratic primaries for governor of Wisconsin.

Here are some other statistics that are worth noting: Because Wisconsin sets one of the highest standards in the nation for forcing a recall election, the number of signatures gathered will represent a higher percentage of the state's population than has ever petitioned for the recall of a governor — higher than North Dakota, which successfully recalled a governor in 1921. Higher than California, which recalled Gov. Gray Davis in 2003.

There is still a race to be run. But this recall drive is the greatest popular democracy movement in Wisconsin history, and one of the greatest challenges to political power in American history.

The signals could not be stronger. The Wisconsin democracy movement is real.

And Scott Walker should be afraid, very afraid, of the opposition he has unleashed in a state that is prepared to defend its rights and its future.

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