Twelve months ago, 100,000 protestors took over Madison. The political storm they stirred up is still raging as polarizing Governor Scott Walker faces a recall.
A year ago this month, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker proposed a slate of changes to public-employee benefits, including sharply limiting government workers' right to bargain collectively. The action quickly provoked a firestorm. A hundred thousand protesters camped out at the capitol building in Madison; the minority Democrats in the state Senate fled the state to prevent the bill from passing.
Walker got his changes through the state legislature anyway, but the fight wasn't over -- in fact, it was just beginning.
In Madison today, the reverberations of a year ago are still being felt. And for Walker, the determined, grandiose politician at the center of it all, the biggest battle still lies ahead: He is all but certain to face a tough recall election this summer.
The after-effects of the protests have been "not so much a hangover as a bender," said Tom Holbrook, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Walker's response has been to frame his recall as a referendum, not on his own leadership or the issue of public workers' rights and privileges, but on the very idea that any political leader can enact large-scale change. It is an odd, self-aggrandizing, and slightly bullying posture: He is daring voters to put up or shut up.
Walker's plight mirrors Obama's. He campaigned on a platform of sweeping change, then proceeded to seek that change.
"Voters say they want leaders who are willing to make tough decisions, who aren't always worried about the next campaign," Walker told me in a recent interview. "So my point is, if you have people who are willing to do those things, and ultimately that's what people say they want, then when elections like this come about, they need to stand with those elected officials who actually have the courage to take those actions."