Friday, February 18, 2011

In the Capitol Rotunda. With a Bullhorn.

My protest sign and I got our democracy on at the Capitol last night, to spread the word about the Wisconsin budget-repair bill's assault on Medical Assistance.

Here's the text from the sign as held by JoyDad in the photo. It says:
Did you know? This bill gives unchecked power to gut Medicaid with zero public input to a Medicad-hater you've never heard of!*
Ask me more...
*DHS Secretary Dennis Smith

As outlined in an earlier post, Smith is the new secretary for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, who has advocated that states should drop Medicaid entirely. The bill would give him sweeping powers to change Medicaid without public input.

I couldn't get down to the Capitol until after Joy went to bed last night. The schools are closed as the teachers take their consciences to the street, an action that JoyDad and I support even though it's been a challenge for Joy. The change in routine comes hard, not to mention having to deal with preoccupied parents, so she's had a short fuse and is really giving us a run for our money.

So my sign and I went downtown and the first thing that happened was, we got on national TV. The Ed Schultz show on MSNBC (9pm Central time) has been broadcasting live from Madison, doing a fantastic job of covering the protests and connecting the dots from Wisconsin to the corporate-funded effort to break public-employee unions nationwide. But he hasn't spoken about the Medical Assistance issue, so my sign and I went to see if we could be a presence. Alas, I landed on the wrong side of the crowd to be in the primary crowd-shots. But the people in the crowd where I landed let me through to the front line once they saw my sign -- "This is an important sign, let her through, we've got to let people know!" My big pink sign and I got a direct crowd-shot during the part of the show where Ed was talking with a state senator from Ohio, where the assault on the unions is now underway as well. JoyDad reports that the sign half-hid my face... but that's OK, I was holding it up on purpose so the camera could see.

I was on the right side of the stage to get a word with the producer of Schultz' show. I asked him if the Medicaid issue would be covered, and got a "no." Which I understand -- as I said, they're doing a great job of what they're doing. But perhaps Rachel Maddow's show might be willing to range more broadly...

If you feel so moved, contact Rachel Maddow ( and ask her to run a segment on the assault on Medical Assistance in Wisconsin. Send her a link to the story from the Capital Times at
or send her to this blog!

I also got a chance to thank John Nichols of the Capital Times for their fine coverage of the issue -- but it needs to go national.

After the show, Ed himself came down to visit our part of the crowd. I got his autograph on my sign!

Then my newly-autographed sign and I went into the Capitol Rotunda, where I met a friend of mine. By this time it was well after 10, but the rotunda was full of fired-up protesters, led by students who took turns standing on a barrel in the center of the Rotunda to lead chants and keep the energy going. My friend offered me a ride home (since I'd come on the bus, which is also under attack in this bill), so I was free to stay and talk to people.

The sign, word-overload and all, did a great job bringing folks to talk to me, who had no idea about the Medicaid issues. I was able to tell the story to a fellow who happened to be in a major education-related organization, who promised to spread the word widely to educators in this state who don't yet know.

Then a young woman popped out of the crowd to see my sign and ask questions. When she heard my explanation, she was horrified. And then she said, "Can you tell them (gesturing to the crowd) about this?" Before I knew it, I was being led to the barrel in the center of the Rotunda and handed the bullhorn.

The crowd was amazing. They had a mutually agreed-upon signal for "quiet down, someone needs to talk," so the two-raised-fingers peace sign popped up on hundreds of hands and they stopped the drums and jumping to hear me speak. And I told them, in short phrases, what the bill says about Medicaid. What the bill does to public participation on future changes to Medicaid. Who Dennis Smith is, and why it's so dangerous to give him this power. Where to go for more information.

Hundreds, maybe a thousand? activists at the Capitol now know that the assault on Medicaid must be removed from this bill.

Keep spreading the word, everyone! Keep calling & e-mailing your legislators, if you live in Wisconsin. Contact the White House, tell the president that we need his support here in Wisconsin. Come to the Capitol if you can. This is too important to stop now!

You can also "like" Elvis Sightings on Facebook in the right-hand sidebar to follow new posts. Only a part of my writing has been political, but right now this is where I get to spread the word.

(To my regular readers: JoyMama, standing on a barrel, in the Capitol Rotunda, at 11pm, with a bullhorn. Who would have thought?)

P.S. TinyURL for this post is -- please tweet widely.


BabyWeightMyFatAss said...

I'm sorry you have to deal with this up north. I hope with the Democrats disappearing it will force a discussion on this bill. :(

JoyMama said...

Thanks BWMFA. JoyDad actually used the pink sign Wednesday to lobby one of the courageous state-senators who are now out of state at an undisclosed location. That senator is aware of the magnitude of the Medicaid issue -- and is frustrated that it's been such a challenge to get the word out.

Unknown said...

Wow!!!! JoyMama - you are now on my hero list - which keeps growing every day. Thrilled and proud to hear your story. Wish I had been there to see all this first-hand. Keep up the GREAT work!

JoyMama said...

Thank you Paul -- much appreciated! Spread the word...

J-CatMama said...

I just contacted my friend Rachel at msnbc...Thanks for making that so easy. And thanks for all you're doing- you're a Super Star JoyMama!!!