Since the election I've been going about my usual business, but I'm still a little sore. We Fair Wisconsin people got our butts kicked on Election Day. Wisconsin's vote in favor of the constitutional ban on civil unions and same-sex marriage was a wrenching 59 percent to 41 percent.
Pollsters told us, going right up to Election Day, that the vote was very close and that Fair Wisconsin could win with an energetic get-out-the-vote drive. We did get out the vote, with relentless visits to voters' doors and targeted phone calls right up until the polls closed.
Even exit polling on Election Day showed the vote too close to confidently call the result early. How could the polls have the two campaigns consistently neck-and-neck, and the vote come out 59-41?
People lied, that's how. They lied to us Fair Wisconsin volunteers who knocked on their doors over the past year. They lied to the phone pollsters all summer. They lied to the exit poll interviewers on election night.
But they told their own truth to their ballots in the privacy of the voting booth. "People express their hopes, but they vote their fears," one seasoned campaign worker told me. Election Day showed us that certain Wisconsin voters fear marriage for gays and lesbians, and civil unions for anybody.
The more surprising thing, however, is that it turns out that many Wisconsinites are also mighty afraid to admit what they're really feeling. They're afraid to say that they're afraid of gay marriage.
I liken these voters' fears to those of the moderately racist white person. We've all met white people who wouldn't consider moving in next door to an African-American family but who know better than to spout racist language at the dinner table. In their hearts, they're afraid of black people because of stereotyping. In their heads, though, they know they're being unreasonable, unfair, and ugly, so they won't admit their fears out loud.
Wisconsinites have made some progress in uprooting our racist attitudes, institutions, and policies. Most of us know better than to use racist speech and we work to eliminate our own discriminatory practices. It will eventually be the same for anti-gay bias.
The contrast between the polls and the actual vote this November shows that, although Wisconsinites are still willing to do the wrong thing, they at least know better than to admit it in public. It's a good sign. It's called "shame."
Jennifer Morales is an elected member of the Milwaukee Board of School Directors, the first person of Latino descent to hold that position. She was first elected in 2001 and was unopposed for re-election in 2005. In 2004, she ran for a seat in the Wisconsin state senate, earning 43% of the vote against a 12-year incumbent.
Previously, she served as the editorial assistant at the educational journal Rethinking Schools; as assistant director of two education policy research centers at UW-Milwaukee; and as the development director for 9to5, National Association of Working Women.
She became the first person in her immediate family to graduate from college, earning a B.A. in Modern Languages and Literatures from Beloit College in 1991.
In addition to her work on the school board, she is a freelance editorial consultant and a mother.