"Fighting Bob" La Follette was born on this day in 1855. Thanks to a resolution state Rep. Mark Pocan introduced, it has been celebrated as "Fighting Bob" La Follette Day in Wisconsin since 2008.
The crowds that surrounded La Follette's likeness in the Capitol last year are gone now. The recall ended in defeat. What would "Fighting Bob" do now? He would regroup, to better fight again.
His career was not without its ups and downs, its defeats and setbacks. Each time he bounced back and went on to greater success. He served three terms in Congress, but was defeated in 1890. He then spent the better part of the decade of the Nineties building a movement against corporate control of the Republican Party, and through it, the state legislature. La Follette and his "Insurgents," who soon came to be called "Progressives," spent years battling against the "Stalwarts" of the party who sided with corporations and blocked reform. Gradually their efforts began to change public attitudes. Finally, in 1900, he was elected governor, which marked the real beginning of the Progressive era in Wisconsin politics.
Change rarely happens overnight. Rebounding from defeat is often how great social movements find themselves and grow. The Wisconsin Uprising and the failed gubernatorial recall were not the end of something. They were the beginning of something.