by Walter Brasch
March 18, 2011
As expected, Michael Moore, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka were in Madison, Wisc., to support and rally the workers in their fight against the union-busting governor and Republican-dominated state legislature.
But, so were union members Bradley Whitfield, Susan Sarandon, Tony Shaloub, and dozens of musicians and singers, including Peter Yarrow who, as part of Peter, Paul, and Mary, was at almost every major social protest for more than 40 years.
“This is not merely a protest on the steps of the Capitol here in Madison,” said Shalhoub, “this is the birth of . . . a nationwide movement destined to restore the rights of workers, to safeguard quality education for our children and to reassemble and reconstitute the fragmented and wounded middle class.” Shalhoub, who won three Emmys, was born in Green Bay; his sister is a Wisconsin teacher.
“Workers,” Sarandon told a crowd of almost 100,000, “had to organize, go on strike, defy the law, defy the courts to create a movement which won the eight-hour workday and caused such a commotion that Congress was forced to pass a minimum wage law, Social Security, unemployment insurance and the right to assemble in collective bargaining.”
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) told thousands of cheering protestors they had to “reclaim the essence of economic justice before it is lost on the corporate scaffold.” Former senator Russ Feingold, the only senator brave enough to oppose the PATRIOT Act when it was created, said the actions of the governor and legislature were “an outrageous assault on working people.”
The people, the workers, were there when newly-elected Gov. Scott Walker first announced, Feb. 11, he was going to demand hard concessions from the public sector unions. They were there when he lied about the budget and his intentions. They were there when the truth came out that at the same time Walker and his Republican cabal were taking away worker rights and demanding more wage and pension sacrifices, they were also assuring significant tax rebates and making innumerable promises to Big Business. They were there when a Wisconsin Policy Research Institute poll revealed that in less than a month Walker’s approval rate had plunged to only 43 percent. And they were there after he signed a bill, March 13, deviously manipulated through the Senate in the middle of the night, to strip collective bargaining rights of public employees.
But, while the masses protested the shredding of their rights, not at any rally anywhere in Wisconsin were several people who should have been there. Senate minority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (R-Calif.), Vice-President Joe Biden, and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis have been conspicuously absent. So are almost all major national Democratic political leaders, obviously afraid to publicly support their largest constituency, the American working class.
One person, more than any other, needed to be there, if only to prove that campaign rhetoric and one’s promises mean something after the election.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Sen. Barack Obama told energized and reinvigorated crowds, both small and large, “If American workers are being denied their right to organize and collectively bargain when I’m in the White House, I’ll put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself [and] I’ll walk on that picket line with you as president of the United States of America because workers deserve to know that somebody is standing in their corner.”
As president, Obama may be wearing comfortable shoes, but he hasn’t gone to Wisconsin to stand by the workers, nor has he ever walked a picket line at least in the past two years. His only public comments, and even then weak ones, were to call the actions in Wisconsin an “assault upon the workers,” and several days later to add, “I don’t think it does anybody any good when public employees are denigrated or vilified, or their rights are infringed upon.” It was a statement that could have been said by any Democratic president—and most Republican ones as well.
There are dozens of reasons and excuses why President Obama is not in Wisconsin. The one that seems to be most probable is that going into a re-election campaign he doesn’t want to alienate any of his constituencies. It’s doubtful, however, that anyone on the extreme right wing will vote for him, no matter what he does or doesn’t do. It’s also probable that the core of the Democratic party—the unions and workers, the youth, the alienated and disenfranchised, and those who believe in social justice, who awakened in 2008 to give him a mandate for change—may give him only lukewarm approval or, worse, be silent in 2012. They have every reason to believe they had been betrayed.
Good presidents do what is best for the country. Great presidents, however, do not only what is best for the people, but are also willing to speak to the courage of their beliefs, of their principles, even if it may be unpopular among many of their constituencies. They don’t put their “finger in the air” to judge what’s popular. Republican Theodore Roosevelt, and Democrats Franklin Delano Roosevelt and “Give ’em Hell, Harry” Truman were among the great presidents. If Barack Obama doesn’t soon speak out on behalf of the working class, he may find his legacy mired in the struggle to become even a good president.
[Assisting on this column was Brian LeCloux of Sun Prairie, Wisc. Walter Brasch is an award-winning columnist, and the author of 16 books. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org]
[DS added the videos.]
Kucinich on Obama: “Where is he?”
UpTakeVideo on Mar 13, 2011
Rep. Dennis Kucinich spoke with The UpTake after a forum for worker’s rights in Madison, Wisconsin. Asked about President Obama’s absence in Madison, Kucinich said: “He should be here. Where is he? He made a statement that he’s standing behind the workers – he should be standing in front of them. He’s the President. Lead. Show people you’re dedicated to worker’s rights.” Filmed at the Barrymore Theater in Madison, Wisconsin on 3/12/11.Interview by Jacob Wheeler for The UpTake.
Why Wisconsin is the Battleground State
TheRealNews on Mar 16, 2011
Allen Ruff: If the “Wisconsin Idea” can be killed, the Right hopes so goes the country
TN Protesters Arrested + Matewan (1987; clip) + Photos that set off the protests in Bahrain
Unions must disembed from the Democratic Party by Philip A. Farruggio
Dennis Kucinich: End the Fed – Reclaim Economic Justice + transcript
Lifting the Veil: Barack Obama and the failure of capitalist democracy (must-see)
Jim Hightower On Workers’ Rights
John Nichols and The Nation interviews Susan Sarandon in Madison, WI
the real question to ask is why is dennis kucinich still in that corrupt party? he was railroaded during the primary season, silenced by his own party countless times.
what role model is he setting by being in a party that he disagrees with on MOST key issues: military budget, wars and occupations, health care, campaign finance reform aka public funding, bank bailouts……
he would be more of a role model for millions of working americans by disavowing himself and running as an independent.
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Congressman Kucinich is honest, and correct in what he said here, God bless him! We need 534 more like him in the House, and 100 like him in the US Senate.
There still wouldn’t be 100% agreement on anything, but there would be progress.
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I dont want Obama there.. I dont want this wonderful and growing Grass Roots Movement to be coopted taken over, and utterly RUINED, the same as the early “Tea Party” was on the right…
These people in the mainstream corporate demorat party, such as Reid, Pelosi, Biden, and Obama have no place here. They are actually our political enemies wearing sheep skins, and until we realize that, we are doomed to repeat the same old… same old that got us here: With a President whose only true constituents are transnational corporations; and an energy policy written by BP and GE.
Oh let’s be real!! ALL parties are “corporate mainstream”, & “political enemies wearing sheep skins” etc.!! Obama cannot be perfect because a) he is merely human & b) Presidents must be involved with the good & bad influences surrounding them. In spite of “beating a dead horse”, Obama in NO way comes close to being of the criminal ilk as Bush & his Gang!!!
I am afraid i am being “Real”, Kathleen. A good example of this dichotomy and cog-dis about the differences between Obama and Bush, just surfaced yesterday (and there are plenty more):
He is, by himself, planning military intervention in Libya. Dennis Kucinich spoke in an interview, pointing out that not only is this against the Constitution, but candidate (then Senator) Obama said so himself. Obama direct quote from Dec. 20 1997:
“The President does not have the power under the Constitution to authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”
Start listening to the rhetoric: It is in some cases identical to that used by the Bush administration when discussing the invasion of Iraq.
Perhaps, because it is the same script writers?
Do you remember THIS, a call for a “Solar Initiative”? I do. The day after the election, it was never heard from again, and instead, we get corporate welfare for corps like G.E. and FirstEnergy, for us to pay for them to build new fission nuclear plants… that they run as highly profitable monopolies. The Fukushima plants were a G.E. design that were proved to be highly flawed.
If would be funny, but the joke is on us. Maybe some folks aren’t tired of being bald-faced lied to yet, but many of us are, and want to do something about it.
Thanks Jibbguy. Here’s a longer version of the video: http://vodpod.com/watch/5795964-dennis-kucinich-a-u-s-imposed-no-fly-zone-is-a-decision-for-congress-to-make?u=dandelionsalad&c=dandelionsalad
“One person, more than any other, needed to be there, if only to prove that campaign rhetoric and one’s promises mean something after the election.”
It’s way too late for Obama to prove any such thing. Far from being a leader, he acts like the Senator from Goldman Sachs, just another cog in the national security state.
Watching ‘Lifting the Veil’ with its replays of Obama on the campaign trail is enough to make one retch with anger at his complete hypocrisy.
Yes, yes, I know the drill; he can’t wave a magic wand, blah, blah, blah. Oh, but he CAN, if he wants to.
He could select people for his Cabinet who are progressive, instead of Wall St.operatives as economic advisors, a Sec. of State who’s never missed a chance to flex her manly war muscles, a Sec. of Interior opposed by all the environmentalists in his home state, Bush’s own Sec of Defense, and on and on.
He hasn’t missed one chance to insult the left, and to twist ‘hope and change’ into Bush on steroids!
Obama likes the safety of intellectualizing. His project to stop bullying in the schools is his own need–HE doesn’t know how to hold his stand before bullies!
Have you ever considered that some people are simply smarter than engaging with bullies??
No President can do anything they want just because they want to…our govt does NOT work that way.
Kucinich is great too, but has been mocked so much by the unknowing that he’d seriously have a hard chance to get elected. It’s sad…
Whether elected officials act accordingly or not, this country IS the people. We are in a Great Winnowing process of that which has been and that which is newly appropriate. This process is evolutionary in that a new ethos for living on this planet is being co-created, going beyond the usual ways of identity grounding, such as Red-Blue; Christian, Buddhist, etc., legal-illegal. male-female; old-young, animal, plant, mineral or ether.
EACH HAS VALUE AND CONTRIBUTES: There is no “race to the top,” for there is no such thing as a top, and one speed in one direction is simply a self-limiting perception.
We are receiving experiences that show us who we are: In Wisconsin struggles, we become Wisconsinites. As Japan suffers, we become Japanese. Human nature invites us to identify with one another, and our common ground is rising in the scene of everything “falling apart.”
Kucinich frames it well while remaining grounded within and living a patient perseverance.
true annie — that is becuase kucinich is one of the rare people in the 2 party system that can navigate it and do some good .
Gotta say my dear that I never miss your postings, it is one of the first things = look for in the morning! Mike
Thanks, Mike! Hope you’ve been well. I need to start gardening soon so will have to post a bit less the next couple of weeks or so. Hard to do when so many things are going on all around the world.
Interesting points — Thank You!!