When Barack Obama was campaigning in 2008, he said in a televised speech that if ever the rights of organized labor came under attack while he was president “I’ll put on a pair of comfortable shoes and walk right beside you.”
Add one more to the long, long list of promises Obama has broken.
Despite at least one serious offer from a state-level politician to buy him new walking shoes if he’d just show up, the president has been conspicuously absent in Wisconsin, in Ohio, in Michigan, in New Jersey, Florida and other states where far-right businessmen and the Republican Party have mounted heavily funded attacks in the class war.
Wherever organized labor and the middle class are under serious attack, that’s where Obama (aka The Artful Dodger) isn’t. Not only won’t he go to where the fights are, he won’t even talk about them.
His one public comment on the major battle underway for the past month in Wisconsin was a mumbled observation that the actions of the right wingers who control the Wisconsin Legislature “sound like an attack on unions.”
I don’t know who the president listens to these days, and I can only speculate on his reasons for refusing to join a fray that so obviously calls for his deep involvement on behalf of the people who are the core of his 2008 support. My guess is that it goes like this: “Our corporate funders will be annoyed, or worse, if you back the unions, and you don’t have to worry about losing the votes because the unions and liberals have nowhere else to go.”
Many of Obama’s advisers, including Rahm Emanuel (now Chicago’s burden), openly made such statements in the past, so it’s pretty safe to assume that is still their thinking.
After attending the massive rally at the Wisconsin Capitol Saturday, and a much smaller one in Hudson, Wisconsin, Sunday, I have reason to think the presidential advisers are wrong.
The right wingers who slid into control of that state’s government in 2010 because of liberal voter apathy – apathy at least in part resulting from Obama’s absence from battles over issues of prime importance to liberals — almost certainly are going to be thrown out. Recall efforts against Republican lawmakers have generated almost incredible enthusiasm, and some of them will succeed, while counter efforts by the far right seem certain to fail. And there is no way the extremists will remain in the majority in the Legislature after the next general election.
Neither he nor the national Democratic Party was popular with people I talked to Saturday and Sunday.
The 14 Democratic state senators who left the state and stayed away for three weeks in order to block the Republican plan to take away the bargaining rights of public employee unions are heroes on a grand scale. The depth of gratitude and admiration directed toward the “Fabulous 14” at the Capitol Saturday put them in the category of rock stars, World Series winners, Stanley Cup champions, Super Bowl winners and war heroes – combined.
You had to be there to fully appreciate the power of those feelings.
But, again, they don’t translate to feelings for the president or Congressional leaders.