Obama and Wisconsin

by SAM SMITH

The irony is that, whether Scott Walker wins or loses in Wisconsin, Obama and the national Democratic party will have lost. If Walker wins, Obama will get some of the blame and if he loses, he won’t get an ounce of credit. As the NY Times put it:

Mr. Obama has purposefully tried to keep his distance from the recall fight, which has unfolded with all the intensity and acrimony of a presidential campaign within the borders of Wisconsin…The White House has showed tepid support for the recall. Democratic advisers thought the effort would take time and money away from the presidential campaign and poison the pool of independent voters who were a key part of Mr. Obama’s success here four years ago…

The president, who campaigned for Mr. Barrett two years ago, has been conspicuously absent this time. His aides argued that he had a full plate and did not have time to come. But Republicans were quick to point out that Mr. Obama was only a helicopter ride on Marine One away from the state on Friday when he visited Minneapolis, and again on Saturday after spending the morning in his old neighborhood in Chicago.

“He couldn’t drive 15 miles and show his face here?” said Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, who spent the weekend in his native Wisconsin to stir the pot and campaign for Mr. Walker. “There are going to be a lot of Democrats in Wisconsin who are going to be pretty disappointed with their president who did not come in and help out.”

One of these is Matthew Rothschild, editor of the Progressive Magazine:

It was bad enough that Obama or Joe Biden never showed up during the historic protests in February and March of last year. But it is unforgivable that they’ve failed to show up during the last weeks of this crucial recall campaign. It’s not that they were too busy.

[Obama] acts like he doesn’t know where Wisconsin even is, or why it matters.

It matters because this is about a basic human right: the right to collectively bargain.

It matters because Walker has systematically attacked the progressive agenda down the line: from public education and the environment to the social safety net and women’s rights.

It matters because Walker used “ruthless” means to attain his goals, as Russ Feingold pointed out.

It matters because Walker is bought and paid for by the most reactionary wing of the oligarchy.

Back in 2007 on the campaign trail, Obama said:

“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, 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.”

That somebody is not Barack Obama today.

Neither Obama nor his national party seems to realize that they are in their tight race because the Democrats have not been able to come up with a program to counter that of the Republican right. This is not a race between Obama and Romney. It’s a race between a party that is trying to kill 80 years of American progress and one that can’t figure out what to do about it.

The Wisconsin Democrats and labor unions, more than any effort other than the Occupy movement, have shown how to fight this battle. They’re doing it on the toughest battlefield anywhere in the U.S. and will be role models and heroes regardless of what happens tomorrow.

Obama has reacted with cowardice and by turning his back on some of best troops.

If he loses in November, remember Wisconsin. It’s where the story could have turned out differently.

Sam Smith edits the Progressive Review. He is the author of The Great American Repair Manual.

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