Should Obama go to Wisconsin?

Posted on March 4, 2011 by

Most union activists would say absolutely.

It would send a powerful message, energize the base and frame 2012.

Here’s one of several persuasive pieces urging the president to hop on AF1 and spend a few minutes with our heroes in Madison.

Imagine how thrilling that would be.

Why then am I worried that such a visit would fall short of our expectations and diffuse rather than sharpen the issues?

Tangling everything up in presidential politics. 

Isn’t that what the white house is worried about? 

Or is it that they don’t want President Obama looking too politically radical? 

In the early days of the administration, I stridently defended Mr. Obama’s conciliatory and moderate approach, his outreach to republicans and his policy compromises.  That lasted about a year.  Then, like so many of my peers, I became disaffected and critical.

After the 2010 election debacle I was angry and ready to bolt.  But since then I’ve regained some of my faith in the president’s political instincts and been impressed recently by his confidence and style.

Am I making the same mistake now that I made two years ago?

Refusing to recognize that this cautious president must be pressured by our side to do the right thing.

I’m glad others are showing a little more backbone by demanding that our leader stand with the protesters in Wisconsin against malicious union-busters.

Convince me it won’t backfire and I’ll join the chorus.

Comments (8)


  1. Martin Jay says:

    Radical or not – If Obama went out to Wisconsin and had
    his “ich bein ein Wisconsiner” speech – it would mobilize – everyone!!!!

  2. Adele says:

    The last thing we need is to turn Wisconsin into a political tug of war. Scott Walker has taken on the rights of the teachers and EMTs and snow plow drivers and that’s the frame we need to win. It would make us feel good for Obama to go, but to most people, it would make it the same old politics that they’re disgusted by. The White House is smart enough to know that. Let’s not give up the high ground.

  3. Greg says:

    He won’t, walking a line for worker justice is yet another empty promise made by President Obama to salute the base that put him into office.

  4. I say no. It would be so polarizing to the extent that it would most certainly undermine his efforts to get both sides working together on areas of compromise that are not only necessary, but in my opinion (right or wrong) what the American public wants at this time. The real question is should the Democratic leadership of both the House and the Senate be in Wisconsin and every other “battle ground” state to protect the fundamental right s of working men and women. And the answer to that should be an absolute yes, and in spades and with all the resources of the party…not just to protect its political base, but because it is the right thing to do.

  5. Frank Stricker says:

    of course he needs to go. He needs to show and tell that unionism is important to people’s living standards, to democracy, and on and on.
    This guys needs take a couple of chances for the side of social justice. He wants the unions to supply $ and peoplepower.
    Where is the great orator, the visionary? Why isn’t he out there for the Wisconsin people? Walker’s plan is the most vivious attack on unions we have seen in a long time.

  6. Goetz Wolff says:

    Obama CAN NOT go. He’s beholden to the folks who brought him to the party: corporate and financial America that says: “hey, what’s the problem?” We got our bonuses from the Prez!!

    He’s concerned with triangulating the 2012 elections.

    It’s time to stop thinking of Obama as a modern FDR who simply has missed a few cues. He IS corporate America, God help us.

  7. Ernesto says:

    The way that things are going in Wisconisn, Im not sure that we need him and honestly we, as labor folks, need to fight this fight on our own so that Obama and other elected officials dont come in as “Johnny Come Lately” and get the credit and most important of all we gain the respect of everyone out there.

    Walker just got in and he already is getting banged in the polls and the “tea baggers” are desperate because they know that when the Labor movement wins this fight (and we will) things can start to unravel for the anti worker forces and union members will fight with confidence in greater numbers and participate in future elections.

  8. John Connolly says:

    Many good and incisive comments above.

    The tide of the polls are running strong against Walker, Koch & Co. True.

    However, the Republicans are right when they point out that an election was held in November … and they won. BIG.

    That’s not a moral argument to respect their “mandate”; it’s recognition that they have state power. And that’s the fulcrum on which the Wisconsin situation rests.

    How long can the Dem Senators stay in Illinois? Can they persuade 3 Republicans to vote down the Gov’s vile bill?

    How many months can the Labor Movement fill the Capitol building and the streets of Madison? How long will our tactics allow us to hold the high ground that Wisconsin’s workers have seized from the feckless — but very smart — Walker and Sen. Majority Leader Fitzgerald? How long can we hold onto the nationwide sympathy and positive polling that has put Walker on the defensive?

    We have developed brilliant and courageous mass-action and moral-high-ground-seizing tactics — and here I must uncharacteristically credit the WI Senate Dems for standing up in a thoroughly amazing way — but the truth is, as usual the Movement has no strategy … we are merely reacting bravely and brilliantly after being caught flat-footed. The arrogance and inexperience of the WI Republicans (and the fools at the RNC) also gave us just enough breathing room to mobilize a defense. (Also the collective cowardice and jockeying among Republican Governors and Presidential-hopefuls has worked in our favor).

    But as the sands run through the hour-glass, it will do us well to remember that when time runs out the Bad Guys hold actual state power and are drooling in anticipation of using it. Meanwhile, the think-tank Right is working 24/7 to provide Walker with fresh ammunition and troops.

    And unchallenged, the same Know-Nothing-and-Proud-Of-It rightist political impulse that split the Wisconsin working class in November and handed state power over to the cretins, will reassert itself in polling unless there is a dramatic bolt of counter-lightning that pushes the Republicans over the cliff from being grudgingly disliked to actively hated.

    Polls don’t win wars; power does.

    Without a dramatic and decisive event from our side that sheds a burst of light on the situation revealing the crude truth that the Republican assault is indeed class war on the vast majority, the current polling support for our Brothers and Sisters won’t sustain forever.

    So, on balance, would a visit by the President — fulfilling his unambiguous video pledge, played a million times over the last week — be our bolt of lightning that cements-in our polling advantage, and alters the power-equation?

    It could be.

    But is there ANYONE in the White House who could write the speech?

Leave a Reply