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Wisconsin recall

Wisconsin Democrats and unions need
a president who will show up for them

Barrett

Barrett

President Obama should go to Wisconsin before June 5 to spend some quality time campaigning for fellow Democrat and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who’s running to unseat Gov. Scott Walker in a recall election with national implications.

Sure, if Barrett loses – a real possibility given the $25 million-plus that union-busting Koch brothers tool Walker has been given by out-of-state big-money interests – Obama will be tagged by the right-wing noise machine as lacking political horsepower.

But that charge can be easily cast off by the White House. It wouldn’t be as though Obama had spent days or weeks stumping the state for Barrett.

What Obama’s show of support would do is help convince organized labor, whose leadership, and especially whose out-of-work union members, have been less than thrilled with his support for them and their issues so far, that he really is on their side and willing to fight for them.

When you read this kind of statement, you realize the importance of a personal appearance by the president.

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A Democratic strategist working for anti-Walker forces warned that union members would be less enthusiastic about working for Obama if he doesn’t step up for them.

“It won’t go unnoticed by labor the extent to which the White House ultimately decides to fight or not fight for working people the final critical days in Wisconsin,” he said. “The White House needs to move beyond being afraid of its own shadow. The Romney campaign has already been foaming at the mouth to pounce if Walker survives. If that isn’t motivation enough for the White House to start doing everything it can to help defeat Scott Walker, it’s hard to know what is.”

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Reading that, we were reminded how Big Labor abandoned President Jimmy Carter in 1980, with legions of hardhats proclaiming themselves Reagan Democrats as they contributed greatly to Reagan’s landslide win.

MSNBC’s Ed Schultz, who has been all over the Wisconsin situation since it exploded last year, makes the case in more detail.

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It’s as simple as this. If Obama goes to Wisconsin, putting it on the line to help Barrett, he will shore up his union support and earn the gratitude of large numbers of emotionally charged Wisconsin voters, even if Barrett loses. If Obama stays away to avoid being tainted by a Barrett loss, many union people and disappointed Wisconsin voters will feel the president let them down. That feeling of having been let down could spread across the country — the last thing a president seeking re-election needs among those who should be his solid supporters.

For the sake of completeness, let’s turn to professor Robert Reich’s observation that Republicanas have made themsevles so thoroughly unacceptable to organized labor that its support for Obama should be assured — presumably, whether Obama shows up in Wisconsin or not.

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“I said a year ago that there was a danger — Democrats faced possibility of the enthusiasm gap” sinking their 2012 prospects, said Robert Reich, former labor secretary under Bill Clinton and a professor at University of California-Berkeley. “But the Republicans once again snatched defeat from the jaws of victory: they went on an anti-union crusade — some even call it a tirade — and they went at the heart of the union movement, which is the right to organize. And Washington Republicans essentially cheered them on.”

As a result, “the labor union has been galvanized, even though Obama may not have done everything they wanted,” Reich said. “They’ve done him a huge favor.”

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That’s plausible, but the relationship going forward could be a kissing-your-sister thing, which wouldn’t bode well for 2016. Such mistakes have kept a Democratic presidential candidate from succeeding a living Democratic president by succeeding at the polls since . . . Hmmm, would you believe since before the 20th century?

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