President Obama was in the house for the annual Detroit Labor Day Parade, sponsored by the Metropolitan Detroit AFL-CIO. The President spoke about the importance of standing up for collective bargaining to fired-up chants of “Four more years!”
The President wasn’t just giving a rah-rah speech, he was drumming up support for the jobs plan that he’ll lay out this Thursday before a joint session of Congress. The more political capital he can whip up in his travels, the more leverage he’ll have in DC for the inevitable death match with the immoderate, cult-like GOP who have signed pledge after pledge of fealty to their Koch/ALEC sponsored ideology rather than their country and constituents.
President of the AFL-CIO Richard Trumka warmed up the crowd, “We will not let Michigan become a right to work for less state!” Trumka was followed by warrior for working men and women Hilda Solis, the Labor Secretary, who wished the Motor City a Happy Labor Day, saying the auto industry is “roaring back”. Hilda pointed out that the President could have been anywhere in the country but he chose Detroit, a city that gave birth to the middle class and never gives up. Solis added, “When America innovates and when America builds, America wins!” Hilda (the daughter of a teamster) thanked the UAW and the entire labor movement for standing up and sitting down for the social safety net that Americans are fighting so hard to keep right now.
In spite of the Republicans desperate attempt to push the meme that the President has lost the support of labor as reported in The Detroit News, the reality of the response to the President’s speech was a fierce fired up and ready to go. The crowd roared the loudest every time a speaker mentioned the President’s name, tying his name to the fact that there is still an auto industry in Detroit.
Other outlets such as ABC pointed out, “Obama’s remarks today follow Friday’s worse-than-expected jobs report, which showed that employers added no new jobs in August.” However, this is also not exactly accurate. The numbers show that private sector jobs were added, but public sector job losses zeroed those job numbers out. It should be pointed out that those public sector job losses are a direct result of the GOP’s agenda to kill the public sector, as evidenced in states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida and more. Perhaps it’s too difficult for news reporters to research the numbers, but luckily at PoliticusUSA, we have Ray Mederios to parse the numbers for us.
When the President took the stage, the crowd screamed, their fists pounded the air, and huge smiles graced the faces of the people behind him. They greeted him with chants of “Four more years!” It didn’t sound like labor has lost their love for this President, though certainly if anyone has a right to be dispirited, it’s the working class in Republican governed states like Michigan.
The President dedicated the day to the non-elite, shouting, “The working men and women of America, this day belongs to you!” He pointed out that the cornerstone of the middle class was built by the union, and that a critical and all-American aspect of the union is that union members watch out for each other and their brothers and sisters who are not in unions, but are still benefiting from the rights of union members.
President Obama pointed out that the “some were blaming” the working people for the poor economy, but the economy is stronger when workers are paid a decent wage and pointed out that unions are about “shared prosperity”.
It looks like the Republicans have a few powerful narratives to kill this week, and even worse for them, it looks like their big dreams of knocking out labor and the middle class and thereby killing the largest support of the Democratic Party has failed.
The biggest point the President made in his speech is that he supports the middle class, the workers, and the right to collectively bargain. Obama pledged, “As long as I’m in the White House, I’m going to stand up for collective bargaining!” To which the crowd roared back, “Four more years!”
Obama told the fired up crowd, “Everybody has the same right, not just the CEO but the janitor who cleans that CEO’s office!” Then the President wove in the importance of the public sector (again, it is public sector losses that killed our job growth numbers). He added, “We are one nation, and we will rise and fall together. Anyone who doesn’t believe that should come to Detroit!” The President acknowledged the tough times that Americans face, but commended the working class for fighting for their rights, “Are times tough? Yes, but we’re tougher!”
The GOP keeps punching the working people, but the working people keep getting back up. And the President of the United States is backing those workers. For those disappointed liberals, allow me to ask if you’ve contemplated what the President did last December, when he “gave in” the extension of the Bush tax cuts in order to get what he called a “second stimulus” for “our folks”. The our folks would be us, the non-wealthy elite of this country.
Here’s how those numbers worked out, according to David Corn in the Sept/Oct issue of Mother Jones, “In fact, White House aides boasted that the final measure included $238 billion for what Obama, in White House meetings, privately called “our folks” (low and middle income Americans) and $114 billion for theirs (the wealthy). …Despite the warnings about negotiating with (and empowering) “hostage takers,” he could do more good by cutting deals than by going to war with Republicans.”
Sometimes it’s not about the show, but the results. When we cave into the framing of the Right while accusing the President of not fighting, I have to wonder if our sense of irony is completely lost. If we’re so cynical post-Bush that we simply will never trust another President again, well, who can blame us. Of course, that does feed right into the exact political climate the Republicans have been trying to create for 40 years in order to justify their hatred of government, so when we do this, we are carrying water for the notion that government can’t help people and in the end, this idea does nothing but feed corporations over people.
If we want to engage in the political process, if we want to stand up for the people, it’s going to take a willingness to look behind the curtain of mistrust. Things are far from perfect, but most of us knew better than to expect perfection. But we do have in the White House a President who prioritizes the working class. Do we care more about the show than the people? That’s not how this President rolls.
“Four more years!” Take that, Koch Brothers. See you in DC.