Fighting Bob Fest X found progressives mad as hell and ready for action.
Fighting Bob Fest No. 10 is now in the book of progressive history. Now we must once again engage in battle with the Koch boys and others for the soul of our state.
The footing is a little slipperier, as we learned in the JoAnne Kloppenburg/David Prosser race for the state Supreme Court. And some time should be spent asking a few questions in advance. First, if Governor Scott Walker is recalled, do we have a candidate warming up in the bullpen who will be ready to take him on and win? Will Walker go after private sector unions with the same vigor he had in his effort to kill public sector unions? If so, are we ready for that fight?
This was our 10th Fighting Bob Fest and that is significant. It is rare for any nonprofit organization to survive for 10 years and to grow each year.
We have come a long way from that first festival in Baraboo. More than 60,000 have attended the festivals, and we get 5 million page views per year on FightingBob.com — 100,00 page views per week. And readers of our blog on FightingBob.com increase every week. We get more than 30,000 visits per week on average. One goal is to increase that number to 50,000.
Back to the challenge. We moved Bob Fest to the Dane County Coliseum and that served us well. I am glad we made the move. (I was happy in part because every previous year we worried that rain would do us in.)
No. 10 was our best program. We began with Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Director Mike McCabe's straight talk — calling political contributions bribery. Retired Congressman Dave Obey talked to us about underhanded and crazy reapportionment. Madison's Stu Levitan said, tongue in cheek, that we had the best lineup since the 1927 Yankees.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Princeton professor Cornel West ignited the place; former 9to5 Director Ellen Bravo brought home the treatment of women in our society and suggested a minimum rage level be established. Wisconsin farmer Tony Schultz brought tears to my eyes as he told of the shock he felt when his father informed the family at supper that they had no alternative but to sell all the cows. It was traumatic for him but it helped shape his views about the huge corporate farms of today.
Madison teachers union leader John Matthews and UW Law School professor Carin Clauss joined Fred Redmond, vice president of the United Steel Workers, to offer their ideas for developing more muscle for the labor movement. The premise is simple. We cannot have a strong middle class without a strong voice from labor. Syndicated radio and TV host Thom Hartmann was the favorite of many — Ellen Bravo was mine.
The Raging Grannies were there, of course, singing for peace and justice. Peter Leidy put lots of smiles on thousands of faces with his song to Texas Governor Rick Perry.
Friday night the Barrymore was jammed. How jammed? SRO for Congressman Dennis Kucinich, former state lawmaker Stan Gruszynski and UW professor emeritus Daniel Kunene. Cap Times associate editor John Nichols turned up the volume. John was in full voice and he rocked the theater.
The mood of the crowd? Healthy, feisty and determined. The Walker coup seems to have run its course and progressives are better prepared for the class war that the super rich and the corporations declared in 1984. If we are losing that war, you couldn't tell it by the speeches and the crowd response. This was an active audience to say the least. Our progressive mustard, beer mugs and shirts were a big hit. Spotted Cow helped sponsor the event and we did our best to not waste a drop.
As we looked back, many of us concluded that the friendships forged at Fighting Bob Fests helped build a grass-roots organization that aided the opposition to Walker's agenda. Now we can and must build on that experience and good will.
Thanks to The Capital Times and editor emeritus Dave Zweifel for 10 years of unwavering support.
(A version of this article originally appeared in the opinion section of the Capital Times.)
September 20, 2011
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Ed Garvey is editor and publisher of FightingBob.com.