September 22, 2012
Some of what we learned at Bob Fest
By David Giffey
“We got a big view of American politics,” said Ruth Conniff, who co-hosted the 11th Fighting Bob Fest September 15, with Ed Garvey, at the Alliant Energy Center, Madison.
The range of speakers – Democrat Tammy Baldwin to Green Jill Stein to Republican Buddy Roemer – and topics, from climate catastrophe to war and women’s rights and corporate greed and education hit on some “inconvenient truths,” said Conniff, political editor of the Progressive magazine. She joined Garvey and regular radio host Eric Schubring, of WOJB-FM in Hayward, for the weekly Fighting Bob Radio show heard live online at 11 a.m. CDT each Thursday. The conversation critiqued Fighting Bob Fest.
“The Democrats need progressives,” noted Conniff, “but it’s not [conversely true] that we need this corporate party.”
Add in the recent “Thurston Howell Romney” reference by columnist David Brooks to the GOP’s latest privileged presidential candidate, and the list of current “corporate parties” is complete. On Gilligan’s Island, we laughed at millionaire Thurston Howell because he was fictional and said things like: “No one can pull the wool over my eyes. Cashmere maybe, but wool, never.” But Mitt Romney walks the walk of the 1 percent, and his silken underpinnings are being revealed day-by-day.
Tammy Baldwin was an early speaker at Fighting Bob Fest before a day spent campaigning for the U.S. Senate in her race against Tommy Thompson, who is “the poster child for the revolving door,” Conniff said, of politician-turned-millionaire-lobbyist Thompson. For what it’s worth, Baldwin jumped well ahead of Thompson last week in polls.
Lanky Bill McKibben spoke Saturday afternoon. He announced again a global campaign to be launched the day after the presidential election November 6, using mass demonstrations to force government and corporate policies to reduce carbon emissions back to a possibly livable level. McKibben, founder of 350.org, was among hundreds arrested in Washington, D.C., protesting and finally halting construction of the Keystone Pipeline. McKibben “was willing to go to jail,” Conniff said, “to point out what criminals these industry executives really are.”
The radio conversation included acknowledging the journalistic work of activists like McKibben, formerly a mainstay writer at The New Yorker magazine, who quit or were trashed by the corporate media for their progressive points of view. The list included Chris Hedges, Bill Moyers, and Phil Donahue, who addressed Fighting Bob Fest Friday night and showed his powerful Body of War documentary, and again Saturday teaming up with Norman Solomon, author of War Made Easy.
Journalism with a point of view “is not a challenge for me,” Conniff said. “We at the Progressive don’t have any political patrons. People know where we’re coming from.” That makes sense knowing that Robert M. La Follette founded La Follette’s Weekly, precursor to the Progressive and namesake of Fighting Bob Fest.
Journalists speaking Saturday included John Nichols, of The Nation, and Greg Palast who has uncovered the Republican strategy of voter suppression known as voter ID laws. “It’s a huge civil rights issue,” said Conniff. “It’s a poll tax.”
Yet to come are presidential debates and millions of dollars injected into races against the likes of Baldwin in Wisconsin by Carl Rove’s “American Crossroads” wellspring of cash.
Conniff covered the GOP convention in Tampa where she found “a lot of coded racism” in Ryan and Romney messages. “They have moved so far into the Ayn Rand camp,” she said. “It was hilarious to see the Republicans try to distance themselves from Romney. I think they have written him off.”
With energy inspired by Fighting Bob Fest, Conniff added: “The potential we have is to take action on the local level and watch it trickle up.” With the Wisconsin Uprising 2011 just past, “We have that energy available. We were there. We saw 100,000 people marching in the street. It’s very close to home.” Activists should pack meetings of local governments and speak out against destructive mining practices and right-wing cuts in education and social programs, so devastating to children, elderly people, poor people, and working people.
Conniff said she is working on a story about the Baldwin/Thompson race, which she identified as “a microcosm of national politics.”
Fighting Bob Radio ended with a tribute to the late Frank Zeidler, mayor of Milwaukee from 1948 to 1960, and the most recent Socialist mayor of a major American city. Zeidler died in 2006. The 100th anniversary of his birth was September 20, 2012.
Audio recordings of the day-long Fest program, Ragin’ Grannies and Solidarity Singers included, are available online at widelp.org, thanks to Norman Stockwell of WORT-FM, and Robert Park of Citywide low-power radio in Madison. To listen the speeches, scroll down the Wisconsin Democracy Report page in the talk shows section widelp.org.
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