Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel helped raise money for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett during a luncheon at the Italian Community Center Wednesday – a strong sign that Barrett will enter a likely recall race against Gov. Scott Walker.On March 30 — 2 days later — Barrett announced his candidacy. His message at that point was that he would support collective bargaining, but he wanted to get to a compromise, bringing in all sides. "I'm going to try to heal the state. I'm going to try to restore the trust." This contrasted to what was being said by his rival for the Democratic Party nomination, Kathleen Falk — who'd announced her candidacy back in January. Falk had captured the unions' endorsement by pledging to veto any budget that did not restore public unions' collective bargaining powers.
Tickets for Wednesday’s luncheon ranged from $400 each to $2,500 for a table. The luncheon was closed to the media, and outside, there were about 75 demonstrators.
Barrett is running for re-election as mayor. He has said he’ll announce whether he’s jumping into the governor’s race sometime between Friday and Tuesday. Earlier this month, Barrett said: “I’m seriously considering that office, but again, I love being the mayor of the city of Milwaukee, so that’s what I’m focusing on right now.”
Now, I think the polling numbers showed all along that Scott Walker was going to win the recall election, so something else was at stake that drove Emanuel to Milwaukee to propel Tom Barrett into the race. The real interests had to do with the national Democratic Party and the fall elections.
Here's something David Blaska wrote back on March 19 — before Emanuel came to Milwaukee, but with the fundraiser planned. Blaska noted that Emanuel had unsettled the unions in Chicago:
Rahm... criticized his predecessors’ deal with the teachers union. Bill Daley and schools chancellor Arne Duncan (now U.S. Secretary of Education) gave the union “hefty” pay increases and a shorter school day in return for some union love. Says the new mayor, “I know what the teachers got and I know what the politicians got. But I don’t know what the kids got.”Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, Barrett was no big friend of the unions:
Mayor Emanuel got legislation giving districts greater authority to fire teachers, reform tenure, pay for performance, and lengthen the school day and school year. He’s also a big fan of charter schools. His new school chancellor, Haitian-born Jean-Claude Brizard, worked with school reformer Joel Klein in New York City.
The major downside to a Tom Barrett candidacy is the same as his strength: public sector labor bosses hate him. Barrett tried to take over Milwaukee public schools; despite a Democratic governor and both houses of the Legislature, they could not beat the teachers union. Barrett has also used Walker’s “tools” to balance his budget. He actually wanted greater pension and health insurance leverage vis-a-vis his police and firefighters, although those unions are specifically exempted from Act 10 reforms.But Barrett got the Democrats' support in the primary, knocking out Kathleen Falk who would have wedded the Democratic Party's image in Wisconsin to the unions. And Barrett proceeded to avoid talking about collective bargaining, making his issue some vague blather about healing and trust. That is, he ended up with a generic non-message of the sort that has worked for Barack "Hope and Change" Obama.
“With Emanuel set to appear in Milwaukee for Tom Barrett on March 28, it is clear that Barrett is poised to become Obama’s pick to unseat Walker,” claims The Badger Democracy blog.
In “Why would Tom Barrett run for governor ... again?” Badger Democracy says it “examined the role Rahm Emanuel played in Free Trade policies (NAFTA), union busting, and privatization from his years with Bill Clinton to Barack Obama to the Chicago Mayor’s Office. Does Tom Barrett represent the energy and power of this recall movement? How many times has Barrett marched with teachers and firefighters? How many times has Barack Obama actually stood with Labor in Wisconsin ...?”
Blaska’s Bottom Line: next time someone asks why can’t Republicans elect a moderate, turn the question around on them. Why can’t Democrats elect a moderate?
So what did Rahm Emanuel say to Tom Barrett? Was he conveying the message that you are Obama's pick, and we need to do this for the sake of the party's future? And this includes losing, because we know from the polls that you are going to lose. And, after today, we are not going to help you. In fact, although you are Obama's pick, you are picked for the purpose of keeping this pro-union message off of the President. He will not appear by your side in Wisconsin. He might do fundraisers just over the border in Minneapolis, making a show of shunning you. We'll throw you a tweet of support — in less than 140 characters — on the eve of the election. This is all understood.
In that light, Barrett stoically did what he was supposed to do. He lost, and he did it in a way that allowed much of the media — which is substantially pro-Obama — to interpret the June 5th election as a crushing loss to the public sector unions but somehow nevertheless good news for Obama.
Now, let's look back to that Badger Democracy ("Progressive Truth in Journalism for Wisconsin") item that Blaska linked to (above). That was written on March 15th:
For over 14 months, this struggle has begun and continued without the support of Barack Obama and his Administration. He was not on the ground with us marching against Act 10 – in fact, many of us have pleaded for his support since this struggle began. Now, facing an election, Obama needs Wisconsin as a critical battleground state. His obvious intention – to link his campaign with the energy and power of the Wisconsin grassroots movement with Tom Barrett as the capital “D” Democratic candidate.The "energy and power" maybe, but not also the lefty politics.
Does Tom Barrett represent the energy and power of this recall movement?No, but that was the point. To capture the energy, but launder out the left-wing issues and ideology. Barrett was to be exploited by the Party as a firewall, allowing Party insiders to use the energy of the Wisconsin protests without getting burned by issues and attitudes that scare off mainstream American voters. (The Party was struggling with a similar problem with respect to the Occupy Wall Street movement.)
How many times has Barrett marched with teachers and firefighters? How many times has Barack Obama actually stood with Labor in Wisconsin or against job-killing free trade bills? When has Rahm Emanuel honored the negotiating process of collective bargaining? The political actions of these candidates speaks volumes about who they are, and what they represent.Exactly.
If Tom Barrett were to decide to drop out of the Milwaukee Mayor’s race to run for Governor because people are overwhelming in their demanding that action, so be it. If he were to win a competitive primary, so be it. But – if Barrett intends on running as a pawn to the Obama Administration and beholden to that corporate money; and using the grassroots momentum for that political end – it will serve no good for the people at the heart of this movement or Wisconsin itself, and we all lose the potential to change the politic in Wisconsin for the benefit of the people.Here's my response: They owned you.
Ask yourself the question – what does this movement represent, and do the actions of Barack Obama, Rahm Emanuel, and Tom Barrett embrace those beliefs?
Responses are welcome. Solidarity.