Wisconsin progressives heaped praise on Dem Russ Feingold at Saturday's Fighting Bob Fest, with more than one speaker urging voters to send him back to the U.S. Senate.
Meanwhile, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and the Tea Party received frequent criticism throughout the event, though the day’s biggest target was Gov. Scott Walker.
“We know he doesn’t represent Midwestern values,” U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Town of Vermont, told the crowd. “But this week we sure did learn he represents those illegal donors and the lead paint industry’s values.”
Pocan was referencing previously sealed documents that were published this week by The Guardian showing the owner of a lead smelting company gave $750,000 to the Wisconsin Club for Growth, which played a major role in the recall elections advocating for Republicans. The donations came in as the guv and GOP lawmakers were changing tort laws following a state Supreme Court decision that opened the door to lawsuits against lead paint manufacturers.
“Do you want to elect a new governor in 2018?” Pocan asked the crowd, garnering one of the biggest cheers of his speech.
Named for Robert “Fighting Bob” La Follette, who served as governor and in the U.S. Senate in the early 20th century, the festival celebrated its 15th year this weekend. Put on by The Progressive magazine and The Capitol Times, presenters ranged from state legislators to political commentators.
When not jabbing Walker or other Republicans, the speeches focused on inequality, corporate power and union rights. Those who spoke included U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, Feingold and keynote speaker Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota. Several called for the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the 2010 Citizens United decision or for a constitutional amendment to reverse the decision that allowed corporations and unions to make independent expenditures in elections.
Many speakers invoked U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ bid for the Democratic presidential nomination as a source of hope for modern progressives.
Sanders’ campaign and its success wasn’t an accident, Ellison said, repeating throughout his speech that “we are in a progressive moment right now.”
Feingold, who is running for his former Senate seat against U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, this November, took the stage last. The crowd, many of them holding “Russ” signs and wearing his campaign shirt, greeted him with a standing ovation and cheers.
Feingold reiterated points others had made about corporate wealth and power, saying the Koch brothers, wealthy businessmen famous for their support of Republican campaigns, “have achieved an unfriendly takeover of Wisconsin."
“This is the gilded age on steroids,” Feingold said, referencing Citizens United. “The progressives beat them back 100 years ago. They defeated them. They protected the people. We will raise again with a progressive movement starting on November 8 that will do the same.”
-- By Madeline Sweitzer