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Friday, October 28, 2016

Wisconsin Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin wants to be the first openly gay candidate elected to the United States Senate. In an exclusive interview with The National Memo over the weekend, she made clear how she means to go about doing it: running straight at the Tea Party.

Suggesting the GOP will face an historic rebuke in the 2012 elections just two years after Tea Party activists helped to sweep it into power, Baldwin pinned her candidacy on the two pillars of the modern progressive movement that have both faced concerted assaults from newly-elected Midwestern governors in the past year: strong unions and a robust welfare state.

“I can promise you 2012 is a very different election year,” she said Saturday. “When [Governor] Scott Walker and [Congressman] Paul Ryan started to attack everything we hold dear as Wisconsinites, our rich progressive history, our belief in a strong retirement, people in Wisconsin stood up and became organized and engaged.” Walker led a successful effort to eliminate most collective bargaining rights for public employees and Ryan’s Medicare privatization scheme passed in the U.S. House only to die in the Senate last year.

“I was raised by my grandparents,” Baldwin said. “I learned at a much younger age than many people about the important role that Social Security and Medicare play in retirement security for our seniors. These are national success stories and we have to make them stronger and available to everybody and not weaken them as Paul Ryan proposed and end Medicare as we know it for those 55 and under.”

Though veteran Democratic Senator and progressive hero Russ Feingold was unseated by Tea Party-backed businessman Ron Johnson just 14 months ago, Baldwin articulated a vision of her own bid for the Senate as an opportunity to carry on his legacy — and directly confront the movement that at least until the emergence of Occupy Wall Street was by far the most politically potent in America.

“Even in the months since the 2010 election, Russ Feingold has continued to be a leader,” she said, referring to his new group “Progressives United” that seeks to fight back against the influence of corporate money on politics. “And I could not support his efforts more. I want to be elected to the U.S. Senate to carry on his tradition.”

Baldwin ripped the pending settlement between most state attorneys general and the biggest banks over robosigning and other mortgage abuses that have become widespread since the housing meltdown in 2007 and 2008. And she predicted that public disillusionment with the massive influx of anonymous, unlimited money into campaigns since Citizens United and other 2010 Supreme Court rulings struck down much of Feingold’s signature 2002 campaign finance law would eventually lead to new reforms.

“The public has to be engaged at really understanding at a guttural level how bad Citizens United is. They understand the influence it had in the 2010 elections and they’re disgusted with the television lies we’re seeing where you can’t even tell who’s buying it. I hope it leaves a bad enough taste in so many peoples’ mouths that [even incumbent] Senators realize it goes at the core of our democracy.”

If there is to be a settlement between the Feds and the big banks over foreclosure abuses, it has to be narrow in terms of letting financial companies off the hook — and much more generous to consumers than what is currently on the table.

“Any settlement amount has to begin to make people whole again. We can’t give them [the banks] blanket immunity. If there’s a settlement, it has to be very narrow settlement of a narrow issue and we should absolutely agree the investigation shouldn’t stop. [It’s essential] that we don’t settle for pennies to the dollar when we have a trillion dollars of damage.”

Baldwin made clear where she thinks American politics is headed, sounding a confident but combative tone heading into what is certain to be a raucous and unusually expensive election season. Her success will depend in part on how well she can absorb the momentum of the anti-Scott Walker labor protests and the Occupy movement. She has strong support but trails narrowly in the latest polls pitting her against likely Republican candidate and former Governor Tommy Thompson.

“They’re really frustrated and they don’t think the people in Washington and Madison get it,” she said of voters in her state. “They want someone who will stand up for them, not for Wall Street, not for the Tea Party, but for them. That’s why I’m running.”


Follow Political Correspondent Matt Taylor on Twitter @matthewt_ny


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Copyright 2012 The National Memo
  • Donamabel

    How I wish we had Tammy in Texas….and a lot more Democrats like her.

  • jimmyags

    How i wish she lived here in Ohio.

  • Vermont-View

    Kudos to Tammy Baldwin for boldly supporting the basic rights of the people to retain the benefits that they have earned from a lifetime of work, such as Social Security and Medicare. She is an exemplary leader who stands up for us in the fight against the interests of the wealthy and of powerful corporate and financial “services” establishment who try to chip away at the long established rights of everyday folks, rights of collective bargaining, a secure retirement, health care, and protection from mortgage abuses.
    Ms. Baldwin and other brave bold leaders in Wisconsin are to be applauded for all they have accomplished in the fight against Governor Scott Walker and Congressman Paul Ryan who seek to pander to Tea Party activists who helped to sweep these regressive forces into power.

  • B

    Why does anyone care of she is gay or not? Why must this be even announced? I do not care. If the press would STOP making a big deal out of homosexuality, then it would not be such a big deal. Barney Frank is openly gay,,,,yeah he;s a creep but he is opening gay and he was still reelected many times.

  • Totenkatz

    I’m glad I don’t live or was raised in Wisconsin. I grew up in PA and live in VA now. The last thing I want is a robust welfare state with strong unions. I wasn’t raised by my Grandparents but by my parents who, as members of the Greatest Generation won WWII and produced a better nation, taught me to be self reliant. My mother worked until she was 72, not because she had to but because she wanted too. My father was disabled on the job at 52 and my parents along with assistance from my brother and sister had to fight the union to get what was due him from the union. The union did not support him when my parents sued the company he worked for to get what was owned him after he was injured on the job. In fact the union supported the company. As you can imagine this sour my parents on unions. I was in the military by then and outside the country, but I was kept in the loop about all that was going on by letters and when possible phone calls. This was well before email and the internet. My brothers and sisters helped take care of my father as his health declined over the years until his death at age 73. My mother lives with my brother now. So it wasn’t the welfare state that took and is taking care of my parents, it was family. Because of the depression and WWII my parents were solid Democrats until Carter became president. I was raised as a Democrat.