Presidential Politics: Union Made
By Kevin Robinson in News on Aug 8, 2007 1:00PM
About 17,000 union members, along with their friends and their families, filled the south end of Soldier Field for a debate, hosted by the AFL-CIO, among the Democratic contenders. A sweaty sea of union members in colored T-shirts, representing everyone from the Service Employees International Union to the United Steelworkers, from the AFSCME to the IUPAT, drank cold bottles of water and listened to Democrats talk about how their administration would work for working families, if elected.
Never one to shy from the limelight, Mayor Daley took the stage before the debate began to address the crowd, lauding the new agreement between the city and it's unions, and pointing out that Chicago's skyline was filled with tower cranes driven by unionized Operating Engineers. (Never mind that Chicago Federation of Labor President Dennis Gannon, an Operating Engineer himself, led the rebellion against the mayor in the last municipal elections.) The audience responded with boredom and a smattering of boos.
As Secret Service agents milled about stuffed into suits and dark sunglasses, Keith Olbermann took the stage to moderate. Unlike the bloggers tapping furiously at their laptops during the Presidential Leadership Forum a few days earlier at McCormick Place, this crowd was a little rowdier, a little more fired up to hear the candidates that four out of every five active union members would go out and vote for in 455 days. While Chris Dodd and Dennis Kucinich made much hay of their labor sympathies, the crowd seemed split between Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards.
Although Obama and Clinton are leading Edwards in national polling, he's locked in a three-way race in Iowa, and courting the labor movement is part of his strategy to carry the early primary state. Attacking Clinton as a Washington insider, he told the crowd "the one thing you can count on is you will never see a picture of me on the front of Fortune magazine saying, ‘I am the candidate that big, corporate America is betting on,'" he said. "That will never happen. You can take that to the bank."
Clinton took several swipes at Obama, chastising him for an earlier speech on Pakistan. "You shouldn't always say everything you think if you're running for president because it has consequences across the world. And we don't need that right now." Obama responded by saying "I find it amusing that those who helped to authorize and engineer the biggest foreign policy disaster in our generation are now criticizing me."
Coming out of Soldier Field last night, the explosions of a post-debate fireworks show ricocheting off the steel and cement structure that holds the new stadium together, we reflected on the commentary we heard in the crowd last night: Bill Richardson is running for Vice President, and Joe Biden played attack dog to John Edwards, appearing to carry the burden for Clinton, leaving her a clear path to take the high road as she vies to stay ahead of Barack Obama. Only 454 days left to go.
Image via jshueh.