Leading progressives in the Democratic party are pressing President Obama to get more involved in the fight over public worker rights playing out in Wisconsin and other states across the country.
Obama has publicly sided with state and local government employees against laws meant to crush their right to collectively bargain. But his political shop has run hot and cold on the question of involving him more publicly in the protests.
The co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus yesterday both called on him to speak out more loudly — or even join the protesters in Wisconsin.
“I think the statements the president made supporting collective bargaining and organized labor are important,” Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) told reporters on a Wednesday conference call organized by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. “I think that there is more to do.
While the issue is clear and in front of us in Wisconsin, it does have national ramifications…There’s a bully pulpit there that the president has and I think it needs to be used, it needs to be used to rally national support, and I hope that role is part of I believe the president’s undertaken aggressively because this is not just an isolated regional state fight in Wisconsin. This has ramifications for national policy…I don’t think you can turn the cheek on this one, this is one where you have to be very firm.
His co-chair, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) made the same point Wednesday evening on MSNBC.
“Of course I’d like to hear more from President Obama,” Ellison said. ” He’s made some statements, he should get credit for that, we’d like to hear him make some more statements. I think President Obama should come to Wisconsin and stand with the workers.”
In his Thursday press briefing, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the President has no plans to go to Wisconsin. That probably cinches it, unless Ellison and Grijalva can up the volume. House progressives are regrouping and attempting better discipline — this could be an early test for them.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.