Openly lesbian Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin discussed her historic candidacy for the U.S. Senate in Wisconsin, noting that "breaking through these glass ceilings has a ripple effect." She also talked about the “stark difference” between her and her opponent, former Wisconsin GOP Governor Tommy Thompson, who was Health and Human Services Secretary under George W. Bush, where he “cut a sweetheart deal with pharmaceutical companies,” and then left the administration and went “through that revolving door, working with a firm that works for them, cashing in." (Listen to the full interview below)
“It’s Tammy vs. Tommy,” Baldwin said in an interview for my SiriusXM OUtQ radio program at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.”Any advantage he has in name recognition, we hope, from that snappy little phrase, will get mine right up there.”
In recent days, Thompson's campaign has come under harsh criticism, after an aide attacked Baldwin for celebrating gay pride. Baldwin received a standing ovation when she spoke before the DNC’s LGBT Caucus last week. If elected, she would become the first openly gay or lesbian person in the U.S. Senate.
“We have substantive impact as leaders and we have a symbolic impact as leaders,” she said about the possibility of being the first openly gay U.S. senator. “Substantively, we bring our life experiences to our jobs, and they inform our decisions and choices and votes. And so, having a seat at the table matters. But symbolically, we still know there are young people who come out in hostile communities, with less than supportive families, who, when they come out, wonder what they’re future holds and whether they have all the possibilities of achieving their aspirations. And sometimes, if they don’t see role models out there, they conclude that they don’t have those possibilities in front of them. And so, breaking through these glass ceilings has a ripple effect that is symbolic, but I don’t ever undercount the importance of symbolism as well as substance.”
Discussing her opponent, former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, who is leading in the most recent polls, Baldwin pointed to the sharp differences between them and his work in the Bush administration.
“The voters are going to go to the polls on Nov. 6,” she said, "and they’re going to evaluate who’s fighting for them. Voters in Wisconsin in recent years have really struggled economically. They’re working hard, playing by the rules and they’re not getting ahead. Tommy Thompson spent the last decade -- he left Wisconsin, joined the Bush administration [as Health and Human Services Secretary], cut this sweetheart deal for the pharmaceutical companies and the Medicare Part D program, and then was through that revolving door, and started working with a firm that works for them, cashing in. He’s not fighting for Wisconsin families any more. That sweetheart deal with the drug companies was a betrayal of all seniors."
“And then you get into the issues," she continued. “Tax breaks, for the wealthiest 2 percent at a time when they purport the number one goal is reducing the deficit? Well, nobody takes seriously the idea that you achieve that by giving half a trillion dollars away to the wealthiest 2 percent and then asking hard-working middle class families to pay for it. So, on and on and on, that’s how Tammy takes on Tommy in this race.”
On LGBT issues in particular, the contrast between Baldwin, who has helped spearhead every major gay rights initiative in Congress, and Thompson, who opposes marriage equality and led the Bush administration's failed "abstinence-only" programs to fight AIDS, could not be more clear.
"It’s been scary to me, over the course of the last decade-plus," Baldwin said, "to see people discard science and feel like it’s okay not to tell the truth in an age-appropriate way to young people to take care of themselves to prevent unwanted pregnancy, to prevent sexually transmitted disease. The programs that were supported in the Bush administration were not science-based. This has cost lives. This has cost people’s health."
Listen to the full interview: