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Andy Stern Headshot

Are Democrats Still the Party of the Working Man?

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From the wisdom of Walter Cronkite to the courageous and unabashed truth telling of Arianna, I am glad to join a community that wants to create a broad conversation about restoring the American Dream.

Walter, if it is a repetition of the last convention, we should proceed with extreme caution!

There are moments when a picture is worth millions of words. And at last year's convention, the picture of Bob Rubin sitting front and center with the Kerry family while the Senator delivered his acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention is a picture indelibly seared into my brain.

Now this was "the" moment when an aspiring President would show a worldwide audience not only who he was, but whose interests he would represent.

A lot of hard working Americans were watching to find out.

You could debate the merits of a choosing amongst an heroic firefighter or security officer from Ground Zero whose efforts saved the lives of victims of a terrorist attack, versus a world class teacher struggling to excel in under funded schools, or a bedside nurse trying to heal patients in a collapsing health care system, or a laid off manufacturing worker from Ohio devastated by our country's trade and tax policies.

Any one of those hard-working, taxpaying Americans would be appropriate representatives for a party seeking to take the side and share the aspirations and values of working families.

But no, top billing went to Bob Rubin--Wall Street icon, corporate CEO, NAFTA advocate, free market devotee, and elite insider. Now don't get me wrong. I admire much of Bob Rubin's handling of the economy. And you can't blame him for getting a good seat in a crowded arena.

But what were the Democrats thinking when they highlighted wealth over work--choosing people making the rules over those playing by them.

When Democrats ask why workers vote against a party that represents their economic interests -- you have to ask what party is that?

Is it Bob Rubin's Wall Street party or, as Thomas Frank describes in his book, the party perceived in the heartland as Northeast intellectual, Volvo driving, Chardonnay drinking liberals, or the party of those who work for a living?

If you want to win elections, I vote for a party that rewards and values work.

Democrat leaders need to understand that people who work for a living wake up every day and don't worry about whether they are in a blue state or red state. They have enough trouble getting their kids up on time and off to school, then rushing to work, making enough money to pay their debts, worrying about health care costs undermining their economic security, and whether they are going to have to work until they die.

And while we are at it, how about a party that stands up every day for the 53% of Americans who say in national polls that they would like to have a union -- the best anti-poverty, middle-class creating, equal opportunity program that actually works and doesn’t cost the government a dime!

Until Democrats stand up for rewarding work and respecting workers facing huge challenges in a global economy, they will stand in the minority of the American political landscape.