Here everybody has a neighbor
Everybody has a friend
Everybody has a reason to begin again
Bruce Springsteen -- "Long Walk Home"
Sen. Barack Obama yesterday asked 4,500 delegates and observers at the convention of the United Steelworkers in Las Vegas to help him give America a chance to begin again. The group responded with a roar of applause.
The presumptive Democratic nominee for President appeared before the delegates by videocast after an introduction by former Sen. John Edwards and established solidarity immediately when he said, "Working together, ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things." That's something we've experienced up close and personal from organizing drives to picket lines.
Sen. Obama spoke to us on the very day that his presumptive Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain, rattled his campaign once again, this time replacing a top advisor with Steve Schmidt, a veteran of President Bush's 2004 re-election campaign and a confident of Karl Rove, Bush's former deputy chief of staff.
This move places McCain even closer in league with Bush, with whom he voted 95 percent of the time last year and 100 percent of the time this year. Somehow McCain still wants to claim he's a maverick and agent of change when he couldn't be climbing any closer up Bush's coattails without riding piggyback.
This was evident in his choice of junkets this week. He flew to Bogota to lobby for passage of a free trade agreement for Colombia. He did it despite the fact that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has promised not to even bring up the FTA for a vote because Colombia is the most dangerous place in the world for trade unionists. More trade unionists are murdered there each year than in all other countries of the world combined, and Colombia does almost nothing to capture or prosecute the perpetrators.
Sen. Obama opposes the Colombia FTA because of the country's human rights abuses. And he has made it clear he objects to the Bush policy of handing out as many free trade agreements as possible while millions of American jobs were lost to unfair foreign competition which does not respect environmental and labor laws.
"Last night I stood at your doorstep
Trying to figure out what went wrong"
These lyrics launch the seminal song, "Long Walk Home" on Bruce Springsteen's Magic album. The Boss is close to many a steelworker's heart for tunes like "Youngstown," honoring work in a steel mill and "factory," describing "the working, the working, just the working life."
We won't know for years the full extent of what went wrong in America under President George W. Bush. Just yesterday the New York Times revealed that Communist Chinese torture techniques from the 1950s became the basis for military and CIA interrogations at Guantanamo Bay. This comes on top of news that some prisoners were secreted out of this country and sent to those that permitted torture in "special rendition" programs. And news that some of those tortured weren't guilty of anything at all. And news in yesterday's Times that a detainee at Guantanamo was held just because accusations against him were repeated in three secret documents. A court said that is insufficient evidence. It is, the judges said, as if the Bush administration, felt it could, like the character in the Lewis Carroll poem, "The Hunting of the Snark," make it a fact by declaring it: "I have said it thrice: What I tell you three times it true."
We've gone so far wrong that we can't afford to elect John McCain who has made himself indistinguishable from Bush. Like Bush, McCain announced last week that he now supports drilling for oil off the country's coasts. McCain now supports Bush's tax cuts for the rich and wants to make them permanent. Like Bush, he opposes passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for workers for organize unions. Maverick, smaverick. They're policy twins.
My father said, "Son, we're lucky in this town,"
It's a beautiful place to be born
It just wraps its arms around you
When Sen. Obama speaks to a crowd, as he did to the USW convention yesterday, the audience feels his enthusiasm for working together to create a better America. They know he believes he was born in a beautiful place and is seeking help to make that place greater.
Because he was raised by a single mother who had to struggle to support him and his sister, he understands the issues middle class people in this country face. Those are the people he said he would wake up every day as president thinking about, working for, improving the economy for, securing affordable health care for, providing college educations for, ending the war in Iraq with dignity for.
But, he said, in doing that, he does not want to create more divisions. His vision is for an end the politics of divisiveness. He wants the country to work together, which, of course, is the way of unions. Unity. Solidarity.
He asked for our help. Together, he said, "We will change this country, we will change this world."
This is the stuff of hope. These are our dreams and we agreed to work for him to achieve them, even though we know that because of the many Bush administration boondoggles, as Springsteen put it: