Poltics on parade for Labor Day 2011
WAUSAU (WAOW) — Labor Day parade organizers confirm that no Republicans will be allowed to participate in this year’s Labor Day Parade.
Council president Randy Radtke says they choose not to invite elected officials who have “openly attacked workers’ rights” or did nothing when state public workers lost most of their right to collectively bargain.
The parade is sponsored by the Marathon County Labor Council. A Wausau city spokeswoman said the city does not contribute any money to the parade.
Rep. Sean Duffy’s chief of staff, Brandon Moody, released a statement to Newsline 9: “Having walked in this parade in past years, Congressman Duffy was hoping that for a moment, we could set our differences aside and simply have some fun in a family-friendly event.”
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Well, this is an interesting turn of events that gave people something to talk about besides Hurricane Irene over the weekend and it’s causing quite a discussion. It made it onto the wire and it’s looking like it could have some real legs by the time they strike up the band next Monday afternoon.
The decision was made way back last March, I learned, although no announcement was made. It’s only boiling up now because when Republican Congressman Sean Duffy’s office finally got the message, they thought it might be a good idea to pass the word and play the victim card with the media. Whether Duffy marched in the parade in past years or not, this is his first Labor Day as a Member of Congress and there are all kinds of things GOP policies are being called within labor circles, but ‘fun’ and ‘family-friendly’ aren’t among them. It’s also not easy to sell the idea of innocence on the federal level with an all-out assault in the state capitol on the part of Wisconsin’s Republicans. Labor knows who their friends are and who they are not.
Personally, I don’t think that the labor folks should have let the Republicans off so cheaply. If the Republicans are still small enough to come, why not be big enough to let them? I mean, really, if you could get the guv to serve as grand marshal, the people who would show up for something like that would effectively pass along any message that needs to be delivered. So go ahead and invite Custer to the pow-wow and let him do the snubbing.
On the other hand, the Marathon County Central Labor Council has a right to invite or not invite anybody that they want to because it’s literally their parade. It’s also a fact that the Republican Party has advanced an agenda in 2011 that is the absolute antithesis of what the labor movement has been all about for the past century. There is nothing wrong with trying to make use of the opportunity to illustrate that issue on the only holiday specifically set aside to honor the social and economic achievements of workers. It’s more a question of the best way to do that.
For whatever reason, there have been a lot of Republican votes among the working class in Wisconsin. Barring representatives who were elected by a majority vote naturally risks alienating a lot of people. Now, some of their kids may not show up in the marching band and some families aren’t going to show up along the route, either. While it’s a strong statement and it’s certainly more than justified, it doesn’t sound like good politics and it probably won’t advance the agenda of workers. “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer,” was an admonishment from Vito Corleone in The Godfather, but it actually goes back to around 500 B.C. and Chinese general Sun Tzu in “The Art of War.” There is a reason that it has remained sound advice for thousands of years. And speaking of history, not inviting a few people to join a parade is pretty darned minor in the big picture of the labor movement (so it’s hardly worth much outrage from the right.)
I talked with Central Labor Council President Randy Radtke informally yesterday and he received a hero’s welcome at the Marathon County Democratic Party’s cookout, where — not surprisingly — there was plenty of support for the decision to keep the Republicans out of the parade. He doesn’t seem like a loose cannon or somebody that necessarily even enjoys the spotlight he now finds himself in, but his resolve is firm. I can respect that.
So after everything that’s happened this year, I would have to concede that having Republican lawmakers marching in a Labor Day parade seems a bit like having Santa Claus helping to emcee a bar mitzvah. Still, it’s painfully obvious who the hypocrites would be if they came and it isn’t the Marathon County Central Labor Council.
UPDATE: Mayor weighs in on the parade situation-