The Trenton rally is now just a memory. We sang and shouted in the rain. We felt empowered and inspired. We felt sad at what the governor is doing to the people of New Jersey. We felt happy that we had such an energetic crowd of workers, retirees, and just plain citizens who were willing to get drenched in the deluge to send a message to the powerful.
None of us wants last Friday’s event to turn out to be just a blip in the governor’s never-ending quest to subjugate New Jersey’s public workers to benefit his political career and his hold on power. So where do we go from here?
Some are lamenting the fact that the rally was a lost opportunity to register voters. Perhaps true, but there’s plenty of time to register people and follow through with a get-out-the-vote effort. We know how to do that, as we amply demonstrated in 2008. But no voter participation campaign can be successful unless we give people a reason to vote for progressive Democrats. Unless you’re one of the pesky trolls who read this blog, you’re already motivated to vote; it’s the independents and the truly moderate Republicans who need to get the message.
Three thousand people on the State House steps last week were impressive. But our sisters and brothers in Wisconsin have been consistently bringing out twenty times that number of demonstrators day in and day out. We need to maintain the momentum with more demonstrations - not only in Trenton, but also in Newark, Paterson, Camden, Atlantic City, and throughout the state. We need to get the media coverage that this movement deserves, and not sit idly by when the Tea Party, whose presence was less than one thirtieth of that of the pro-worker demonstrators, got at least half the news coverage at last week’s demonstration.
To do this, we need to take a page from the Republican Tea Party playbook and start to control the message. This is not about some greedy union members trying to rape the state’s taxpayers of every last dime as some mainstream media commentators suggest. It is about the future of the middle class that drives the American economic engine - a middle class that builds things that add value, not an upper class that manipulates hedge funds that make a few people obscenely wealthy while doing nothing to boost the economy.
We need to get the message out that the forces behind the Republican Tea Party don’t care for small government or budget deficits. We saw that truth under Bush. What they care about is power. Power to gut environmental and safety regulations that impact their profits. Power to tax the poor and middle class while creating more loopholes to enable their corporations to escape their responsibilities as corporate citizens. Power to regulate the media and Internet to make it difficult for dissenting opinions to be promulgated. And power to destroy the unions that typically vote Democratic.
We need to get the message out that the best way to balance the budget is to end the wars of choice in the Middle East. Let’s rebuild our cities and infrastructure with the same determination with which we are rebuilding Afghanistan and Iraq. The villain in the deficit equation is not the unions, it’s the trillions of dollars in unnecessary war effort that go virtually unreported.
We need to get the message out that liberals are patriotic. The Republican Tea Party does not own the American flag. We are striving to preserve the American way of life. They are flushing it down the drain with their drive to concentrate power in the hands of the corporate oligarchs.
So we need to be proud of what we did in Trenton last Friday, but realize that it is only the beginning. If we keep up the pressure and enthusiasm, and do the hard work to get the message out and get the voters out, we can win. If we fail, and in 2011 New Jersey gets a Republican legislature and Christie wins re-election in 2013, then there’s a good chance that our governor will spread his scourge across America from the White House starting January 20, 2017. A much better scenario for that day would be to see Chris Christie practicing law from a storefront office in his home town of Mendham. That’s what we need to work hard for.
Cross-posted from Blue Jersey