Nader, Donahue Bring Star Power To Fighting Bob Fest
WISCONSIN - Speakers at the seventh annual Fighting Bob Fest held nothing back Saturday, urging a crowd of 10,000 at the Sauk County Fairgrounds to take action before this fall's presidential election.
Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader gave a biting speech to kick off the morning's events. He targeted what he called, "least, worst" voters, or voters who he says cannot tolerate another four years of a Republican as president.
"The question is whether or not we get a Republican in disguise," Nader said, referring to Democrat Barack Obama.
"We're seeing similar parties." Nader said. "Measure the Democratic control of Congress and ask how much of Bush's legislature have they rolled back? Have they even tried to impeach?"
To the cheers of the audience, he praised Wisconsin U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold for introducing legislature to censure President Bush, and called Bush the "most impeachable president in American history."
Nader said President Harry Truman first laid down an example for affordable health care, and European nations achieved health care, labor and trade reforms shortly after World War II because of strong political lobbying.
"The two parties, for 63 years, have yet to get that done. How many more votes are we going to give them?" Nader said.
Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney spoke next. She called herself a "black woman who dares to dissent in a world that does not allow it."
"Fighting Bob fought for workers, though the Democrats or Republicans have not mentioned NAFTA, or a living wage. I want a national living wage," McKinney said.
After a lunch break, a parade and a series of individualized sessions to discuss various political issues, U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, a Milwaukee Democrat, energetically offered progressive viewpoints in expressing support for Obama.
Speaking about the tradition of Wisconsin and Robert M. La Follette, the festival's namesake, Moore called Wisconsin a purple state - but warned the state's color could change due to inaction.
"We just barely escaped the humiliation of voting in George W. Bush," Moore said. "You better get on the ball and make sure our state doesn't go red."
Moore said, "I know you all might have [conflicts] with Barack Obama. He might not be perfect, but now's the time to unite."
Arvonne Fraser, a womens-rights advocate and co-founder of the Humphrey Institute Center on Women and Public Policy, spoke after Moore, Wisconsin's first black woman to be elected to the House of Representatives. Fraser directed her comments to some of the women in the audience.
She called Republican John McCain's nominee for vice president, Sarah Palin, "an insult to the thinking American public.
"Don't let friends who just want a woman in office make a huge mistake," Fraser said.
The event's keynote speaker talk-show host Phil Donahue, continued an anti-war conversation and spoke specifically on the Iraq war and media reform.
On Friday, he was in Madison for a screening for his latest film "Body of War." The movie, by Donahue and veteran filmmaker Ellen Spiro, tells the story of a veteran who was shot through the spinal cord and paralyzed from the chest down after spending five days of service in Iraq. The veteran, 25-year-old Tomas Young, went on to become involved in the Iraq Veterans Against the War organization.
"But you don't see them on corporate media - you don't see groups like Peace Now, or U.S. Veterans Against the War. You'll see the lobbyists," Donahue said.
He urged Bob Fest attendees to become active in politics, to vote and try to "change things.
"We spend too much on war," Donahue said. "You don't get a statue in the park for fixing health care - you get a statue for going to war. Children are playing on cannons in parks all across America. We're dropping bombs at night where old people are sleeping and we're watching it on CNN.
"I think we can change America and make this happen. A good piece of the Wisconsin delegation stood up and said no [to the war]."
Festival founder and organizer Ed Garvey estimated 10,000 people attended throughout the day. The festival is co-sponsored by The Capital Times and fightingbob.com.
Additional speakers at Saturday's event included former United Nations weapons inspector Scott Ritter, The Progressive Magazine editor Matt Rothschild, national radio commentator Jim Hightower and environmentalist Bill McKibben.