Springsteen, Obama Strike Populist Chords in Madison

On a beautiful fall morning in Madison, WI, Bruce Springsteen and Barack Obama thrilled a crowd of 20,000 people with a strong populist, progressive message.

“For 30 years, I’ve been writing about the distance between the American dream and the American reality,” Springsteen said, mentioning his own working class background and the struggles his parents had trying to make a go of it. And he warned of the “disparity of wealth that threatens to divide us into two distinct and separate nations.”

He endorsed Obama wholeheartedly.

“I stood with President Obama four years ago, and I’m proud to stand with him again,” Springsteen said.

“I’m thankful for the historic improvement in health care,” adding that he was thankful for the reforms on Wall Street, as well.

“I’m thankful the President had faith in the American auto industry,” Springsteen continued, joking that he wouldn’t be able to sing his songs otherwise because they’re all about cars.

Springsteen said he was “concerned about women’s rights and health issues” and the danger that Roe v. Wade may be overturned.

He said that Obama was met by opposition every step of the way, and said, “The world is often brutally resistant to change.”

Now, he said, “It’s crunch time.”

President Obama came on and thanked Springsteen warmly, and then nodded to Tammy Baldwin as the next Senator from Wisconsin, which got a big round of applause from the crowd.

Obama made his case for reelection.

“Today, there are five and a half million new jobs,” he said. “The auto industry is back on top. Home values are on the rise….The war in Iraq is over. The war in Afghanistan is coming to a close. Al Qaeda is on the path to defeat, and Bin Laden is dead.”

But, he said, “We’ve got more work to do.” As long as there is one person looking for a job who can’t find it, he said, “as long as there are families falling further behind, and as long as there is a child anywhere, in Madison, in Wisconsin, in America, languishing in poverty, our work is not yet done.”

He talked about building “sturdy, strong ladders” into the middle class, and he said America has always prospered when everyone gets a fair chance.

That brought a chant of “Four More Years” from the crowd.

He said the choice in the election is between “returning to the top-down policies that crashed our economy” or building an economy for everyone.

He talked about offering everyone a chance at a decent education and he pledged to cut tuition costs in half.

He said, “America is stronger when everyone can afford health insurance” and when seniors can rely on “Medicare and Social Security in their golden years.”

He hailed the free market, but said it works best when there are rules so that people are safe in the workplace and are not exploited by unscrupulous credit card companies.

And he said, to loud applause, that “men in Washington shouldn’t make health care choices for women.”

He mocked Romney’s claim to being the “change” candidate, saying, “Giving more power to the big banks is not change. Giving $5 billion in tax breaks to the wealthy is not change.”

He said, “Our budget reflects our values.” For an example, he said: “I’m not going to kick poor kids off Head Start” to give rich people like himself a tax cut. And he said he wouldn’t cut Medicare the elderly “to give billionaires a tax cut.”

He described the resistance he’s met in Washington. “The lobbyists, the special interests, the politicians who will say anything to protect the status quo…That status quo is fierce.”

And then, in his most populist message of all, he said, “The folks at the very top, they don’t need another champion in Washington,” adding that they’ve got plenty of them already.

But “the people who need a champion” are the laid off worker, the restaurant owner who needs a loan, the teacher “digging in her own pocket for school supplies,” and “all those poor kids in the inner cities or on the small farms” who need a shot at getting ahead.

He pledged to “restore our democracy” and make it work “no matter who you are, where you started, or what your last name is.”

And he vowed: “We’ve got more change to make.”

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story “Sandy: Chronicle of a Storm Foretold."

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter

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