Dispatches from DC: Cecil Bothwell at the Take Back the American Dream Conference *UPDATED*

Asheville City Council member and congressional candidate Cecil Bothwell is in Washington, D.C., for the Take Back the Dream Conference. Bothwell won a scholarship to attend by Democracy for America, a progressive organization founded by former Vermont Governor, Howard Dean. Bothwell was one of three scholarship recipients selected from 415 applicants and is joining more than 2,000 delegates to the event. He’s agreed to email Mountain Xpress dispatches from the event as it unfolds. We’ll update this blog as his reports roll in.

October 3, 2011 10:44:51 AM
Landed in D.C. an hour late thanks to mechanical problem on plane in Charlotte, but on time for the first speaker.

Robert Borosage, from the Campaign for America’s Future
Now detailing the wealth gap in America and the “plutonomy” in which government is by, for and of the top one percent.

“Whole swaths of trade policy have been given over to entrenched corporate interests.”

There is a class war, and the mega rich are winning.

Noted that many people in the ballroom (1,500 attendees), are disappointed with the current White House. Notes that while there have been many reforms, “Obama had his head handed to him by monied interests.”

At moments like this, popular movements arise to take on those entrenched interests. Noted that the first populist reaction was on the right – the Tea Party, an ersatz populism funded by big money. They hope to roll back the Great Society, the Fair Deal, the New Deal … and that’s why they are pushing to limit voting in state after state.

Their leaders now claim that people are paying too little in taxes, so they want to tax the poor.

Will we continue to roam the world looking for monsters to destroy? Or will we rebuild America?

Will big money succeed in controlling the vote?

We are going to tell the gang of 12, we want jobs, not cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

We need a politics that is disruptive. We need to expand the dream. When we join together we can win.
Together we can turn this country around. We are the majority.

October 3, 2011 10:52:28 AM
Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Voces de la Frontera, a major organizer from Madison, Wisconsin
Voces de la Frontera has been organizing mass marches for immigrant rights for decades.

“The labor struggle in Madison was contagious. We were pleased to see it happen and to join the struggle.”
Noted how helpful it was that legislators left the state to buy time for the movement to build.

The largest May Day march in the nation occurred in Milwaukee this year, and it combined the AFL-CIO and Latino activists.

She described the efforts to halt the budget vote in Madison, this summer, which included cuts to education, health care, etc. and decreased taxes on corporations.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that our massive organizing efforts are not a passing fancy … the recall elections were not a waste, they did narrow the vote balance.”
She believes that nonviolent resistance was dropped too soon, and that politicians sometimes undermined the movement toward solidarity between organized labor and Latino activists and toward immigration reform.

“Voces de la Frontera is proud to join you in this effort to rebuild the American Dream!”

October 3, 2011 11:10:13 AM
Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-MD)

“We must have once again in this country an FDR moment.”

Here, when we’re gathered, not just to talk about but to organize, we must answer this question, ‘Will our children be better off?’ in the same way that our parents did.

“These big banks who walked away with everything won’t loan a dime … while the median income is the lowest it has been in decades.”

“We’ve got to return the gavel to people who know what to do with it.”
“My American Dream includes a Congress that isn’t afraid of collective bargaining … that defends the rights of working people … getting up in the morning and facing a job where people have to work for 75 years, the longest of any industrialized country in the world … etc.”

“Our friends and our allies are spread all across this country. There is not a single congressional district in this country where we won’t challenge the opposition.”
“There are those who want us to have a food fight here, but this isn’t a cafeteria. There are those who want us to have a food fight with Barack Obama, but we aren’t going to give that to them.”

“We are going to demand accountability for working people.”

“The plan is that we go out and work harder than we have ever worked before. What’s at stake is not simply 2012. It is the future of this country.”

“We are not going to go silently while the top 2 percent walk away with the American Dream!”

October 3, 2011 12:41:02 PM

Van Jones, founder of Rebuild the American Dream (former Green Jobs advisor for the Obama administration, forced out through misrepresentation of his record by Fox News.)
Just took the stage to a standing ovation.

We went from hope to heartbreak in about a minute. The worst people in America with the worst ideas have dominated the conversation for the last two years. I’m not mad at them, I’m mad that we’ve been too quiet.

We somehow thought that by electing a single person to the White House, like electing MLK to the White House, and then we could just sit back and munch popcorn.
We change it from “yes we can,” to “yes he can.” We’ve got to take it back.

It takes a movement to create change … he mentioned several pivotal points in American history, and that presidents didn’t lead the movements, they reacted to them.

He just announced that Marines in their dress blues are moving in to protect the people occupying Wall Street with sign saying “This is the second time I’ve fought for my country, it’s the first time I knew who the enemy was.”

“The movement for hope and change was not invented or started by Barack Obama, and he would tell you that. This is your movement that you’ve built with your own hands.”

“We put millions of people in the street to challenge George Bush and his misguided wars. We lost that one, but we didn’t stop.”

(Hard to capture how much fun his speech is. Too many asides and one-liners.)

“You know I worked in the Obama White House for six months, the best six months of my life, followed by the worst two weeks.”

Now discussing the Obama “meta brand” (you can see that discussion on the video post from Netroots.)

“Here’s a secret about the Tea Party. There is no Tea Party …. it’s an open source brand. Most of the groups pre-existed, some go back to the Ross Perot days.”

They did it better than we did, because they built a network instead of hooking it all to one person. They claim to be patriots and claimed the principle “Liberty”
“Note they don’t talk about Liberty and Justice for ALL.”

But the people who love this country and everybody in it are deeper patriots than they are.

“MLK started out talking about a dream, and he said his dream was deeply rooted in the American Dream.”
It’s a dream where we all count, where we know that if the children you look at in your household work hard, they can do better than you did. It isn’t a dream that says corporations can throw you and your children under the bus.

The only question is, are you going to fight together or fight alone? Let’s build a movement to take back the American Dream. Let that be the banner.
Let the returning veterans be able to stand under a common banner, Take Back the American Dream.
Let the workers, the teachers, the parents, the children … etc., stand under a common banner. Take Back the American Dream.
Let the farmers who are losing their land join us, and stand together under a common banner.
It’s already begun.

Tea Party started with 800 meetings across the country. 50,000 people signed up online.
Got all kinds of media attention.
We started with 1571 meetings across the country. 600,000 people signed up online.
The news media ignored it.
We had ten times as many protest events in August as the Tea Party. The media ignored it.

Why is the White House talking different? Because we are walking different.

We’re spending $3 billion a week on wars. What if we had $3 billion for Detroit, for New Orleans, for Appalachia …?
We let the war mongers run this country for eight years and they wrecked it.

When your dream is crushed … you get back up with a bigger dream!

Jones brought the leaders of about 40 groups from across the country who are introducing themselves and committing their organizations to join the American Dream Movement. Young, old, straight, LGBT, union, student, Latino, civil rights, .orgs, MoveOn, True Majority, Progressive Majority, the Progressive Caucus, too many to keep up with the names.
Overwhelming response from the crowd. Standing, shouting, whooping, applause.

Jones: “This is a historic day. We have reached a turning point. We’ve reached a turning point here, today. On Wall Street we’ve reached a turning point. In Washington we’ve reached a turning point.”

My comment: Indeed. The progressives have landed.

October 3, 2011 2:07:36 PM

Robert Reich

Is taking apart “the big lie” (about the economy).
We keep hearing that we need lower taxes and less regulation.

Corporations are sitting on $3 trillion – where are the jobs?
There is a larger corporate profit margin now than at any time since before the Great Depression.

Another lie: Cutting government jobs helps the economy?
No, it puts people out of work.

The real problem in the economy is that average people are not purchasing because they can’t afford or are afraid.
Right now when you have 25 million Americans looking for work, and right now when infrastructure is crumbling for lack of maintenance, and right now when Treasury Bonds are paying 2 percent, put those things together and anyone with half a brain can see that now is the time to borrow money, to hire people and to repair the infrastructure.

Another lie:
Social Security is in trouble. No. it’s good for 30 or more years, and all you have to do is raise the ceiling .

Medicare costs too much, and it’s part of the problem.
No, Medicare is the solution.
We simply change it from a fee for service to a fee for outcome system.
We need Medicare for all.

Corporations are people.
Citizens United Supreme Court decision is right up there with the worst decisions in our history: Dred Scott, Plessy v. Ferguson, Bush vs. Gore.
Corporations are a fiction, not people.
I’ll believe that corporations are people when one is executed in Texas.

The biggest crisis since the Great Depression is no the budget deficit.
It is jobs.

The real issue around the debt is the ratio of debt to the total economy. The only way to fix it is to grow the economy.

Right now 37 percent of families with young children are living in poverty. The highest percentage we have ever seen since records have been kept.
The top 1 percent are taking in 20 percent of income and hold 35 percent of our national wealth. Those are the highest numbers since the 1920s.
They want to take us back to the Gilded Age, or perhaps the Stone Age.

They are also using demoralization and cynicism to discourage participation in governance.
The worst thing is when people say “Nothing can be done.” When they don’t believe we can do anything to change the direction of the country the other side has won.
Demoralization is their biggest weapon, because if people no longer believe they can play a part in changing the country, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

There are demonstrations in 70 cities now, joining the occupation of Wall Street.
These demonstrations are the smallest tip of an iceberg. There is a huge desire for change.

If people outside of Washington are not energized, mobilized and putting energy into issues, nothing good happens in Washington.
I think many of us have let Obama down. We need to keep up the pressure.

My first entré into politics happened during the Civil Rights Movement.
I was a small kid, and I was picked on a lot. So I made allies, and enlisted big guys to help defend me. They did it because they liked me and because they didn’t want bullies to win.

In the summer of 1964 one of my protectors, Mickey, Michael Schwerner, was tortured and killed in Mississippi.
I said to myself, the most important thing any of us can do is to protect the powerless, to prevent those in power from bullying anybody, and to give the people a voice so they would not ever be bullied again.

This terrible wage and jobs depression continues for most Americans. There is a small group who denies it. But Americans are not going to stand for it. We are going to say to those people, no more.

Now he’s taking questions.

October 3, 2011 3:45:30 PM

Now sitting in on a breakout session on restoring American manufacturing, building the green economy and fighting the export of jobs.

With Scott Paul , Exec. Dir. the Alliance for American Manufacturing
Representative Chris Murphy (D-CT), who is running for the seat being vacated by Joe Lieberman
Leo Gerard, President of the United Steel Workers
Leo Hindery, of Intermedia Partners.

Carl Pope of the Sierra Club is sitting in the front row, too. (Sierra is partnered with the AFL-CIO in the Blue/Green Alliance.)

Question: Should we have a comprehensive manufacturing policy?
We are the only industrial nation that DOES NOT have a manufacturing policy.

Murphy says, “Yes. We have watched other countries which have manufacturing policies have lapped us in the world economy.”
“We need an injection of public money in renewable energy manufacturing … as other countries move ahead, every month, every week, we are falling further back.”
Simply passing a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade law would make many renewables profitable immediately.

Also, we need to enforce the Buy America law. It states that 50 percent of every unit you buy for the U.S. government must be made in America. However we have built in loophole after loophole so the percentage may be as low as 20 percent. Murphy points out that when the Dept. of Defense, for example, buys a foreign part that costs 10 percent less than a domestic part, it can claim that it is saving taxpayers money. But if that causes a plant in the U.S. to lay off workers, the savings can disappear in a moment, due to reduced tax revenues, to unemployment payments, to retraining.

Leo Gerard

Speaking out about the Blue/Green Alliance forged between labor and environmental groups.
Conservation is one of the best sources of alternative energy, because saved energy is the cheapest form.
Talking about retrofits for efficiency.

58,000 U.S. manufacturing plants have closed in the past decade. Huge impact on other jobs in each community.
You can’t build more manufacturing by cutting spending.

Leo Hindery

29.2 million people are looking for real, full time jobs. We need to create those jobs now.
Our trade deficit is now 5 percent of GDP, and 90 percent of that deficit is with China.
The accumulation of wealth by China has permitted them to construct a blue-water navy which projects power throughout the Indian Ocean.

98 percent of the jobs created since 1990 are non-tradeable (that is, they don’t make things to trade).

We need to build our manufacturing from 8 percent of our total economy to 25 percent. Other countries which have held to that number recovered from the recession much faster than we have.

Some that need immediate work:

1. National Infrastructure Bank, engage pension plans as a funding source. There is $3 trillion in broken infrastructure that needs work NOW.
2. Address trade with China. 90 percent of the difference in cost between Chinese and American goods has nothing to do with workers.
3. Businesses fail because China cheats and the big banks aren’t loaning money to them.
4. Need all of government to adhere to buy-domestic jobs. 19 of the top 20 manufacturing nations have domestic purchase rules and manufacturing policies. We alone do not.

October 4, 2011 8:57:03 AM

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA)

Frank spoke briefly about national security and the need to reduce military spending.
He insisted that we don’t need to defend people around the world, many of whom do not want us to defend them.
He wants us to have the largest Air Force in the world, but doesn’t think the Navy should be the second largest air force in the world.
He observed that while terrorism is a threat, it is not an existential threat (as for instance the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany threatened us).

“Nuclear submarines are no use against terrorists. I wish they were, because we have them and they don’t.”

We can make our country stronger by reducing our military to what it was intended for, defense of the United States.

He also noted that Social Security and Medicare provide real security for the people of the country, and that preserving and strengthening those programs is critical.

He added that oddly, conservatives don’t seem to believe in federal jobs programs unless they involve the military. So they’re happy to hire soldiers, but aren’t willing to hire fire fighters, police, teachers, nurses or doctors … the people in jobs that make everyone’s lives better.

Here’s a link to the organizing document for the American Dream movement, the result of 60 million online votes last summer.

October 4, 2011 9:50:05 AM


Over 20 million are unemployed. None of the current proposals in Washington would create even half that many jobs. What do we need to do to broaden the plans?

Leo Gerard, Pres. United Steel Workers
Actually the number is closer to 30 million (including underemployed and those who have quit looking for work).
First we need to pass the President’s jobs bill – it isn’t big enough, but it is a first step.
Our manufacturing used to represent 25 percent of our economy. Now we are down to 10 percent. We need to rebuild manufacturing.
Unless we can convince the American public that not every kid is going to graduate college, that they are still entitled to a good job, with vacations and benefits, a good life, we won’t succeed.


Mitt Romney says the President’s party wants to take from some and give to others. What would you tell him?

Leo Hindery, InterMedia Partners
I’m concerned that we are very tepid in our proposals. We take baby steps. We need to put our best shot forward, we need to put out a jobs program that actually aims to put all of the people back to work. And then force the other side to vote against the people’s interest.

The jobs plan is ill conceived and undersized. The Buffet rule is ill conceived and undersized.

Romney wants to get rid of progressive taxation. He says we can count on trickle down. It’s a fraud.
His proposals are not just wrong, they are unethical and criminal.

What you’re watching in the GOP debate is trying to have it both ways.
They are lying to the American people. Reagan perpetrated this fraud and we’ve lived with it for 30 years.


Congresswoman, too often it looks like a lonely fight in Congress. A few voices. How can we do better as activists and congressional reps, to work together to give each other more leverage?

Rep. Jan Schakowsky, (D-IL)
I’m not activist averse. I feel more comfortable with this group than with the insiders.

In 2005 George Bush advocated privatizing Social Security, and it had wide support.
We, the leaders, knew it was a bad idea.
A huge strategy was developed, there was not a place where Bush could go in the country without people holding signs “Hands off SS!” And the conversation was changed.

We need the same kind of activism now.
Jobs, protecting SS and Medicare and Medicaid, and fair tax policy. We need to have very clear strategies on how we explain that and take it to the people.


Can you offer 3 or 4 great ideas of ways we can make this Contract for the American Dream a reality?
Erica Williams, Citizen Engagement Laboratory

Give people the opportunity to organize in their communities, per MoveOn model. House parties, marches, demonstrations.

Amplify your voice – take video camera out on the street, post to Facebook, etc. Online work has to be directly connected to offline work. Online is the way to amplify the offline effort.

October 4, 2011 10:21:44 AM

Ai-jen Poo, National Domestic Workers Alliance

Has helped pass a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in New York.

Domestic workers take care of the most important element of the families they work for, their homes, their children.
The domestic care work force is one of the most fragile and at risk work forces in our country.

Telling story of woman who came to America and worked for less than $3 per hour, essentially a sweat shop, and then after 3 years, fired.
We don’t really value them. Domestic workers and farm workers were explicitly excluded from labor laws dating back to the 1930s, when southern legislators demanded they be kept out, largely on racial lines.

So domestic workers are now organizing. We formed a national alliance in 2007. Passed the Bill of Rights in New York this year, one pending in California. We’ve got supporters in 19 states.

When you see the world through the eyes of women, you see the world much more clearly.
We are facing a values crisis. Domestic care and home care are growing quickly. They are fields dominated by women.

Starting this year, an American person turns 65 every 8 seconds. We are facing a huge demographic shift.
Caregivers are underpaid, and unprotected.
Keeping our families whole is keeping the nation whole.

By transforming care, we can transform the soul of America.
We’ve launched a campaign “Caring across generations.”

Five demands: (The five fingers of a caring hand.)
1. Creation of 2 million jobs in home care.
2. Labor centers to guarantee that the jobs are quality.
3. Training centers to offer pathways to careers.
4. Path to citizenship for undocumented caregivers.
5. Support for families for home care. Every family should be able to afford to care for their family members.

Providing a living wage and benefits for all care workers would cost 5 percent of the Defense Budget.

We do not know what is possible if we organize to rebuild the dream.
Our job is to provide the context to use all of our resources to make this transformation possible.

We are building a movement based on values, love, respect, justice. We will succeed!

October 4, 2011 11:35:12 AM
Break out session on Madison and the occupation of Wall Street

John Nichols, of The Nation magazine:

“220 years ago this week, the Founders met in a building in south Manhattan, on Wall Street, to approve the Bill of Rights. I am so glad that the people have returned to Wall Street now, to occupy the place, to demand redress of their grievances.”

Mahlon Mitchell, State President of firefighter’s union, Madison, Wisconsin:

Lucky that firefighters were not included in the Wisconsin budget cuts last Feb. (the “budget repair” bill). But every other public employee group included.

Scott Walker gave tax breaks to corporations and the rich and claimed the state is broke. Have an “open for business” law that gives 2 year tax exemption to any business that moves into the state. But, the state is broke, so he balanced the budget on the backs of the workers.

We told him not just no, but HELL NO!

As the firefighters marched in uniform to the Madison protest, they noticed a bank, and decided to withdraw all of their money, all together over $200,000 was withdrawn by firefighters. The protest just organized as it happened.

Nichols: “In the midst of the Wisconsin struggle, the NY Times was indefensible in its coverage. They claimed that the private sector union workers in Wisconsin surely wouldn’t support the protest of public workers. But the steel workers arrived, including Mike Pyne.

Mike Pyne, Steel Workers:

We had the honor of helping.
If we sit by and let another sister or brother take what this governor tried to dish, it’s only a matter of time until it hits us.
Since the early 1980s the Steelworkers and paper workers, every one of the industrial unions have taken hit after hit.
There’s been a drastic change after the free trade agreements.
Since the Obama administration came in we have won nine ITC cases in a row (tires, rubber, aluminum etc. being unfairly traded, etc.)
Steel workers were the first union to endorse Occupy Wall Street.
Demonstrations in front of the White House are powerful, but political effort is urgent. Doug Burnett has been in the thick of politics in Wisconsin for a long time. Now focused on getting rid of people in public office who oppose labor.

Burnett, AFSCME:

We were blessed with some good history. Wisconsin originated the recall election under Bob Follett, to clean up a corrupt government. A constitutional provision that after one year in office, 25 percent can sign petition and demand a recall. Not for criminal malfeasance, it was to take people out of office who had turned their backs on the people. Perhaps not disclosed their real agenda when they ran for election. Other states also allow direct democracy, but we were blessed with the recall.

We had agreed to all of the economic concessions Walker asked for, but it became clear that his agenda was to remove our bargaining rights.

The Republicans chose to use the recall first, in February, attempting to recall Democrats in the legislature. But once they did it, we filed recalls against all 9 eligible senators. And removed 2. The Republicans failed to get the required signatures.

Scott Walker was not eligible for recall, and senators not eligible until they had served their first year.

The protests in Madison caused some governors around the country to back off. Ohio doesn’t have the recall, but it has the “People’s Veto” in which the people get to vote on the laws.

Courtney Foley,
Ohio passed Senate Bill 5 very quickly after Jan. 2011. We collected more signatures than necessary very quickly. Held protests state wide. Got millions of signatures. Ohio went further than Wisconsin, did include firefighters. Gov. Kasich changed his tune after the Wisconsin recalls. Said, “Let’s have a conversation about this.”

We replied, “You can overturn the whole thing, but we aren’t going to have a conversation about it.”

Now they are trying to confuse everyone about the ballot initiative, lots of disinformation. Running very misleading ads.

This is a fight we have to win.


Bruce Colburn, SEIU
“There will be a recall of Scott Walker next year. We have to stop fighting not to lose, we need to fight to win.”
“As we do these fights we need to be sure that we are stronger after we win. What happens too often is that even after we win all we are is tired.”

“It’s not just a story about Madison, it’s a story of small towns all around the state. One town of 2,000, when Scott Walker went there, 3,000 people showed up to protest. We are dedicated to build ‘We are Wisconsin’ into an ongoing effort.”

Need a fundamental change to connect labor to communities, to work on all the issues that are important. We need a new vision to bring us all together.”


Mary Bell, President of the Wisconsin Public Education Union
“My members are passionate about education and are outraged that money is being taken from public schools and diverted to private schools. That’s what drove our members to leave their jobs and go out into the streets, to show our students that we would fight for their education. Walker handed a huge cut to public schools and a huge boost to vouchers for private schools.”

Small businesses joined the teachers and the unions on the streets, saying, “This is not right for our communities.” We have allowed ourselves to be divided about the things that don’t matter, and have stopped joining together to fight for the things that do.

Mary Botari, Center for Media and Democracy

We exposed ALEC, discovered that the ideas popping up in state after state are coordinated and funded by 300 corporations – 800 bills introduced in 50 states, all pushing the same agenda.


Scott Goodstein,
Worked on messaging in Wisconsin. Started “Punk Voting”
Walker made an off-the-cuff remark, that he would call in the National Guard.
We launched a Web site, “Not my Wisconsin” – pictures of jack-booted thugs, to show people what it would look like if Walker sent the National Guard against teachers, union workers.

Made a poster for a concert, pulled together great acts, free concert. Had a punk poster, great, but didn’t really think it would work for AFSCME. The poster was never actually printed, only via FaceBook, other social media. Six thousand kids showed up.

October 4, 2011 2:01:20 PM

Richard Trumka, Pres. AFL-CIO (youngest ever President of the United Coal Workers earlier in his career, then youngest Sec.-Treas. of AFL_CIO)

A lot of people got arrested last weekend on the Brooklyn Bridge, while the money keeps flowing to the top.
When is enough, enough?

What happened to the promise of America? What can we do to rebuild the American Dream?

Bank of America that makes about $1 billion per month wants to charge you $5 a month to use your own money.
And they’re going to fire 30,000 workers.

We are willing to deny education to Dream students, but it’s perfectly alright for bankers to file thousands of false affidavits to foreclose on homes.
Wall Street took our money and moved millions of jobs overseas.

Over the past 30 years the median wealth of African-American households fell by 2/3. It’s now $2,200.
When are we going to recognize that this is a job crisis, not a debt crisis?

When jobs go, we all lose.
Aside from our families and our faith, work is what defines us. It connects every one of us.
When 1:6 people can’t find work, the harm is deep and long lasting for individuals, families, communities and our nation.

Do we channel our anger into hate or into hope and work for a better future?

The Tea Party answer is to keep the economy on the rocks, fan the flames of anti-government feeling by making government fail, then they pit group against group, and they are doing their damnedest to assure that the electorate in 2012 looks nothing like the electorate in 2008.

And they support three lousy trade deals under consideration now.
Call 800-718-1008 to join the calls to Congress to kill these free trade bills.

And we need to force John Boehner to bring the bill to the floor of the house which demands that China stop devaluing its currency.

We need to raise the taxes on the rich and raise the ceiling on Social Security. Those who have profited here need to pay their fair share.
America wants to work and we will keep pushing until every last person who wants a job is back at work.

I’ve called out Obama when I disagree, but we also have to have his back when he does the right thing.
The Tea Partiers and Republicans need to know that if they don’t work for the people, we’ll give them a pink slip next November.

Calling for infrastructure repairs: highways, bridges, streets, and transportation systems.
To win, we have to come together. We in the labor movement are reaching out to each other, to other groups, to pull the movement together.

We demand that Wall Street pay its fair share.
We’ve got a long way to go, and we’ll fall down, but we’ll get up and keep going.
They’ll say government can’t create jobs. We’ll say, just you watch!
They say politics is broke, and we’ll say our politicians are broken.
If they say it’s class warfare, we’ll say BRING IT ON. (huge applause)

(wild applause, cheering, pounding on tables, whistles. Just a total explosion of the crowd here.)

October 4, 2011 2:28:00 PM

Mary Kay Henry, Pres. SEIU

I can’t think of a moment when its more important to take back America.
She told the story of William Quesse who founded the Janitorial Union in Chicago.

About how when workers stand together they win.
When each group tries to fight alone they can’t do it, so she encourages all the groups to work together.
“We know that when we work together we can achieve liberty and justice for all in our country.”

We must stand against racism, sexism and homophobia, and not allow ourselves to be intimidated by words like faggot, union thug, feminist and more.

We know we need jobs, but not just jobs, we need good jobs with justice.
There are too many people making money on money on Wall Street, too many companies like Verizon making millions and not paying a penny in taxes, while they cut the U.S. work force.
If American genius invented a product, we should make that product in the U.S. Amazon searched for a year to find a U.S. company to make the screen for the Kindle, and they couldn’t find a manufacturer here.

America cannot continue down this path. It’s time for Americans to come together and work for change.
And I’m not talking about that fake group funded by corporate money. I’m talking about power from the only place real power has ever come, from the people.

This summer we took action and changed the direction of the the conversation in Washington. They followed Boehner to a golf course and demanded answers. They camped out in Ryan’s office and demanded he talk to them.

As we speak American students, union members and students are occupying Wall Street and that movement is spreading.
We need to change our game and pull together to do the hard work of changing America.
We need to activate people who have never taken action in their lives.

We need to create a mobilization unlike anything our generation has ever seen.
I look forward to standing with you as we work to take back the American Dream!

October 4, 2011 3:18:12 PM

Panel discussion: We have a Plan!
Nationwide action starting Nov. 17, go to http://november17.org/

Natalie Foster, Rebuild the Dream (moderator)
Gabe Gonzalez, Center for Community Change
State Sen. Nina Turner (Ohio)
Gloria Totten, Progressive Majority

Nationwide action starting Nov. 17, go to http://november17.org/

Gabe Gonzalez:
Four things we each need to do to advance the cause of this movement.
1. Agreement on solutions, top line, non-negotiable goals.
2. Create an infrastructure from the ground. The big events are important, but local action is urgent.
3. Create and maintain coalition stability.
4. Continue the outside pressure. Action after action. Personal act after personal act.


Gloria Totten,
Here’s our plan: Defeat them. At every level.
Let’s get thousands of progressives running for office at every level.
The other side has been training their corps for three decades.
We need to catch this moment. If keep electing the same old kind of Democrats, we are not going to get the kind of government we need.

The Republicans elected 700 state reps last year and now control the majority of state legislatures. After the election, they started filing bills before they were even sworn in. Thousands of bills filed within two months of being sworn in. That had never happened before.
We need to do the same. There are 500,000 elective offices in the U.S. and we need to use every organizing opportunity possible to get people to run for office.
It’s time to move the ball forward.

We can’t continue to engage in whack-a-mole, focussing on a couple of states. We need to run nationwide.
We need you to run for the American Dream!


Nina Turner,
It’s going to take team work to make the dream work.

Whatever it takes, we’re going to do it. check out http://weareohio.com/goOhio
We are going to protect the workers in Ohio.
I don’t know about you, but when I call 911 I want to know someone is on the other end of the line.
I don’t know about you, but I had a teacher who made a big difference in my life.
We’ve got to take it back. There is power in our hands. It is not about looking for people with fancy titles like myself, it is about looking for people like you.

If you know anyone in Ohio, call them. Tell them to take a friend to the polls. We need to get out there and touch somebody in Ohio, and tell them we can never accept any law that prevents collective gardening.
We are fighting for our collective lives, and we need you.

1. We have been given two hands. One to go ahead and one to reach behind, to pull others up as we climb forward.
2. We cannot ask others to do more for us than we do for others.
3. Remember my grandmother saying, what you need to succeed are three bones: the wishbone, the jawbone and the backbone. The wishbone to keep hope alive, the jawbone to ask questions because questions demand answers, and the backbone to keep you standing upright no matter what comes.

We will take back the American Dream! We will take back the American Dream! We will stand together and take back the American Dream!

Couldn’t type fast enough, but Turner lit up the room and burned it down. The most enthusiastic applause of the event so far.

October 4, 2011 5:04:02 PM

There was a terrific panel discussion about Progressive Tax Reform in the New Gilded Age

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA)
Sarah Anderson, Institute for Policy Studies
Chuck Collins, Institute for Policy Studies

Unfortunately my laptop had powered down and there wasn’t an available outlet in the room.

Sanders tore it up, decrying the crooks on Wall Street (he said, “Please don’t misquote me. I said crooks They are criminals.”)
Talked about defunding the wars, closing tax loopholes, raising taxes on the rich, that the Buffet Tax is great but won’t do enough, that the Obama jobs program is a small start, but not nearly big enough.
Thunderous applause and cheering afterward.

Lee was quieter, but equally strong on those issues. Stressed that these are not simply money issues, they are moral issues. We have a real unemployment rate of 16 percent, about 25 or 28 million. We have 23 percent of our children growing up in poverty. The question is whether we are going to be the kind of country where wealth continues to flow to the top while poverty and hunger and unemployment rise.
Again, tremendous applause.

Then Anderson and Collins explained how progressive taxes make the country stronger, the middle class stronger and build real wealth.

Here’s a link to check into their work:




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About Cecil Bothwell
A writer for Mountain Xpress since three years before there WAS an MX--back in the days of GreenLine. Former managing editor of the paper, founding editor of the Warren Wilson College environmental journal, Heartstone, member of the national editorial board of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, publisher of Brave Ulysses Books, radio host of "Blows Against the Empire" on WPVM-LP 103.5 FM, co-author of the best selling guide Finding your way in Asheville. Lives with three cats, macs and cacti. His other car is a canoe. Paints, plays music and for the past five years has been researching and soon to publish a critical biography--Billy Graham: Prince of War:

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6 thoughts on “Dispatches from DC: Cecil Bothwell at the Take Back the American Dream Conference *UPDATED*

  1. Jake

    Thank you, Cecil. Sounds like a great program. I’m glad you’re there to learn and participate in what’s going on, and to represent for Asheville.

  2. cecilbothwell

    I get the “yawn” reaction. That moment-to-moment reporting was as real-time as I could manage, but missed the energy of the event.

    We have reached a pivot-point in progressive politics this week. Every major progressive group in the country joined together this week. It was a formative moment. The class war has been joined. The support for Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Asheville is linked. The reign of error by the right wing is over.

    We are going to take back the American Dream and we are going to take back America.

  3. scott owen

    Thanks Cecil, Thats alot of imformation. I appreciate not being spoken to in sound-bites.

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