Although he hasn’t quite kicked off his first official campaign events, President Obama roused an organized labor crowd on Monday as if it were a full-fledged rally.
Obama spoke to a capacity crowd of 3,000 delegates at the Building and Construction Trades Department’s 2012 National Legislative Conference in Washington. The president clearly is working to fire up labor unions to come out for him this year much as they did in first propelling him to the White House four years ago.
The president’s remarks were part infrastructure advocacy, and part basic stump speech. He also wove in praise for unions which underscored his basic campaign themes of fairness and income inequality.
“It was workers like you who led us westward. It was workers like you who pushed us skyward. It was your predecessors who put down the hard hats and helped us defeat fascism. And when that was done, you kept on building –highways that we drive on, and the houses we live in, and the schools where our children learn,” Obama says. ” And you established the foundation of what it means to be a proud American. And along the way, unions like yours made sure that everybody had a fair shake, everybody had a fair shot. You helped build the greatest middle class that we’ve ever seen. You believed that prosperity shouldn’t be reserved just for a privileged few; it should extend all the way from the boardroom all the way down to the factory floor. That’s what you believe.”
Obama explicitly slammed congressional Republicans for rejecting legislation designed to spur federal spending on rebuilding old roads, bridges, and other infrastructure.
“Contractors are begging for work, and the work needs to be done. Let’s do it. And time after time, the Republicans have gotten together and they’ve said no,” the president says, eliciting enthusiastic boos of the GOP. “I sent them a jobs bill that would have put hundreds of thousands of construction workers back to work repairing our roads, our bridges, schools, transit systems, along with saving the jobs of cops and teachers and firefighters, creating a new tax cut for businesses. They said no.”
The president went on to criticize Republicans for turning down infrastructure spending in the name of deficit reduction while simultaneously supporting more tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
Facing more-hopeful but still-uncertain re-election prospects, Obama clearly wants the organizational muscle of labor unions working to mobilize voters come Election Day. Unions played a large role in his election in 2008.
“So if you’re willing to join us in this project of rebuilding America, I want you to know — when I was running for this office, I told people I’m not perfect. I’m not a perfect man. Michelle can tell you that,” Obama concluded, to laughter. “I’m not a perfect President. But I made a promise I’d always tell you where I stood. I’d always tell you what I thought, what I believed in, and most importantly I would wake up every single day working as hard as I know how to make your lives a little bit better.
“And for all that we’ve gone through over the last three and a half, four years, I have kept that promise. I have kept that promise,” Obama adds. “And I’m still thinking about you. I’m still thinking about you, and I still believe in you. And if you join me, we’ll remind the world just why it is that America is the greatest nation on Earth.”
Scott Nance is the editor and publisher of the news site The Washington Current. He has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.