With Super Tuesday unlikely to deliver a decisive number of delegates for the Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama campaigns for the Democratic presidential nomination, anticipation is building for the next round of primaries and caucuses around the nation. Following votes in six states and D.C. over the next week, it will be Hawaii and Wisconsin's turn on Tuesday, February 19, with the state set to assume the national political spotlight. This means the candidates and their brand name supporters are likely to visit, while other fundraising events and rallies are gearing up, including a major gathering of Madison progressives for Obama next Monday.
Madison progressive activists Vicky Selkowe and Lindsey Lee have organized Boogie Down for Barack!, a rally and fundraiser for the Illinois senator at the Majestic Theatre on Monday, February 11. Starting at 5:30 p.m., the event features music by the disco tribute superstars V05 and will be hosted by Ed Garvey and Peg Lautenschlager. Noting that this is one week before this state's primary, organizers are encouraging Obama's supporters to "get fired up to help Barack win Wisconsin" at the rally.
"The event is meant to build and highlight the progressive support Obama is gaining in Wisconsin as we gear up to help Obama win Wisconsin's primary," says Selkowe. "For the first time in a long time, many progressives have found a national Democratic candidate who excites us and gives us a sense of possibility about a more progressive national agenda."
Organizers are promoting a long list of Madison progressives planning on attending the rally. There are multiple local elected officeholders, including State Rep. Spencer Black, Madison school board members Carol Carstensen and Johnny Winston, Jr., Dane County Sups. Ashok Kumar and Tom Stoebig, Madison alder Brian Solomon, as well as progressive activists such as Buzz Davis, Jane Jensen, Austin King, and Midge Miller, among others. Selkowe says that the rally on Monday is also intended to "lure undecided progressives" to learn more about why other local progressives are supporting the candidates.
One major Obama supporter in town who is not among those listed, though, is Zach Brandon. The Madison alder whose downtown laundromat/bar Laundry 101 is the site of the first Obama campaign office in the city is also often seen as a political bête noire among local progressives. Support for Obama on both sides of this local political divide, though, is described by both Selkowe and Brandon as a positive sign for the candidate.
"The fact that Zach Brandon and I could enthusiastically agree on a candidate is a sign of just how tremendously refreshing and exhilarating Obama's approach is to politics and to our nation's problems," declares Selkowe.
"The rally is an opportunity for progressive Madison to have their night, but I'll be there in solidarity and to say I'm proud and happy they're doing this, and show that we are bigger than some of the things we disagree on," agrees Brandon.
He goes on to explain his thoughts on this support for the candidate: "When people say that Obama is post-partisan, or above partisanship, this is proof positive. A lot of people think about it in national left and right terms, but this also shows it to you locally. Some of the most controversial recent issues in Madison such as paid sick leave and the minimum wage, have seen Vicky and Austin on one side, and me and Jim Doyle on the other side. Here we come together and coalesce around a common idea and one candidate."
This "Boogie" next Monday is the highest-profile recent public campaign event in Madison so far, at least that is until a candidate or one of their celebrity supporters visits. The upcoming week is already replete with events in town for both Democratic campaigns. There are Super Tuesday TV parties at Brocach (Obama) and the Angelic (Clinton), for example. Obama supporters have also organized a visit by Hawaii Rep. Neil Abercrombie at the UW Law School on Super Tuesday, along with a fundraiser at the downtown Argus Bar on Friday.
Brandon says support for Obama is growing rapidly in town, at least as seen from his vantage point at its campaign offices at Laundry 101. "Because of the proximity to the UW campus, you have students walking in for an hour and then going to their next class," he says, noting that an undergrad, a law student, and a 50-something supporter were all working the phones early Monday afternoon before the campaign's regularly scheduled phone-canvassing start time of 3 p.m.
"We're even asking people to bring in their own laptops and cellphones," Brandon notes. "There's that much energy for Obama in Madison." He says that the campaign is also getting ready to announce a second office downtown.
The big question, though, is whether or not Obama will return to the city before the primary in an encore to his hugely-attended appearance at Monona Terrace last October, or any other candidate for that matter. Speculating merely for himself, Brandon asserts what many other supporters are certainly hoping: "I would be shocked if we didn't see Barack Obama in Madison."