National Memo: Tammy Baldwin Runs Straight At The Tea Party

Wisconsin Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin wants to be the first openly gay candidate elected to the United States Senate. In an exclusive interview with The National Memo over the weekend, she made clear how she means to go about doing it: running straight at the Tea Party.

Suggesting the GOP will face an historic rebuke in the 2012 elections just two years after Tea Party activists helped to sweep it into power, Baldwin pinned her candidacy on the two pillars of the modern progressive movement that have both faced concerted assaults from newly-elected Midwestern governors in the past year: strong unions and a robust welfare state.

“I can promise you 2012 is a very different election year,” she said Saturday. “When [Governor] Scott Walker and [Congressman] Paul Ryan started to attack everything we hold dear as Wisconsinites, our rich progressive history, our belief in a strong retirement, people in Wisconsin stood up and became organized and engaged.” Walker led a successful effort to eliminate most collective bargaining rights for public employees and Ryan’s Medicare privatization scheme passed in the U.S. House only to die in the Senate last year.

“I was raised by my grandparents,” Baldwin said. “I learned at a much younger age than many people about the important role that Social Security and Medicare play in retirement security for our seniors. These are national success stories and we have to make them stronger and available to everybody and not weaken them as Paul Ryan proposed and end Medicare as we know it for those 55 and under.”

Though veteran Democratic Senator and progressive hero Russ Feingold was unseated by Tea Party-backed businessman Ron Johnson just 14 months ago, Baldwin articulated a vision of her own bid for the Senate as an opportunity to carry on his legacy — and directly confront the movement that at least until the emergence of Occupy Wall Street was by far the most politically potent in America.

Read the whole article »