Outside Time Warner Cable Arena on the day before the Democratic National Convention opened, some protesters were expressing their views that the Obama administration is not progressive enough. Others were denouncing individual candidates – of both parties – who cozy up to corporations.
But not Candace Jackson or Benjamin Bearden. Dressed as 1950s throwbacks, they were demonstrating against what they called the backward, regressive Romney-Ryan plan for America.
“They want to turn the clock way back,” Bearden said of the GOP.
Jackson said she liked what Barack Obama promised four years ago – “Change.”
Later in the week, she said she liked another word she was hearing from the convention – “Forward.”
Democrats at their convention hammered the theme, stressing that GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and running mate Paul Ryan want to dial back the clock on women’s rights and voting rights, to refocus on trickle-down economics and to stop the clock on LGBT rights and immigration reform.
In one of the first speeches at the convention, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a likely candidate for New Jersey governor, presented the proposed party platform and said, “We choose forward. We choose inclusion. We choose growing together.”
U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a legend in the civil rights movement, said “forward” four times in a convention address that focused on the struggle for equality and freedom.
One of the original 13 Freedom Riders, Lewis recalled a day in 1961 in Charlotte when “a young African-American rider got off the bus and tried to get a shoe shine in a so-called white waiting room. He was arrested and taken to jail.”
Later that day, Lewis and another Freedom Rider were in nearby Rock Hill, S.C., where they tried to enter a white waiting room. “We were met by an angry mob that beat us and left us lying in a pool of blood,” he said.
Then the fight, in part, was for voting rights.
Lewis said the nation has come far, but “there are Republican officials still trying to stop some people from voting. They are changing the rules, cutting polling hours and imposing requirements intended to suppress the vote. The Republican leader in the Pennsylvania House even bragged that his state’s new voter ID law is ‘gonna allow Gov. Romney to win the state.’ That’s not right. That’s not fair. That’s not just.
“And similar efforts have been made in Texas, Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Arizona, Georgia and South Carolina. I’ve seen this before. I’ve lived this before. Too many people struggled, suffered and died to make it possible for every American to exercise their right to vote.”
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino talked repeatedly about going forward, ending his convention speech with a reference to a hometown hero’s famous ride: “Up in Boston, we have a plaque that says: ‘Paul Revere started a ride, which in a way has never ended.’ That’s true about our country, too. In every generation, the American people have taken up that ride, pushing the United States forward. We’ve never gone back.”
And U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, who is running for the U.S. Senate in Wisconsin against self-avowed conservative Republican Tommy Thompson, said “forward” six times in her address to the convention.
The word, she pointed out, is Wisconsin’s motto, adopted in 1851 and placed over the crest on the state coat of arms. There’s a story that the state was going to repeat New York’s motto – “Excelsior” and considered “Onward” and “Upward” before “Forward” was chosen.
Baldwin, who would become the first openly gay person in the Senate if she wins in November, began her address, “I know you’ve heard a lot about Wisconsin lately. You’ve heard about Paul Ryan, who wants to end Medicare as we know it. You’ve heard about Scott Walker, who took basic rights away from teachers, nurses and public employees. Maybe you’ve even heard about Tommy Thompson, our former governor, who went to Washington, cashed in on his special interest connections and never really came back.”
Baldwin said she wanted to talk about heartland values, the Wisconsin “where my grandparents raised me, the place where generations of families have worked hard to get ahead, the place where our state motto might sound familiar to you.
“It’s just one word: ‘Forward.’ We believe that if we’re going to prosper, everyone has to have a fair shot, and everyone has to do their fair share. That’s why I’m proud to lead the charge for the Buffet Rule, which makes sure that millionaires and billionaires don’t get to pay a lower tax rate than middle-class families. And, President Obama is standing with me.”
Baldwin also spoke of moving forward on civil rights. “Our president has made historic progress toward equality,” she said. “He repealed ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ so that no American ever again has to lie about who they are in order to serve the country we love. Republicans want to write discrimination into our Constitution. But the Wisconsin I know believes that with each passing year and each generation, our country must become more equal, not less. Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Scott Walker, Tommy Thompson – they think they’re the only ones who speak for Wisconsin.”
The congresswoman concluded, “Come November, the Wisconsin I know – the America I love – will speak out loud and clear, and keep us moving forward: forward with a strong middle class; forward on a path to prosperity; forward with President Obama!”