AuthorConniff, Ruth

I was standing next to a Democratic state legislator at a recent back-to-school event in Wisconsin as Democratic Governor Tony Evers announced he was dispensing $90 million in COVID-19 federal relief money for Wisconsin schools, courtesy of President Joe Biden.

Republicans have been particularly intransigent about school funding in Wisconsin, compared with other states, passing a budget that froze state spending on education for two years during the pandemic, just when students' needs were most pressing. It's only because of Biden -- and the massive infusion of federal money he made available to fill the gap--that Evers has been able to govern effectively, the state legislator said, quickly adding: "I guess I shouldn't say 'Joe Biden.' "

The conventional wisdom across the country seems to be that Democrats should avoid associating with the President, despite the fact that he has done more to push through major progressive policy change than any President since Lyndon Johnson -- from expanding labor rights to lifting a substantial portion of the crushing burden of student debt, to the most ambitious federal climate legislation ever.

At a Labor Day event in Milwaukee, AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler called Biden "the most pro-union president in history." Biden happily accepted the title, declaring that "unions built the middle class" and touting his administration's efforts to restore labor rights. While he hasn't succeeded in getting the landmark Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act passed, through a series of executive orders, and parts of other legislation, including the infrastructure bill's requirement that contractors pay prevailing wages, he has "kicked the door down," according to Steve Rosenthal, a former political director at the AFL-CIO." 'We went through decades of Democratic presidents' who 'didn't say the "u" word,' " Rosenthal told Politico. Biden is different.

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the National Labor Relations Act in the 1930s, establishing federal rights for workers to form unions, "He didn't say it was OK to vote [for unions]," Biden said. "The language read: We should encourage unions." To the cheering pro-union crowd in Wisconsin, Biden declared, "Well, I'm encouraging unions!" And unions are definitely encouraging voters to support Biden.

Notably absent from the stage on Labor Day, however, was Wisconsin's Democratic Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, the candidate who talks about growing up in a...

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