Mitt Romney was supposed to kick off his “jobs and economy” bus tour at a Quakertown Wawa earlier today, but he decided to skip the scheduled event. About 400 – 500 people had gathered to greet the Republican presidential candidate – but about half of those were anti-Romney. Demonstrations in opposition to Romney were called by former Governor Ed Rendell and Fight for Philly [Editor's Note: 6/19/2012 - While members of Fight for Philly were at the demo, the event was primarily organized by MoveOn and PA Working Families. My apologies for the inaccurate info]. Romney decided to double down on Ed Rendell’s new book title, A Nation of Wusses, and skip being confronted by demonstrators, opting instead for lunch with Wawa executives. But before I go much further, I’ve got to remark that it’s really ironic that Romney wanted to kick off a “jobs” tour at an establishment that offers low wage / minimum wage jobs inside a state with a Governor and legislature that is busting middle class union jobs in favor of low-wage jobs.
The scene that ensued at the Quakertown Wawa took Jay Gould’s infamous statement during the Great Southwest Railroad Strike of 1886 about dividing the working class and made it a reality. The 19th century railroad owner stated “I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half,” and today’s event proved that there is deep animosity between supporters of the two major political parties (there was no physical violence at today’s event). The two prevailing theories on how to fix the economy were prevalent today. The working class Romney supporters, which numbered around 150 to 200 people, believe the propaganda that is spewed from the Kochs and the Armeys of the world. They believe that we need to bust private and public unions so we can be wage competitive with developing countries and that we must lower taxes on the rich. I was beside myself listening to these talking points coming from working class people. The opposition held two counter rallies at the scene. One rally was hosted by Governor Ed Rendell and MC’d by Patrick Murphy. This rally drew the Democratic party establishment. The second rally was hosted by Fight for Philly and had working class people speaking out against the Technocrat and his ventures with Bain Capital.
After the Mitt Romney welcome wagon – a Cadillac Escalade placarded with investment firms and banks that support Mitt Romney and a fake dog strapped to the top of the SUV – made its appearance, the festivities began and the sparks began to fly. The scene didn’t get tense until the Fight for Philly rally began. The group had a few speakers talking about their struggles. The scene remained extremely peaceful, but the intensity picked up when the Romney camp decided to come across to the other side of the field and chant over those on the microphone. Their ignorance about the current economic situation along with their lack of compassion showed.
The first speaker – who I was able to record on video – gave a short statement about his former job as a steel worker at Fairless Works, a steel mill that was located in Levittown, Pennsylvania. He was a third generation worker at the plant and claimed that he along with 50,000 other people, were victims of Bain Capital, who bought the business, laid off the workers and sold it for a profit. His statement began with populist egalitarian views such as taxing the rich and feeding the poor, but as he began to talk about the investment firm, the Romney supporters began to yell about how it was the unions who destroyed this country. They were attacking one of the only institutions that fights for middle-class wages and safe work place conditions. The ignorance of the Romney supporters was in overdrive, especially when a drunken older man received applause for shouting borderline racist slurs about the president. He slurs included “The Muslim Brotherhood is in the White House” and “Lock up your daughters because Sharia Law is coming to America.” The crowd was supporting cheering the man who passed out drunk an hour before the event began.
Fairless Works employee
Romney supporters interrupting the Fight for Philly rally
After that speaker, I went into the Wawa to wait for Romney to come in. I had my camera ready for the gaffe machine, but the Wawa manager wouldn’t allow any press inside the store. Nor were they allowing people to have their cameras out if the presidential hopeful showed up.
That brings me to my last point: the excuses Romney used – “security concerns” and that the “Democrats were there” – seemed to be completely fabricated. His “excuses” were just that. Romney didn’t want to face a group of 200 “anti-Romney” demonstrators, and his actions calls into question his character about handling opposition. Recently, when Romney made a gaffe claiming that teachers, firefighters and police officers can be lopped as “big government,” and was questioned on it more than once, the presidential hopeful completely ignored reporters. Romney’s arrogance towards the working class has been in full-swing this election cycle. He pretends they don’t exist, and now he took that arrogance to the next level. He went from facing 400 to 500 demonstrators, half who were actually there to support the man, to eating lunch with regional Wawa executives – his type of people. He went from aspiring “Commander in Chief” to the current “Coward in Chief.”
Author’s Note: To find more coverage of the Ed Rendell hosted event, please go to The Pennsylvania Progressive. John Morgan, the editor and owner of The Pennsylvania Progressive, has video from all the speakers, which included: Eugene DePasquale, Kathy Boockvar, Rob McCord, Patrick Murphy and Ed Rendell.
PA Progressive Coverage of Rendell Event (Part 1)
PA Progressive Coverage of Rendell Event (Part 1)
Sean Kitchen is an Assistant Editor and Social Media Organizer for Raging Chicken Press. He is student at Kutztown University.