Press enter after choosing selection

The Baker Momentum: Where To Now?

The Baker Momentum: Where To Now? image The Baker Momentum: Where To Now? image The Baker Momentum: Where To Now? image
Parent Issue
Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
Rights Held By
Agenda Publications
OCR Text

The legacy of an event is the mark that leaves on those that it touches. The Dean Baker for Congress campaign touched the lives of thousands of people in Michigan's 2nd Congressional District. From a farmer in Lanawee County struggling to keep the farm in the family, to an unemployed mother in Jackson worrying about cuts in social security to a student in Ann Arbor concerned about war atrocities in Nicaragua and El Salvador.

However, the people most deeply touched by the campaign were those who gave their time, energy and love in an attempt to realize a dream. "It would be so cool to get someone like Dean in there who was so sincere and wasn't doing it for himself" is the way one campaign volunteer expressed this dream.

AGENDA spoke to six of the hundreds of volunteers to learn more about what gave the Dean Baker for Congress campaign of 1986 its momentum.

George Sallade

George Sallade's involvement in Party politics spans four decades. Despite an early association with the Democratic Party, he represented Ann Arbor in Lansing for six years as a Republican because "the Democrats (in 1949) weren't interested in new people. They were more interested in a machine politician than anyone with new ideas."

Since then he has run three times for state legislature as a Democrat and has served many years as chairman of the 2nd congressional Democratic committee.

In 1982 he was drafted by the Democratic Party to run against Pursell. "I got 34% of the vote and I had less that 100 workers on the campaign."

About the 1986 campaign he notes that "initially I had been for Don Grimes. Don and I had worked together in the Hart campaign and I had considered him an able economist too. I talked to Dean before the primary and told him that of course I would support whoever won."

During the campaign he frequently met with the leaders, "strategizing and acting as a bridge between the new people on the campaign and the veteran Democratic organization leaders who had not known Dean prior to the campaign.

George reflects that "It was a very well organized campaign - it had a lot of talented people in it with a lot of good ideas . . . not only political ideas but campaign techniques as well. I was most impressed by the high intellectual caliber of the volunteers, their dedication and their integrity. I just enjoyed working with them."

George feels that the campaign will have a lasting effect on the local electoral political scene. "The gains were to show that it is possible to muster a good issue oriented campaign. This has left the Democratic Party much stronger locally, no doubt about it."

Thea Lee realized how much she had become immersed in the campaign "when I noticed that I hadn't opened the shades in my room for over a week. It's pretty stressful waking up day in and day out, going straight to the office, staying there until the middle of the night and coming home again."

Thea has been discussing running a candidate against Pursell as a form of protest against his votes on U.S. policy in Central America for a long time. "We (in Latin America Solidarity Committee) had gone as far as we could. We knew though that there was much broader support beyond the people who were involved then. We started thinking about challenging Pursell electorally . . . move away from a complaining, whining role."

Though efforts were made to get an established politician in town to run, "we finally settled on Dean because he had the energy. We trusted Dean and he would be as articulate a spokesperson as anyone in LASC...I did consider running myself - for about 5 minutes," Thea adds whimsically.

Thea was campaign co-manager and was involved in all stages of its planning though "canvassing was one of my favorite parts because it was just talking to people about politics every day."

Next semester Thea plans on going to China with her family to visit relatives and to Nicaragua to get started on her dissertation for a Ph.D in Economics. "I feel like I need some stimulation from the outside world."

But Thea's thoughts are still very much with the campaign. "My participation, every minute that I spent was well worth it. I consider it as part of my struggle to stop the war in Central America. We accomplished a lot towards that end."

Jean Besanceney

Jean Besanceney is a Kappa Alpha Theta at the University of Michigan. When she left home in Pittsburgh two and a half years ago her goals were to "have a career that was oriented around money and success." However, little of what she found made sense.

"I joined a bible study class where I thought l'd find some answers to my problems. A lot of the time I couldn't understand how they got the meaning out of it and how it could rule a person's life so I stopped going."

Jeans disillusionment surfaced in her political outlook too. "Finding out about contra aid made me decide that Reagan was a liar after I voted for him two years ago. I mean, he was just blatantly lying," she adds, partly indignant and partly incredulous.

The turning point came with a class in political philosophy which "really made me think. I started to read letters to the 'Daily' and 'Michigan Review' and compared different opinions." Jean plucked up the courage to march on Pursell's office because she "wanted to see what Pursell would say." But when he didn't appear "I was fired up and angry. I decided to sit in and get arrested. Getting involved in the campaign was a natural consequence of being arrested."

Jean worked on all phases of the campaign. Her priority though was to get fellow Greeks involved in the campaign. "Greeks have a stigma of not being concerned about the world, but that's not necessarily true. The sorority was really supportive of me. I even got flowers from a sister with a note which said "His loss is just as much ours as yours."

Acceptance came from the people in the campaign too. "We celebrated the fact that we worked so hard and that this brought us together. It was one of the first things that I felt a part of and that I had a right to be there."

For Jean the struggle has just begun. "I think that things are really serious. Things are changing and you can either stand by and watch or you can be a part of it."

Karen Klitz

Karen Klitz's children resist any kind of involvement in politics, though they were proud of her when she got arrested in front of Cari Pursell's office in March.

Until fairly recently, Karen's involvement in politics has been typical of many Americans. "When I was younger, in high school and college, I felt that the Democrats were trying to help the disadvantaged...I had great faith when President Kennedy was elected, but I didn't really pay attention until I realized how responsible he was for the arms build up."

A couple of years ago Karen got involved with the Latin America Solidarity Committee through a teach-in on campus.

Karen realized that "a lot of people you want to reach are not going to come to any events." She helped organize an effort to raise $2500 for ad in the Detroit Free Press protesting Contra aid.

"My involvement in the campaign was a banner of the Democratic Party one can knock on a lot of doors and talk to people."

Karen did a wide assortment of jobs for the campaign, from petitioning to designing brochures, bumper stickers and buttons. Like others she was most intrigued with door to door canvassing. "People were more polite in towns than in Ann Arbor...I wonder though if any of the people we talked to in Livonia or Jackson will carry anything with them from this brief encounter."

In the final analysis for Karen, like many others, the major benefit of the campaign cannot be measured in terms of victory or loss at the polls. "I really feel like a part of the community through working on the campaign. I came closer to people and identified common goals and directions."

Jane Queller

Jane Queller has worked at the University Cellar for the past six years. Working with the union (IWW), negotiating for contracts and on joint management committees has absorbed most of her political energy. "I don't see politics as disassociated from my life. The store represents a total environment giving me social, emotional cultural and political support. In a sense it is a microcosm of the world."

Jane considers the extension of "democratic structures" in society to be a priority. "THE issue is how people treat each other."

The campaign presented an opportunity to Jane to work on the issue outside her job. "I would walk past the office every day and see people working, but felt too shy to go in." At first Jane was tentative in her commitment to the campaign but after helping out with a mailing she started going to weekly planning meetings. "They needed someone to coordinate voter registration. I asked for more information and all of a sudden I was committed to it. Eventually the campaign took up all my time outside work...I wouldn't have missed it for the world."

Jane's next job was coordinating the literature drops. "After I took on a project, people looked to me like an authority on it. I had also made the assumption that everybody was very experienced. In a sense we were all amateurs, yet it was incredibly professional."

Jane was particularly impressed with how well people on the campaign worked together and the fact that "Dean didn't become a 'special' person. He was an expression of what everybody wanted."

She feels that it is important to maintain the energy that was generated by the campaign." We learned how to run a campaign. Even if we never do it again we still have all the skills to do other things with."

John Iskra

John Iskra was born in Livonia, weaned in Garden City and reared in Warren. He is a child of Michigan. He is 22, and eight semester hours away from a B.S. in Mathematics at the University of Michigan.

Stopping the nuclear arms race is highest on John's list of social priorities. All other issues "fade into the background in the face of Nuclear annihilation." However, "If I had my druthers I would be working for economic justice." While John feels that he "tends to the extreme left, (I could be called an Anarchist)," he feels that "from expediency, we don't have time to wait for the working class to develop the revolutionary consciousness to take over the factories."

Part of John's role in the campaign was acting as a contact between SANE and the campaign leaders. But he gets most excited when he talks about canvassing in Plymouth. "It was difficult to overcome regional nepotism; everyone feels they know 'Carl,' they refer to him as 'my friend Carl.' But when you go down his list of votes it would shock people and they would say 'I guess he's not my friend."

John's major concern with the defeat of the campaign at the polls is that people might "become disaffected and lose interest in doing political work."

However John has already begun looking ahead "l'm anxious to apply some of the things I learned from my work with SANE. I may get involved with the GE boycott..." He pauses and adds with a smile, "I also have to see that I finish school."

Pursell Watch

A series of meetings held since the election by activists in the Dean Baker for Congress campaign has culminated in a commitment to keep an eye on Representative Carl Pursell's voting record in Washington for the next two years.

The work involved in this effort includes reviewing the district's newspapers, writing press releases and conducting mailings.

The "Pursell Watch Task Force" has been formed for this purpose and will be meeting for the first time on Tuesday, December 9 at 7:30 pm in the University of Michigan Student Union. Anyone interested in the task force is encouraged to attend the meeting.


Old News