Sep 6. 2011

Obamania in Detroit for Labor day – God bless good jobs!

by Hélène

This article has been published by Café Babel, a multilingual European magazine. Check it here!

Barack Obama in Detroit for Labor day (the US version of 1rst of May) came at a perfect time for hundreds of thousands of jobless Detroiters – Detroit city had an unemployment rate of 16 % in 2009 with a real figure suspected to be hovering around 50 %, Michigan has currently a rate of 10,9. The 12,000 union members attending the event behind the stage -just where we were- this September 5th, cheered up their lot too. In the context of an uncertain future for the unions, Obama’s trip is a sort of warming-up for next political fight. He is eagerly expected to reveal his next job plan to the Congress tonight.

Obamania Labor day ceremony in Detroit (a political rally for the 2012 elections?), the French way, here’s how to make the most of it:

Golden rule #1: early birds will get there (especially if they leave their umbrella home as required by security checkings). We were there on time but Labor day has to be lived at length – the whole ceremony lasted for about 3 hours – in a middle of a dense, colored and reactive crowd. All the political and union class from Michigan was on stage. Hilda Solis, the state secretary for labor came along. Golden rule #2: it’s all about symbols. Obama and his advisers didn’t chose Détroit (and the Renaissance Center – GM headquarters) by chance. Capital city of the auto industry and of the workers’ union in the US, Detroit is going trough very though times. The “Big 2″ (Chrysler and GM) can be grateful to Obama for a nice 81 billion dollar federal money check signed back in 2009 – just after Obama got into the house. According to their saviour, the two car-manufacturers repaid a large amount of their bailout and keep on making “the best cars in the world”.  Golden rule #3: forget about secularism. The US are not the best example of a secular country (yes, we are French…). In case you have a doubt, toss a nickel, it reads (“In God we trust”). But little did we know that a minister would get the assembly to pray, followed suit by the imprecations of a rabbi lady… Golden rule #4: interact with the crowd. Obama is clearly a gifted orator. He knows how to speak to his folks by hinting to their core values: work, sacrifice, workers’ unions and barbecue (“This day belongs to you (…). You deserve a little barbecue”)! He even refered to the Chrysler super-bowl commercial with Eminem: “this is a city that’s been to hell and back (…) And I see a city that’s coming back”. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKL254Y_jtc&feature=player_embedded] His half-an-hour speech was all the more easy to listen to. Golden rule #5: politics and show-business have more in common than what you think. President Obama is also a great master at directing an assembly’s reactions. As he went on talking, the crowd in its own speech reelected him for “four more years”. In the US, politics and show-business go hands in hands. Aretha Franklin, a Detroiter familiar with Obama gatherings, was there to warm up the atmosphere tuning the folks in with her famous Respect song. Golden rule #6: go for middle-class. The USA are the country of the middle class. Obama did certainly not forget that, stating that Detroit and its unions are the craddle of “the greatest middle-class the world has even known“. All the politicians before his appearance on stage paid their own tribute to this cult of the “middle class”, a middle-class that needs to be restaured. This is a reference one would hardly ever find in a political speech in France… Golden rule #7: (take the) stairway to socialism. To us, Obama’s speech contained some very socialist statements (in a West-European understanding) such as: “we’ve gone through a decade where wealth was valued over work, and greed was valued over responsibility” or

“the same set of rules for everybody from Wall Street to Main Street.  (…) An economy where hard work pays off and gaming the system doesn’t pay off”

the president of the USA also refered to the 40hour workweek; to the implementation of a minimal wage, access to better health, retirement plans and education. Obama took the defence of those who are fighting the Republican initiative of making Michigan a “right-to-work state” (a state where union membership can’t be made compulsory). In a word, everything is ready, “we just need Congress to get on board”. All that looked very “Front populaire” to us (i.e: a very socialist political era we got in the 30′s in France)… Golden rule #8: wave at Michelle in her limousine. From where we were we couldn’t see much of Obama, except for a piece of his pants. So we took confort at waving at the first lady’s half-arm… One thing is sure, even in Obamaland, unions’ parades look nothing like what we have in Europe. On monday we felt more like a baseball games, with Barack as a catcher! To read Barack Obama’s Labor day speech click here. The Washington Post also published an interesting article. View more photos from this event on our Flick’r page, here.


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