Raging for the Machine

Rockers, rappers lead Democratic GOTV effort in Wisconsin

June 2, 2012

MADISON - Left-wing musicians took to the stage here Friday to rally the union-faithful in the days leading up to the state’s recall election for Gov. Scott Walker.

Held outside the Madison Labor Temple Lounge, the concert was a get-out-the-vote rally for Walker’s Democratic opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Voters will hit the polls on Tuesday to determine whether Walker, only the third governor in U.S. history to face a recall, will stay in office.

We Are Wisconsin, a labor-backed anti-Walker organization, organized the concert. Banners for some of the nation’s largest unions—the AFL-CIO, the IBEW, and AFSCME—adorned the stage.

Musicians included Tom Morello, former guitarist of "Rage Against The Machine," singer-songwriter Jackson Browne, Tim McIlrath of "Rise Against," rapper Brother Ali, and Mike McColgan, the original lead singer of "Dropkick Murphys."

Morello, who has played in support of Occupy Wall Street and other left-wing causes, told the crowd of roughly 3,800 that the recall election was just one part of a global resistance movement against the "corporate elite."

"It’s time to put the brakes on the corporate terrorism that’s going on around the globe," Morello said.

In 2000, Rage Against the Machine played outside the Democratic National Convention in protest of the two-party system. On Friday, however, Morello urged people to vote for the Democratic candidate.

Morello also read letters from socialists around the world expressing solidarity with Wisconsin Democrats’ attempts to unseat Walker, whose collective bargaining reforms plugged a $1.8 billion budget hole in Wisconsin.

A letter from "your Greek comrades" urged the crowd to "stop the social barbarism they have in for us" and "join the struggle."

Greece remains on the brink of a sovereign default and forced exit from the eurozone due to extravagant government spending.

Brother Ali—a Madison-based, socially conscious hip-hop artist—pondered "why so many poor people are conservative," and concluded it was because they had been seduced by the "fat cats."

In between jeremiads against Walker and corporations, the crowd was treated to such songs as "Up the Union," "Union Town," "There is Power in a Union," and "Solidarity Forever (for the union makes us strong)."

Audience members wore shirts with such slogans as "proud to be a union thug."

Protesters appeared to hate Scott Walker as much as they loved unionism. One woman carried a sign reading: "Mubarak: check. Qaddafi: check. Walker … You’re next!"

An event volunteer, a union member from Pittsburgh, said he had travelled to the Badger State to "make sure we get that asshole out of office."

The rally ended with a sing-along to the socialist anthem, Woody Guthrie’s "This Land is Your Land."

For the final chorus, Morello told the crowd to jump up and down, "with the express purpose of getting that son of a bitch Scott Walker out of office."

"The struggle for social justice is not rated PG-13, brothers and sisters," Morello said.

Walker has led Barrett by at least four points in all independent polling over the past two months.