By Ali Carey and Keegan Gibson
When Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell appointed Pat Toomey to the debt “super committee,” he put an exclamation mark on the freshman Senator’s rising profile in Washington. However, Toomey’s appointment has also fueled animus among liberals and made him even more of a political target here in Pennsylvania
A string of protests has followed the Senator during recent stops – and at his offices – around the state. Handfuls of protesters, including many unemployed workers, rallied in Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Scranton and Allentown last week. Protests are expected in Philadelphia this week.
They’re no coincidence. The rallies are being coordinated by the American Dream Movement, a progressive group founded by Van Jones after controversies over past activism forced him to leave the Obama administration. Some hope the ADM will become the liberal counterpoint to the Tea Party.
According to an email from Emma Stieglitz of Berlin Rosen, which counts the ADM as a client, the movement is supported by national and local organizations including Moveon.org, Rebuild the Dream, SEIU and the Center for Community Change.
“The protests against Senator Toomey this week are part of a larger movement of voters who are holding politicians accountable for constantly siding with CEOs and Wall Street bankers instead of working people and failing to create jobs for the middle class,” Stieglitz wrote.
“Senator Toomey, where are the jobs?”
Toomey Communications Director Nachama Soloveichick dismissed criticism that the Senator was out of touch.
“Senator Toomey appreciates feedback from his constituents and knowing their concerns. He often travels across the state to meet with constituents and hear their thoughts on the best way to create jobs and get our economy moving,” she said.
“In August, he has already spent time in Northeastern, Central and Western Pennsylvanian hosting jobs roundtables and meeting with constituents. He will continue to host jobs roundtables, town halls, and other events in Pennsylvania during this recess period.”
At the end of the day, one of the reasons that Toomey was such a credible choice for the committee is that the Senator is in his first year in his first term – meaning that the negatives from his work on this committee will probably fade before his re-election effort in 2016.
But Toomey is not the only Republican representative targeted by unemployed protesters. Many GOP Congressmen are also taking heat.
According to an email from American Dreams Movement representative Amelia Abromaitis (also at Berlin Rosen), protesters in Holidaysburg and Erie delivered failing ‘jobs report cards’ to Republican Representatives Mike Kelly and Bill Shuster last week.
“Congressman Kelly ran on a campaign that he was going to create good jobs for the Erie area that are going to stay here… Instead, we look around and the economy looks pretty bad. We feel like the things he said he was going to do, he is not doing,” wrote Abromaitis, quoting Meadville home care attendant Dawn Esterly.
On Thursday, around 100 unemployed workers staged a funeral march and protest against the death of the middle class at Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick’s Langhorne office, just outside of Philadelphia. Rally attendees carried a coffin, tombstone signs and pro-jobs messages.
“I have a 20-year work history,” said Frank Wallace, a laid off law firm employee quoted in the Bucks County Courier Times. “I never went this long without a job. Fitzpatrick and others would rather stand up for the top 1 percent of Americans. They see us as shiftless bums just looking for handouts. I find that working for my money is much more satisfying.”
Ultimately, these events reiterate the prominent role PA will play in the 2012 elections, for the House, Senate and White House. In the mean time, the delegation can almost certainly look forward to future rallies coordinated by outside groups, and more encounters with on-message, out-of-work protesters.