Not “Yes HE Can”, But “Yes WE Can” Says Rep. Ellison

Despite Republican congressional resistance that’s made it difficult to make headway on progressive issues, Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison is optimistic about 2012.

“America is ready” Representative Ellison told a supportive crowd at the “Blue State Ball”. “This is a progressive moment.”

Republicans have made a lot of mistakes since winning a majority in the US House. The latest gaffe of opposing a payroll tax cut has hurt their standings in polls even more than Democrats. However Representative Ellison says despite that, and a group of Presidential candidates that even the Republican base finds uninspiring, Democrats need to unite and fight or they will not take advantage of the moment.

“We cannot depend upon the incompetence, ignorance and bigotry of our opposition. We have got to hang together and move forward. We are in a progressive moment, y’all.”

Movement needs to power Obama, not the other way around

Single payer health care, peace and workers’ rights are all issues Representative Ellison are ripe to make progress on because there is a groundswell of public support. However, having public support doesn’t guarantee success. He pointed to 1968 when Democrats, progressives and liberals had everything going for them.

“We had a civil rights movement, women’s rights movement, we had a gay rights movement, we had an anti-war movement and we were on the move. And somehow, somehow, Richard Nixon snuck into the White House.”

To avoid that, Representative Ellison says progressives need to unite and organize. He says progressives need to create a movement that gives President Obama the power to act as they would like him to.

“We don’t want to get up and start saying ‘yes he can’, right? No it ain’t about yes he can, it’s about yes WE can.”

Transcript of Representative Keith Ellison’s speech at the 2012 Blue State Ball

All right let’s give it up for the Blue! State! Ball!

Make some NOISE!

You know I love coming to the Blue State Ball. See all my progressive friends. See all my progressive heros, like Janet Roberts. Let’s give it up for Janet. Where’d she go? I don’t know, I lost her in these lights up here.

But I just want you all to know that we are absolutely in a progressive moment in American history. And all we have to do to create a greener, cleaner, fairer, more peaceful America is to step forward and take it. But we got to take it. We got to take it right now. We’ve got to eliminate all of the infighting on the progressive left and find a way to build unity, not through silencing anyone, but through discussing our differences and coming to the understanding that our differences are not nearly as important as what we hold dear, which is a fair, clean, green and together America.

We got to come together. (applause)

Now I’m a little worried. I’m a little worried that some of you guys are looking at the political landscape and you’re saying hey on the one hand they got a guy who is leading their pack who has never taken a position that he had not previously that he had not taken the opposite position. (laughter)

And you thinking that ‘hey that’s good for us, right?’ And they you taken another guy who likes to go to hunting lodges that have interesting names, to say the least. And who can’t seem to count to three.

And you’re looking at it and you’re saying ‘hey we’re looking good!’

And then you’re looking at another guy who is so ethically challenged that he had to pay 300,000 dollars because his party went after him for his ethical lapses.

And you’re thinking ‘boy, oh, boy. Man, we’re looking good up in here.’

But don’t you dare rest on your laurels. We cannot depend upon the incompetence, ignorance and bigotry of our opposition. We have got to hang together and move forward. We are in a progressive moment, y’all.

This country is ready to talk about single payer health care. (applause)

This country is ready! We are ready to assert that , that public option that we wanted so badly during the health care debate. We’re ready to talk about it.

We are ready! We are ready for peace and to talk about how diplomacy and negotiation are so much better than this war machine and how we got to stop this. (applause)

Our country is ready! We’re ready to talk about how it’s so much better to talk it out with our nation’s opponents and enemies than to shoot it out and to waste so many lives. Here we are. Here we are. Out of Iraq. Out of Iraq. 4,500 Americans later. Almost what, 40,000 injured or more if you’re counting disability and brain injury. 100,000 Iraqis dead. 4.5 million displaced. All on falsehood.

The time for diplomacy is now! We know the lessons we got to do it. (applause)

The time for diplomacy, America’s ready for this! America’s ready to say Americans all over this country are saying ‘you know what, we don’t want indefinite detention for Americans. We’re ready to stand up and talk about these things.’ Are you guys ready to reclaim a progressive America? (cheering, applause)

Now because of the courage, because of the courage of people in Wisconsin and Ohio, we know that the right to collective bargaining is an American value. And we’re ready to fight for that.

Who believes that labor is the backbone of American body politic? I believe it! I believe it! (applause)

And so the real question now is will we organize? Will we go all across America? Will we talk to people. Will we reach out to them. Will we look for people who feel marginalized and on the side? And will we say ‘you know what, if you are engaged and we are together we have what we need to make a progressive America.’

And I’m telling you this. I’m so proud to be a strong Obama supporter and I hope you are too. (applause)

But I just want to say, I just want to say to some of us out here including myself, that look, it’s OK, it’s democratic and it’s actually intelligent to have some differences of opinions among friends, isn’t it? That’s alright! We don’t fall out over that. We know. We know who the right President in 2012 is supposed to be. Right? We have no illusions about that! We are clear as crystal about that!

And I’m going to tell you one thing. Let me take you back to the 1960s for a moment. American was on the move and was progressive. We had a civil rights movement, women’s rights movement, we had a gay rights movement, we had an anti-war movement and we were on the move.

And somehow, somehow, Richard Nixon snuck into the White House.

But America itself was so progressive that he had to sign that civil rights legislation. He had to sign the EPA. He had to do these things because we were on the move. And I’m telling you, if we are on the move, our President will do what we want.

But… am I telling the truth right now? If we are organized, if we are pushing it, if we are coming together. And you know, and you know it all started in the mid… in the last decade. We were all up there. We were saying. We were saying ‘Sí se puede.’ We were standing with our brothers and sisters fighting for immigrants rights.

Who remembers saying that? Sí se puede. Who remembers Sí se puede?

Sí se puede! Say it again!

And then those of us who weren’t so good with the Spanish we said ‘Yes we can’, right? Yes we can! That’s the translation.

And we were marching in the street, yes we can for immigrants rights, yes we can to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Yes we can. We were marching and we put up good candidates to fight.

And a brilliant young state Senator from Illinois, he caught, he caught the movement. He caught the spirit of that movement didn’t he? And he jumped into a Presidential race and became the most articulate spokesperson of a generation.

But it was the movement that inspired him. Do you understand what I’m saying? He didn’t make the movement. You made the movement. He joined the movement. Do you understand?

So as we are saying ‘yes we can’, we don’t want to get up and start saying ‘yes he can’, right? No it ain’t about yes he can, it’s about yes WE can.

Yes WE can!

Don’t forget about it. Yes we can everybody. And not only yes we can, yes we are, and yes we’re going to do it. Get out there. Organize. Reach out.

The future is right in front of us if we’ll grab it. Peace and blessings to all of y’all. Thank you so much.

Michael McIntee

Michael McIntee is a former network TV news executive with more than 30 years of broadcasting experience. He began his broadcasting career at the University of Minnesota's student radio station. He is an expert producer, writer, video editor who has a fondness for new technology but denies that he is a geek. More about Michael McIntee »

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