Ohio is the New Wisconsin

We’re in day two of the Take Back the American Dream conference, and according to everyone I talk to, it’s more boisterous and optimistic than this annual confab has been in years. (Put on every year by the Campaign for America’s Future, the conference has a new name and new co-sponsorship with the Van Jones/MoveOn “Rebuild the Dream”/”American Dream Project” effort. I do hope you’re following this.) At 10:30 I headed to Optimism Ground Zero – a panel on the impact of the Wisconsin union fight, moderated by The Nation’s politics writer/activist John Nichols. He started with words of praise for the Occupy Wall Street protesters, noting that this week was the 220th anniversary of the signing of the Bill of Rights.

“It is notable that they met in southern Manhattan, in a federal building, at 26 Wall Street,” said Nichols. “The patriots have come back to Wall Street, right to the same location where the Bill of Rights was signed!”

One smart liberal blogger, who’s attended more panels than I have, told me that the #occupywallstreet references are now de reguier – you can hear or see the part in each speech where a note about the New Yorkers has been scribbed in. In this context, though, it was a little distracting. This panel was all about the need to win a ballot fight in Ohio on November, a chance to overturn the labor reform bill passed by Republicans earlier this year.

“The battle of Wisconsin will be won in Ohio,” said Nichols. It was victory in Ohio, or nothing, as Scott Walker had implied in the crank phone call from “David Koch” way back in February. “He said, ‘We got to keep [Gov. John] Kasich’s spine strong,’” Nichols reminded us.

This was the cause. Organizers flitted around the room passing out cards with volunteer info. Courtney Foley, one of the organizers, warned me that polling was getting slightly tougher (a common occurence with ballot measures) as the other side’s money came in. “We have to put [Kasich] in this place,” she said, “or they’re just going to continue this attack on labor.”