What Should Democrats Do Now? Follow Paul Ryan’s Mustachioed Ironworker Challenger’s Message


By Ross Barkin
The Guardian (7/31/17)

Randy Bryce naturally seemed a little out of place when I met him in New York last week. He was visiting, like many aspiring politicians do, to raise cash. An ironworker from Wisconsin, he is middle America personified – a man who works with his hands and has a drooping moustache. His collar is quite blue.

“The message is just a really simple one,” Bryce told me, sipping coffee in a small, crowded diner a block from Madison Square Garden. “It’s ‘I didn’t invent lighting, I didn’t invent the internet’ but just a simple message of ‘Look, so here’s somebody who’s gonna stand with you, that has been standing with you and works next to you every day.’”

The candidate, who’s self-aware enough to have the Twitter handle @IronStache(130,000 followers and counting), is running for Congress against Paul Ryan, the Republican House speaker. An army veteran and cancer survivor, he belongs to Iron Workers Local 8. He’s a proud Democrat and union man in a state that is run by Republicans who fight for labor conditions that would make an oligarch in Charles Dickens’s England proud.

An ad announcing Bryce’s long-shot campaign recently rocketed him to internet fame. It opens with Donald Trump and Ryan celebrating the Obamacare repeal bill’s passing the House, and quickly pivots to the story of Bryce’s mother, who has multiple sclerosis and needs health coverage to survive.

“Let’s trade places. Paul Ryan, you can come work the iron and I’ll go to DC,” Bryce says as string music soars.

He reportedly raised $100,000 in the ad’s first 24 hours of being online.

“We have to carry people that are hurt with us because there’s going to be a time when we need to be carried.”

It’s easy to be cynical about people like Bryce, especially as more and more 2016 postmortems agonize over the white man’s flight from the Democratic party and declare that Hillary Clinton failed because she paid too much attention to so-called identity politics. He can seem like the pundit’s idea of a solution to a party too drunk on cosmopolitan values to connect with people who once voted for Democrats and now cheer Trump. He’s easy to fetishize – and sneer at.

But when you talk to Bryce, you can see the nuance beyond the meme. He’s run for office before and knows how to drop a soundbite (he used with me the same line that’s in his ad, “not everyone’s seated at the table and it’s time to make a bigger table”) and can speak movingly about a time when even Republicans in Wisconsin wanted to work with labor unions instead of crushing them.

He’s a populist who, unlike Democratic congressional leaders, unapologetically supports the single-payer healthcare legislation championed by Bernie Sanders. He doesn’t sacrifice social issues (he’s pro-choice and pro-gay marriage) and is comfortable talking about the inequities of the criminal justice system and the ways police power can punish black and brown people, even though his father was a cop and his southeastern Wisconsin district is more amenable to Trump’s law and order fearmongering.

“It’s perfectly acceptable to have a ‘We back the badge’ sign on your front lawn and ‘Black Lives Matter’. One doesn’t cancel out the other,” he said. “I’ve seen some things that I just, I don’t know how it can happen and people could get away with it – especially when there’s actual video evidence and people are found not guilty.”

Added Bryce: “If I see something with my own eyes – a guy running away and a police officer shooting – things like that I have no explanation for. I know my dad wouldn’t accept something like that.” …

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(Commoner Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2017. Open source and free to use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )


Can This Progressive Ironworker (And His Mustache) Swipe Paul Ryan’s Seat?

By Adam Gabbatt
The Guardian (6/22/17)

A progressive, mustachioed Bernie Sanders supporter has shot to fame after announcing a challenge to Republican house speaker Paul Ryan.

Democrat Randy Bryce, who goes by @IronStache on Twitter, is an ironworker, union organiser and veteran who launched his bid for Wisconsin’s first congressional district on Monday.

Since then, his evocative campaign advert, which shows a denim- and boot-clad Bryce discussing healthcare with his mother and engaging in various forms of metalwork, has been watched more than 330,000 times, and the 52-year-old has attracted a level of internet acclaim rarely seen among political candidates.

“I knew that we would have a successful launch,” Bryce told the Guardian on Thursday. “But I honestly did not have any kind of idea it would blow up as big as it has.”

His popularity has been fuelled by his progressive agenda – he is in favor of a single-payer healthcare system and spoke at a Sanders event during the Democratic primaries – but appears to have also been aided by his all-American appearance and luxuriant moustache. …

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