MADISON — For speakers at the 16th annual Fighting Bob Fest, the message to the audience was clear: the time is now.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, said that’s because under what she described as a dysfunctional Trump administration, the “challenges and struggles of hard-working Wisconsinites just aren’t being dealt with.”

“Washington is not fighting for Wisconsin,” she said. “Washington is just fighting.”

The festival, which is named after Robert M. “Fighting Bob” La Follette, kicked off in Madison on Friday and this year hit the road to host events in other parts of the state.

Baldwin said last night that rising drug prices and hawkish investor practices are evidence of a Washington power structure that doesn’t look after the middle class.

“These folks are getting away with it because Washington isn’t standing up and insisting that when these decisions are made that workers rights and communities are also apart of the conversation,” she said.

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, who spoke after Baldwin, emphasized that progressives share a set of common values — from access to quality public education to workers’ right to unionize.

“We will fight for the American people, every single one of them, not just the special interest of the wealthy,” said Pocan, D-Town of Vermont.

Pocan ran through a list of failed policy proposals and missteps under the Trump administration, each met with boos and jeers from the audience.

Pocan capped off the list by reminding the audience of when Trump initially failed to denounce white supremacists and neo-Nazis following the Charlottesville, Virginia protests where a 32-year-old woman died.

“President Trump had the opportunity to unite us and bring our country together in the days following the terror attack,” Pocan said. “Instead he hit rock bottom when he claimed ‘there are very fine people on both sides.’”

Also at the event, ironworker Randy Bryce, who’s challenging House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, said Washington needs new leadership.

“I think it’s time for some of us to trade places with some of them,” Bryce said. “We can’t allow the workers to be abandoned.”

Bryce told after his speech that Trump went to DC to “drain the swamp and something much more toxic has been put in place there that we need to pull the plug on again to really clean it up.”

As the event drew to a close, Nina Turner, president of the Bernie Sanders-founded organization Our Revolution, quoted Nelson Mandela as a parting message for the audience.

“It always seems impossible until it is done,” Turner said.

By Max Bayer,

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