Or, “What Would Bob (La Follette) Do?”
Protesters’ signs and online discussions have repeatedly invoked La Follette, a turn-of-the-20th century Wisconsin governor and U.S. senator. His bust has become a locus of the protest, with demonstrators draping flowers around its neck and festooning its pedestal with signs saying “Long Live La Follette” and “What Would Bob Do?”
Dennis Dresang, a professor emeritus at La Follette’s namesake Robert M. La Follette Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has a ready answer: “He’d be standing with the protesters, screaming ‘Right on!’ “
The article continues:
Born 155 years ago in tiny Primrose, outside Madison, La Follette came of age amid the rising corporate cronyism and income inequality of the Gilded Age. Short of stature, self-assured and possessed of a booming voice, he fell out with the Republican Party establishment and spent five years running for governor, still under the GOP banner.
La Follette campaigned by railcar and horse cart, visiting 300 towns and delivering stump speeches that crystallized Progressive ideology: Government should be a force to stand up for the little guy.
Elected governor in 1900, he pushed for workers’ compensation and a minimum wage. He moved on to the U.S. Senate in 1906, where he opposed American involvement in World War I and backed child-labor laws and women’s suffrage.
To me, the most interesting part of the article is the juxtaposition of names at the end:
Reince Priebus, former head of the state Republican Party and now chairman of the Republican National Committee, said Mr. Walker’s plan was actually a continuation of the La Follette legacy.
“We have a long history of reform — La Follette, Tommy Thompson on welfare, and now Gov. Walker,” he said. “The cheeseheads are at the center of the debate.”