Sunday, October 26th, 2014

In context: Baldwin's "damn right" statement

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin, taken at the race's first debate.
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin, taken at the race's first debate.

"In Context" is an occasional  feature of PolitiFact Wisconsin. It is intended to give readers the context of a statement that has received widespread attention.

Television ads attacking Democrat U.S. Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin have swamped the air waves in the past two weeks.

The most recent ad, produced by Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, a conservative political group founded by Karl Rove, uses a slew of unflattering photos and images of Baldwin while criticizing her as being "too extreme for Wisconsin." The ad is the second aired by the third party group which made a massive, $2 million ad buy in the campaign.

Among the most memorable moments: a video snippet  where, during an unidentified speech, a fired-up Baldwin declares  "You’re damn right!" In the ad, it is used to amplify this image: A rubber stamp with the words "Too Extreme" slamming down.

Crossroads GPS also used the "damn right" snippet in another ad attacking Baldwin that aired earlier last month.

So where does this video of Baldwin, a seven-term House member from Madison, come from? The answer lives on YouTube.

It’s from Sept. 17, 2011, when Baldwin appeared at "Fighting Bob Fest," an annual gathering staged by progressives in honor of former Wisconsin governor and senator Robert "Fighting Bob" La Follette. Organizers say its the largest political festival in the country.

Baldwin spoke for about 13 minutes. In her measured, low-key style, she recounted the fight Democrats had waged against Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-led Legislature and the fast-track approval of Act 10, the law curtailing collective bargaining rights for most public workers.

Things liven up late in her remarks, as she recounts the protests that swept Madison in early 2011. Here’s what Baldwin says:

"Just a few months ago I stood on the frozen Capitol grounds here in Madison with more than 100,000 of my fellow friends and citizens. I think many of you were there. Or standing in solidarity with us in your home towns across this state.

"And if you recall, the energy was absolutely amazing. But as we marched and chanted in the Capitol building and all around the state, and as our 14 brave state senators were holed up in Illinois so that we could find our voice and use our voice. ...

"Even during that time people would come up to me and tap me on the shoulder and whisper in my ear ‘Does what we’re doing really matter? Are we really making a difference?’ And I would answer with a resounding ‘You’re damn right we’re making a difference. We’re showing... we’re showing this state, we’re showing this country, we’re showing the world that this is what democracy looks like.’

"My fellow progressives, I’m so proud of all of you here today, because this is what democracy looks like."