Who is or was Barbara Mikulski!

TUESDAY, JUNE 12, 2012

An early brush with greatness: Around the spring of 1971 (we’re guessing), we had a brush with greatness.

As a Baltimore City teacher, we suffered through an all-too-typical day of useless professional workshops. One of the sessions was led by a social worker we’d never heard of, a woman named Barbara Mikulski.

We don’t recall what the session entailed—but we do recall being struck by how odd or unusual Mikulski was. In fairness, it wasn’t her fault that she was being forced to waste everyone’s time in some highly irrelevant way. But she did stand out in our mind, though we can’t recall how or why.

A few years later, we recall being surprised when she was elected to office.

Who the heck was Barbara Mikulski? According to Wikipedia, she got her first national exposure around that time, making a speech at Catholic University about “ethnic Americans.”

We think this excerpt is fascinating for several reasons:
MIKULSKI (1970): America is not a melting pot. It is a sizzling cauldron for the ethnic American who feels that he has been politically courted and legally extorted by both government and private enterprise. The ethnic American is sick of being stereotyped as a racist and dullard by phony white liberals, pseudo black militants and patronizing bureaucrats. He pays the bill for every major government program and gets nothing or little in the way of return. Tricked by the political rhetoric of the illusionary funding for black-oriented social programs, he turns his anger to race—when he himself is the victim of class prejudice.

He has worked hard all his life to become a “good American;” he and his sons have fought on every battlefield—then he is made fun of because he likes the flag. The ethnic American is overtaxed and underserved at every level of government. He does not have fancy lawyers or expensive lobbyists getting him tax breaks on his income. Being a home owner, he shoulders the rising property taxes—the major revenue source for the municipalities in which he lives. Yet he enjoys very little from these unfair and burdensome levies.

…[T]he ethnic American also feels unappreciated for the contribution he makes to society. He resents the way the working class is looked down upon. In many instances he is treated like the machine he operates or the pencil he pushes. He is tired of being treated like an object of production. The public and private institutions have made him frustrated by their lack of response to his needs. At present he feels powerless in his daily dealings with and efforts to change them. Unfortunately, because of old prejudices and new fears, anger is generated against other minority groups rather than those who have power. What is needed is an alliance of white and black, white collar, blue collar and no collar, based on mutual need, interdependence and respect, an alliance to develop the strategy for new kinds of community organization and political participation.
Mikulski is a very low-profile senator—and that sounds like a fiery speech.

Yesterday, at WEAA, we heard Theresa El-Amin describe her struggles, down through the years, to get union members to vote their interests as opposed to their race. (She said those efforts were often successful.)

Some of Mikulski’s speech sounds old. Some of it sounds current.

A happy ending: Regarding that Guantanamo thing, we can report a happy ending. Mikulski got re-elected in 2010 with 62 percent of the vote.


  1. Sounds like What's the Matter With Kansas, short version

  2. Years ago when I was working at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt MD, Rep. Jerry Lewis of California tried to get Goddard moved to his district. Barbara Mikulski and Steny Hoyer came to Goddard to reassure the employees. She stood up on the auditorium stage and shouted into the microphone "Under this cute little blue blazer is a full metal jacket! Goddard will stay right where it is!" Even though I'm now retired I'm still in Maryland and she has my vote until she croaks.

    1. Great story...thanks for sharing.

  3. I've been driving through Kansas and Nebraska all week in my Volvo. Or is it a Saab? No, wait, Saab went bankrupt, so it must be a Volvo. Anyway, looking at all the little people in their rundown houses, being forced to listen to their redneck music and godbabble on the radio, zipping past them in their American cars (what kind of idiots drive Chevies these days? Really!), and trying, and failing, to find some good Starbucks coffee, or anything besides that cheap Folgers crap these hillbillies swill. And the one thought that I couldn't get out of my head the whole time was how much better their miserable lives would be if only they voted their own interests.

    1. Indeed! How gauche and uncoopertive of them to harbor ideals which they hold higher than their own material interests.

    2. Exactly what ideals to they hold higher than their "material interests"?

      Case in point. Joplin, Mo., -- the buckle of the Bible belt -- has received massive amounts of federal and state assistance. Obama gave a stirring speech there last month at the high school commencement.

      Obama won't get five votes out of Joplin this November. Know why? Because he's a Democrat and he's not "pro-life." And they all know that Republicans are all "pro-life." Including Romney, who SAYS (and I emphasize "says") he is.

    3. My point entirely! These indigent boobs are plied night and day and do they appreciate it? No!

      The hackneyed hayseeds ignore the loot,and stick with the first boor who voices their provincial philosophical predilections.

      It's all so infuriating!

    4. They know Romney isn't pro life but they'll vote for him anyway because he's not calling them racists and rubes.

    5. And he also is the candidate of a party with a platform that says legal abortion should be eliminated. And I doubt they often hear us call them rubes and racists; over the sound of there own voices calling us liberals, fags, elitists and reverse racists.

    6. Because everyone who is pro life calls us fags, elitists, etc.

  4. I listened to this show and Bob's montra about race ( and I wonder how Ms. Mikuski would respond to TDH's standard lecture about calling race), but Somerby seems stuck in is mantra about race talk requiring "clarity" as it did in the time of MLK. Some truth here, but it was easier to talk about race in clearer terms when black people had to sit on the back of buses and couldn't vote( and it was a complex issue even then). The logical extension of Bob's position would be to condemn frivolous race callers (like Janeane Garofalo) and decry sickening shit like John Voight, Glen Beck, etc. While Bob seems plenty interested in the former, the latter not so much.