The "replace the bum" sign he carried, unasked, not only won him a spot on the dais but also special handling by the senator's staff to ensure good play for the media. "His aides," says Piccirilli, "kept moving me around. They wanted me in certain places."
Which still doesn't answer why an old left-winger would support an anti-union Republican.
"What the hell has Clinton done? Or Gore?" says the 74-year-old Piccirilli. "At least McCain was a hero for his country." Piccirilli has no use for the current union movement. "Unions are organizing teachers and pilotsthey're living in the past," he says. "The workforce is increasingly black and brown. That's where they need to be organizing. I mean, there's going to be a socialist democracy in this country sooner or later. What the hell are they so skittish about? They've got to take care of the people."
But why support McCain?
"What the hell kind of pick do I got?" says Piccirilli, a lonely progressive in a reactionary state that even canceled its Democratic primary. In between acknowledging good wishes for his sign from people who have no idea of his political views, Piccirilli fondly recalls a trip he took to Cuba in '82 with other union leaders. "Man, we saw Castro," he enthuses, "and I embraced him and he took me on a tour of one of the buildings. And there, by a staircase, you know what? There was a bust of Lincoln. Show me a bust of Lincoln in this state."