Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 26, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

KEEPING IT REAL....Yesterday I had a party for a bunch of local liberal bloggers (plus Susie Madrak, who was in town), and an interesting question arose. It's not a new question, mind you, but still an interesting one. Here it is.

Everyone at the table seemed to agree that the Democratic Party was out of touch with the working class in America, broadly defined. Why? Because Dem leaders are a bunch of college-educated elites who make a lot of money and don't really identify with the problems of people who make $30,000 a year.

OK, fine. Let's suppose that's true. But the Democratic Party in the 30s and 40s was mostly headed by Harvard-educated rich guys, and they seemed to do pretty well on working class issues. FDR wasn't exactly a prole, after all. So what's the difference?

The most common response was: unions. Back in the 30s and 40s (and 50s and 60s), unions were big and powerful and had a seat at the table. Democratic politicians listened to them, and the upper ranks of the party had plenty of people who grew up in union households. Basically, unions kept it real for everyone else.

Today, public sector unions are still powerful, but private sector unions are a shell of their former selves. Result: labor concerns are marginalized, and there's no one to really force party leaders to pay attention to working class issues.

So here's my question: Assuming there's some truth to this, is the answer (a) we need to work to rebuild the size and power of private sector unions in America so that the working class has a powerful champion? Or (b) is this a hopeless task given the realities of the modern economy? Should we instead figure out some completely different way of forcing the party to pay more attention to working class/middle class economic issues?

I don't think anybody liked my question, because the conversation sort of meandered on to other topics at that point. Anybody have any bright ideas?

Kevin Drum 1:31 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (116)

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Comments

(b)

Posted by: nut on June 26, 2006 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

Hopeless task, Kevin That era is gone. Might as well try to bring back the Grange.

Posted by: Keith G on June 26, 2006 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

Working class people want to go to college; end racial discrimination in admission practices. Working class people tend to oppose abortion; end the left's support of infanticide. Working class people are patriots; stop smearing the troops every chance you get, and disown hacks like Congressman "the marines slaughter innocents" Murtha.

That... would be a good start.

Posted by: American Hawk on June 26, 2006 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

So what's the difference? The most common response was: unions.

Kevin, you still don't understand the working class. The working class are against unions. They see it as run by a bunch of corrupt union bosses who steal money from the working class and prevent businesses from firing lazy inefficient workers. That's why the working class likes Walmart so much and want to work at Walmart. They see workers there who work hard and aren't under the control of the iron fist of union bosses. The best way for liberals to attract the working class would be to eliminate unions as much as possible instead of supporting unions as you are doing now. This is the best way to attract the working class.

Posted by: Al on June 26, 2006 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

The answer is c), abandon the Democratic Party and begin supporting social democracy.

Posted by: Hostile on June 26, 2006 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

I have to say (b) as well. Having never been in a union, it surprised me how much young, non-union workers seem to despise the whole concept of unions. I thought the average Americans agreed that unions were a good thing. I was wrong.

Posted by: enozinho on June 26, 2006 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

Working class people want to go to college; end racial discrimination in admission practices.

But hands off those preferences for "legacy" applicants.

Working class people tend to oppose abortion; end the left's support of infanticide.

But not a dime for healthcare or family planning.

Working class people are patriots; stop smearing the troops every chance you get,

Just hush up and march off to the pointless, politically-motivated adventures the White House invents.

Hawk, you make it too easy. Try advancing a rational argument, willya?

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on June 26, 2006 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

Here, AH, let me fix that for you:

"Working class people want to go to college; restore the cuts in Pell grants dating back to the Reagan years. Working class people tend to oppose abortion except that they also tend to agree it should be legal under some circumstances. Working class people are patriots; stop cutting veterans' benefits and hold the officers and politicians as well as the enlisted personnel responsible for the war crimes committed in our name, like Colin Powell said we would when he told the world to "watch what we do," so that our country will again be respected in the world as a beacon of freedom."

There you go. No charge.

Posted by: Lex on June 26, 2006 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

The working class are against unions.

Haw!

And doctors are against medicine, scientists oppose research, professors hate education, and business dislikes profit.

Unions are by definition the working class.

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on June 26, 2006 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't another huge issue here the way in which the dem party actually operated at the local level and at conventions, etc? The party org was pretty gritty at the local level, and local party boss types has a lot of say on who the aprty would nominate, the platform ,etc. Over time, this changed a great deal. E.g. specific interest/ advocacy groups were given much more say at conventions, etc, professional advisors and communications types assumed a more central role, and the party lost its traditional linkages into the concerns of the working-class.

Perhaps one necessary measure would be to temper the influence of supposed policy experts in favour of a more grass-roots approach?

Posted by: aidan on June 26, 2006 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

While I think the Dems should be foursquare behind efforts to rebuild the private-sector union movement, the reality is that the lack of consequences for corporations that illegally frustrate organizing efforts puts huge barriers in the way of such organizing.

I'd think, though, that the Dem need to hold onto working-class votes in places like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Oregon, and pick up some more such votes in places like Ohio, West Virginia, and Arkansas, would be reason itself for the Dems to make sure some people capable of speaking for the working class had a seat at the table.

The abrupt switch of West Virginia from the Dem column to the GOP column in Presidential elections especially upsets me. The workers of WV used to have a sense that the Dems were on their side and understood their problems; that has clearly changed. And they've got a lot of problems that only the Democratic Party would even consider addressing. I feel that the Dems dropped the ball on the whole mine-safety thing, only giving it a brief bit of attention at the time of the mine fatalities earlier this year.

Kevin, any chance that Washington Monthly founder Charles Peters, who knows more than a bit about West Virginia, could be talked into a guest post here on the confluence of working class and WV issues?

Posted by: RT on June 26, 2006 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

I see the future empowerment of the working classes through the organization of consumers unions and boycotts. Private sector unions used the vote as a method for problem solving but it was the collected money that made it happen. Stop buying poisins and the message that come with it.

Posted by: Pete on June 26, 2006 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

To Kevin's

Q:

"the Democratic Party in the 30s and 40s was mostly headed by Harvard-educated rich guys, and they seemed to do pretty well on working class issues. FDR wasn't exactly a prole, after all. So what's the difference?"

A:

The depression was real back then. Then too so was social revolution...Harvard-educated rich guys don't come to well in revolutions. As FDR said [paraphrasing here], "I'm trying to save the silly rich man's ass and all I get is grief".

Posted by: S Brennan on June 26, 2006 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

As a pro-union former union member I think one of the reasons unions are "hated" by young working class people is the leaders, like the leaders of the Dems and the Millionaire Media types all lost touch with the actual working class. Add to that an over 100 year (class) war by conservatives against unions, a war that has been an Invasion and occupation for the last 30 years, you have a totally crippled working class that completly buys into the ruling class anti-union fervor.

Posted by: Martin on June 26, 2006 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

Unions help ordinary people see through the lies of the ruling class, regardless of political affiliation, and see what a rigged sham this so-called capitalistic system is and how great wealth only occurs through great exploitation.

Why do you think the GOP has worked so hard over the past 60 years to bust and smear labor unions? Their entire existence is built upon an edifice of lies.

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on June 26, 2006 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

Quaker in a basement - I've known all sorts of working-class people over the years who are anti-union.

You can argue about why they're anti-union, but that doesn't change the fact. (I'd say it's a combination of corporate and media propaganda, to the extent there's a difference, but that's neither here nor there.)

Unions may be working class, but a distressingly small portion of the working class is made up of union members.

Posted by: RT on June 26, 2006 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

A piece of this could in fact be that the country is now SO rich that elites can and do completely separate themselves from the places in which working class Americans live. In seemingly less developed societies with living standards more like the US in the 30s(I'm thinking at this moment of Beirut, but the example is not alone) filthy rich people thrive and exploit and all that, but they live cheek by jowl with the poor and working class. Not here. The rich live insulated from any contact with the majority in gated enclaves they may not even recognize themselves as such.

Posted by: janinsanfran on June 26, 2006 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

I think the pols of the 30s and 40s while rich when they got to Congress were not rich all their lives. Thus, they experienced living life from payday to payday. Today's pols have had money all their lives. I vaguely remember reading that Clinton was the first President in a very long time that wasn't a millionaire when he entered the office. Then, there were political families like the Kennedys, who learned about fighting for those with less than they from their mothers/parents/church. The memory of hard work for little money just isn't there in Congress any more. It still was in the 30s, 40s, and 50s.

Posted by: Mazurka on June 26, 2006 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

On economic issues, many people think the Democrats offer solutions that, while well intentioned, would only damage the economy in the long run and thus hurt middle class workers in the long run. The Democrats should not argue only on the basis that they can improve the standard of living for the poor and the squeezed middle class. The Democrats must argue that they can grow the economy as well, if not better than Republicans, while at the same time working to make sure all Americans, not just the wealthy elite, are awared opportunities by the growth.

Bill Clinton grew the economy and helped Americans. He pursued a strong economic policy by balancing the federal budget, which allowed for lower interest rates, as the government wasn't competing with businesses to borrow money. At the same time, Clinton passed the Earned Income Tax Credit among other measures to help working class Americans and help them help themselves.

One of the big myths is that economic policy is a decision between morality and economic growth. Economic policy can be pro-business and pro-people. Universal health care system (preferably a voucher system) would protect all Americans, save 18,000 lives a year, and grow the economy faster, not slower, as it would be the most efficient system and businesses would not have to pay for health care.

The Democrats must, and can, be pro-growth and pro-labor.

Posted by: brian on June 26, 2006 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin:

As your wonkish self should know, playing isolate-the-variable across history is much trickier than the one-word answers it lends itself to suggests.

Unions were only a part of the difference. There was also a sense of noblesse oblige inherited from the Gilded Age (when income disparaties were worse than today) that was much stronger among FDR's generation. Also, Socialism still had strong intellectual creedence, and the Soviet Union (even through the 30s purge trials) was seen as an attractive rival to our for the most part safety net-free economic system. Recall it was the self-avowed Communists in the labor movement that did most of the agitating for the minimum wage, the 40 hour work week, unemployment insurance, etc.

Culturally, AH does make a relevant point: American politics didn't dwell on social issues that tend to cleave the working class from the elites. And with class consciousness not a dirty word, Catholics, Jews, Southern Protestants identified much more with their economic situation than they felt resentment at the loose morals of FDR's class. It took until the 50s and 60s before we had the luxury of letting intellectual critiques of the social structure percolate into popular culture and begin to alienate socially conservative working people.

Unions also aren't a uniformly liberal force. Trade unionism has always been opposed to organize-the-masses, leading to pacts and truces between the AFL and CIO, etc. When the smokestack unions were co-opted away from socialist ideals into an "aristocracy of labor" (which American business could afford at the time), it lost a lot of its political threat. The Teamsters were a conservative force long before the Japanese did significant damage to our auto industry.

Whatever the mix of factors, it doesn't involve an "empathy deficit" on the part of today's socially liberal, economically prosperous Democratic elite. Lords know, just about everybody no matter how wealthy they've become knows people or has family members who never made it up the ladder. Bond traders and Silicon Valley execs who donate to the Dems genuinely feel the pain of folks like yours truly.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on June 26, 2006 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

FDR, JFK, Andrew Jackson, and Thomas Jefferson were all solidly entrenched in their respective elites.

There is nothing per se prohibitive about being a member of an elite and being a good Democrat, pro working class, liberal, or whatever according to the standards and tempo of the times.

The problem facing the Democrats today is that it is one thing to assert working class rights, on the one hand, and an entirely different thing to effect them, on the other.

Basically, because of the rise of monopolies and industrialism during the Gilded Age, the liberal tradition came to the conclusion that capitalism was - at least in part - part of the problem and not part of the solution, which typically could be solved by governmental action - particularly federal governmental action. Keynesian economics contributed strongly to this.

Because of globalization, Keynesism broke down in the 1970's, and the federal government is becoming less and less potent as an agent to effect anything. Yet liberals cannot or will not come up with new, non-federal approaches but rather keep on singing the same mantra.

What is necessary is to figure out what would actually benefit the working class and then develop programs and policies to effect these benefits. This almost certainly will NOT invovle the federal government.

Posted by: Thinker on June 26, 2006 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

Everyone at the table seemed to agree that the Democratic Party was out of touch with the working class in America, broadly defined. Why? Because Dem leaders are a bunch of college-educated elites who make a lot of money and don't really identify with the problems of people who make $30,000 a year.

And this makes the Democrats different from the Republicans, who are a bunch of college-educated elites who make a lot of money and don't really identify with the problems of people who make $30,000 a year...how, exactly?

Posted by: Stefan on June 26, 2006 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

The working class are against unions.

The working class are not against unions, they are against corrupt millionaries who do not represent the needs of the rank & file. And Republicans took great advantage of this over the past years.

Unions are still very important, but not at the expense of the voter, who gets you into office. Plenty of unions supported John Kerry. How many of their members voted for and organized for John Kerry?

The Dems need to do what they have always had to do, reinvent themselves constantly for the new generation. Republicans will always tout the same agenda over and over, as they are romantics who dream of the good ol days.

Dems need to:
- organize at the grass roots level
- apply time honored values for the new generation
- keep their leadership from sticking their foot in their mouths from laziness and "base stoking" (see Howard Dean). Or even get rid of the old guard of Dems (Kerry, Gore, Kennedy, Pelosi, etc.)
- Define Reps, rather then constantly defending Rep definitions of them
- Stop falling into Republican traps!
- Keep the kooks (anarchists & dumb people) from representing liberals
- accept union support, but do not let the unions represent them
- Not run from a fight

If the Dems do these things, they can begin to build momemtum.


Posted by: D-Vega on June 26, 2006 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

Harvard-educated rich guys don't come to well in revolutions.

Pfffttt...I'll be fine. I don't keep that helicopter fueled, ready and waiting by the Wall Street helipad day and night for nothing, you know.

Posted by: Stefan on June 26, 2006 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

Would you argue that the Republican business elite is in touch with the poorer social conservatives or their party? I don't think so. So this Rich/Poor split in the Democratic Party is not really the problem.

Furthermore, Al is wrong that workers despise unions. The loss of the industrial base in America is the main reason that union membership has declined. And we are all worse off for it. We have seen declines in labor laws and many social programs for the middle class over the years.

I don't know the answer. However, I believe that we are nearing a reorganization of the parties. The Republican party is a mass of contradictions. Democrats haven't found their message. Or rather have lost it since Clinton.

For the life of me I can't understand why we Democrats have abandoned the successful policies of the Clinton adminstration: a mix of business-friendy policiies along with making opportunity available to all.

Posted by: NeilS on June 26, 2006 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

I think the pols of the 30s and 40s while rich when they got to Congress were not rich all their lives....The memory of hard work for little money just isn't there in Congress any more. It still was in the 30s, 40s, and 50s.

Mazurka - I think you've got a point. And it reminds me of something that has bugged the hell out of me for years: how the pay for state legislators in many (most?) states is astonishingly low - 10-15K a year, in many places - meaning that working-class and middle-class people can't afford to win a race for state legislature, because they can't live off of the pay. State legislatures in such states are for the wealthy, or those with jobs with great flexibility (e.g. lawyer).

Since other than starting off with a lot of money, the best way to position yourself for a run for Congress is to be a state legislator, this effectively closes off the one natural route for a working-class person to get into Congress.

Posted by: RT on June 26, 2006 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I think you are right on here. The decline in influence of labor unions has had a direct impact on the policies and practices of the democratic party and in tern has hasened the decline of labor union effectiveness in general.

I am one who used to despise labor unions. Many of the reasons for this have been discussed by others in there responses here. I realized this was a mistake when I saw corporations starting to encroach on jobs that were traditionally considered management jobs. It was obvious that labor at any level no longer had a voice and corporations were free to largely do as they please with regard to employment and compensation. This disregard for labor is one of the reasons government policy permitted the raid of 401k's during the stock market fall of 2000. What must change, is all persons who work for a living must consider themselves working class people. Does not matter if college educated or not. If your income depends on your labor, or your time, and you don't have sufficient resources to be financially independent, then you are working class. If you cannot afford to be unemployed indefinitely then you are working class. If all such persons don't begin to organize and form a coalition that can challenge multinational corporations (at least in this country), the middle class will dissapear and so will our way of life. Don't wait until all lab work is sent to Bangledesh, or Legal briefs are prepared in Hungary, or Illnesses are diagnosed in India. All labor and professional catgegories of work are threatned.

Posted by: Glenn on June 26, 2006 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

is this a hopeless task given the realities of the modern economy?

Huh? Economics isn't something forced on us by Martians. "The modern economy", whatever that is, is something that people collectively built. Or allowed to happen, take your pick. It's not a force of nature.

Posted by: craigie on June 26, 2006 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

I think the Democrats need to reconnect with working people, but I don't know if unions are the vehicle.

Most working people are not members of unions. Many who are union members are less than enchanted with their entrenched leadership.

There is a reason the business leaders have been successful in painting union leaders in a bad light, many union bosses are as corrupt as any member of the Republican congressional leadership. Like congressional Republicans they seem to think they have a God given right to steal from their constituents. Working people are not stupid. They just feel powerless.

Somebody needs to step forward to fight for the working and middle classes, just don't expect that somebody to be part of the union movement.

Too damn bad too. In their day unions were absolutely essential to America.

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 26, 2006 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

I see the problem as demographic. When unions were strong, we were a much more homogenous society. When things began to break into identity groups in the 1970s, the broad appeal to union members weakened.

People today identify themselves in much more individualistic and distinctive ways than "union block vote." Even if unions were strong, people would see themselves as "other things" first -- single parents, Hispanic, born-again, over 70, etc.

The Dems didn't abandon the unions -- they just moved on to stronger voter identifications.

Posted by: Mike Finley on June 26, 2006 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I don't think it's "the realities of the modern economy" that makes union organizing so difficult in the U.S., it's the fact that the law makes it all but illegal to form a union. I seem to remember you writing something like that yourself a few years ago.

Repeal Taft-Hartley and put people on the NLRB who aren't industry shills, and then see what happens to union levels in America.

Posted by: Chris on June 26, 2006 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

Somebody here order a moo shu pork and a Tsingdow?

Dat'll be 8.95.

Posted by: Derivery Guy on June 26, 2006 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

I think you're making a big leap by assuming that the only difference between a man like John Kerry and a man like FDR is unions.

That's what you're asking us to believe, and if you think more deeply about this, I'm sure that, like me, you'll come up with many other explanations for why FDR succeeded and Kerry didn't.

Here are some of the possibilities:

FDR ran against a technocrat who wasn't fixing the Depression that happened during his term. Kerry talks and thinks in lawyer-speak.

FDR was an expert at shaping and controlling the media, while at the current time, the Republican Party are the experts at shaping and controlling the media.

We all need to be careful that our own political interests --- for instance, in unions --- don't lead us into wishful thinking that these interests are having a powerful effect on current elections. Rushing in to "fix" the current role of unions without more careful analysis is a lose-lose situation.

Posted by: catherineD on June 26, 2006 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

Not wanting to dig through the inevitable crap in the comments, I still need to observe that it might not be the unions that represented that link.

NB: I'm a big believer in the union movement, but don't think we're likely to overturn 60 years of anti-union law, dating back to Taft Hartley, in the near future. But I think unions are good things on their own, and would like to see them strengthened. But what I'm about to argue isn't about unions per se, but rather that you found the wrong social indicator, so strengthening unions might well not have the effect you desire. We should do it anyway, IMHO, but not because it will give the elite more of a connection to working people.

It is plausible to me that Mickey Kaus was write in his book called, IIRC, The End of Equality, and that this is the end result of the degree to which Americans have segregated by income over the past 40 years. (Yes, I'm mixing phrases from Robert Reich in with Mickey, and yes, nobody is more surprised than I at the idea that I might agree with Mickey Kaus.)

Look, thanks to a dearth of meaningful interaction between different social classes in both the public and private sectors, the connection between college educated elites and "working class" people has shrunk. But that's OK. After all, FDR, as you point out, was never going to be a regular guy. Neither were any of the top level advisors.

But it's the next level down from the inner circle that once included people who went to public schools, who served in the military, and who went to church with working class people, and whose kids did the same. But now, the next economic step up from me would not even consider living in the city with children. This continues until you get to the very rich, who do live in cities, but whose kids don't go to school with mine. And certainly, as we liberals never tire of pointing out, very few who have an economic choice join the army or work for much of their lives in an arena in which they would ever actually know working people.

So maybe Mickey's right on this one. No matter what we do with the unions, as long as we have a volunteer military (and I oppose the draft) and schools being paid by local property taxes, so that segregating by income is actually a rational parenting choice, and a lack of public sphere gathering places other than sporting events, that disconnect will continue.

Sorry Just my two cents.

Posted by: Ron on June 26, 2006 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

NeilS is right - union power has declined because America's economy has shifted to become less industrial and more service. Unions haven't caught up. It's happening, though. And the gate crashers are talking about it.

Posted by: Adam Piontek on June 26, 2006 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

Ron
very few who have an economic choice join the army...as long as we have a volunteer military (and I oppose the draft)...that disconnect will continue.

I posted in a previous thread, and think it ought to be a stand-alone topic. The military is not going away. Ever. And hopefully it will stay volunteer. It is one of the most important arms of the government, in that it has toe power to cause great good or great harm. But it is also predomininately manned by conservative-leaning folks.

I think it is the country's loss that liberals do not join the military, at least to serve a single tour. You give reasons in your post, but also the military is simply too important to be left to just one portion of our society. And it is a shame that it takes a draft to get liberals into the military, in general. What happened to role models such as the Kennedys? Not the recent batch, obviously.

Posted by: Red State Mike on June 26, 2006 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

"For the life of me I can't understand why we Democrats have abandoned the successful policies of the Clinton adminstration: a mix of business-friendy policiies along with making opportunity available to all."

I have no idea who you might be refering to. What Democrat has come out against business friendly policies and making opportunity available for all? What we had with Clinton is somebody that could communicate and had a microphone. There's still Democrats that can communicate (Edwards, Clark, Feingold, Gore and more) but they don't have their speeches covered on a daily basis.

Posted by: LowLife on June 26, 2006 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

red state mike,

i don't think there is a long line of conservatives waiting to join the military either. on the other hand, the list of iraq war veterans running for congress this fall is tilted heavily toward the democratic column, not the republican. figure that one out.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on June 26, 2006 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think one has to cite unions as the explanation rather than simply working-class roots. Many of the best-educated in the '30s and '40s had parents or relatives who worked in blue-collar jobs. Today, however, the best-educated are children of the previous generation of best-educated people and more removed from their family's working-class roots.

Another factor could be geographic mobility -- today the best-educated often live far away from the communities where they grew up and are relatively unattached to their own communities. Plus, economic segregation has increased greatly as suburbanization has increased.

Posted by: Scott on June 26, 2006 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

And it is a shame that it takes a draft to get liberals into the military, in general. What happened to role models such as the Kennedys? Not the recent batch, obviously.

Yes, or role models such as the Bushes? Well, actually just one Bush. Not the recent batch, obviously.

But yeah, the increasing polarization of the military would make a great topic.

Posted by: Stefan on June 26, 2006 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

Might as well try to bring back the Grange.

I think that in the 30's - 60's the Democrats placed a higher value on upward mobility. Now, in an increased emphasis on reducing "inequity", the party seems to positively disparage upward mobility, especially of the Hispanics, African-Americans, Asian immigrants, and the sort of people who work at and shop at Wal-Mart. This is obviously not a dramatic difference, but enough to reduce the Democratic Party nationwide from majority status to minority status. Whereas Truman tried to end racial discrimination in the armed services, modern liberals disparage those of minority status who rise through the ranks to positions of eminence and power. Furthermore, unions share part of the responsibility for making America's "mature" industries less competitive in the world markets. Every American industry faces more international competition now than in the 30s-60s.

On this topic, it is worth re-reading Bill Clinton's campaign speaches, especially those of the primaries, and contrast with those of Al Gore (though Gore actually got more votes, he also was running against a weaker candidate whom he ought to have beaten by a wide margin.) Clinton had the most successful economic policies of modern times, but the Democrats seem to have drifted away from them.

Posted by: republicrat on June 26, 2006 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

I think it is correct to say that labor unions are not the solution to the problems of working class people. For one, labor unions are concerned with organizing local groups and classes of employees. The perception of unions is they are corrupt and don't provide adequate value to their constituents.

But todays challenge is much greater than any faced by any labor unions. The challenge is to insure a fair distribution of income between investor class and working class people. There is no reason why those who risk capital should be rewarded disproportionately to those who work to provide return on that capital. The reason for the disparity is multinational corporations have representation in Washington that gives them a decided advantage over working class people. Many labor, pension, and employment laws and regulations have been created and revised to favor the investor class.

The solution is a national organization that appeals to a broad base of people who work for a living. A "Working Class PAC" perhaps. But some natinoal organization is needed. The democratic party will not, and should not, sponsor such an organization.

Posted by: Glenn on June 26, 2006 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

This is a bit magic-bullet-ish of me, but I see this as another reason we should be working for publicly funded elections along the lines of those in AZ, ME, CT. The working people could have elected officials who actually represent them and wouldn't have to have unions as proxies. For more info, see California Clean Money Campaign.

That said, I think unions have an incredibly important role to play in the workplace (as well as in the overall political landscape), and support re-strengthening US labor law. Something like 50% of US workers say they would join a union if there were one in their workplace, and we need to lower the current barriers to organization.


Posted by: thump on June 26, 2006 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

job mobility is another factor working against unions. my father worked in a union shop for more than 3 decades. most of his co-workers were there for similarly long durations. today, you're an old-timer at most jobs if you've been there 5 years. the turnover makes it difficult in unions to grab any foothold especially with the labor laws now on the books. i'd suggest a first step would be for the dems to speak out in favor of reforming taft hartley to at least create an even playing field.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on June 26, 2006 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

american hawk

john murtha comes from a blue collar district, about as blue collar as you can get. he'll win reelection easily. by the way, he is a retired combat marine, having seen fighting in korea and vietnam. once a marine, always a marine, but you wouldn't know about that, would you?

Posted by: mudwall jackson on June 26, 2006 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

I always wonder why Kevin asks us questions at the ends of his posts, when it is abundantly clear that he rarely bothers to read the comments (replies).

I think he just likes to rattle our cages, frankly.

Posted by: Irony Man on June 26, 2006 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

Hopeless. Unions will never approach where they were 50 years ago.

The democrats are principally a party of interest groups. If they keep enough of them together, they can win a close national election.

For the democrats to ever do better that about 50%, they will need to change philosophies to connect with working people, i.e., become more conservative. I don't think it is going to happen, at least the current trend is the opposite direction.

Posted by: brian on June 26, 2006 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

I think it is the country's loss that liberals do not join the military, at least to serve a single tour.

Who says they don't? Who says that the experience of warfare doesn't shape their views in impossible to predict ways?

There is a reason besides youthful vigor that the army is made up mostly of very young men. They're too young to have a seasoned, sophisticated view of the world, and they're susceptible to whatever fairytales the gov't may tell them.

But, to take one good example, Pat Tillman was no conservative. He was a patriot, and he wasn't fooled by Bush's bullshit.

Posted by: obscure on June 26, 2006 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

As a former member of the Teamsters (Local 886 in Oklahoma) the decline in union membership can be attributed to three main reasons (although there are numerous smaller ones that contribute also). Those three are 1) globalization 2) roll back of previous labor laws and/or lack of inforcement of ones still on the books and 3) a combination of pushback by corporations and thier lawyers to undermine the union members faith in thier unions management and ineptness of union leadership (divide and conquer strategy). The loss of high valued manufacturing jobs to globalization has resulted in lowering the traditional pool of union-based jobs in the U.S.(automobile, steel, manufacturing of durable goods,etc.). Unions have been forced to scramble in an often futile attempt to organize non-traditional areas of workers (state, local, public service sectors, etc.) to keep their union membership up and to stay economically viable. In these areas city, state, and federal laws are often on the books curtailing what tactics a union can use to secure or re-negotiate contracts. Several states have enacted what are known as "Right to Work" laws (read--right to work for less laws) that do nothing more than undermine the unions ability to achieve strenght through numbers by allowing employees the "option" of not joining the union but still force the unions to represent them in labor disputes with management at no expense to the individual employee. A lot of current laws governing the conduct of safety oversight and employee rights have either been diminished or simply not enforced as written (the recent coal mine tragedies come to mind among others). In Oklahoma, for instance, two of the United States largest grocery wholesalers (w/union shops--Fleming's (1) and Scrivners (3) respectfully) were either forced to sell off to competitors or went bankrupt as Walmart moved into the grocery industry in Oklahoma. These were NATIONWIDE companies that no longer exist today due to 1) cheap inports by Walmart 9and the like) and 2) lower wages paid by Walmart (who would rather close anyone of its stores to keep from allowing its employees to unionize). Other major companies (airlines, automobile, etc.) are reducing wages, health benefits, and retirement plans. Major corporations and companys have long dispised having to work with unions but in the last twenty to thirty years the rapid decline of unions and thier membership has been hastened by the rapid globalization and the availablity of an international pool of workers. Money quides politics and it is no different in the corporate world. I once witnessed the company I worked for spend several thousands of dollars in attorney fees ($90,000)to keep from paying a co-worker 6 hours of overtime he was due by contract AND THEN brag they would do it as often as it took to make thier point. I fear there will come a day when unions are relagated to the dustbin of history. And before any in the corporate world shout Amen! with glee too soon they need to remember thier history. It was a relatively unknown union at the time in Poland that facillated bringing down the Berlin Wall. As a footnote: also remember--there has been no increase in the minimum wage in over seven years. Just as a rising tide floats all boats, a receding tide can have the reverse effects!

Posted by: Jack on June 26, 2006 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

The entire notion of a "working class" (speaking as someone who is very much a product of this group) needs to be retired. That's the sine qua non of repairing the current Democratic inability to reach out to people outside of of highly-educated/highly-impoverished urban centers.

The old 19th-century model of industrial unions that grouped "workers" by trade or by industry output made sense when most laborers (defined as non-professionals) actually worked in a defined industry. Those days are gone and the unions haven't adapted effectively, making them ineffective tools for connecting with the non-professional side of the economy.

Public sector unions are a great example of this problem--anger about government (and, in New England, about rising property taxes) derives substantially from the perceived money-for-nothing of government employees, who are guaranteed wage and benefit increases that are paid for by taxes drawn from people who are losing the very wage and benefit securities that public sector unions provide. That has been the biggest lesson for me as a municipal official--trying to explain to people who are out of work or on fixed incomes or struggling to pay their mortgage that their taxes are going up because the municipal supervisors union won a 4% annual increase in arbitration. Needless to say, people don't like it--and the resentment spills over into their views on Democrats, unions generally and public services. Most people don't feel like part of a "labor movement" they feel exploited by a powerful political interest group.

In my mind, the best way for the Dems to get out of their rut with non-professionals is to stop working for "labor" and to start working for "people"--if that means breaking with unions to reform education, then that's what we need to do. If it means siding with corporate interests to get support for universal health care, then that's what we need to do. But relying on "labor" as a proxy for the "working class" is both inherently elitest and completely out of step with the ambitions and attitudes of the majority of Americans.

Posted by: Rob on June 26, 2006 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

There is a whole line of thinking in labor economics that recognizes unions as providing value to management in exactly the way that you described.

Traditional labor models demonstrate that the union will be choosing between more workers or higher wages, all things being equal.

Under labor-management models of union representation the union acts as a conduit of information to management and provides value to the company. Management, in turn, may defer some decisions to the union.

Kaiser is one example of a company that exercises this model. When Kaiser management decided to shut down an optics laboratory east of San Francisco, labor balked. Management proposed to labor that if they could come up with a way of profitably retaining the labor they could do so - and they did, ultimately expanding their operation into a new nitch market and actually growing it.

So there are models like that floating around in economics.

I don't understand a) and b) though. If the labor movement were just one guy you could still give him a seat at the table.

Corporate America culls staffers from Senators. Senators hire people with corporate ambitions. You could easily circulate labor representatives in and out of Washington in the same way.

Posted by: Saam Barrager on June 26, 2006 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

Maybe the people you're talking about don't like being defined as "the working class, broadly defined." I know it would bug me.

Posted by: erica on June 26, 2006 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

It has nothing to do with unions other than the fact that unions used to be good at getting out the vote.

A long time ago, all the Democratic Party talked about was working people. They didn't talk about minorities, women, peace, liberalism, voting reform, campaign finance reform, the environment, homosexuals, et al. They talked about men earning enough money to support a family. Everything--minimum wage, social security, welfare, Medicare, Medicaid--was to help men support their families through good times and bad.

We don't talk about that any more. We talk about peace and the environment and fairness. If you want workers and their families to vote for you, then you have to be on their side all the time or at least pretend that you are.

If we focused on workers, we would be promising health insurance, free daycare, and cheaper gasoline. We would mock Republicans all day long because working people understand sticking it to The Man. We would find a way of saying that Democrats will make your life better in the near future and Republicans will make your life worse in the near future.

Posted by: reino on June 26, 2006 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

As a college educated employer of 25 people (22 of which are "working class), I found the '04 election extremely revealing. I did my own straw poll as the election day neared and began to feel more and more uneasy. Kerry was not doing very well among two of my working class employees both of which LOVED Bill Clinton and would have voted for him in a heartbeat. They voted for Bush. Why? I believe Southern Democrats are able to speak to the working class in ways that Northern liberals can't. I really believe John Edwards would have been a more formidable candidate than Kerry. He was catching fire in all the primaries where people could hear him, while Kerry was more the creature of the Democrat power brokers. Jacob Weisberg wrote about that during the election in Slate. One of the key themes is Fairness, playing by the rules, etc. Given that I'm surprised that Democrats aren't pounding away at that with Iraq, like Jack Murtha has been doing.

Posted by: mike on June 26, 2006 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

My two cents on the "we need more liberals in the military" comments. It has always struck me as dangerous to have the class of people trained to shoot guns, beat folks down, and blow shit up as sharply politically skewed as it now is. As a former Teamster (Local 1149, beer truck driver, mid-to-late '70's), I knew a lot of right-leaning vets who could kick some serious ass if push came to shove. I thought it would be a good thing if more of the rest of us had those skills.

Posted by: C.J.Colucci on June 26, 2006 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

Yesterday I had a party for a bunch of local liberal bloggers

Cabal!!!! Drumola! Conspiracy!!!!

Posted by: (another fake al) on June 26, 2006 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

Why do you think Nixon opened up trade with China?

Despite the fact that China is a communist country, and is becoming more and more a military superpower, and a threat to US hegemony?

China's vast supply of cheap labor - this move was designed to undermine unions in the US. Neocons don't care WHERE they are obnoxiously wealthy. They can create paradise on their own estates, or in their own private jets, any time they want.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on June 26, 2006 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

I was born in Detroit, left the city when my folks joined the great white flight after the '67 riots, and lived in SE Michigan until the mid-'80's. Toward the end of that period, I remember the UAW was forever joining with the Big Three to fighting against imported cars. It always seemed like a rear-guard action, and worse, it always seemed to pit working-class Americans against working-class Asians. During this same period, there were some especially brutal crackdowns on workers in the Korean auto industry, but I'm not aware of any UAW effort, even a token one, to helpe them.

Ever since, I've wondered, is it really in the long-term interests of working people to stick with strictly national unions? After all, capital is increasingly indifferent to borders. I realize that genuinely international labor organizing will be incredibly difficult. But are the hurdles so large that it's a complete pipe dream?

Posted by: sglover on June 26, 2006 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

I was reading a book written in 1932, surveying the national political landscape (I believe the title was "What We Are About To Receive") and the author decried exactly what you did: the feeble private-sector unions and the distance between the Democratic politicians and working class. Your complaints are perennial. All the pieces were there for a political revolution in 1932, but it still didn't work yet.

The key was finding the right political coalition - for the New Deal, a good working relationship between the Southern Democrats and the Northern Democrats, folks who were usually at cross-purposes. It's amazing that relationship was established, only four years after Al Smith's divisive run for the Presidency, but in the shadow of the Great Depression, FDR made it stick.

Something different may work for our times. Breaking the Republican Party in the American West may suffice for now.

Posted by: Marc Valdez on June 26, 2006 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

Our nations success has rested on the principles of , the balance of power ,compromise and freedom of the press . The first two are dead in the water , if press is compromised ; seen any union leaders on Sunday morning TV lately ?

Strong unions are vital to controlling the excesses of big business . Union leadership compromised its power throughout the 80s and 90s by taking finger in the dike positions which undermined its current power .

When unions leaders let Reagan get away with firing the Air Traffic Controllers and the AFL-CIO formed a partnership with the Reagan Administration under the U.S. Governments National Endowment for Democracy (NED) program , they became , in effect , a eunuch in a whorehouse only capable of serving some of the wishes of others with no chance of successful propagation .

The only way unions regain strength is by becoming relevant to the lives of the working masses , that requires ethical and single-mindedness of purpose , in the tradition of Walter Reuther and like todays TWU Local 100 President Roger Toussaint .

Posted by: G on June 26, 2006 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

I just want to point out that Kevin's question is a bit of a red herring: there's nothing about today's economy that makes union organizing "a hopeless task." Remember that in the late 1920's and early 1930's, private sector union density was about where it is today. And today there are numerous industries (retail trade, hotels & casinos, wholesale trade, fast food) which are dominated by a few large employers, which primarily employ people in occupations for which little or no formal education is required, and which face no international competition. That doesn't mean organizing them is easy, but the difficulties are in no way a function of "the realities of the modern economy" whatever exactly that's supposed to mean.

And by the by, when working class americans who don't have a union are asked if they would join one, about 43% say "Yes." Since around 12% of workers (overall) have a union, that certainly suggests that a majority of of working class Americans do not hate unions (or, even if they do, would want one anyway). See here: http://www.aflcio.org/mediacenter/resources/1999labordaypoll.cfm
Hart has updated this polling more recently, but I can't find a link.

Posted by: Rich C on June 26, 2006 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

Osama_Been_Forgotten: Why do you think Nixon opened up trade with China?

A few days back you blamed W for the current China fiasco, and now Nixon. You're overlooking the biggest perpetrator of them all: Clinton. He's the one who pushed hard for both PNTR and WTO membership for China.

Combine that with NAFTA, and you've got some pretty good reasons why "labor" ain't so hot for the Democrats anymore.

Posted by: alex on June 26, 2006 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

Correct me if I'm wrong but Richard Daley Sr. wasn't exactly a Harvard-educated millionare neither was Tom Pendergast, John Bailey, Meade Esposito, Carmine DeSapio, David Lawrence, Soapy Williams or any of Southern Democratic Burbons leaders. Don't forget these political bosses ran the party too.

What the Democrats have struggled with since 1980 is the transition form being a industrial-based party to a service-based party. It hasn't been easy and still has yet to play itself out.

Posted by: Sean Scallon on June 26, 2006 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

thump: I see this as another reason we should be working for publicly funded elections along the lines of those in AZ, ME, CT.

You've got that right. Democrats used to be heavily funded by unions. As good little whores though, they've moved on to what are now better paying johns (admittedly it's impossible to be a federal politician without being a whore).

With publicly funded elections politicians would have to "pander to the voters", which is an interesting phrase to describe how a democracy is supposed to work.

Posted by: alex on June 26, 2006 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

Religion, dude.

The Democratic Party seems out of touch with the religious beliefs of the working class.

And there is some relationship between religion and union membership.

Posted by: Anthony on June 26, 2006 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

I think the relationship of unions vs. individualism must be in a cycle, and it's about to turn towards a collective again.

While it's indeed true as someone else pointed out, that the middle/lower-class sees unions as a bunch of fat cats who exploit them for their own good, it's not at all unlike what you see in upper-middle-class jobs where individuals fear collective bargaining agreements, as if it might mean that you can't negotiate a higher wage for yourself.

But employers are sure figuring this out now, and I see some pretty blatant exploits of manpower currently going on because pressure is applied to the weak individual. Overtime without compensation, insane work schedules and just about everything is happening as the employer wants it to.

In egregious cases, the backlash hits the employer, and hard. One case was "EA_Spouse", a wife if an employee at Electronic Arts, the video game maker. She did a blog entry on her husband's insane working conditions at Electronic Arts. His case was overtime without compensation, insane demands on 7-day work weeks at 18 hours/day, ridiculous schedules, etc - and it resonated with so many people who commented and blogged it that EA changed their policies on overtime and scheduling at great cost.

So maybe the future isn't unions, but instead a framework for these ad hoc collective actions against an employer...and maybe the global community of the internet is that framework?

And if we want a union-structure, maybe we should find and show examples such as EA_Spouse as examples of where people working together are stronger than people working alone.

Posted by: LarzJG on June 26, 2006 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

You're overlooking the biggest perpetrator of them all: Clinton. He's the one who pushed hard for both PNTR and WTO membership for China.
Combine that with NAFTA, and you've got some pretty good reasons why "labor" ain't so hot for the Democrats anymore.
Posted by: alex on June 26, 2006 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

Clinton was also a huge offendor, and is at least as responsible for the decline of the Democratic Party's popularity among the working class Americans as any. And he wasn't even a Democrat.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on June 26, 2006 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

The countries that have decimated America's industrial sector also have unions, especially Japan. So the loss of competitiveness wasn't do to the unions, per se, but perhaps their structure.

The Republican's would have you think that the unions are at fault for the loss of the industrial base. But this is simply not true. Ford and GM are on the ropes, but Toyota, Honda and Nissan all have unions over in Japan. In fact all big companies over in Japan have unions. In fact most big companies in Japan have near universal tennure for their workers. This means that Company managment has a bias towards worker interest.

In both coutries, shareholder interest is supposed to prevail, with a Board of directors overseeing management. However, in the united States, the BoD is a proxy to Management more than the Shareholders. In Japan, the BoD is a proxy more to the workers. As it turns out, when comparing the US and Japan, worker's are a better proxy to shareholder interest than America's board of directors. Both (long term) shareholders and (long term) workers want the same thing consistent growth, profitability and market share and sustainability. In only one are do they differe, merger and consolidation: Shareholders are for it; Workers are against it; As a result of worker bias, there is less consolidation in Japan. But in this respect, the workers interest is a better proxy to society's interest, and remember, Corporations only exist as a result of the public will. Both workers and society would be against mergers and consolidation becase mergers dilute competitiveness and choice for consumers.

The Japanese model differs from the U.S. in that each large publically traded company has a company union. This enhances competitiveness while preserving SOME bargaining power for workers.

In any competitive sphere, when you consistently lose, you adopt your competitors strategy. However, when it comes to unions and internation competition the U.S. has avoided implementing Japanese style institutional arrangements. Why? Well first most of us don't understand them, and second, the Corporate bigwigs don't want to lose power and money to workers (in Japan executives make a fraction of what their counterparts in the US make.)

Japan's social system is the best in the world. Their distribution of income is amongst the broadest in the first world, exceeding even that as Sweden.

I am not sure how this helps the Democratic party. Because of party politics in the U.S. we developed industry unions, which gave the workers more power, but undermined the competitiveness of our industrial sectors, allowing conservatives to cast blame upon workers for a lack of competitiveness even as they gave themselve greater and greater wages. Remember, what you earn is a function of your bargaining power, not your productivity. Workers have lost it, while executives have gotten more of it, all at the expense of stockholders.

Posted by: Bubbles on June 26, 2006 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

I think that Mazurka has a good point. I don't think that people are against unions but maybe are distrusting of the "corporate like" that run them. I am the working class!! I work for a company that has made their business in a right to work state. Here, the only place you can work where there is a union, is the Federal gov.
I think that people have givin up on our gov. because they feel they can't make a change. People feel their vote doesn't count because of the electorial college, lieing pols,and corporate rulers who make our lives miserable. Maybe we are just waiting for all the chips to fall so we can start over. Government officials have no interest in the people. Their interests are in themselves. We all know this it's not news.

Posted by: bhighfill on June 26, 2006 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

Liberalism used to be a politics of economy. Today it is a politics of culture.

Posted by: Linus on June 26, 2006 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

From a structural and strategic perspective for Democrats, I would point them at the Swedish model. Its not Urban Worker Interest but Rural Interest that need to be paid attention too.

In the book "Anatomy of Fascism" R. Paxton also notes the anatomy of Swedish liberalism.

In Sweden, the ruling liberal establishment is the result of a long held strategic alliance between rural interest and urban worker interest. And in the case of Sweden this aligned consituency has proved formidable and immensely stable.

Now consider this in the U.S. context. It is quite obvious that the Democrats have sown up Urban interest, including working class workers in urban core. But obviously, that isn't enough to win elections. And in states where considerable rural and exurbian intersts exist along side urban interest, the states themselves swing.

That means that rural interest are the tipping point in the U.S. much like they are in Sweden - more so here because we are gerrymandered to favor rural interest - the entire intermountain and great plans (sans texas and oklahoma) has a population less than the North East yet provides more electoral votes, and senators then the North East).

In fact Rural interest are the tipping point all over the place. In "The coming of the Third Reich" by Richard Evans, he notes that the Nazi's did particularly well in gaining votes from rural districs in the run up to Nazi rule. In the U.S. rural districs have performed the same service to Neocon interest, creating a similar effect.

The Dems, then, need to form a wedge to drive into the rural interests. Such a wedge currently exist within the usue of Energy production. The repubicans are locked into the petroleum industry complex and can't leave therefore they can't be flexible on Energy. This means that key petroleum states like Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas would be hard to crack. Additionally, Republicans are likely to remain the party of resentment and so will continue to hold Southern states that still harbor resentment as a hold over from the civil war and civil rights eras. But that leaves much o the Northern rural Corn belt and intermountain regions that lack this history, as potential low hanging fruit for Democratic strategist if they pursue an energy strategy to crack a wedge into the Republican hold on rural interest.

Much of our energy problems can be addressed by advancing rural interest, especially in middle America.

There are three prominent areas where rural America could be providing urban America with the energy it needs: Biomass (energy grown on farms), Synthetic fuels (energy extracted from coal in the northern great plains states) and Nuclear Electricity generation (engineers have developed safe ways to produce nuclear energy without the threat of a melt down and the French have developed methods where the wast products half life is only 275 years, as appossed to 45,000 we waist now). Much of the rest of our Energy needs can come from Canada and domestic production freeing us and our international policy apparatus from dependency from unstable-istan countries.

Energy then can become a metaphore for the new Democratic alignment between Urban worker's interest and Rural Interest - the rural areas provide the energy to run the urban factories and both providing votes to Dems.

All that money flowing to OPEC could be flowing to our great rural belt. Saving American's lives and making Rural America as prosperous as it has ever been.

Since the GOP is locked into the Petroleum interest, they can not offer these deals to Rural America. Dems can and should.

This does not mean that they should abandoned workers interest. Instead they should champion both - a la the Swedish model.

Advocate for Company unions ala Japan. Make it a rule: All large publicly owned corporations should have collective bargaining units.

It's only fair that a collective ownership should have to bargain with collective labor. As shown in Japan, workers are better proxy's for shareholders than our Board of Directors. And Japanese Companies are still the most competitive in the world.

This is a strategy that can't fail.

As early as possible, the Dems need to run Schwietzer (gov of Montana, and advocate for synthetic fuels) for President. He will take with him much of the Upper Great Plains and Much of the internmountain states (North Dakota, Mountana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and when Cheney is dead and gone, Wyoming). A little later, South Dakota will follow. This new alignment could eventually bring with it some southern states like Arkansas and the near northern states like Kentucky and Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina all of which are positioned to provide energy to the north.

Domestic Energy production is a patriotic issue.

Not very long from now, environmental concerns impelled by punishing Hurricanes could bring the deep south, especially Florida and Louisiana.

So the alignment of urban with rural, by way of energy production tied into concerns over geopolitics of oil and the Middle East and environmental concerns could ultimately leave the republicans with nothing but Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Utah and Idaho.

In Sweden, this alignment has created a stable liberal society. Perhaps its not so coincedental that Liberal Europe's most expensive policy is its Agricultural subsidies. Let us not forget what the loss of the rural interest did in Germany in the 1930s.

I think we know our way forward out of this mess. Now lets get to work on it.

Posted by: Bubbles on June 26, 2006 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

I think the problem is that today's "younger" workers got sold out by a lot of unions who agreed to two-tier wage systems, selling out future workers and setting up their ire.

Working-class who are knee-jerk anti-union are non-thinking, Rush-listening, propaganda-believing know-nothings who probably think that their lives are more threatened by gay marriage than by failure to increase the minimum wage.

You can't convince them of the power of collective bargaining because their heads are of stone and they totally identify with their slave masters. When they DO get in a union job, do they complain about their higher wages and health benefits? No, they complain about being forced to pay their "dues."

Like so many Americans, they want something (protection) for nothing. Let "somebody else" pay union dues.

The Greatest Generation knew something about sacrafice and going without a little something to provide for the better good. They paid their union dues gratefully, and were rewarded with job security, good wages, good benefits, and even good retirement.

Oh, no. We don't want that. We want to work at WalMart and have the fruits of our labor accrue to Sam Walton's greedy relatives. THAT's the American Way!

Posted by: Cal Gal on June 26, 2006 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

From a structural and strategic perspective for Democrats, I would point them at the Swedish model. Its not Urban Worker Interest but Rural Interest that need to be paid attention too.

In the book "Anatomy of Fascism" R. Paxton also notes the anatomy of Swedish liberalism.

It is a long held strategic alliance between rural interest and urban worker interest. And in the case of Sweden this aligned consituency has proved formidable.

Now consider this in the U.S. context. It is quite obvious that the Democrats have sown up Urban interest, including working class workers in urban core. But obviously, that isn't enough to win elections. And in states with considerable rural and exurbian intersts exist along side urban interest, the states themselves swing.

That means that rural interest are the tipping point in the U.S. much like they are in Sweden. In fact they are the tipping point all over the place. In "The coming of the Third Reich" by Richard Evans, he notes that the Nazi's did particularly well in gaining votes from rural districs in the run up to Nazi rule. In the U.S. rural districs have performed the same service to Neocon interest, creating a similar effect.

The Dems, then, need to form a wedge to drive into the rural interests. Such a wedge currently exist within the usue of Energy production. The repubicans are locked into the petroleum industry complex and can't leave therefore they can't be flexible on Energy. But much of our energy problems can be addressed by advancing rural interest, especially in middle America.

There are three prominent areas where rural America could be providing urban America with the energy it needs: Biomass (energy grown on farms), Synthetic fuels (energy extracted from coal in the northern great plains states) and Nuclear Electricity generation (engineers have developed safe ways to produce nuclear energy without the threat of a melt down and the French have developed methods where the wast products half life is only 275 years, as appossed to 45,000 we waist now).

Energy then can become a metaphore for the new Democratic alignment between Urban worker's interest and Rural Interest - the rural areas provide the energy to run the urban factories and both providing votes to Dems.

All that money flowing to OPEC could be flowing to our great rural belt. Saving American's lives and making Rural America as prosperous as it has ever been.

Since the GOP is locked into the Petroleum interest, they can not offer these deals to Rural America. Dems can and should.

This does not mean that they should abandoned workers interest. Instead they should champion both.

Advocate for Company unions ala Japan. Make it a rule: All large publicly owned corporations should have collective bargaining units. It's only fair that a collective ownership should have to bargain with collective labor. As shown in Japan, workers are better proxy's for shareholders than our Board of Directors. And Japanese Companies are still the most competitive in the world.

This is a strategy that can't fail.

As early as possible, the Dems need to run Schwietzer (gov of Montana, and advocate for synthetic fuels) for President. He will take with him much of the Upper Great Plains and Much of the internmountain states (North Dakota, Mountana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and when Cheney is dead and gone, Wyoming). A little later, South Dakota will follow. This new alignment could eventually bring with it some southern states like Arkansas and the near northern states like Kentucky and Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina all of which are positioned to provide energy to the north.

Domestic Energy production is a patriotic issue.

Not very long from now, environmental concerns impelled by punishing Hurricanes could bring the deep south.

So the alignment of urban with rural, by way of energy production tied into concerns over geopolitics of oil and the Middle East and environmental concerns could ultimately leave the republicans with nothing but Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Utah and Idaho.

In Sweden, this alignment has created a stable liberal society. Perhaps its not so coincedental that Liberal Europe's most expensive policy is its Agricultural subsidies. Let us not forget, the loss of the rural interest did in Germany.

I think we know our way forward out of this mess. Now lets get to work on it.

Posted by: Bubbles on June 26, 2006 at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK

Jeebus! I say we chip in and get Bubbles a Volvo!
Hell, let's get 'im two Volvos!

Skoal!

Posted by: jay boilswater on June 26, 2006 at 6:41 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think that it's that ideas and feedback aren't bubbling up to Democratic elites. Certainly the lower and middle classes did better under the Clinton administration than they have in the last five years.

I think it's that, if you take away the union, there really isn't that much difference between the white, working class male of Pittsburgh or New Jersey and the one in South Carolina. And as unions fade away, the residual attitudes and influences fade away, too.

Growing up in the non-union Protestant South, it's been interesting to get a view into my husband's world of growing up in a Catholic, union town in Massachussetts. The picture he's given me of life back in the early Sixties was: Your world was divided up into your parish, whether it was the Polish Catholic parish, the Italian, the Irish, or whatever. It was also divided up by your ward, and finally, your union precinct. And in each of these cases, your local leader interacted with the higher level ones and came back and told you who "your guy" was and who to vote for.

In essence, the private sector unions served as the Democratic Party's election machines. As the unions have died, the Democratic Party no longer has the local, personal and group loyalties it can use to mobilize the vote.

I agree with some of the other posters: the unions will never come back. The Democrats will have to get out there and build their own machine, just as the Republicans have. I'm not very up to speed on it, but I suspect this is what Howard Dean is proposing with his fifty-state plan.

Posted by: Heidio on June 26, 2006 at 6:45 PM | PERMALINK

Unions are, unfortunately, passe...even though they gave Americans just about every social perk we now take for granted...this country has endured roughly 25 years of official bludgeoning of the union movement(and union leadership has been at least as clueless as the present leadership of the DNC) to the point where it's almost unpatriotic to be pro-Union...until we read about Wal-Mart's policies.

But the minimum wage, portability/availability of health care, affordable housing, "free" trade with standards, the "birth tax", real "social" security and affordable college loan programs are among a host of issues that are dear to the working class and need to be emphasized again and again...

There will be a countervailing power in society...it's up to the Democratic Party to decide whether they, or some other entity, takes up that role. At the moment, they seem unsuited to the task.

Posted by: Cyby on June 26, 2006 at 6:48 PM | PERMALINK

You would simply have to make it illegal to employ somebody who's not in a union.

Posted by: cld on June 26, 2006 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

Let's look for a minute at what Labor did wrong when they had their day in the sun.

They collaborated with the CIA in discouraging foreign labor unions, except for a few like the Venezuelan oil workers who propped up corrupt oligarchies.

They lobbied for benefits in contracts, instead of insisting on universal health care, unemployment insurance and retraining benefits, and a meaningful minimum wage.

They became corrupt partners of corrupt big-city regimes, and a major part of the problem when non-whites and women wanted to enter the workforce.

They collaborate with management schemes that let a few overtime hogs wrack up paychecks the average guy can't understand- a major PR disaster.

Today we're living in the fallout from all of this- cheap imports from overseas slave labor, a lack of public programs that support a public economy, and labor support for Dems that is heavily grounded in the military-industrial complex.

Bloggers, by and large reasonably affluent, are no more perceptive than anyone else about this. Too few of them realize that you need not ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.

Posted by: serial catowner on June 26, 2006 at 6:58 PM | PERMALINK

Unions are, unfortunately, passe...even though they gave Americans just about every social perk we now take for granted...this country has endured roughly 25 years of official bludgeoning of the union movement(and union leadership has been at least as clueless as the present leadership of the DNC) to the point where it's almost unpatriotic to be pro-Union...until we read about Wal-Mart's policies.

But the minimum wage, portability/availability of health care, affordable housing, "free" trade with standards, the "birth tax", real "social" security and affordable college loan programs are among a host of issues that are dear to the working class and need to be emphasized again and again...

There will be a countervailing power in society...it's up to the Democratic Party to decide whether they, or some other entity, takes up that role. At the moment, they seem unsuited to the task.

Posted by: Cyby on June 26, 2006 at 7:07 PM | PERMALINK

Yep, Unions aren't sexy to intelligentsia.
Holy Hell, I hope it wasn't crazy humid for your party like it was and is today in San Diego.

Posted by: Pfizer on June 26, 2006 at 7:15 PM | PERMALINK

One of the big problems the Dems have was signing on to the Drug Wars.

Student aid? Forget that, if you've been arrested.

Public housing? Forget that, if you've been arrested.

Job protection? Sure, if you pass the drug test.

Want to vote? Can't, if you were convicted.

And, pretty much, the discriminatory enforcement of drug laws has erased the benefits of ending segregation.

Naturally, everyone who could wanted to get a job without drug testing. A lot of times that means self-employed or professional.

And the Dems are left with the support of prison guard unions and police unions- not a real natural constituency for a feel-good liberal state. The simple fact is, Grey Davis deserved to lose.

A little more time in the wilderness might be a good thing for the Dems if they use it to get their heads together.

Posted by: serial catowner on June 26, 2006 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK

a good friend of mine works for the union in arkansas that represents phone workers. the particular segment he works with has been negotiated up to 80,000 per year pay for guys with high school educations. he guesses they vote 60% republican on the basis of cultural issues. they assume their economic standard wont change. they dont get that if republicans had their way there wouldnt be any unions

Posted by: chuck on June 26, 2006 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK

here are some ideas from some time ago....

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20021223/ehrenreich

Posted by: myrnatheminx on June 26, 2006 at 7:54 PM | PERMALINK

I havent read all the posts, so sorry if I am repeating something but the loss of strong unions is just part of why there is a disconnect. In the past the Democrats were more actively class conscious. Unions were of course a part of this, but in the most basic terms class and economic standing were the partys bread and butter. Now, not so much, its still there of course but the rise of identity politics has chipped away at the hegemony class had as an issue within the Democratic Party. Unfortunately identity politics is in many ways linked with social issues with which the working class at best has an apathetic attitude towards and at worse is down right hostile too. When democrats, such as Bill Clinton for example, focus mainly on the economy and class related issues they tend to connect with the working class.

Posted by: Danny on June 26, 2006 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK

Let me guess - the conversation meandered back to bashing Bush.

Posted by: Hey Moe! Hey Larry! on June 26, 2006 at 8:15 PM | PERMALINK
OK, fine. Let's suppose that's true. But the Democratic Party in the 30s and 40s was mostly headed by Harvard-educated rich guys, and they seemed to do pretty well on working class issues. FDR wasn't exactly a prole, after all. So what's the difference?

The Great Depression is the difference. The rich and their political proxies were not able to sell the middle class the comfortable illusion that their interests were best served by advancing the interests of the rich class they hoped someday to join rather at the expense of the poor masses they hoped to avoid becoming, when the precariousness of the economy was so tangible.

Now, of course, times are different, and the sales job is easier. As most politicians are rich, where it is politically easy to sell the middle class on the idea that they are best served by advancing the interests of the rich, well, that's the message most politicians are going to sell.

Inasmuch as unions are related to the problem, their weakness is another symptom with the same cause, not the underlying cause of the political dynamic.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 26, 2006 at 8:21 PM | PERMALINK

I'm afraid everyone is missing the foest because of the trees. The unions were powerful because they were the connection to "everyday" people. Polling was in its infancy; so-called "national" media (NYT, WSJ, newsreels, radio news) was basic, headline stuff, little background, etc.
The Democrat Party NEEDED the unions (votes); and the unions NEEDED the Democrat Party (for survival, in some instances).
By substituting extremely sophisticated polling for the previous flow of information UP to politicians from labor unions about working conditions and the like. Information that flowed down to union members (ususally Democrat, but a few Republicans, too) helped the members feel that they were involved. That connection has been broken.
It would certainly not hurt the Democrat Party if it identified itself more with unions. It would, I think (as a former union member), also be helpful to the Democrat Party if it became, again, the speaker for the working people of this country.
However, the Democrat Party needs to find a substitute to replace union support NOW! It will take years to rebuild the unions to anywhere near their previous position, if that is possible.
The best way for Democrats (incumbents and prospective candidates both) to find out what their constituents are thinking is to go and talk to them! Get the H.LL out of D.C. and talk WITH their constituents. The disconnect with voters won't be solved until the party representatives realize that they and their constituents are all in this TOGETHER.

Posted by: Doug Stamate on June 26, 2006 at 8:30 PM | PERMALINK

There are plenty of people who grew up in union households involved in our government. They have names like John Kasich or Denny Hastert. The problem you overlook is that you are talking about WORKING people, and the Dem party is now the party of those that sponge off the working people. As long as the Democrats view themselves as a collection of special interests, i.e., those that consume more than they produce, and the Repubs represent those groups and interests that produce more than they consume, the Dems will continue to come up short with those that play by the rules and try to be contributors to society.

Posted by: minion of rove on June 26, 2006 at 8:45 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know whose comment it was, but it struck a chord -- the demise of grassroots campaigning, weakened precinct operations over time clearly has resulted in less appreciation for what people in the neighborhoods think and feel. Back in the day, if you knocked on a door or walked the union hall and threw out a line of BS, you heard about it -- or your nose got bruised by the door slamming in your face. Enough of that and the captain heard about it and it floated upstream fast.
Retail campaigning is largely gone today and only local candidates walk the pavement. National campaigns are media buyers, jets, stadiums, debates and recording studios. Same for Senate and most House races. Pundits, pollsters and entire parties are insulated from the "average American." The Republicans always have been, of course, but are expert at studying consumers -- down to sub-zip codes. They don't relate to them, but they sure know how to sell to them, whether that be soap or Cadillac Cowboys.
But the solution? Be frank, be clear, be consistent. The issue is privilege, and every working person recognizes that no matter what shade the collar. You don't need unions for that.
The goal is one nation, under God (any flavor), indivisible (so stop with the wedge issue stuff), with libery and justice for ALL. Democrats wrote that. Make me believe you hold it dear.

Posted by: Willard Whyte on June 26, 2006 at 8:47 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I dont think the working class is the Democrat party saviors. I am a lifelong Democrat, always will be so hear me out. I dont think the Democrats speak to people like me. There are so many who have 'made it' in this world; good job, good education, home ownership, the whole enchalada. Much of this is because our parents were in the unions or blue collar workers who instilled good progressive values like hard work and education. But I dont hear the Democratic leadership talking to me and my cohort.

Posted by: les ismore on June 26, 2006 at 8:54 PM | PERMALINK

Liberalism used to be a politics of economy. Today it is a politics of culture.

Posted by: Linus on June 26, 2006 at 5:19 PM

Couldn't agree more. And until Democrats focus more on the economy and less on the culture (something that's anathema to coastal elites, who are far more concerned with preserving abortion rights than reversing the increasing gap between rich and poor), the Democrats will never recapture the working class.

Posted by: Vincent on June 26, 2006 at 8:59 PM | PERMALINK

I'd like to add that you should not conflate public employee unions with private sector unions. It's like comparing professional wrestling with professional boxing. If a private sector union gets out of line with reality they go the way of the UAW - Toyota kicks their teeth out. If a bunch of public workers in Newark or Buffalo or Detroit drive their city into the ground, the only option the recipients of their services have is to pack up and move to Florida or NC.

Posted by: minion of rove on June 26, 2006 at 9:04 PM | PERMALINK

Working class is the canary in the coal mine. If working people can eak out a middle class existence with a sense of stability and security, then almost all problems in society are solvable.

On the other hand if working class people can live a lifestyle that approaches a middle class existence with some semblance of security, then no problems are solveable.

Morality, is in the aggregate, a middle class characteristic - the rich don't need it and the poor can't arise to it. That's what are the framers of our country thought. It was the widespread middle class in the northern united states that made abolition of slavery a potent issue.

When the middle class contracts so do socialvice increases. The sense becomes one that the middle class is under attack and the reflex is to believe that it can be counteracted by legislating morality.

Cultural republicans think they can stem back the contraction of the middle class by legislating morality, giving license to the republicans to enact problems that further contract the middle and working classes.

Corporations are the culprit for concentrating wealth. They are ownership collectives. Every corporation should have to bargain for labor against a collective. The union isn't going away because the social imbalances that corporations create will have to be addressed some how, some way. Tomorrows unions won't look like todays, but there will be unions.

Posted by: Bubbles on June 26, 2006 at 9:23 PM | PERMALINK

We don't have a choice. Can anyone show me one country where the working class is treated better and unions are less powerfull?

Posted by: RickDFL on June 26, 2006 at 9:30 PM | PERMALINK

Minnion of Rove.

You should know that Toyota has unions back in Japan. So do all large Japanese corporations.

The difference is they are company unions. One Company - One Union.

The problem in the U.S. is that we have industry unions. Many Companies - One union.

The problem is all a matter of bargaining power. Before the civil war the U.S. had the broadest distribution of wealth on the planet (even with slavery). After the Civil War we entered the age of the Robber Barons - a huge concentration of wealth and mass spread of squalor. What happened during the civil war to cause all of this? Answer: The invention of the modern, limited liability corporation in 1862.

Corporations are collective ownership. That gives them bargaining power over individuals. Every corporation should have to bargain with a collective bargaining unit - its own union. That's how its done in Japan.

By the way - as it turns out, Japan has the broadest distribution of wealth in the first world.

Also Japanese companies are run with workers interest as their prime directive. But it turns out, workers interest are a better proxy for stockholders than boards of directors in this country.

The answer is company unions. But that means that unions can no longer play a role as a defacto expediant political organizing unit.

Each company will have its own collective bargaining unit.

Walmart will have a company union. Just like Toyota does back in Japan.

Their employees won't make a bundle, but they'll have a livable wage, they'll have time off to be with their families, they'll have some kind of retirement rigged up, they'll have some kind of reasonable health care rigged up, they'll aford decent transportation and housing, and beable to deliver to their kids a reasonable upbringing.

And because their welfare is tied up with Walmart, they'll compete vigorously against Target and give you better service and better prices than you have ever thought was possible. Then again so will Target.

Unions aren't passe. Just the structure you have known them by are.

Posted by: Bubbles on June 26, 2006 at 9:41 PM | PERMALINK

Bubbles

I didn't argue that Toyota didn't have unions - I said when American private sector unions get out of line foriegn competition brings them back to the real world. My mother worked for GM for ten years while I was growing up - she helped assemble Chevy Chevettes in Wilmington, Delaware. She would come home with tears of frustration talking about how the union was destroying her job and her company, and it was one of several causes that made her a Reagan Dem and now a Repub.
BTW, after she quit her job the union and GM management got scared of the success of Saturn in Spring Hill, TN, so they decided to strangle that infant in the cradle by moving it's production to Wilmington - one of the worst perfoming plants in the GM system. Now Saturn sucks too.

Posted by: minion of rove on June 26, 2006 at 9:58 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, I worked at GM in the eighties. Saturn was a flawed idea because they wanted to do things the Japanese way, but they weren't prepared to Organize Saturn the way Japanese companies were organized.

The problem is the politics of unions and the politics for unions. If you have collective ownership, you simply must have collective bargaining or too much wealth collects at the top. Most epic collapses are related to this phenomina: the fall of Rome, Wall Street in 1929, the collapse of medievel Japan, Hapsburg Spain, Bourbon France, Romanov Russia, Byzantine Empire (before the battle of Manzikurt), ancient Egypt's middle kingdome: Most of the time, what happens is wealth and power concentrates, then the wealthy and powerful use their influence to avoid paying taxes. The state resorts to trying to collect taxes from subsistence farmers who have to choose between paying taxes and feeding their families. A state that relies upon its weakest members is a fragile thing indeed. What results is massive, epic collapse. In the case of ancient Rome and medieval Japan this meant several centuried dark ages. Japan is the most interesting case, as it was an Island Kingdom, it didn't subcumb to outside or barbarian invaders, it just simply desolved into chaos. In those two cases those societies didn't fall to inferior foes, they simply collapsed. And in all cases, the people that had the most to lose by the collapse of the state, the wealthy and the powerful, were also the least willing to pay taxes. Simply amazing how societies keep repeating this mistake. And here we go again.

In modern society, rich people use money to accumulate more money. As they succeed in this endeavor it takes money out of the demand side of the economy and places it on the supply side of the economy. But at some point, you reach a crisis because no one will build a factory if there is no demand. When was the last time someone built a buggy whip factory?

So some institutional arrangement has to be created to balance off the institutional arrangement of collective ownership that we call a corporation or eventually epic collamity or collapse insues.

In the U.S. collective bargaining was so successfully resisted by corporations that it took the creation of vast political organizations and unions the size of the entire industry to overcome the hurdle of corporate resistance. But industry unions are too big, and the bargaining power swung too far the other way. The solution of course is one company, one union.

What that means is today, we as democrats, have to advocate for people to have collective bargaining. It just makes sense on too many levels. It stabilizes society, it protects the wealthy from undermining themselves, it reduces squalor, suffering and you can't expect middle class values coming from people living in squalor. It simple won't happen 95% of the time.

Unions, like the UAW were too big and so were too powerful. They undermined their industry by eliminating competitiveness and flexibility etc...
But the solution is there. And the nice thing is that it also brings about better corporate governance. We have the Japanese to thank for that.

I think there is a way forward from today.

Dems can't expect Unions to be defacto political organizations and vise versa. But dems must advocate on behalf of working people. That means we must advocate for Company unions were ever their is a large publically held corporation with no dominant ownership (a privately held corporation is a different matter entirely as the justification for company unions, will, in the end, be that they are better proxies for shareholders then Boards of Directors are).

And somewhere along the line we are going to have to take corporations completely out of the political process, intitially it will probably have to be by publicly financed campaigns, but later simply by placing caps on campaign elections.

Its all about balance. And industrial unions are to corporations what corporations are to individuals. You simply have to have balance.

Because the UAW is on the brink of failure, and the loss of their entire industry, I think they could be talked into this new model - its that or nothing.

But the corporations themselves? They'll have to be on their death bed before they submit to this new model, because it will mean the end of the robber baron in american industry and too many of these Auto execs see themselves as moving on to become robber barons in some other industry after they've junked the auto giants.

Posted by: Bubbles on June 26, 2006 at 10:28 PM | PERMALINK

Bubbles

Interesting post, I'm intrigued by how close we view the present predicament. Its a disagreement between progressives and populists.
The reason I'm still a Repub [though admittedly wavering] is that I dispute your contention that the Dems really advocate on behalf of working people - that's why I made reference to my mother. In her eyes, and to millions of similarly situated folks, the Dem party is a "dumbell" party -- an unholy alliance of the upper class and the lumpen proletariat that jointly want to tax the broad middle. The upper strata of the dumbell are the rent-seekers in the guilds - ABA, AMA, therapists, investment bankers, the MSM - the wine and cheese types that force Greyhound riders to subsidize Amtrak. At the other end of the spectrum are the underclass on public assistance, demanding the responsible people subsidize their lifestyle choices - single motherhood, substance abuse, irresponsible credit, etc. These are the folks that hate the Repubs for being soooooo judgemental about objecting to their behavior. In the broad middle are the chumps - the people that play by the rules, try to defer gratification, in short, the former Dems that have now made the Repubs the majority party. Until the Dems learn how to appeal to them they will never figure out what's the matter with Kansas.

Posted by: minion of rove on June 26, 2006 at 10:48 PM | PERMALINK

In the final analysis its all about money.

I am not saying that Dems have advocated for the Working man, I am saying they should.

My politics have been shaped by the movie "Its a Wonderful Life" and if you watch that movie closely you will see it is extremely political.

I believe you have to find ways to help the little guy, the common man out. Anything else is simply disfunctional and not worth doing. In this life what you earn is a function of your bargaining power, nothing less. That means we have to aspire to making arrangements for a balanced playing field.

A look through history and the Republican are all about making the rich richer. But even worse is the social economic model that the Neocons are actively pursuing. I suggest you take a look at this little post over at billmon's site:

http://billmon.org/archives/001854.html

Through this vector, everything the Neocon Republicans do begins to make sense.

If you are going to pick someone's pocket, you have to make sure they are distracted.

What's going on right now is much larger than the narrow prizm you've looked at things so far.

In terms of the public interest and sound civics, almost none of the policies of the Bush administration make any sense at all. However they have gotten away with unsound civics by relying on clever gimickry in the social sphere.

Meanwhile some very, very wealthy people are pumping money into having right wing fundies take over mainline protestant religions (has been reported on air america and daily kos) through the religion and democracy institute. The money behind this effort comes from Pete Coors of Colorado, the Koch family of Kansas (largest privately held corporation in the U.S. petroleum industry), the Mellon-Schaife foundation (as in Carnegie Mellon fame) the Olson foundation, to name a few.

They have a bank of psuedo-scholars and focus group practice teams designed to sway un-critical-thinking Americans to follow their pied piper approach.

But the bottom line is they want to create a society in America that you would only recognize by going to Mexico or Saudi Arabia. The Neocon dream is a plutocratic elite ruling over impoverished masses who are controled by religion.

If you read conservative web sites and pundits, say like David Brooks of the New York Times, you will find the pattern there of supporting this general model.

Our society is basically driven by one principal: free contract. That means what you earn is a product of your bargaining power. Corporations and moneyed classes buy legislatures. The only place in our society where procedures and protections for a balanced playing field exist is in the court of law and those were arrived at through centuries of evolution. Because corporations and big money can't use their bargaining power to influence the outcome of a law case, they want to implement 'tort reform' so as to limit their losses if they do lose a law case.

Think about all of this.

It a mistake to see the Neocons Republicans as anything other than a reactionary revolutionary movement, well funded, well organized, including a giant wall of propaganda, that is very sophisticated at getting to the likes of oridinary Americans.

An other example is the 'death tax' march. Its funded by 18 families, some related to the religious conspiracy, to avoid paying estate taxes that only affects one in 200 people and only in a limited way at that. They had people like my father thinking that the estate tax was bankrupty family farms. The term 'death tax' came out of a vetting process that used focus groups to determine what ismost succesful with ordinary people.

These guys have an agenda and cards up their sleeve that they aren't showing. Its not just conservative politics. It's something wholey more sysnister, and dangerous.

It has to be resisted by everyday patriotic Americans. The America they want looks like Mexico or Saudi Arabia. And if you haven't been there, let me tell you, its not pretty. But that's what they want. And they are putting the petal to the metal right now.

Meanwhile, smart policy is still possible, but it has to come from the Democrats, because the Republicans are bought and sold to the Neocons.

anyway, I must sign off for tonight. best regards.

Posted by: Bubbles on June 26, 2006 at 11:27 PM | PERMALINK

Read the history of the USA from say 1870, to about 1920 or so.

Notice all the paralells between today, and the gilded age.

Notice how the rage of wage-earners led to riots, murder, and what essentially amounted to a low-grade revolution.

Notice how the rise of unionism caused the rich and powerful to finally concede that a class of serfs was bad for America.

The question isn't whether or not unions will rise again, because given the arrogance and greed of our new gilded age, that rise is inevitable. The question is how many people are going to die this time, when the poor finally get desparate enough to pick up a brick and start looking for the nearest fatcat, and the fatcats look to the army and the police to protect them from 'anarchists'.

it's all happened before, it's all happening again.

Posted by: charles parr on June 26, 2006 at 11:28 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, the Roosevelt administration was led by "Harvard-educated rich guys." The Democratic Party in Congress -- the men in regular direct touch with Democratic constituencies -- wasn't.

Politics have changed greatly since, of course. Congress is not as representative of rank and file voters as it used to be, nor as important for giving such voters a sense that their concerns were being heard in Washington. It's no easy thing to figure out how to operate in this environment, but it would be a mistake to dwell too long on nostalgic visions and how to bring them back to life.

Posted by: Zathras on June 26, 2006 at 11:54 PM | PERMALINK

I'm coming in real late on this but...

There was once a time when the French aristocracy was having a problem with it's own class being mean and crude to the peasants. The more "noble" of the aristocrats came up with "noblesse oblige."

I believe it is noblesse oblige that FDR had given his aristocratic station in American life. Something of the kind was also in Teddy, but he seemed more like an ordinary guy who happened to be rich.

The problem we have today is that everyone wants to be rich (financially independent as it were) but without any of the nobility and noblesse oblige that used to go with it.

The nouveau riche are a crass group and unions are not immune.

Posted by: NeoLotus on June 27, 2006 at 1:37 AM | PERMALINK

There are some really interesting comments here, well worth a read.

Posted by: catherineD on June 27, 2006 at 1:52 AM | PERMALINK

Al, you're truly clueless. People in the working class have a measured attitude toward unions, not completely trusting them but finding significant value in them. Unions, after all, provide a forum and an institution for concentration of power and collective action for working classes-- giving them political clout they wouldn't otherwise have.

BTW, it's true that the unions of today don't have anywhere near the strength of their predecessors in the 1930's, but I wouldn't agree that they're obsolete. A number of big business decisions and events in the past year have been driven by the pressure applied by unions, so they still have clout, though perhaps they don't have the same political strength and impact on the Democratic Party that they used to.

It really is essential for any government to have close contacts with people on the ground and with the population in general. In extreme examples of course, government indifference, malfeasance and even treachery can lead to things like the
Bengal Famine
in British-occupied India in the 1943, where the British took a series of deliberate steps that ruined the food-growing and distribution capacity in Bengal, caring little about the people in India proper and killing over 4 million people there. Despite their pretensions to democracy, the British criminally ignored the pleas of the "ordinary people," with catastrophic and genocidal results. While we probably won't be seeing a mass famine in the US Midwest anytime soon, still, the concerns of working people are fundamental and have to be taken into account by the elites in government. Labor unions do help to bring their concerns to the fore, so I do think there is something to this idea.

Posted by: Lane on June 27, 2006 at 5:36 AM | PERMALINK

This is as depressing a collection of anti-union screeds as you are likely to see on any blog. For a moment I thought I'd logged onto NRO Corner or winger central.

For this to come up on Kevin's site really takes my breath away.

More deressing still, it is hard to tell where the trolls end and Kevin's liberal readership begins.

Imagine for a moment you are on a right-wing blog: do you think you'd see this kind of vitriol, contempt and unsupported opinions frothing out about ITS base? Could you imagine this level of attack by right-wingers on, say, the evangelical movement? The right-to-life movement?

How is it that liberal readers could be so ignorantly vicious about the core constituency of the Democratic Party?

Perhaps because the party itself doesn't care particularly much about this base. We can ask: if the Republicans had treated evangelicals in the same back-handed manner that the Democratic Party treats labor, by how much would Al Gore have won in 2000? Would Kerry-Bush even have been close?

Leave alone right now the substance of the criticisms of labor (many of which are easy countered). Liberal readers: what the hell are you doing sawing off the branch you are sitting on? It was Norquist who said his movement aimed to defund the party by: stealing its Jewish donors by moving closer to Israel; tort reform to hurt trial lawyers; and by destroying the large public sector unions.

Liberal readers: WTF are you giving him the tools?


Posted by: Friend of Labor on June 27, 2006 at 6:37 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin: your choices set up a false dichotomy. There's no need to (a) rebuild the private sector to give unions a chance; and it is simply not true that (b) unions can't organize in the new economy. Unions like HERE and SEIU are doing just fine in the new economy.

The major task is to change labor law to give unions a fair chance to organize. If you (re)build the law, they will come.

Right now, trying to organize a union under the National Labor Relations Act is rather like trying to build a political party in the pre-1989 Soviet Union: the constitution provides for elections, but woe unto you if you try to participate.

Posted by: Friend of Labor on June 27, 2006 at 6:41 AM | PERMALINK

I don't think the difference between then and now relates to unions and their power at all. I think in those days a subset of the wealthy elite believed that in return for their wealth they were obligated to work toward a society that provided "the poor" the opportunity to rise above poverty. You can see that passion in Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, George Soros and Warren Buffet.

Bill Clinton squandered his opportunities with Hillary's health-care debacle, not thinking out the consequences of NAFTA, and creating a backlash against the party with that damn blue dress. The other guys aren't politicians.

FDR was unique in his political gifts, unique in having 13 years in office, and unique in having two true national crises, which made much of the nation open-minded about drastic changes.

Cunning politicians like Karl Rove and Tom Delay have managed to focus voters' attention away from the fiscal and economic issues that affect them, and create fundamental misunderstanding of our foreign policy. What Democrats have to do is demonstrate to voters how our fiscal situation damages them and what Democrats would do about it, and how our foreign policies hurt us all, and what Democrats would do about it.

Apparently it's easier to manipulate people for your own gain than it is to tell the truth. Scholars of the historical Jesus think that's what he got executed for doing.

Posted by: Sarah on June 27, 2006 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

Here is an interesting item, not off topic:

http://www.boston.com/news/globe/magazine/articles/2006/06/25/environmentalism_yee_haw/


Where do you think "workers" line up on this issue?

Posted by: republicrat on June 27, 2006 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

Bubbles, your posts are among the most intelligent I've read.

Please start a blog.

Posted by: We got your cup on June 27, 2006 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Bubblicious Bubbles!

Posted by: SqueakyRat on June 27, 2006 at 9:00 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, and thanks for Billmon link, Bubbles. I must have missed that at the time.

Posted by: SqueakyRat on June 27, 2006 at 9:02 PM | PERMALINK

Disband ROTC and form a united service from the venture scouts/Peace Corps/Americore etc.

Fund the hell out of it, so the volunteers get good training and do useful work.

Make it fashionable to do a year or two in it between high school and collage, or after collage.
Fund the hell out of it.

Make a year volunteering, preferably over seas, a requirement of all masters degrees.

Make service a base requirement of eligibility for management level government jobs.

Last, make service a base requirement for political office. You are never too old to roll up your sleaves and pitch in. (My parents, 75+ still volunteer to help others)

We dont need politicians who just want power, who just want to tell us how to live our lives, or who just want to feed at the public trough. If you can't give year to help people you are obviously not interested in helping people. So a minimum of a years service should be a requrement for holding public office.

The difference with prior generations is they went to bat for the country and the people, either by fighting for it, or by working in it. In doing so they rubbed shoulders with the common man, shared bread and bunks with the common man, and so recognized him on the street, when they came to power.

Posted by: JM on June 27, 2006 at 9:21 PM | PERMALINK

I like Bubble's stuff.

My father moved from house to house and was forced to shop in company stores as a child, when coal mines basically owned their employees. The unions fixed it, but as Bubbles pointed out became too powerful.

So why does Japan have a union for a company? How did it come about? Who pursued it, and who had it forced on them?

Posted by: Red State Mike on June 27, 2006 at 11:07 PM | PERMALINK

I read a very good history of the FDR years, and FDR actually made an effort to understand the problems of the working class. He commisioned a huge sociological study run by (Mrs. X, I can't recall the name offhand) which was designed to help understand the problems of the working class. In other words: he CARED. The Dems these days give lip service to the working class, but are bought and paid for by the same money are the Republicans.

Posted by: John Sully on June 28, 2006 at 1:05 AM | PERMALINK

The fact that we now live in a deindustrialized society means there are fewer labor unions, and those that do exist have been marginalized in spite of their contractual cooperation with industry in recent years. Add to that the American illusion that everybody is, or can be, in the upper middle class and what results is an unwillingness to see the corporation as the ultimate enemy rather than the employer.
Given that the Red States are precisely those that with right-to-work laws and with growing populations, it is natural that the Democrtic's party base in the Blue States should decline in power.

Posted by: Isernia on June 28, 2006 at 7:31 AM | PERMALINK

We are a union family and I trust my husband's union hierarchy 100% over the corrupt incompetants in charge of our government. Our union forced Enron to send their employee's retirement funds to the central union holdings in Washington and as a result our union members were the only ones to escape that debacle with their retirement money intact.

Posted by: dianne dobbs on June 28, 2006 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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