Friday, August 05, 2011

Why Obama is a Fool, Part 100: Failed Labor Law Reform Undermines Democratic Party's natural superiority

This post from Kevin Drum explains how the decline of unions played a significant role in the decline of middle class economic fortunes these past few decades.

But let's note the political implications of the decline of unions, which unfortunately highlights Obama's political tone deafness.

Where do culturally conservative people go to organize? Their churches. Who has tapped deeply into churches to ensure that people vote for what are called "conservative" causes? The Republicans. As Pat Robertson memorably said on television in the aftermath of the 2004 election, Democrats used to be able to use unions to get out the vote, now they come into his--meaning Robertson's and others'--churches and Republicans get out the vote. In 2008, with everything collapsing economically speaking, people were incentivized to try the Democrats. But the Democrats failed--again--and worse, failed to grasp the political structural reasons to support an economically populist agenda.

Labor law reform was something Obama gave little lip service to during the 2008 election, and simply ignored it upon arriving at the White House. Worse, his advisers who were at least somewhat supportive of labor unions failed as a group to grasp the political significance of making it easier for workers to form and join unions.

On the other hand, Republican governors knew exactly what to do this year when assuming office: Destroy the last unions in public employment so as to (1) undermine Democratic Party prospects and (2) enrich the Republicans' corporate executive donors so as to give them more money to run more ads and elect more Republicans. They used the budget as a smoke screen. Still, while they may not destroy public unions, they have changed the debate in their direction and have, as John Boehner said, won 98% of what they want in economic policy terms.

Democrats in power have no sense of this sort of thinking, which is doubly pathetic. For even though I have concluded Obama does not believe in New Deal values, and is at best one of those late 60s cultural libs (even then he follows rather than leads), if he was politically astute, as opposed to politically tone deaf, he'd have pushed hard and talked up labor law reform. If there had been labor law reform, there would have been a different push to get out the vote to help pass progressive or liberal economic reforms in 2010, and a way to funnel information to people that pushed back to explain the real reason for skyrocketing debt and why Social Security and Medicare are a symptom of larger economic structural issues, not the problem that needs "solving." And Democrats and Obama would have the wind at their backs as we look forward to 2012, not running on "Well, um, the Republicans are worse."

Seems like this did happen in some alternative history, though even there the alternative universe president did not quite grasp the significance of supporting labor law reform (he just thought it was a quid pro quo for union leaders' support in that president's election campaign)...



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