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I had a bit of insomnia last night, so I was reading an article in the Atlantic online that deals with at least two of the subjects in this diary's title.  The article itself was fairly short, looking at the trend line of union membership in this country over the past century.  It was the readers comments that I found most illuminating and thought provoking.  Over the course of the discussion that ensued issues were raised that touched on a lot of events that have shaped both the power of Organized Labor, but also its relationship with the Democratic Party, and its bifurcation between those in the public sector and the private sector.  I think it is well worth checking out...especially the comment section:

Who Killed American Unions?

It prompted me to think about some of my own perceptions and attitudes relating to public workers' unions, the political party I self identify with, and why it is that so many Democrats have ambivalent feelings about their Party...  why it is that, for example, the percentage of people who self identify as Democrat or Republican has declined, even as partisanship has increased, while the percentage of those claiming to be Independents has risen.

I thought I'd share some of the thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head...I'm not sure there's a cogent argument here...just some observations.  The motto here is "more and better Democrats".  It's obvious what more means, but perhaps less clear what "better" means.  Like beauty...that becomes more subjective.

Looking back, I think I can safely say that I was generally more enthusiastic in my support for the Democratic Party when I was younger than I am today, at the age of 55.  I think it's fair to say my feelings about unions have evolved as well.  How have your attitudes changed, at least those of you who read this who have enough years under their belts to experience some evolution?

One of the comments that most made me shake my head in sad affirmation was this:

What killed the unions is that the democratic party turned on them after 1968. They became the enemy and they lost any real political representation. When the democratic party abandoned class politics for tribalism, unions didn't fit with that model.
emphasis mine

Now, there are some problems with that simplification, which another commenter addresses, but I believe the broader point about the Democrats abandoning class politics in favor of identity politics is largely valid, and, for me at least, helps explain some of my personal disaffection with the Party over the years.

One of the right wing talking points that most irks me is the charge that Dems engage in "class warfare" and/or the "politics of envy."  We hardly engage in class warfare, and haven't for quite some time.  In fact...I'll go further, and suggest that one of the reasons I still identify as a Democrat is because I associate the Party with a struggle for economic justice that they engaged in much more forcefully decades ago than they have in the past 20 years.  It's sort of why I'm still an Oakland Raider fan, though not so avidly...I remember the Kenny Stabler and Fred Biletnikoff years, and conveniently forget about the JaMarcus Russell period.

Whether 1968 was the exact turning point on not, it seems our Party did begin to follow a different tack at some point around then or shortly thereafter with respect to what it stands for, who it stands for, what it fights for and how it promotes itself.  To me it seems that my Party has in some ways abandoned a cohesive political philosophy in favor of an electoral strategy that relies, instead, upon a potpourri of positions that appeal to different groups.  Put another way, if the Democratic Party were to look at a Seurat painting, today it sees only the individual dots of paint on the canvas, whereas before its focus was the on the canvas as a whole.

Clearly, Labor doesn't enjoy as prominent a seat at the Democratic table as it once did.  One only has to think back to conventions of years (decades?) past, or consider the effort that is currently put forth by politicians to curry the support of Labor Leaders.  As membership in unions has declined, so has Labor's political power.  And when you look more closely at union membership, public worker unions are now probably the most healthy sector of organized labor.  In terms of who has more clout and gets the most attention by Democrats, it's fair to say that the Head of the UAW's star has waned, while the stars for the Heads of AFSCME, SEIU and NEA have waxed.

Upon considering the reasons behind voters' willingness to punish unionized workers at the polls, and especially unionized voters who vote against labor, it is useful to remember the divergent paths that organized workers in the private and public sectors have been traveling down.  They have different experiences, and in many ways the Democratic party has acted like the proverbial 3 monkeys that neither hear, see nor speak no evil.  I can see how union members in the private sector have watched their fortunes decline over the past 40 years, while public workers have largely maintained theirs, and also how they process the manner in which Democrats have largely acquiesced to, if not actually helped formulate, trade and industrial policies that have led to their decline, and feel today like, as Tommy Smothers famously said, "Mother (Democrats) always liked you best."

That's where resentment sets in, and solidarity breaks down.  And Democrats are at least partly to blame for that.  Of course, there is a chicken and the egg dilemma that comes into play.  Auto workers were strident about only driving American cars, to the point where Toyotas or Datsuns (Nissans) weren't allowed in the employee parking lot.  But how many of them went home and plopped down in front of a Sanyo TV, grabbed a beer from a fridge made overseas, and changed into a T Shirt made in Malaysia, shorts made in Honduras, and flip flops made in the Philippines?  How many unionized electricians, plumbers or construction workers extolled the virtues of union labor, while purchasing services themselves based entirely upon price?

As for the general public's antipathy towards public workers, unionized or not, one only has to consider the typical interaction one is likely to have with them.  An encounter with a policeman is rarely positive, and usually leaves you measurably poorer in terms of a traffic citation, at the very least.  A trip to the DMV can most often be appropriately described as Kafkaesque.  Firemen put out far fewer fires than they did many years ago, but their ranks haven't thinned.  Much of the federal stimulus money after the Great Recession was intercepted and usurped by state and local governments to pay make their own payrolls and keep public employees busy...not jump start the private job market.  Most of the "shovel ready" projects seemed to be basic public maintenance, and many of the shovels that you saw in the neighborhood or along the roads were being leaned upon.

One commenter to the Atlantic article notes the obvious:

The power of unions is based one the ability to strike and use solidarity and intimidation to prevent scab labor.
This is true...but what has the Democratic Party, in all honesty, done in the past 35 years or more to protect and enhance that tool in Labor's toolbox?

This comment is also pretty accurate:

The relationship between unions and the party has been pretty complex since '68, and both sides share a lot of the blame. I definitely sympathize with your view of what's gone wrong with the Democratic party. It's still somewhat representing the interests of working people, but it's drifted a long way from its Jacksonian roots, however screwed up those were.

There's a good deal of disdain for working people in the Democratic Party today. Racism, sexism, and homophobia are rightfully unacceptable to party leaders and donors, but these social issues have come to dominate over economic issues that matter to working and middle class Americans, and in some ways they've made it easier for the party to adopt a neo-liberal economic agenda which doesn't recognise the legitimacy of unions.

One of the things I'm bemused by with respect to the OWS movement is the difficulty it has had in getting either the public at large or the Democratic Party to fully embrace the concept of "We are the 99%"  As a society, we have lost much of that ability to feel solidarity or commonweal with one another.  And as a Party, the Democrats long ago stopped seeing their constituency in such monolithic terms.  They don't see any group called "the 99%"  For decades now, they have only seen the 12% that belong to unions, the 50.5% that are women, the 13% that are Black, the 15% that are LGBT, the 23.9% that is Catholic, the 2% that is Jewish, the percentage of registered voters in battleground states that are Hispanic, etc, etc, etc.

And in so doing, they have found it harder and harder over the years to speak in a cohesive, consistent manner on policy issues.  I'm still married to the Party...but it no longer feels like a traditional marriage.  

I'm just one of many in a polygamous arrangement, and it isn't "my night" again until Friday after next.

Anyway...those are just some random thoughts of my own that the Atlantic article provoked.  How about you?

Originally posted to Keith930 on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 08:33 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  This white male centric framing killed unions (27+ / 0-)

    I appreciate your taking the time to write this and think about this, and my criticism goes to some of the passages you cite, not to you.

    But overall, the big disconnect after 1968 was the inability of most white male union members and analysts to come to grips with the economic dimensions of discrimination, which as here, is dismissed as "tribablism."  This is combined with a weak-Marxist analysis still prevalent on the left that assumes that "class" is a more important issue than, eg "race."  Here is one of several erroneous passages:

    What killed the unions is that the democratic party turned on them after 1968. They became the enemy and they lost any real political representation. When the democratic party abandoned class politics for tribalism, unions didn't fit with that model.
    You know what's wrong with this analysis?  It's basically saying that "economics" is more important that "identity."

    What it doesn't realize is that if you are not a white male, identity is economics and class.  

    The Democrats didn't "abandon" class politics for race and gender; it realized that class was being structured according to race and gender and therefore to address class issues you had to do so through race and gender.

    If you were a young black male in 1970, for example, it was almost impossible to get into the carpenters union in New York.  Is that a race discrimination issue or a class issue or both?

    What happened after 1968 was that there were certain mostly white male elements of the union movement that decided to continue to maintain a racial and gender monopoly in the part of the work force considered the "aristocracy of labor."

    There were preposterous rules in certain public and private sector unions -- like you couldn't join the union unless your father had been a member.

    How is that any different from racially motivated grandfather clauses in voting laws in the South.

    What this kind of analysis accepts as a given is the preposterous notion that telling the unions that they had to desegregate was "turning on them" or on the working class.  I once worked on a civil rights case that required me to do a lot of historical research into the methods used by white trade unions in Connecticut to keep blacks and Latinos out in the 50s and 60s, and it was horrible, depressing reading.

    By contrast certain unions embraced desegregation.  Two come to mind -- the auto workers union and the transit union in New York.  The transit union was led by a radical Irishman, but in the 1960s saw the absolute necessity of improving wages for the lowest paid black and Puerto Rican workers.

    By contrast, the teachers union in New York under Albert Shanker saw itself as a bulkwark against the civil rights movement.

    To this day, when I read pro teachers union stuff on DK and anti charter school stuff, it's amazing that almost 50 years later folks can't understand why in communities of color teachers unions are radically unpopular, and seen as constantly asking us to prioritize their own job security and benefits over the well being of our children.  If that's your position, it's a losing position.

    We need a revitalized union movement, but it seems to me that the union movement and its supporters just don't get it and I despair that they ever will.

    •  I must be a weak Marxist (4+ / 0-)

      I still see class in economic terms, and in terms of economic power.  Racism is obviously a component of that, but I see it as a tool to divide, but not the essence of the division.

      Thanks for your comment, though...I've been up since 2:30 this morning, and I'm not as coherent as I would like to be myself at present.

      Oregon:'s cold. But it's a damp cold.

      by Keith930 on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 09:20:12 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And during the November election, union losses (10+ / 0-)

        could translate into enough voter discontent to hurt the Democrats.

        With 54,000 members, Culinary Union Local 226 is a potent political force in one of the last bastions of labor strength. Its voter registration and turnout operations have contributed much to Democrats' success, including victories by Obama in 2008 and Reid in 2010.

        Democrats are counting on another strong effort as they build their fall campaign in Nevada, one of 10 or so battlegrounds that could decide the presidential race.

        But the Culinary Union's chief, expressing disappointment with Democrats and a determination to focus on other priorities, said the union and its political organizers may, in effect, sit November out.

        One of my family members is active in a local union, so I know from talking with him that a lot of union members in Los Angeles are angry with Obama and the Democrats. They feel they have abandoned them and at best have only offered tepid support, and many of them are threatening to sit out the November election. Unions as a whole might not wield the same power they did in 1968, but their members never forget the people who failed them (long after their unions disappear).
        Up and down the ticket, Democrats are operating under the shadow of the President, associated with unpopular policies that make the lives of voters worse and show government to be an incompetent, corrupt handmaiden to big business.  So they keep losing.

        It should be obvious that if you foreclose on your voters, cut their pay, and legalize theft of their wealth by Wall Street oligarchs, they won’t be your voters anymore.  Somehow, Democratic activists continue to operate as if policy doesn’t matter to voters...

        •  Because sitting out worked so well... (6+ / 0-)

          In 2010. "Oh, Tom Barrett isn't pro-Union enough? Fine, we'll let Walker win. What's the worst that could happen?" Anyone letting Mitt Romney win because Obama didn't wave a magic wand for their pet issue deserves everything they get.
          The unions should agitate and lobby for their cause, they shouldn't take themselves as hostages.  

        •  Sounds like the union bosses are whiners and not (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Citizenpower, Larsstephens, lorla

          leaders.  It also seems that they don't realize that it's not just up to Obama to snap his fingers but needs the support and votes in Congress to get anything done.  He's never had a Super Majority so lots hasn't gotten done.

          If those union leaders have things they want to change then they should get engaged in the party.  Not sit on the sidelines and whine.

          Congressional elections have consequences!

          by Cordyc on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 09:52:54 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  There are decades of abandonment of labor by Dems (0+ / 0-)

            as this chart makes painfully clear:

            Table 1. Congressional Voting on Labor Law Reform, 1965–2007
             Employee Free Choice Act, 2007 (failed)
             House (March 1, 2007) Senate (June 26, 2007 cloture vote) Democrats: 228 yes (99%), 2 no Democrats: 48 yes (100%), 0 no
             Republicans: 13 yes, 183 no Independents: 2 yes
             Total: 241 yes, 185 no Republicans: 1 yes, 48 no
             Total: 51 yes, 48 no
             Workplace Fairness Act (Striker Replacement Bill), 1993 (failed)
             House Senate (cloture vote)
             Democrats: 221 yes (87%), 33 no Democrats: 50 yes (89%), 6 no
             Independents: 1 yes Republicans: 3 yes, 40 no
             Republicans: 17 yes, 157 no Total: 53 yes, 46 no
             Total: 239 yes, 190 no
             Labor Law Reform Act, 1977–1978 (failed)
             House Senate (1978 cloture vote)
             Democrats: 221 yes (79%), 59 no Democrats: 44 yes (72%), 17 no
             Republicans: 31 yes, 104 no Republicans: 14 yes, 22 no
             Total: 252 yes, 163 no Total: 58 yes, 39 no
             Repeal of Section 14(b) of Taft-Hartley Act, 1965–1966 (failed)
             House Senate (1966 cloture vote)
             Democrats: 200 yes (70%), 86 no Democrats: 45 yes (67%), 22 no
             Republicans: 21 yes, 117 no Republicans: 6 yes, 26 no
             Total: 221 yes, 203 no Total: 51 yes, 48 no
            It's curious that the one floor vote that EFCA got was when Dems only had  48 senators, and it didn't stand a prayer of passage (and W was going to veto it anyhow).  EFCA never even got to the floor when Dems had 59/60 senators in 2009-10.   Our POTUS, however, told the AFL-CIO in 8/10:
            And we are going to keep on fighting to pass the Employee Free Choice Act.  (Applause.)
            How not having a bill even get a vote is "fighting" for it escapes me.  It escapes me even more that our POTUS pretended that EFCA was still viable then when it wasn't reaching the floor in 2010, and the looming mid-terms made it clear that Dems would be weaker in 2011.  While the abandonment of the PO in the ACA still stings, the Dems abandoning labor on EFCA caused far more long-term damage.

            At this point, what labor does politically may not matter.  Decades of sustained loyalty have seen union density plummet for the past 50 years.  Public employee unions, labor's last bastion, are now in serious decline--WI, the state that pioneered the concept, saw AFSCME membership plummet by > 1/2 in the 13 mos after Walker's union-busting bill passed.

            The party may end up reaping what it sowed over decades of neglect of its core constituency.  It's not an accident that Dems' and labor's fortunes rose together in the 30s and started falling together in late 70s.  I'm still not sure who will do GOTV for Dems in future--I sure as hell don't see FIRE doing it.

            Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?

            by RFK Lives on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 08:09:09 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  The Democratic Party has a lot of historic racism (4+ / 0-)

      The Democratic Party has been responsible for a lot of historical racism, and was more opposed to the interests of people of color than the Republicans were until... 1948 or so? Something like that. About the same time period you point to with regards to anti-PoC behavior among unions.

      Yet PoCs are still more likely to vote for Democratic party candidates, regardless of the candidate's ethnicity, than they are to vote for Republican party candidates.

      Basically everyone in this world - people of color included - make decisions about what people have done for them lately.

      I think your comment is pretty overblown. If people of color are less likely to support unions, teacher's unions, etc (you didn't provide any citations and I'm not prepared to take that at face value), then I suspect it has far more to do with the fact that they don't see unions doing anything for them lately, as individual Americans, and very little to do with issues of historic racism.

      I think Occam's Razor makes your thesis hard to support.

      "Any plan I sign must include an insurance exchange ... including a public option" President Obama, 7.18.09

      by efraker on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 10:50:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I bet Jews didn't think they had anything in com- (5+ / 0-)

        mon with some of the other groups that were targeted by Hitler but they soon learned that targeted groups need to stick together.

        I get a little upset when we play divisive games about whose on the Republican target list. We are all on it! Some of us just haven't figured  that out yet. Does it matter that the Democratic Party was once racist? It used to but not any more.

        We need a collaborative approach to dealing with the
        number one problem we have  today. Even if they don't realize it, women, blacks, minorities, unions, non-union workers and students are all walking around with a big target on their backs that says,"We are the 99%". I strongly suggest everyone go over to Democracy for America and order a bumper stickers that says , "We are the 99%". Be willing to be identified. Stand up and show some unity.

        When it all comes down to it, it is very ego-centric to worry at a time like this when we are under siege whether unions are deserve of our support or not.

    •  I still haven't gotten any sleep, but I'll attempt (10+ / 0-)

      a stab at your point, HR...

      What it doesn't realize is that if you are not a white male, identity is economics and class.  
      Firstly, your take on this seems to accept the mainstream view that we are playing a zero sum game here.  That any gains made by White Males must necessarily be at the expense of either women, or people of color, or both.  I don't buy that argument.

      I think that both the Democratic Party and the Labor Movement can promulgate and actively pursue policies that improve lives equally for everyone involved.  

      If the Dems had a cohesive, philosophically and economically consistent message that addressed the needs of "the 99%', it would of necessity address the needs of every other subgroup.  To the extent that their message is written and tailored specifically for whatever slice of the demographic pie that they find themselves in front of at the time, it only promotes the poverty of solidarity and inability to see ourselves as all in the same boat that is part of the problem, in my mind.  It almost invites tribalism, if not excites it, and encourages different groups to self identify around issues of race, ethnicity, gender identity etc, and ask the Party "What's in this for me, instead of how does this improve things for all of us.

      I don't think the struggle for economic justice is that kind of zero sum game.

      But I also believe the Dems are no longer comfortable having that kind of class conscious debate.  They have painted themselves into a box over the past 35 years in so many ways, and are always playing defense politically.  They desperately need to retain the support of various interest groups, but have largely ceded the loss of a wide swath of the Middle & Working Class to Republicans.  Their political survival, as they read the political lay of the land, depends upon shoring up their support among the various identy groups, while currying favor with liberal elites with deep pockets.

      This manifests itself in various ways.  When in control of the White House, modern Democratic presidents seem intent upon appointing people who won't alienate the nebulous "unalligned voters" to important Cabinet positions...up to and including SCOTUS.  That's why, for example, we get Interior Secretaries like Ken Salazar, to pick just one example.  Repubs, on the other hand, know exactly who their core constituency's the affluent and industry.  So when they have the WH, we get ideologues in positions like Interior Secretary or Labor Secretary...or Atty General.

      The Dems' dependence upon large campaign donors has forced them to acquiesce to policies and legislation that harms the Middle Class to one degree or another, and their decision to pursue a strategy of identity politics over class politics has circumscribed its ability to appeal to a more broad based Middle Class coalition.

      I know what the GOP stands for and what its intentions are.  That's why I continue to vote Dem.  But I am hard pressed to say, succinctly, exactly what the Dems' stand for or what their intentions are.  And my confusion, I would suggest, stems from the Party's own lack of a clear philosophy.  

      Oregon:'s cold. But it's a damp cold.

      by Keith930 on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 01:11:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  A zero-sum game? (5+ / 0-)
        Firstly, your take on this seems to accept the mainstream view that we are playing a zero sum game here.  That any gains made by White Males must necessarily be at the expense of either women, or people of color, or both.  I don't buy that argument.
        Many white males do buy that argument. And, in the long era of restructuring and retrenchment we've been in since the 1970s, so do many women and people of color.

        I think we would agree that the struggle for social justice doesn't have to be a zero-sum game among the 99%. But that's the way it's been working, and will continue to do so until we figure out alternative strategies.

        The problem with much of identity politics is that it pursues a goal of democratic inclusion of the group within the existing social structure. Two results: the focus is not on "unite the many to defeat the few," but on "unite the few to defeat the many," since not just the (white, male) power structure is seen as the opponent, but every other group as well.

        This makes it very hard to structure a coherent political bloc capable of taking on entrenched, powerful opposition. And it encourages the leaders of each group to cut side deals with that power structure, because after all they are trying to join it, not take it apart. Thus they define the subordinate group's struggle in terms of the interests that group's top strata. See, for example, the myriad media stories defining the advancement of women in terms of the number of female CEOs; or read the history of NOW's abandonment of its opposition to Clinton's welfare "reform" in the face of member criticism. (That's not to say that there have not been important leaders and groups who have fought for a broader liberation strategy--think Martin Luther King or the social-feminists of the 70s--but they have been marginalized.)

        The Democrats have been happy to play along with Republican cultural warfare since the 1960s because they are happy to avoid class/economic struggle in favor of identity politics struggles for democratic recognition rather than democratic redistribution.

        The Democratic Party has always been the less coherent party, going back to pre-Civil War days, when it united Northern mechanics, immigrants, and white Southern defenders of slavery. The ingredients of the coalition have changed over the decades, but pursuit of democratic redistribution as part of a 99% strategy would lead to its abandonment by the elites who help finance it (who might be OK with more Democrats, but not with better Democrats).

    •  This is right on the money. Thank you (11+ / 0-)

      Its like people totally forget what the actual conditions were in 1968 and the 70's.  The Democratic party started to prioritize identity politics?  Hmmm.  I wonder why?  Maybe it had something to do with 100s of years of purposeful discrimination against minorities, women, homosexuals, etc.  As soon as the Dem party started doing something for its minority and female members, working class whites began to abandon the party.  We all know about the Southern Strategy but lets not forget the school desegregation fights in Chicago, Detroit and Boston, the white flight syndrome, cries of reverse racism starting in the early 80s.  

      I agree with the diarist that the Dems lack an organizing economic principle.  But what he fails to mention is that the principal was shattered when Clinton decided the Dems would abandon union money in favor of corporate money in the early 90s.  Its hard to preach economic class politics when your biggest financial supporters all come from the top 1%.  

      •  In college in 1970 I worked voter reg with (3+ / 0-)

        a union group in Los Angeles.  We were working to get more minorities registered both Latino and Black.  This was supported by the AFL-CIO.

        There was also a major split in the Dem party between those who still supported the Vietnam War and those who were joining the Anti-War groups.  On economic and civil rights there wasn't much daylight between the two groups but the war and whether to support the troops was a big issue.  There was also nothing like a position were you would support the troops/draftees mostly and be against the war.  Most of the union leaders were supporters of the troops even if the questioned the wisdom of the war.  Another left over in some of the older union leadership at that time was they were very anti-Communist, hence they were still for fighting Commies in Vietnam. It was the times.

        I don't think the union movement ever got over the break with the "peace" Eugene McCarthy part of the party.  They had been Humphrey guys and stayed that way.

        Congressional elections have consequences!

        by Cordyc on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 10:11:09 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Unions supported the war (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Zack from the SFV

          while the Democratic party was fulled with anti-war activists. Union members became part of the so-called "silent majority" who supported Nixon because he was against just admitting defeat and leaving Vietnam. We must also remember that in economic terms Nixon was to the left of where Obama is now. Union members were not losing much when they supported Nixon. But Nixon brought down all who supported him because when we say he would do anything to keep power we do mean anything. At this point anti-union people were able to take control of the Republican party and Unions, having burned their bridges to the Democrats, were doomed.

    •  Construction vs. more steady employment (4+ / 0-)
      If you were a young black male in 1970, for example, it was almost impossible to get into the carpenters union in New York.
      I am too young to personally remember when affirmative action in hiring started. But I think it may have been more like people unemployed seeing newcomers sent to work much steadier, than outright racism. (Though I would think there was some racism also, to be sure) And I think timing was a big deal as well. If I read the history correctly, after World War 2, even though there were slowdowns here and there, up until the '70s there was all kinds of work. But in the '70s there was heavier unemployment. People who had never known any long term unemployment ran out of unemployment benefits and other benefits for the first time in their lives. So maybe it was a case of scared people wanting to fight over scraps. And of course, wealthy people  and conservative politicians wanted to exploit any resentment to weaken union solidarity. Or win elections.

      Where are all the jobs, Boehner?

      by Dirtandiron on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 01:36:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You actually are too young (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Larsstephens, lorla, rmabelis

        You seem to be dismissing historical fact.  There were unions that simply said no blacks allowed.  Period.  When that became illegal, they implemented all sorts of rules that would make Alabama blush -- like you can't join the union unless your rather was a union member.  That is historical fact.  It wasn't about steady employment, or whatever you are arguing.  It was about blatant union racism.

        When Democratic controlled state and local governments, and the federal government under Democrats began forcing employers to hire blacks and Latinos, white male union members took this, as the diarist did, as an attack on unions.

    •  I really take issue with this statement (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tikkun, Larsstephens, JanL
      of color teachers unions are radically unpopular, and seen as constantly asking us to prioritize their own job security and benefits over the well being of our children.  
      I think anyone who accepts a job teaching in a community of color (where teacher pay is often lower) is most likely not a racist. If you hate people of color, where are you going to send a resume? NYC or a suburb like Greenwich, CT.?

      Where are all the jobs, Boehner?

      by Dirtandiron on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 01:40:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for the laugh (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        But seriously? Why not just go with the "I have a Black friend" defense? Because we all know that increasing proximity to People of Color equates with lack of racism. Right???

        Guess you didn't get it after all.

        "When facts are reported, they deny the value of evidence; when the evidence is produced, they declare it inconclusive." -- Augustine, in The City of God.

        by Zek J Evets on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 02:43:54 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Republicans are trying to drive a wedge between (6+ / 0-)

          Democratic Party constituencies. One of the so-called "family values" groups (don't know their name) had some of their papers entered into evidence in court when they fought marriage equality. They talked about trying to drive a wedge between people of color and gays. Do you think the Party of Karl Rove will stop with blacks and gays? Why not try to drive a wedge between blacks and teachers? Now, I am NOT saying that's the diarist's intent, I don't think it was. That meme is out there in the media. We all know, when  lie is repeated enough, it sounds like truth.

          Where are all the jobs, Boehner?

          by Dirtandiron on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 05:14:35 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  You made an excellent point, Dirtandiron (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Larsstephens, Dirtandiron

            This seems so trivial when we realize what we are up against.

            •  Thank you for making my point! (0+ / 0-)

              Try telling a person of color that race is trivial. Try telling someone who's LGBTQ that sexuality is trivial. I mean, Republicans don't care about about these groups, but as for Democrats like some here... well, as the saying goes, "with friends like these, who needs enemies?"

              The GOP doesn't need to drive a wedge when professional Dems do it to their base already.

              But that's old hat, honestly. Ya'll have come to the conversation late.

              "When facts are reported, they deny the value of evidence; when the evidence is produced, they declare it inconclusive." -- Augustine, in The City of God.

              by Zek J Evets on Tue Jun 12, 2012 at 12:36:35 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  You need to reread what he said (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I don't think you got it the first time

      •  I didn't say teachers, I said teachers unions (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I'm sure many teachers in communities of color are dedicated and appreciated.

        But the teachers unions frankly are screwing up terribly.  They oppose attempts to improve inner city education.

        Worse, they are now making increasingly bizarre arguments against reform -- like that black and Latino school children are simply too stupid for teachers to be held accountable for the failure of the educational system.  That's only a slight exaggeration of the argument frequently made by teachers advocates right her on this web forum.

        This is why education "reformers" are able to hold out charter schools to urban parents as a way to get them to bail out completely from the public school system.  It's why thousands apply for each opening at a charter school.

        The teachers unions should have taken the position that it was their professional responsibility to improve education no matter the obstacles in alliance with parents.

        Instead they took the position that any attempt to improve education was an attack on their work conditions.

        Albert Shanker famously said that he would advocate for children when children paid union dues.

        And it is documented history that the teachers union in New York was an anti-civil rights force that led to several political crises.

        Woody Allen even made fun of Shanker in the movie Sleeper, which is about a post nuclear war dystopia.  The explanation for why the world was destroyed was "a man named Albert Shanker got control of a nuclear weapon."

    •  Links? I would like to see public sector unions (0+ / 0-)

      that had such a rule.

      There were preposterous rules in certain public and private sector unions -- like you couldn't join the union unless your father had been a member.
      Private sector unions perhaps?
      •  You are partly correct (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Keone Michaels

        In terms of union rules, this has mostly been a private sector union phenomenon.

        However, there have been public sector unions that lobbied for rules issued by the government department that in effect created strong preferences for sons of union members.

        As the Hispanic Society of the NYC Fire Department pointed out, the job of firefighter has essentially been passed down from father to son.  What's more bizarre is that northeaster firefighters' unions have fought affirmative action plans on the grounds that fire fighters have to live in the fire station and eat together in close proximity -- and of course, no white person wants to share a meal with a person of color or sleep in the same firehouse.  Of course the US Army wasn't able to solve THAT problem (snark):

        Why has the New York City Fire Department failed to reflect the community that it serves for so long?  This is a great job that continues to be passed down from father to son.
        Rules lobbied for by the firefighters unions make this job one of the whitest in the nation.
  •  the 80's - two consecutive reagon admins (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Crider, Larsstephens

    -You want to change the system, run for office.

    by Deep Texan on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 09:10:13 AM PDT

    •  Looking back, (8+ / 0-)

      it's simply amazing that the Teamsters were so stoopit as to endorse Reagan.

      •  yup (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        -You want to change the system, run for office.

        by Deep Texan on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 12:59:07 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Two possible explanations? (5+ / 0-)

        Looking back they were both bad ideas, but maybe this is what they were thinking?
         1. Playing both sides of the fence. Most unions endorsed Democratic.  A few (including PATCO) endorsed Reagan. Perhaps labor wanted at least one or 2 unions who could still lobby Reagan in the event he won. Speculation, but the best explanation I've heard.
        2. President Carter started the deregulation of over-the-road (i.e. long distance) trucking companies. Pres. Reagan finished it with terrible consequences, so endorsing him was a bad move. Pres. Carter was unpopular with long haul drivers who lost their jobs, so a Reagan endorsement was probably not hard to sell to the members.

        Where are all the jobs, Boehner?

        by Dirtandiron on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 01:17:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  At the time of Reagan/Carter (5+ / 0-)

        My own Union local was voting on a contract and went on strike. The largest thing I remember from the Union membership then was 13% inflation. That was indeed bad, but it was incredibly short sighted to run to Reagan who was known for hating Unions even if he was talking up his "I was president of a Union" cred.

      •  Don't forget the Carpenters Union (9+ / 0-)

        They were also one of the first to break ranks and support Reagan.

        The Reagan years are an enigma...and it is where the newest division in what should be Class Solidarity arose...generational conflict.

        There was a generation (Gen X?) that came of age during Reagan's terms, who have no experiential knowledge of the modern history that predated them.  Just like I have no experiential memory of the race riots that rocked this country in the mid to late 60's.  I was born in 56, but I swear to you all that I have no memory of the race riots that took place in so many cities between 1965 and 1968.  I was watching cartoons.

        By the time I was of an age to understand politics and get interested in it, it was 1972.  By then, it was all about school busing and affirmative action.   I can remember Walter Cronkite's ticking off of the daily military death toll, and the associated "enemy casualties", of the Viet Nam War more vividly than I can the series of urban riots that took place at the same time across the nation.

        By the time 1980 came around, the country had changed in profound ways.  I was out of the country during Carter's second presidential run, in the Peace Corps, and remember tuning into a shortwave radio frequency in Costa Rica to follow the election results.  I no sooner found a station, and walked away to purchase a few beers to settle in with, before I returned to find that the election had been called already in Reagan's favor.  My jaw was at my feet.  It happened that fast.

        Look at pop culture in the 80's, though...especially Hollywood.  There was a whole generation of kids who never knew who some of the lions of the Democratic Party of decades past were, but grew up on Rambo, Ronald Reagan, Rocky draped in the American flag, Top generation raised upon a sort of jingoism that would have been unheard of just 10 years earlier.

        We have short memories, as a people...and while I don't seek to fan intergenerational conflict...I also know that what happened 25 years ago may as well have happened a hundred years ago.  And what happened a hundred years ago may even be more well known.

        There's a lot of history that I was alive during that I still don't fully know.  The racial strife of the 60's is foremost in that category.  And I'd wager that most people in generations that followed me are just about equally unaware.  

        I'm guessing that topic doesn't appear on the standard history testing forms.

        Oregon:'s cold. But it's a damp cold.

        by Keith930 on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 02:30:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  interesting (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Larsstephens, Zack from the SFV

          I am younger than you and I remember riots on TV, rocks thrown at our school bus on a field trip, and bodies coming home from the Vietnam War.  I watched cartoons on Sat morning, but my parents did not try to shelter us from the evening news

          -7.75, -6.05 And these wars; they can't be won Does anyone know or care how they begun?-Matt Bellamy

          by nicolemm on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 06:54:11 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Good to see someone pointing out how identity (5+ / 0-)

    groups replaced class.  I think the strategy was a reaction to the "southern strategy", and while understandable given the circumstances it has proven damaging in profound ways.

    Another piece worth reading is:

    Private sector membership is now so low that many have no exposure at all to union issues, apart from press accounts of conflicts.

    The author also asserts that the unions themselves lost their way by emphasizing work rules and benefits and neglecting organizing.  I don't know if I agree with this since there are obviously other forces at work.  But it is hard to forget being yelled at for trying to carry a cardboard box into the LVCC.

    Where are we, now that we need us most?

    by Frank Knarf on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 09:21:48 AM PDT

  •  I'll just touch on the union part (24+ / 0-)

    You can't watch movies like Matewan and not understand why the need for unions arose in the first place - the right to a decent wage and not to be killed doing your job or to be terrorized and plundered by your employer.

    Workers vs. owners: natural enemies since their goals are so inherently contrary - the owner wants all the marbles and the workers want some of the marbles, diminishing the owner's pile. But if the workers can make the owner's life and business very unpleasant and cause him to lose many marbles through strikes, etc. the owner will grudgingly give up some of the stockpile in order not to lose more.

    When the workers lose any power to effect the owners size of the pile through their actions, they become irrelevant. If you can't strike, you're essentially toothless. The only value of the worker is labor, so if there's no power to withhold labor, the worker is worthless.  In times of recession and joblessness with 10 people waiting to take every job, they are even more worthless on an individual scale - they are completely fungible.

    So the the key to dismantling the unions is to dismantle their right to strike which Reagan of course recognized when he fired all the air traffic controllers and which model has been followed ever since as the portrait of the fearless leader working to make the world safe for consumers/taxpayers while at the same time reinforcing the dominant role of the Masters of the Universe whom we now celebrate with the sadly unironic soubriquet of "Job Creator" (let us kneel reverently.)

    The larger problem for unions is that for the majority of history they struggled to obtain parity with other workers just in terms of making some kind of wage that was commensurate to the difficulty or danger of their job, but at some point that went beyond parity to outpace non-union labor which led to envy by other worker ants which is exploited beautifully by the masters.

    This is the part I love - instead of all the other worker ants aspiring and working towards demanding to have the same great pay, hours, benefits, defined pensions, etc. of the union ants we envy so much, we allow our media minions and elected pols to point at the union ants and say - "Look at them! They have 3 crumbs and you only have 1! Are you going to allow that?" and we all rise up together and shout "No!" while missing the fact that the people inciting our rage and envy for their own uses have whole loaves of bread and even own the bakery.

    And so then, surprise, surprise, we're all non-union disposable, fungible worker ants willing, due to our desperation, to work for companies who demand that we be "on-call" for sub-par wages with no benefits in the crappiest environments imaginable and to count ourselves among the lucky ones who can starve more slowly than the rest or die from our untreated chronic diseases. Progress!

    “Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.” FDR

    by Phoebe Loosinhouse on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 09:32:24 AM PDT

    •  The thing that pisses me off, is that the people I (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mightymouse, Wolf10, Larsstephens, JanL

      know who hate unions the loudest, seem to have money. Some people like to put others down to feel superior.

      Where are all the jobs, Boehner?

      by Dirtandiron on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 01:44:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not my father (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Wolf10, mightymouse, Larsstephens

        For most of his life he neither had a pot to piss in or a window to through it out of.  His first job was with the Railroad, and so he belonged to the RR union.  He chafed from the very beginning, because he thought he worked harder than many of his coworkers, but wasn't compensated to reflect that work ethic.  He resented making no more than the most shiftless slacker on the work crew, and it was hard, muddy work using an acetylene torch underneath the rail cars to do repairs, that had to be dragged up and down through the repair station.  

        He complained bitterly to his boss that he worked twice as hard as the next guy, but got paid the same...and when he quit his job, he went back and threatened his former boss that he would, in his words, come back and kick his ass, if he didn't get a good letter of recommendation.  That was my Dad.

        I was always sympathetic to the unions, and it was probably the biggest bone of contention and most polarizing political arguments my Dad and I ever had.  But my Dad started out poor as a church mouse.  He just never had any truck with unions, for whatever reason...and in fact hated them.  And his parents were both poor, dependably loyal Democrats.

        Oregon:'s cold. But it's a damp cold.

        by Keith930 on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 02:41:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  How did he feel about the 40 hour work week (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          paid vacations, health insurance, workplace safety provisions, and middle class wages for working people (allowing them to enter the middle class, and their kids to get college educations)?

          Did he decline all these hard fought gains in later life because of a bad experience at his first job?

          No disrespect. My dad was wrong about some things, too!

          "I don't try to describe the future. I try to prevent it." - Ray Bradbury

          by chuckvw on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 09:56:19 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  And yet, is it possible, maybe even likely, that (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          the pay he got, thanks to the union, is more than he would have gotten without the union, no matter how hard he felt he was working?

      •  Unions are Capitalism at its finest. (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Be Skeptical, Chi, tikkun, Larsstephens, JanL

        Businesses hate competition.

        •  This is a very important point. (7+ / 0-)

          Labor is, by its very nature, capitalist as it depends upon the generation and flow of capital, and the success of investment, for wages.  At the same time, unions are simply entrepreneurial workers who have developed a way of improving their standing within an organization.  And yes, other power centers in organizations do not like competition.

          The road to Hell is paved with pragmatism.

          by TheOrchid on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 03:44:12 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  You nailed it (3+ / 0-)

      It is sickening the way the right-wing messages this so that people are envious of people in a union for having a decent pension, but think that billionaires DESERVE all their money.

      "What is essential is invisible to the eye."

      by greywolfe359 on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 08:32:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Unions are almost illegal (14+ / 0-)

    That's the problem. US labor law, unlike law in Canada, Australia and Western Europe, make it very difficult to form or maintain a union. In Canada 55% of a work force signs cards; they have a union. In the US the process to adjudicate unfair labor practices routinely takes years. Private sector unions are going, going and almost gone. The Wagner Act needs strengthening. One reason it hasn't happened is Labor itself hasn't made Labor Law Reform its highest priority. When Clinton was President and Dems had both houses in 93,94, Labor made stopping NAFTA its priority instead of Labor Law. In Obama's first two years Labor focused on stopping trade deals with Columbia, Panama and South Korea. Fighting trade with developing countries may be a crowd pleaser at a union hall, but securing a better labor organizing law is vital to the future of trade unions in the US.
    Barney Frank offered to broker a grand bargain to put Labor Reform in the equation with the trade deals. The AFL-CIO rejected his approach. Now we have the trade deals and no labor reform. Labor may get one more chance if Obama wins and they better take it. Without a better organizing law there will be almost no labor unions in America.

    Cities are good for the environment

    by citydem on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 09:36:24 AM PDT

  •  The Repubs Turned Tribal, the Dems Turned Conserv- (8+ / 0-)

    ative after the 60's.

    The reason the Dems turned to expanding the final sprint to elections to be their sole around-the-cycle strategy was that it let them appeal to nobody other than their base of conservative moderates in only a few key parts of the country, telling labor and the left and the rest of the country that they had nowhere better to go, and letting the right shape opinion and inform the voters.

    We've had 2 conservative parties since Nixon, and so with nobody working to advance working and middle classes there's been no reward to tempt people away from racism and superstition whereas the right has given them every excuse to fear and hate and created a full-service community in fundamentalism that is much more beneficial to the eyes of the average person than reason and enlightenment.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 09:37:21 AM PDT

    •  As a Union member off and on since 1977 (11+ / 0-)

      My take is my current Union (Teamsters) is the weakest union I have ever been in, including (especially) when I was in the Teamsters in 1992. My thoughts on the reasons for this include.

      1) My union president (who wants me to buy a sticker saying he is my president) is pro-management not pro-worker. He is pro-union dues, of course, so he wants to increase membership but as for standing up to management, a few years back he told the membership we have to "submit to the global marketplace", a management slogan used to justify taking away pay and benefits. In the late 90s, if you recall, there was a UPS strike. The president did not want it but fairly shortly, UPS management made concessions to get a contract signed. Within a few years, all those concessions had been conceded back to management.

      2) Where I work, workers have no idea what Solidarity means. They are out for themselves and getting along with management is seen as most beneficial for themselves. I hear constant anti-union crap coming from my co-workers. "I am the only one here who works with any integrity, so screw those other people and screw the Union" "This guy who has seniority rights to be offered overtime is taking that overtime. Isn't that horrible?". It is, in fact, class warfare on the part of management to divide people by keeping them focused on other workers and not on management breaches of contract. Far too frequently, my Union steward acts as management's messenger to me rather than my representative to management. Far too frequently, solidarity means senior guys work together with management to take away from junior guys.

  •  The Dem Party has become the Repub Party (12+ / 0-)

    Over the years, the democratic party has largely become the republican party.

    The democratic party stopped concerning itself with the needs of the voters when it realized the way to win elections was with big money donors (late eighties and early nineties).  Now the true constituency of the democratic party is soley those big money donors.  Lip service is given to "the workers", but there hasn't been any real legislation to improve the lives of working men and women.

    The end result is a democratic president who continues and expands on the policies of GW Bush, and in some instances is more Bush than Bush himself.  This right-ward conversion has been facilitated by the even more right-ward movement of the republicans: in comparison, the democrats still look liberal.

    We will no longer see meaningful progressive policies coming from the democratic party.  They are just not that into us.  

    "The fool doth think he is wise: the wise man knows himself to be a fool" - W. Shakespeare

    by Hugh Jim Bissell on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 12:49:06 PM PDT

  •  It's about winning elections (9+ / 0-)

    Republicans hate unions, because "owners" don't want to pay the serfs any benefits, or decent wages, this is true. This dates back to the industrial revolution. Don't forget, you wouldn't have a 40 hr work week, or paid sick time, or weekends, were it not for workers banding together years ago and standing up to the bosses.
    But these days, their larger motivation to destroy unions comes from politics.
    Here's a link to the top political donors for 2012. Notice the list is populated by big corporations, and a few (very few) unions. Take a wild guess at which party gets who's donations. This has been a slow process of destruction that started with Ronald Reagan and PATCO, the air traffic controllers' union.
    When Republicans finally bust all the unions, they will be able to have total control. Kiss you butt goodbye then.
    As Democrats, we need to stand together and stand up for workers everywhere.

    Everybody got to elevate from the norm....

    by Icicle68 on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 12:56:47 PM PDT

  •  This is an interesting diary!!! (5+ / 0-)

    There's not much left of unions outside the public sector. That may be why public unions don't get huge public support. Most people aren't in a union.

    I think economic populism (class politics) did take a back seat in the 1970's. Didn't Richard Nixon at one point talk about a guaranteed minimuim income?  If that had passed, wouldn't it have really helped?  How much support would that have in the Senate today??  

    I think economic populism and class politics will come back when the electorate begins to support it. Wasn't race partly why class politics declined?  Was it seen as helping someone else?  Contrast New Deal with Great Society?  Also, after the 1984 election the Democratic Party decided the old New Deal class politics just didn't work anymore and moved away from it.

    As a member of Courtesy Kos, I am dedicated to civility and respect for all kossacks, regardless of their opinions, affiliations, or cliques.

    by joedemocrat on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 01:01:25 PM PDT

  •  I think it was 1972 (7+ / 0-)
    Whether 1968 was the exact turning point on not, it seems our Party did begin to follow a different tack at some point around then or shortly thereafter with respect to what it stands for, who it stands for, what it fights for and how it promotes itself.
    After the crushing defeat of McGovern in the '72 elections, the Dems mistakenly interpreted the results that being anti war-liberal-union friendly was what had gotten them in to trouble. Of course, the reality was that between Nixon's now well known dirty tricks, the Southern Strategy and the Eagleton debacle, plus McGovern's poorly run campaign, is what lost it for them. Or at least lost it as badly as they had done.This was further reinforced by Jimmy Carter's win in '76 which seemed to give rise the notion that going to the right would win elections. In fact, Carter won mostly because of Watergate, Ford's weakness as a president and candidate, and his pardon of Nixon.
    •  I also wanted to add (5+ / 0-)

      that as much as I respect Carter, I think he went a long way towards moving the Overton window just enough to the right that allowed Reagan, who just 4 years earlier was considered too fringe, even by the Republicans, to win the nomination in '80. In a lot of respects, Nixon and even Ford, were to the left of Carter. Carter was certainly the first president in the modern era to wear his religion on his sleeve, to a certain extent, and actually was the one that started a lot of the deregulation and march towards privatization that Reagan and all those in both parties would embrace afterwards. He was certainly a break from the FDR big government presidents from both parties that had been in power up until then.

  •  Unions vs Peace or the Environment (4+ / 0-)

    I think another aspect of this that people don't seem to want to talk about is the divide and conquer nature of issues like the environment or peace.

    I remember a dinner with a Democratic Party group a few years ago at which the Iraq War came up.  This was back during the heavy flag waving time.  Before I could say anything about it, a union leader I was sitting across the table from spoke up and said that he thought being against the war was for wimps.  It seemed to me that what you had was that people who valued being capable, hard working and macho were not comfortable with being anti-war, so if you wanted the union vote you had to be a flag waver at that point.

    Efforts to get city councils to pay attention to environmental issues tend to come with corporations bringing lots of union guys in hard hats out to counter the environmental turnout.

    These sorts of things have created an very uncomfortable on and off again sort of support among Democrats for each other's agendas.  It is at least complicated.

    But I think there is a lessening of support overall because of this.  It doesn't seem like anyone knows what to do about it.

    hope that the idiots who have no constructive and creative solutions but only look to tear down will not win the day.

    by Stuart Heady on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 01:23:04 PM PDT

    •  wouldn't it be nice to have a common agenda (4+ / 0-)

      instead of a jury rigged one that is held together with bubblegum and duct tape, amongst disparate groups that don't really view much common ground?

      Oregon:'s cold. But it's a damp cold.

      by Keith930 on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 02:59:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The Seeming Conservatism of Union Workers (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      over the years was something that most of us could not get our heads around.  What the hell were they doing supporting the Vietnamese War.  What were they doing supporting Reagan, for God's sake?  What we didn't understand was that they were connected to the old Trotskyites, an internationalist group in America that was part of the blood and bone of the American labor movement.  As internationalists and they loathed Stalin, (with good reason), but the result was their odd ties to regressive movements in the United States.  

      The Troskyites spent the 1950s and 60s in the camp of  conservative Democrat, Scoop Jackson because he was willing to take the Soviet Union on. Most progressives have a knowledge of the transformation of the Trotskyites into the Neo-cons, but they don't pay attention to their relationship to unions. While this article doesn't go into the history of American unions with the Trotskyites at length, it does allude to it.   It provides a jumping off point for deeper research into the DNA of the labor movement.

      Today's young progressives must examine this history because it explains labors dance with conservatism.

      And this Social Democrat, an ally of American labor was the SOB who took AFL-CIO and Teamsters into the Reagan fold. This SOB, a member of the Young People's Socialist League, Is a name unknown to most progressive Democrats but he was one of the most influential trouble makers, working inside both parties to destroy the Progressive movement.

      We need to understand our own history better.  Otherwise we will not overcome the traditional issues that divide us.

      Newt 2012. Sociopath, adulterer, hypocrite, Republican.

      by tikkun on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 09:01:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  There's no extra-personal inspiration anywhere. (4+ / 0-)

    The Right can always count on the "inspiring" force of tribalism, greed, and selfishness. Those are part of human nature, though how much we stress them is our concern.

    The Left needs a project. And there aren't any that anyone believes in. There are no medium or long-term future goals at all, even unworthy or silly ones. Just a vacuum.

    One would think that the need to shift the world's entire power supply onto a carbon-neutral basis would catch some people's attention. It's a tremendous challenge and a necessary task. But the attitude is meh. I'm afraid it's going to take some massive disaster, such as half the population of Bangladesh floating face-down in the Bay of Bengal, before people begin paying attention.

    Something broke somewhere, and apart from a few basic and usually unworthy drives, nothing excites people any longer.

    "They smash your face in, and say you were always ugly." (Solzhenitsyn)

    by sagesource on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 01:35:38 PM PDT

  •  I really take issue with your thesis (10+ / 0-)

    that identity politics replaced class politics in the Dem Party as some sort of electoral strategy.  Hamden Rice I think nails it in an earlier reply but I'll just add that it was conservatives who pushed identity politics (Nixon's silent majority, Reagan's new day in America, welfare queens, announcing his candidacy in Mississippi) in response to left wing social movements.  And there was a good reason there were so many left wing social movements - if your identity was anything but a straight, white, protestant male - you hadn't fully shared in any of America's opportunity.  The fact that so many white working class people felt "put upon" or attacked by the social and economic upheavals that would naturally come with leveling the playing field for people with different identities is WHY conservative social politics and wedge issues have worked so well over the last 40 years.  You say Dems embraced identity politics - I say they were attempting to dismantle the insitutionalized racism/sexism/etc that had taken hold in America after 200 years of explicit endorsement of that racism/sexism/etc by the Federal and State government.

    The reason we don't have a functioning welfare system now is b/c too many people accepted the stereotype of the typical welfare queen (read:black women).  In Arizona I repeatedly here attacks on social services framed as denying benefits to illegal aliens or conversely, we have to cut this program b/c we're spending so much on illegal aliens.  Its bullshit.

    Conservatives continue to push identity politics or wedge issues to these union, working class white voters b/c it works.  The entire hidden message behind these conservative campaigns is that government grants benefits to someone else who doesn't deserve it - because they don't look like you.  First it was welfare queens (read black women) to chip away at the social safety net and now its the ever growing problem of illegal aliens being used as a reason to cut social services and deny voting access.  And now they've spread their wings.  Abortion, contraception, gay marriage - wedge issues pushed by conservatives in response to liberal social movements.  

    But I also wanted to take aim at another part of your thesis.  You write:

    To me it seems that my Party has in some ways abandoned a cohesive political philosophy in favor of an electoral strategy that relies, instead, upon a potpourri of positions that appeal to different groups
    I don't disagree with this.  But the Dems didn't abandon a coherent economic/political philosophy to embrace identity politics.  They abandoned their coherent economic/political philosophy TO EMBRACE WALL ST.!!!  Once Bill Clinton and the DLC leadership decided in 1992 they wanted some of that corporate cash, EVERYTHING CHANGED IN THE PARTY.  What did Clinton give us?  Welfare reform, NAFTA, glass-stegal repeal and sista soulja moments.  How was the Democratic party trying to appeal to identity politics when they made those moves?  

    The Conservative movement embraced identity politics to stop the liberal social movements of the 60s and to win the hearts of white working class voters.   The Dem Party than sold out labor (read: the white working class) for Wall St. money once it realized it had lost the white working class.   Now the labor unions are wondering why they don't have any clout?  Its because in the 70s, 80s and 90s their members supported candidates who seemed hellbound on stripping away the social safety net protections that had been put in to place for all people, b/c they didn't like those others (oooh identity politics), while being blind to the fact that those same candidates were putting policies in place that would empower the banking and corporate interests over all other political players.  At least, that is my opinion.  

    •  Great comment. All of it. nt. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Chi, Larsstephens

      “Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.” FDR

      by Phoebe Loosinhouse on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 01:59:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  To get social support we need people in the street (7+ / 0-)

      That's the only reason Roosevelt started the New Deal.

      I think the Occupy movement did me more good than any Democrat because it got "income gap" being discussed in the media, and now Democrats -- hurray -- have to try to deal with it.

      No current Republican politician is going to meaningfully act to support the public good that doesn't also help the bankers.

      Most Democrat politicans will want to go with the bankers, but they can be pressured (with a lot of work) to make an attempt.

      If we want better Democrats we have to protest and affect the bottom line. Local actions are having an effect. A lot of Occupy groups are, I think, helping to preventing fraudulent foreclosures.

      The boss needs you, you don't need him. -- France general strike, May 1968

      by stargaze on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 02:05:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Can you tell us a little more about yourself? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      And are you saying that the Democratic Party has been busy for the past 35 years trying to salvage the disadvantaged from the racist agenda of Big Labor...

      I'm a bit bleary eyed here at this point.

      And are you suggesting, or confirming, that the Democratic Party no longer represents the White Middle Class?

      As a White, straight male...I won't apologize for who I am, but neither do I see my interests as opposed to yours or anyone else's.  To borrow Lady Gaga's phrase..."I was born this way."

      But what's your background?  Which "percentage" do you fit into?

      Oregon:'s cold. But it's a damp cold.

      by Keith930 on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 02:50:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't know if my personal background really (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        condorcet, Larsstephens


        And are you saying that the Democratic Party has been busy for the past 35 years trying to salvage the disadvantaged from the racist agenda of Big Labor...
        Where did you get this from?  What I said was the Democratic Party tried for 25 years (they are done trying) to reverse the effects of racism and sexism etc. that happened over a 200 year period.  Basically, they were given from 1964 and the passage to the Civil Rights Act to 1980 and Reagan's presidency to do this.  They continued to try up until 1988 when Dukakis lost to Bush and the parties focus shifted.

        The response by many in the white working class to this 16 year period, spurned on by Republicans, was to insist (as you did here) that this was some abandoning of committment to white working class people.  Thus, the welfare mom became the reason middle class taxes were so high, not our exponentially growing defense spending.  It was a distraction.  A bait and switch. Republicans took advantage of the real insecurity created by rapid social change to 1.) blame any and every problem facing the white working class on the "others" 2.) and to cut social programs and policies that benefited all people based on the belief by a majority of Americans that people were "gaming" the system.  The people most often accused of gaming the system - minorities.  

        And are you suggesting, or confirming, that the Democratic Party no longer represents the White Middle Class?
        In far as economic policy - no they do not.  But here is the news, the Republicans haven't done so either for about 100 years.   I think the Dem party is certainly more sympathetic to the plight of working people, regardless of race, than the Republican party.  But the Dems must balance their commitment to working people with their committment to monied interest.  Republicans don't have the balancing problem.

        On social issues?  Who knows.  Do you believe in gay rights, contraception and access to abortion?  Than you are probably aligned with the Dems.  If you do not believe in those things,  than you probably don't align with the Dems.

        As a White, straight male...I won't apologize for who I am, but neither do I see my interests as opposed to yours or anyone else's.  To borrow Lady Gaga's phrase..."I was born this way."
        Nobody is asking you to apologize for who you are.  I'm just not going to accept your framing that the Democratic Party somehow abandoned you for identity politics. I think its too simplistic and frankly, just not true.   I believe the Dems had a rather coherent economic policy for a long time.  It began to be chipped away when corporate money started to flow into politics - it had little to nothing to do with identity politics by the left.  That corporate money is why Dems have abandoned unions.  It isn't union vs. identity politics.  Its union vs. corporate power with both sides using "identity politicis" (I hate that term) to motivate a base that includes a wide range of classes on each side.  
    •  which is it, then? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wolf10, mightymouse

      Did Identity politics replace class politics?  Or did the Party embrace a potpourri of positions in order to appeal to various interest groups?  Your position seems to straddle the fence, which is indicative of the Democratic Party these days.

      And I don't, in any way, disagree with your view on Clinton.  Frankly, I don't care who did it first, the GOP or the Dems...I find it equally repugnant and equally a disservice to the nation as a whole.  

      But I am able, even at this advanced age and state of cynicism, of seeing a "whole" there.  Many cannot.

      Oregon:'s cold. But it's a damp cold.

      by Keith930 on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 03:23:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Its neither. Its not a question of (0+ / 0-)

        class politics vs. identity politics.  Your framing of the issue as an either/or proposition is what's wrong.  The Dems embraced monied interests when it became apparent their class politics had been stymied or trumped by the Republicans identity politics.    You are acting as if identity politics just started in the 70s.  Issues of how to handle race, women, foreigners, social policy, suffrage, prohibition - these so called "Identity" issues or "social" issues have always been around and will always be around.  

  •  some more reading (5+ / 0-)

    I don't know if you know Doug Henwood. He is an economic writer, pretty readable, thoughtful, non-dogmatic, left .... He's been writing about unions in the wake of the WI recall.

    Walker's victory, un-sugar-coated


    Wisconsin follow-up

    In other countries, unions are about more than contracts, and have done a lot better job fighting for broad public benefits, like pensions and health care. Our unions look too much like they’re fighting to defend their own private welfare states and not fighting to expand the public ones. They look like that because they all too often are. There’s no more disgraceful instance of this than the behavior of the Service Employees International Union around health care. SEIU’s former president, Andy Stern, dismissed single-payer as a Canadian import—while making common cause with then-Walmart CEO Lee Scott to try to craft a more distinctively “American” scheme. As one SEIU staffer told Liza Featherstone  (“Labor Head Andy Stern Has Some Unusual Corporate Bedfellows”) [disclosure alert: she’s my wife], Stern “doesn’t hold social democracy in high regard.”


    Regardless of what I think about contracts and benefits, though, the old model is dead. Private sector unions are virtually gone, and those that remain are negotiating concessions. Public sector unions were safe for a long time, but now they’re on the chopping block. Dems will chop more slowly than Reps, but they will chop nonetheless. A lot of what I hear from even good union people amounts to an intensified dedication to the status quo. But that won’t work. Unions have to shift their focus from the workplace to the community at large, from private benefits enjoyed by a few to public benefits enjoyed by everyone, or they’re doomed.

    An ambulance can only go so fast - Neil Young

    by mightymouse on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 02:20:28 PM PDT

    •  I wrote this in a NYT comment yesterday (7+ / 0-)
      While big money from the Kochs and others undoubtedly played a huge role in this debacle, organized labor has to be held partially to blame for their own contribution to it as well. They did not help their cause by trying to recall a duly elected Governor, who was actually becoming less popular until the whole recall began. People didn't like Walker, but they obviously liked recalls even less. It didn't help that Barrett was also less than articulate about what was at stake, (it wasn't even clear that he was any more sympathetic to the union's cause than Walker) and that he had already lost once before to Walker. Remember Einstein's definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.This was an ill advised route to take. Rather than attain their stated goal, they have emboldened Walker and his supporters, and damaged the cause for organized labor, perhaps irreparably.They are certainly not going to get their benefits back any sooner than if they had waited until the next election. Had the unions spent a little more time articulating to the general public why it is in everyone's interest, not just the union's, that we have healthy labor unions, Walker would have ultimately been either diminished or defeated in the long run. If organized labor is to survive, it must stop using 19th century tactics against a 21st century opponent.
      I'll just add that I am strongly pro union. My great uncle, Thomas Ray, was one of the founders of the maritime union in the 1920's and '30's, he even ran for mayor of San Diego on the communist ticket sometime in the '30s.  Many others in my family were heavily involved in union organizing in the 1930's. I'm glad Harwood and I were thinking the same thing, but it breaks my heart to see it come to this.
      •  that's a fantastic comment (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        thanks for bringing it here.

        it would be interesting to know how and by whom the decision to recall was made.

        An ambulance can only go so fast - Neil Young

        by mightymouse on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 04:03:43 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I wish this wasn't pushing the meme that (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Larsstephens, JanL

        people shouldn't have tried for recall.  With the speed that Walker was ram-rodding his agenda through (an agenda different from what he campaigned on), I think Wisconsinites had to do whatever they could to try to stop him.  And they did seem to slow him down some, probably because he didn't want to seem as radical as he is with the recall election coming up.  And now, thanks to winning one of the Senate seats that was also part of the recall, the Dems can stop Walker from enacting more of his agenda. (Yes, the next regular legislative session is after the November election, but Walker can call a Special Session anytime he likes.)

        For much of the rest of your comment, I agree with you.  There's another election coming up soon, and the Dems have to figure out how to do a much better job of messaging.

        •  I wasn't nessecarily against the recall (0+ / 0-)

          but at least. it should have been more well thought out. What if, instead of recalling Walker, they just concentrated on the legislature. I know that part of the recall was successful, the Dems took back the Senate, but because of the Walker win, all of that has been buried in the coverage. If Walker had not been the main focus, this whole story could have ended up in a much more positive light for the unions and the Dems. The Sunday talk shows would have been talking about the Walker loss, and his possible indictment, instead, I guarantee that the Senate takeover by the Dems will barely get a mention. The unions should have gone for the low hanging fruit, where they would have gotten the most bang for the buck.

          •  I think there may have been far less energy for (0+ / 0-)

            another recall just of legislators.  That kind of recall had already been done.  The only reason there wasn't an attempt to recall Walker then was because it was too early under Wisconsin law.

  •  I blew my wad on 2008 (5+ / 0-)

    I worked my ass off for Obama and we got millions of renovations for Gitmo, more TSA groping, more backroom deals and Citizens United.

    A President is useless without a congress, especially one like Obama.

    This country is lost. The government represents the "people" who can afford 35K seats at fundraisers.  The courts serve whoever can afford the best lawyer.  The Presidency is a meaningless office without the support of the other two.

    You and me? We might as well be dogs.

    In a nutshell, this is why I'm apathetic. The government isn't my government.  No one cares about me or my interests. They just want me to shut up and get back to paying off the debt they told me I needed to run up to have a chance at upward mobility.

    Tl;Dr: the American dream is dead, why bother?

  •  Some other factors to consider: (3+ / 0-)

    One result of the McCarthy era red scare purges and propaganda, was that the most progressive elements within the unions were out in favor of a more reactionary, corporatist-led partnership between labor and capital at home and abroad. Also, I believe that the absence or marginalization of idealistically driven leaders contributed to an increase in union corruption.

    In the 60s and 70s the New Left, aligning itself with struggles against racism, sexism and anti-imperialism, critiqued and contributed to overcoming or at least abating these reactionary trends within the union movement.  

    At about the same time, often with the support of organized labor, there were economic gains achieved through successful legislation that extended benefits and protections to many workers, union and nonunion alike. In this regard they became victims of their own success. I remember  back around 1970 an old timer activist who had been involved in the occupation of foreclosed and abandoned homes in Chicago during the Great Depression who was particularly fond of the phrase "only the hungry lion hunts." He was addressing my frustration with the political complacency and downright conservatism of many unions of the time. We had many more unions and their members back then.

    As for the Democratic party and and organized labor and the rest of us for that matter, we are in the trap of late stage, moribund capitalism that may also be on the verge of becoming a victim of its successes and excesses wherein as Gramsci described: "The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear."

    I don't know if this is of any help. I'm tired; I'm rambling.


    The frog jumped/ into the old pond/ plop! (Basho)

    by Wolf10 on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 03:17:11 PM PDT

  •  After watching the Loss in Wisconsin (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wolf10, mightymouse, Chi, Larsstephens

    I feel totally deflated.  Yeah I hear how horrible we are criticising the party, that we need to fight harder.  I have heard that since Ronald Reagan years and the Democrats keep losing.  I am 57 years old working in the Telco field and a  unionized worker.  I have been at the company for 24 years.

    No welfare queen took away my pension.  A White Republican CEO did with permission of Congress.  Bill Clinton helped in that when the 401K ponzi scheme was developed to transition away from pensions.  George W Bush and 911 trashed my 401k ponzi.  My "cash" buyout in my pension was underfunded to "Socialize" it to the Government.  Now that it is 60% underfunded the government will end up giving me pennies on the dollar.  I am only allowed 1/2 of the total amount because it is not 80% funded.  Our CEO needed bonuses ya know.  Congress gave them leaway for 15 effing years.  I will be in my 70's.  This is also where Alan Grayson "die quickly" comes in.  This pisses  me off because now I need to transition my retirement plans from 401k into a Magnum 357.

    Now, half of our union members are Republican/Teabaggers.  I have been fighting to save the Teachers, firefighters, Police and Mail Carriers.  All of the teachers I know including my sister are Republican's.  They watch NO news they are Christian/Republicans.  They will never change their party affiliation or their Religion.  They are one in the same.  The mail carrier I know doesn't care either because he has his.  They know that they are set and nobody is going to take their pensions from them.

    I just don't feel like fighting for them anymore.  Nobody fought for me.  The divide and concur is the strategy.  The jobs are in the Phllipines and Tier 2 wages are the norm now until all Union members leave or retire.

    Europe hurting?  Insource some CEO's and put people back to work now.  Drive those CEO wages down.  Partner with Europe, bypass Congress and their Teabag Corporations.  Tax the Churches too!  We need a bakers dozen of all kinds of boycotts and stratgies.  Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights almost bankrupted the Bus company.  Amazing sometimes the people do good because they do understand what is at stake.

    Freedom is merely privilege extended unless enjoyed by one and all - The Internationale by Billy Bragg

    by Paddy999 on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 03:18:47 PM PDT

  •  This Olde Phart remembers how the decline ... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lucy2009, Chi

    in union membership began as voter apathy increased.

    It was in 1981 when Pres. Reagan let America know that nobody's job is secure when he decertified the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO):

    The 1981 strike and defeat of PATCO has been called "one of the most important events in late twentieth century U.S. labor history".
    Republicans have continued to KILL jobs at every opportunity and remove any shard of security for the average working person.

    If your government can't protect your job or help you to speak for your worth, who needs to vote?

    *Austerity is the opposite of Prosperity*

    by josmndsn on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 03:34:10 PM PDT

  •  what passes for the democratic party now is (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lucy2009, The Dead Man

    headed down the same path to facism as the repubs except a more roundabout way that allows abortions and gay marriage with an occasional admission that anthropogenic climate change might need to be addressed at some point in the next decade or three.

    i know, i know... that's a mighty broad brush but that's the way i feel quite often.  over and over again on issues like SOPA, NDAA, health care, Keystone, drug policy and so on it seems like progressives & grass roots/small-town-main-street dems have to prod elected Dems to act in ways that should be painfully obvious second nature or instinctive to anyone claiming the mantle of "Democrat".  Sure, the Reagan 'revolution' and entities like Grover Norquist or Faux news havn't helped but, for example, that whole banking mess wouldn't have happened without Bill clinton's help.  Same with the 'free trade' agreements that have made Wal-Mart, et. al. so rich.

    sometimes it really feels like we just have two corporate parties, one of which allows a few more social freedoms and doesn't care about skin color.

    of course, my sig mentions invisible demons and Polka so what do i know?

    "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean there isn't an invisible demon about to eat your face" & "Polka will never die." - H. Dresden.

    by bnasley on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 03:43:18 PM PDT

  •  Two Right Wings (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lucy2009, GeeBee, The Dead Man, JanL

    that is why this bird can't fly

    Freedom is merely privilege extended unless enjoyed by one and all - The Internationale by Billy Bragg

    by Paddy999 on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 04:02:39 PM PDT

  •  The article is right (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Unions are the epitome institution of the Industrial Age, along with robber barons and high schools that produced the moderately literate working class.  As the Industrial Age fades away, so do these also.  And so does the FDR era Democratic Party which was constructed on those forms and interests.  1968-70 is widely regarded as when the globalized economy and post-Industrial era begins in the U.S. and that's when the graph Thompson has of union membership shows the great fall off begin.

    1968-1993 was an essentially conservative political era with the union-based, culturally pre-1968 aka conservative wing of the Party almost completely and brutally dominant over the culturally post-1968, aka liberal, wing of the Party.  But the liberal wing kept growing and the conservative wing kept shrinking relative to each other.  Around 1992/93 (25 years after 1968) was when the liberal wing surpassed the conservative wing in numbers in the base, 2005/06 was roughly when this manifested itself in a shift in the Congressional leadership from the conservative to the liberal wing primarily in the form of Nancy Pelosi and secondarily Harry Reid and then Barack Obama, who have one foot in each camp.  (This in contrast to Gephardt/Daschle/Kerry, who gave the liberal wing lip service but were always solidly with conservative wing establishment.)  In my opinion  around 2018 (50 years after 1968) the conservative wing will be for all practical purposes powerless and extinct, its politicians falling quickly as their base fades away to the graveyards and the Republican Party.

    I'd mourn the conservative wing more but if you look closely, the interests it is about are less real than they used to be.  The working class has 'realigned', i.e. a big chunk of it votes Republican because it doesn't believe in working class interests anymore.  Which is to say it doesn't believe in, or even hates, the working class as a class.  It did this 'realignment' mostly in the 1970s and 1980s.  You can't generate much positive political force out of people who don't believe in themselves as a group.  But you can get them to form a negative political force, out to undo some force in the world they don't like.  This iirc was the basic politics of the 1980 and 1984 campaigns- the hating on "union bosses" and the definitive breakup of ethnic working class white Democratic bloc voting.  The 1980 election saw the white working class and lower middle class aka Southern Baptists in the South leave the Democratic Party definitively after balking at McGovern in 1972 but giving Jimmy Carter one last chance in 1976.  The 1984 election saw Walter Mondale, the consummate Northern union politician, smashed and the Reagan Democrats of the North affirm their disallegiance.

    Since 1993 or so conservative wing Democratic politicians have even turned on unions fairly often and liberal wing Democratic politicians, while not wholeheartedly supported by unions much of the time, usually be better allies of them.  Tom Barrett is both friend and enemy of Milwaukee unions, Rahm Emmanuel is is no friend of those in Chicago, etc.  But the bottom line is that conservaDem politicians who do align with unions seem to draw an awful lot of right wing ire and are soon voted out.  All this 'union boss' stuff is largely bullshit (outside New Jersey anyway) but right wingers and a lot of swing voters seem to really want the Industrial Age old order that FDR Democrat politician plus union leaders represent gone.

    In some sense that's what the current, Nixon-Reagan-Bush-Romney era, Republicans are about- the incremental eradication of the Industrial (and what remains of the Agrarian) Age political and economic order.  And Democrats are commonly enlisted to oppose that.  Whereas the post-1968/1993 liberal Democrats are about incrementally transforming or ending the Industrial (and what remains of the Agrarian) Age social and cultural order.  And Republicans are in turn enlisted to oppose that.

    The pre-1968 arrangement of the country is slowly fading away, one deliberate chunk and bitter fight at a time.  That's how it is.

  •  You raise some interesting points, BUT (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Keith930, JanL

    the problem with the Democratic Party runs much deeper than this.

    We talk a lot about how people vote against their best interests, when the Democratic Party represents their best interests.  But how often do we see the Party itself, DNC/DSCC/DCCC, the professional strategists, and all the other entrenched bureaucratic decision-making parts of the Party work against the best interest of the Party, too?

    And that's what happens when the Party bureaucracy itself turns a deaf ear to the razing of the public unions, because the unions are (whether they always get credit or not) the perennial workhorses of the Democratic Party.

    I wrote a diary last Tuesday that brought up this point, and somebody took offense and said I was making Scott Walker's point for him by saying that, that the unions are just an arm of the Democratic Party.  Maybe there's some truth to it.  But having worked for a congressional campaign before, I got to see firsthand just how the unions, when they come into the election, are the big cannons in terms of mobilizing and bringing in professionals and organization when they back a candidate.  Without them, the Democratic Party is MUCH, MUCH WEAKER.  The influence of the unions within the party leadership may have weakened over the decades, but this still remains largely the truth.

    So then, why do Party leadership organs not scream out in pain and horror when THE VITAL STRATEGIC INTERESTS OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY are being attacked?

    Likewise, we could say the same thing about voter disenfranchisement.  The Party should be screaming bloody murder over this as a top priority, not because it's wrong (which is actually irrelevant), but because it's strangling the Democratic Party.  They take a similar mildly apathetic POV to that, as well.  

    My point is, the Democratic Party is badly, badly broken.  They may ignore the political needs of their constituents, but it goes even deeper, to ignoring their needs for survival as a party.  That's really, badly broken.  

    There is something terribly, terribly wrong with this party and I don't think it can be fixed without suffering a catastrophic loss that sees entrenched people quit or retire.

    •  Have you ever gone to a Harlem Globetrotters Game? (0+ / 0-)

      as good as they are...nobody would buy a ticket just to see some slam dunks, ball spinning and trick shots...

      There needs, at least, to be the pretense of a game to make it interesting, even if everyone knows who will win in the end.

      The Democratic Party has willingly cast itself into the role of the Washington Generals, and we still keep going to the polls...because we like the show.

      But I think the game is just that rigged...and in my darkest moments, I think the Koch Brothers are pretty damned glad that there is a Democratic party....

      Because if there wasn't, the game would be pretty boring.  And everyone likes an entertainment.  And that's what the Dems have become.  They willingly line up at the foul shot line, knowing that a Repub is going to sneak up behind them and pull their shorts down...and they know the crowd will laugh and go home entertained, and nothing will have changed.

      That is their role in modern American politics...and they embrace it fervently.  There are no better Washington Generals to be found.  And if we all knew the extent to which the Koch's and their ilk both need and probably support them, we would slit our own throats.  

      Oregon:'s cold. But it's a damp cold.

      by Keith930 on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 05:11:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Who will fix what is broken? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I remember thinking that both the county and the state party were essentially a collection of people eager to have a title.

      They were not necessarily people with any intellect, who had a strategic sense of direction and leadership.  They were people who were primarily interested in not pissing anyone off so they could keep their positions.

      I have seen this in several states.  It isn't about particular local dynamics, but more about what kind of people like to seek positions with titles.  

      The problem a lot of people here who comment have, is that they are more like the activists who tend to be uncomfortable with seeking positions with titles.  Activists are focused on getting some objective accomplished, which might run counter to the interests of people who want stable positions to occupy.

      I always am reminded of those Russian novels by Chekov or Dostoevsky that depict human nature as contradictory and sometimes absurd.

      The problem is that no party can exist without structure and no structure can be maintained without the Russian novelist realities.  

      A better compromise, however, would be more activists with more stomach for structure who can get in there and push the sedentary office occupiers in a more progressive direction.

      That is true of the Democratic Party and would be true if a new Party were started from scratch.

      Most people who are involved in the party are also people who have been trying for a long time.  They don't really and truly respect anyone who comes in to tell everybody how to do things and then is gone just as quickly.  There have been enough of those cases along the way that those who endure are just more immune to pop up criticism.  What is needed is persistent effort.  

      hope that the idiots who have no constructive and creative solutions but only look to tear down will not win the day.

      by Stuart Heady on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 05:25:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  are you suggesting that people have some (0+ / 0-)

        greater concern than their own self satisfaction and comfort?  That will not get you any friends on Facebook.

        Oregon:'s cold. But it's a damp cold.

        by Keith930 on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 06:07:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  That's probably the best argument (0+ / 0-)

        for a third party I've heard.  Congrats.  I'm still not quite there yet.  I need to see something viable, first, and I'm skeptical of that.

        And there's this:

        A better compromise, however, would be more activists with more stomach for structure who can get in there and push the sedentary office occupiers in a more progressive direction.
        The "Isn't my title shiny!" Democrats in the party structure tend to (I believe) root out and destroy those Democrats who actually have a stomach for change.  We see this time and time again.  Their lack of trust I can understand.  Their steadfast opposition, I don't understand, unless the reason for it is they feel uncomfortable with people around them that aren't part of the "It's so shiny," club.

        And that's dysfunctional.  The grip that those Democrats have on the party is unbreakable, because that's the one thing they SPECIALIZE in, even if they are incompetent and apathetic about everything else they do.

        I've come to the very grim conclusion we can't fix things in this generation.  A lot of people are going to have to retire and die before we can fix things.  Maybe something good will intervene, but I see things getting worse.  When I voted for Obama over Hillary, I did so thinking that I was going to throw out the same old Old Guard that had tolerated Iraq and torture.  Instead, we got a new and younger team to carry on in the same incompetent and apathetic tradition.  This last four years has been a discouraging disaster.

        •  This would happen in a third party (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          This will inevitably happen in every generation.  

          The problem is human nature.  Activists like to complain about this instead of figuring out a way to deal with it.  

          That is why I brought up the Russian novelists.  They seem to have understood this and would find the present day perfectly in tune with their observations.

          Do political people not read literature and get the human condition that is universal?

          You would be less discouraged and more strategic in your thinking if you considered the lessons that come from other times and other places in human experience.  

          It fries my grits that we all seem to have really short term fixations on humanity.  And we are supposed to be liberals.

          hope that the idiots who have no constructive and creative solutions but only look to tear down will not win the day.

          by Stuart Heady on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 05:35:34 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  So you reject that the system could improve? (0+ / 0-)

    I think in order to see how improvements could possibly be made you need clear eyed, honest, analysis and to not be tempted to be fooled by cozy assumptions.  

    hope that the idiots who have no constructive and creative solutions but only look to tear down will not win the day.

    by Stuart Heady on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 06:14:42 PM PDT

  •  Marvelous discussion Keith. (0+ / 0-)

    I am very interested in the discussion in the thread ad hats off to commenters who did not blame or label.

    We need these types of conversations if we are going to move the impasse we are in.

    Thank you so much.

    Typed from my iPad in er. xrays done, looking for the bug/culprit.

    Science is hell bent on consensus. Dr. Michael Crichton said “Let’s be clear: The work of science has nothing to do with consensus... which is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right,”

    by Regina in a Sears Kit House on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 07:40:35 PM PDT

  •  Battle lines are drawn (0+ / 0-)

    The unions haven't died out. They were born out of necessity in a time when businesses openly ran sweat shops and abused workers severely. You could describe the downward trend to a so-called peace time between workers unions and business leaders. I am not saying that there is nothing critical being fought. But once the largest battles for fair wages, compensation, and a safe working environment were dealt with and made into laws then the necessity of a union became weaker.

    I am all in favor of unions. Don't get me wrong. Without them we have no leverage against businesses turning back the clock on workers. The recent attempts to dismantle union power by state governments like Wisconsin has many worried. But since union membership is low due to people taking worker's rights for granted. We don't see much of a fight against this.

    During this time of economic crisis, businesses are chipping away at our basic worker's rights so they can pay their shareholders. But manpower has already taken the lion's share of the pain since 2000. We have had to double our performance, settle for lower paying jobs, and paying more for benefits. Meanwhile, Wall Street has reaped the benefits of our hard work. But do the worker's get a share of it? No...

    We need to make that very apparent to people as they attempt to dismantle more unions. Wall Street is recovering nicely. But worker's are still losing ground financially and it's not going to improve without someone who is ready to fight.

    And that is where your union comes in... It's time to support them.

    "I think it's the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately." -- George Carlin, Satirical Comic,(1937-2008)

    by Wynter on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 05:15:15 AM PDT

    •  There was never (0+ / 0-)

      peace. There was however a level field for organizers and union activists, because labor laws were strong, and they were enforced. Granted, unions formed before such laws, but it had to be done by workers desperate enough to battle company goons on the picket lines.

      Men and women gave their lives to gain the rights we now take for granted.

      Now, after thirty years of chipping away at labor protection laws and laws affirming the right to organize, employers have succeeded in weakening the law, and making a joke (through lack of enforcement) of what remains. If you get fired for supporting a union, it'll take a couple years of hearings and appeals to settle the matter, and usually the worker gets little or nothing out of it.

      Union membership is low because workers fear--correctly--that they will get fired if they say the word "union" at work. A NLRB election can take months, during which the employer is free to intimidate, harass, and fire union supporters.

      The Menard's home improvement chain, for example, will not even hire anyone who ever belonged to a union, and they are not alone. Employers routinely threaten to close businesses if a union is formed--illegal, but again there's no enforcement.

      One of two thing must happen before we see union membership rise appreciably: either the law changes to make organizing easier (EFCA, anyone?) and to protect the jobs of activists, or workers must become desperate enough that they are willing once again to fight and die in the streets.

      Polling suggests that fifty percent of workers would join a union if they had the opportunity, but most are too afraid that they'll lose their jobs if they try.

      "A lie is not the other side of a story; it's just a lie."

      by happy camper on Sat Jun 09, 2012 at 08:45:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Wisconsin public and private sector unions (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    came together to march in Madison and GOTV.  I think it was an eye-opener for many of us, as public sector "professionals" learned that they had more in common with the ironworkers than they had ever before realized, and ironworkers marched with teachers.  To me, it was one of the coolest parts of the movement here:  the realization that the 1% is trying to subdue and control ALL working people.

  •  Failure of commonweal the result of 40 years.. (0+ / 0-)

    of consistent Republican/conservative rhetoric and relentless assault on any sense of common American destiny.

    It's Reaganism writ large: a constant drumbeat of jingoistic American exceptionalism, perversely chained to foaming rage at the diversity that made America so strong. A freakishly narrow definition of 'real Americans' that splits us into tiny segments. It's the evil twin of Democratic identify politics, and worked hand in glove with it to splinter We, the People into countless little interest groups pulling in opposite directions. Divide and conquer on a national scale.

  •  Thanks for the diary. (0+ / 0-)

    This is the main reason for the change in my estimation.

    As membership in unions has declined, so has Labor's political power.
    Of course, we shipped their jobs overseas to countries then much more like we are becoming now, a third world oligarchy.

    Also, if you remember back when Reagan was in power he picked up and put on steroids the theme of demonizing unions.  They were run by  "thugs, criminals," etc.  The air traffic controllers strike was the first real test and Reagan took them down amid cheers from his peanut gallery.

    The right as far as I can perceive hates especially the public sector unions because they are seen as leeches that use tactics that hold the public "hostage" to their demands because their services are seen as essential.

    The attitude is hostility toward unions, not solidarity you are right there again.  

    As a society, we have lost much of that ability to feel solidarity or commonweal with one another.  And as a Party, the Democrats long ago stopped seeing their constituency in such monolithic terms.  They don't see any group called "the 99%"

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