Democrats and unions are in this thing together--whether they like it or not.
It is no secret that organized labor has been the financial backbone of the Democratic Party. Millions of dollars have been raised by labor for Democrats. And labor has a seat at the table when policy is developed by the Democrats. For the most part, both are happy with the results of their collaboration.
Most Democrats who run for statewide office or for Senate or House get a head start by getting several international unions to pop for the allowable $10,000 in PAC money early on. Labor is quite conservative and they are not out looking for radical new positions. They want people who will support their programs and who have come through for them before. They want certainty. Every time an election rolls around, a few labor unions question if labor gets enough out of the partnership. Wouldn’t labor be better off if they could build a labor party? Some even argue that labor should be looking for good Republicans to work with. Some feel it is a mistake to be a captive of one party that is not doing well at the moment.
Normally, after the noise settles, it is back to normal. That means labor supports Democrats and vice versa.
But there may not be a “normal” anymore.
As we get closer to the November elections, things are a little tense. Many things went well in the recall but the fact remains that Governor Scott Walker won, and labor and Democrats lost big time — and the entire nation was watching!
In conversations I have had, some in labor say the recall was a bad idea to start with. The Democrats plunged in for labor. Some Democrats ask what they got out of that tremendous effort while many in labor ask: Where were top Democrats when the battle raged in Wisconsin? No President Obama, no Vice President Biden. What were they afraid of?
Given that Republican Mitt Romney will have a billion or so for campaigning, this is not a good time to be questioning the Democrat-labor compact, but it may be essential. Some things have changed. And bet the ranch that so-called “right to work” will occupy lots of attention in Wisconsin. If not immediately, look to the next gubernatorial election. Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce tastes blood and they will not hesitate to kill unions wherever they can.
Will the teachers union emerge stronger or weaker as the Legislature cuts more and more from public education? Does Citizens United put labor and the Democratic Party on the endangered species list?
Anyone who thinks WMC and the radical right are finished causing mischief is too dumb to be in politics. If Romney wins, look out. The Koch boys will finish the task of making us a red state and privatizing everything from sidewalks and highways to public schools from K-12 and beyond.
This will be one hell of a battle — the weak of heart need not apply. The stakes will dwarf the importance of the recall. This one is for all the marbles — democracy or plutocracy, corporate state or repeal of Citizens United.
Whatever divides labor and Democrats, first things first! United we might win — divided we will surely fail. Or as our old friend Cesar Chavez liked to say, we hang together or surely we will hang separately.
(A version of this article originally appeared in the opinion section of the Capital Times.)
July 10, 2012
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Ed Garvey is editor and publisher of FightingBob.com.