For awhile the Republicans, because of their huge 2010 election victories in congress, state legislatures and governors’ offices, were pretty damn cocky about their chances to unseat President Obama in 2012.
Now, however, Republicans appear worried, especially with polls indicating that the GOP is on the wrong side of an ongoing fight with the country’s trade unions. Wisconsin unions have collected almost half the signatures required to hold a recall election for eight Republican state senators.
And they have acquired them in only one-fourth of the time allotted. Apparently the Republicans have kicked the proverbial sleeping dog — rank-and-file union members who had been posing as Rip Van Winkle until Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker booted them in the butt.
It might seem odd, but nevertheless true, that some Democrats are uptight, too, given labor’s breath of new life. The Scott Walker episode in Wisconsin could be a defining moment for both the labor movement and the Democratic Party.
If workers can stay as focused for the next two years as they have recently in opposing Republican union busting efforts, then the election of 2012 will be the rebirth of a diminishing labor movement. And if the Democratic Party holds the example of the Wisconsin 14 as the standard to which all of their candidates aspire, then the party will again become the party of the middle class.
Democrats bear a share of the blame for the vicious war on middle class workers being conducted primarily in the Midwest by the Republicans. If Democrats had stayed true to their middle class base, they would not have been so thoroughly beaten in the 2010 election.
Government statistics show that for the past 30 years workers have not received a fair share of the wealth they helped create, and it is not totally the fault of Republicans.
Unfortunately, over those years, some Democrats have taken the unions for granted, gladly accepting labor’s campaign money and giving little in return. These are the so-called New Democrats who pay lip service to bread-and-butter labor issues, while kissing up to the corporate bosses for campaign contributions.
“You can get these guys’ votes once in awhile on a labor issue, but sometimes you have to pound them over the head to do it. On bigger issues, like EFCA and NAFTA, they constantly look for places to hide,” said a union lobbyist based in Washington, D.C.
“That’s what playing footsie with the corporate donors does to this type of Democrat,” he said. “It makes them wishy-washy, divides their loyalties. They don’t want to offend the business guys. It’s a weasel’s approach to politics.”
Even on occasions when they controlled both executive and legislative branches of government, Democrats failed to reform antiquated federal labor laws that are exceedingly biased in management’s favor. This is a major reason organized labor today represents less than 12 percent of the workforce, down from 25 percent in the 1970s.
Those who have declared war on workers —the rightwing conservatives and their wealthy patrons– are determined to destroy the standard of living of all American workers, both union and nonunion. Their goal is a Third World workforce in the United States, which they have been working toward for many years.
Whether or not America’s middle class wins the war on workers depends largely on the unions. Labor created the middle class, and will not abandon it. From the size and intensity of the pro-union supporters in recent rallies, it appears the labor movement has only begun to fight.
And we’re waiting impatiently for Democrats in all states —not just those in Wisconsin and other embattled states who have been valiant– to join the battle.