Today I attended a really stimulating panel discussion (to watch it, scroll to bottom) about Why Labor Organizing Should Be A Civil Right, a new Century Foundation book by Richard D. Kahlenberg and Moshe Z. Marvit. The idea (originally dreamed up by onetime New Republic staffer Thomas Geoghegan, who wrote the introduction) is this. Right now it's against the law to fire anyone for trying to start a union, but the penalties, under existing law, are so puny that bosses routinely do it anyway.
A couple days ago, Norman Ornstein wrote a piece for TNR suggesting that Harry Truman's 1948 campaign offers a historic parallel for President Obama. Truman had seen Republicans sweep to power in the midterm elections two years before, and proceed to advocate a radical anti-government ideology that alienated large swaths of the electorate, allowing Truman to counterpose himself against them. Conservative pundit Michael Barone writes a column objecting to the parallel: There are in fact major differences between Truman’s standing in 1947–48 and Obama’s standing today.
Last December, I asked a prominent K Street Republican what he thought his party’s top priority would be following its successes in the midterm elections. He didn’t mince words. “Public employee unions are going to get hosed, and they deserve to get hosed,” he told me. So, I wasn’t exactly surprised when Republican governors in Wisconsin and Ohio put the public unions in their states on a hit list.
In the old days, laws were called by their numbers. Or by their sponsors: the Wagner Labor Act, the Taft-Hartley Act, the Fulbright Act. It worked for nearly two centuries. Now, almost every piece of legislation seems to need some corny nomenclature. George Bush's program for public education was titled "No Child Left Behind." It embodied a promise that could not be fulfilled and that no one really took seriously. It was a public relations gimmick.
It's been more than a month since the auto industry came to Washington, begging for a rescue. And, since that time, it's become clear just how dry Detroit's reservoir of goodwill has run. For conservative opponents of bailout legislation, like Alabama Senator Richard Shelby, the U.S. auto industry is an object of scorn—"dinosaurs," he has called them. For the liberals who support a rescue, like Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd, Detroit remains an embarrassment.
The reports of the Democratic Party’s death, prevalent before the Philadelphia convention, appear now to have been somewhat exaggerated. A party in which the rank-and-file majority get their way on such a risky issue as civil rights against the opposition of their masters, is obviously not yet ready for embalming. The Democrats came to Philadelphia as low in their minds as the Republicans were when they assembled for the Landon convention in 1936. There was not a hopeful delegate in a carload. They were licked, most of them thought, probably for eight years.