Wednesday, January 20, 2010

These Results Don't Spin

Don’t look to me for an upside assessment on the Coakley disaster in Massachusetts. You’ll hear that this is a wake up call to the Dems and Obama. But face it, the electorate is revolting against this president and his party.

Obama and Democratic Congressional leaders can’t spin their way out of this. Though it’s legitimate and perhaps comforting to look back on the first year of the Kennedy, Reagan, Clinton and Bush Jr. presidencies, that’s just an intellectual exercise.

Republicans smell blood in 2010 and Democrats are dazed.

Interpret the Brown victory however you want but we can't deny that Obama and the Democrats are in big trouble right now.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Anniversary Blues

Frustrated, exhausted, overwhelmed?

Want to withdraw from American political life? Give your emotions a rest? Let whatever happens, happen without you? Read a novel? Watch the NLF playoffs? Take a walk?

For many moderate, liberal and progressive Democrats, the past year has been draining, troubling and not a whole lot of fun.

Not as outright scary as the Bush years, but not what we had hoped for. Relief yes.  Exaltation no.

We’ll know soon if the Obama agenda will suffer its biggest hit yet with the loss of the U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts. If we squeak out a victory there, we’ll take a breath. Then hope for an uptick in the economy and maybe some good news in Afghanistan.

Politics is like this for us in America. Sometimes it wears us out. But we hang in. What choice do we have?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Labor in Negotiations on Health Care

The American Labor Movement is engaged in high-stakes negotiations with Congressional Democrats and the White House over a tax provision in the health reform package which would penalize many union members.

Union leaders are being careful and calculating in their language, warning without overtly threatening that the Labor Movement could yank its support for the whole bill if the so-call “Cadillac tax” on high-end plans - which passed the Senate - isn’t removed or mitigated.

Union leaders are big backers of the House-passed provision which raises revenue by taxing high-income individuals and families. Look for some sort of compromise as Democratic leaders try to figure out how to appease Labor.

The Labor Movement’s political players know how to pick their spots and leverage their influence. And, for this battle at least, rival union factions AFL-CIO and SEIU are putting aside differences to double-team Congressional and White House staffers desperate to find the right formula.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Fear and Fun in 2010

I take politics very seriously.

I was distressed and sometimes terrified by what was happening during the Bush years; particularly 2002 to 2006 as I watched Congressional Republicans collude with the White House to fashion an American brand of authoritarianism.

That trajectory was changed by the 2006 and 2008 elections.

An essential part of our mission those two elections was, in fact, to stop - or at least slow - this right wing surge which dominated the first decade of the 21st century.

This year is different. The brawl is on among moderate, liberal and progressive Democrats. (This can make for quite an internal struggle for those of us who have a moderate, a liberal and a progressive living within a single brain).

Maybe we do need to beat the hell out of each other over what Obama, his crew and Congressional leaders did wrong. And maybe various constituency groups do need to act out their outrage and frustration. But probably, at some point, we’re going to need a truce in order to fight our true adversary, those clever and devious Republican.

A demoralized and withdrawn Democratic base plays right into the hands of our opponents and legitimizes and reinforces the Republican strategy of twisting facts, blocking reform and disparaging the president. Do we really want to reward their bad behavior and give up ground to the likes of  Mitch McConnell, Jeff Sessions, John Boehner, Eric Canter, Tim Pawlenty and - oh yea - Sarah Palin?

I don’t think so. I’m optimistic that Democratic activists are going to get over our disappointments and unite.

And one more thing…

As we continue to argue, posture and protest, is it possible that we try to lighten up at least a little bit?  Yes, there’s a lot at stake. But if politics and policy become too much of a drag, we’ll all just want to take our ball and go home.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

What Does Labor Want in 2010?

The question isn’t whether Congressional Democrats and Obama Administration officials take the Labor Movement for granted.

Of course they do.

A Republican White House, Labor Department and Congressional majorities are a nightmare for unions.

That alone motivates labor leaders, reps, operatives and activists to remain loyal.

Democrats need labor’s political muscle for the 2010 midterm elections. With resources and sophisticated campaign operations in many states, cities and local precincts, unions can make the difference in close races.

As the Democrats most pragmatic partners, unions will no doubt gear up for the next election cycle. And, as always, many activists will be afflicted by an uncomfortable sense of unrequited love, particularly appalled by Senate Democrats failure to deliver:
  • The Employee Free Choice Act, which makes union organizing somewhat easier, isn’t even close to the 60-vote filibuster-proof majority needed for passage.
  • A health care bill which frustrates reformers and could penalize some union plans.
  • The nomination of a skilled and experienced union lawyer, Craig Becker, to fill a vacancy on the National Labor Relations Board “on hold” by Sen. John McCain (R – Arizona).
  • The appointment of Erroll Southers, a former FBI agent and “chief of intelligence and counter terrorism” at LAX to run the Federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) stalled because of the antics of Sen. Jim DeMint (R - South Carolina) who opposes the unionization of airport screeners.
On the other hand, national unions are delighted with the appointment of a very pro-union Labor Secretary, former Southern California Congress member Hilda Solis, who has staffed the top levels of DOL with Assistant Secretaries, Commissioners and Directors whose mission is to protect workers and not - like the Bush crowd - serve the interests of corporate employers and promote an anti-union agenda.

But the Labor Movement wants more from Obama, Pelosi and Reid than a “seat at the table.” We’ll find out soon if unions have the leverage to get it.