The New Republic has an excellent piece today that highlights several things of note, the first being a brief history of the Democratic party in the 20th century in regards to labor – specifically addressing labor’s stormy relationship with the DLC:
To say that the DLC has had its problems with organized labor is a bit like saying Athens didn’t get along so well with Sparta. The DLC was founded in 1985–amid the ruins of Walter Mondale’s failed presidential candidacy–by centrist Democrats who wanted to wrest the party back from the liberal interest groups who dominated the party. Mondale, of course, was labor’s candidate. And, in 1984, no liberal interest group was more powerful than the afl-cio and its affiliated unions. (but)… last Wednesday… the DLC held a press conference to announce it was endorsing the Employee Free Choice Act–an initiative that would radically change the way labor unions organize new members and, potentially, restore to organized labor some of the power it has lost over the last few decades. The endorsement isn’t likely to make much difference legislatively: The bill isn’t going anywhere in this Congress, and it would surely take more than a slim Democratic majority to push it through in the next one. But, as symbolic events go, this one surely seemed worth a little more attention.
The second point of interest in this development is that Iowa Governor and current DLC Chairman Tom Vilsak managed this truce, and he was already being touted as a Democratic nominee for President. In his column last Sunday, David Broder accented Gov. Tom Vilsack’s role in making it happen:
When Vilsack became chairman of the DLC last year, it raised eyebrows because unions have been a backbone of his support in Iowa. But he said he wanted to try to heal the breach, and he quickly began a series of private conversations with labor leaders, followed by joint sessions of DLC staffers and union operatives.
The upshot was the news conference, where the DLC formally endorsed a bill called the Employee Free Choice Act that is high on labor’s wish list.
It has a double significance. For Vilsack, a long-shot candidate for the 2008 presidential nomination, it is the strongest proof of his ability to be a successful power broker.
And for the Democrats, it holds important potential. For most of the past decade, the DLC and its adherents have supplied the best policy thinking for the party while the labor movement has supplied most of the grass-roots organization and effort.
For the first time, you can see mind and muscle working together, a healthy development for the Democrats.
On the subject of labor, here is a story that got past me earlier this week. The headline reads: Centrist Democrats betray principles with rote attacks on Wal-Mart. The first paragraph quickly sets the entire piece on a ridiculously twisted path:
Once upon a time, smart Democrats defended globalization, open trade and the companies that thrive within this system. They were wary of tethering themselves to an anti-trade labor movement that represents a dwindling fraction of the electorate. They understood the danger in bashing corporations: Voters don’t hate corporations, because many of them work for one.
Hmm. Where to begin. Well, the period in the 20th century where the Democratic party dominated politics was one of centrist Democratic rule. Centrists knew (and know) how to balance the interests of a free market with those of workers. But as I centrist, I can imagine a world full of Walmart-like corporations and how it would expand the low wage class in this country. With other retailers being muscled out, workers would find themselves, as my dad used to say, shit out of luck. of course voters don’t hate corporations and many of them do work for one. But not for little or no healthcare and minimum wage. Imagine if many voters were forced to.
Think about it.