I assume that most participants on this medium (thx, spk!) are familiar with President Obama’s goal of raising – and spending of course – $1 billion for the campaign already in progress.
There are, to my mind, numerous elements of such a goal and the various strategies designed to achieve it that are troubling. One such element is the state and readiness of the “givers” vis-a-vis the “givee”. At this point in the nation’s economic history, the pool of “givers” may appear larger than last cycle from an “addressable market” point of view, seeing that the nation’s population has continued to grow, but the actual “share” of potential “givers” is likely to be proportionally smaller – and maybe even smaller in simple numeric terms – as a result of the economic malaise choking the country.
Assuming that the above hypothesis is true or close to it, the news item I’m posting below struck me as the political kin of a Flannery O’Connor narrative device, a device intended to be a less-than-subtle beacon of foreshadowing. In this case, the role of political “device” is being filled by a dozen or so construction industry trade unions. These unions have announced that they will break from the decades long tradition of participating in the Democratic Nominating Convention that will be held in N. Carolina next August.
The function of the unions’ decision, as a “device”, is to project backward from next August to today the inherent difficulties President Obama will face in meeting his campaign war-chest goal – and more. The article linked, and other sources, quote various mouth-pieces from those unions who explained their decision as being more than a response to the President (and staff). The unions’ officials specifically noted that so-called “down ticket” races for House & Senate will be hotly contested and therefore require unions’ “help”, phrased broadly and ambiguously, if those seats are to be retained by Democratic incumbents or captured from GOP squatters. The sub-text, if it qualifies given its proximity to the surface argument, is that labor is willing to be tepid regarding its support for the President. Tepid, my term, means not only visibility but organizing, message coordination and of course donations.
The decision these unions have made may be an early tactical maneuver intended to “stress-test” the President’s allegiances to labor. It may be, but I don’t think so. My read on this situation draws on comments and public statements made by union leaders in the wake of the White House’s decision to stick by then AR Senator Blanche Lincoln in the primary run-off against union-favorite Bill Halter. Since that debacle, ending in the loss of that seat to the GOP, the President & his White House “team” have been affirmatively absent with regard to union issues. When not absent, the President has simply “straight-armed” labor leaving tens if not hundreds of thousands of workers politically adrift from a left-flanking anchor while they and their unions are battered and humiliated from the right.
The loss, or curtailing by large percentage points, of labor “money” for his war chest puts the President, Plouffe and the rest of his campaign “savants” in an awkward position. I’ll not get into that now, but in the spirit of Ms. O’Connor, I’m sure that Chief of Staff Bill Daley has definitive ideas about the means to remedy any “short-fall” against the campaign’s $1 billion goal.
There are other problems that arise as well, in addition to the questions regarding funds pool. How will down-ticket candidates, particularly incumbents, respond – over the course of this cycle – to this shift of allegiances? Will the shift be permanent or temporary or, as I suggested above, is it a tactic? If it is not a tactic, is the shift glacial or tectonic? Will more unions under the AFL-CIO umbrella follow their construction industry brothers and sisters? Or, …..
Please feel free to add your own queries, concerns or – of course – comments and criticisms of my hypothesis.
The last point, phrased Jeopardy-style, is this: are or will House and Senate Democrats be the proverbial babies to be thrown out with or to save Presidential bath-water?