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Among the most preposterous claims being made on MSNBC about the fight over public sector unions in Wisconsin is that Gov. Scott Walker and the Republicans are losing “Reagan Democrats” by taking on government employees.
The theory seems to have been concocted by Howard Fineman, editor at The Huffington Post, who said, back in February on Lawrence O’Donnell’s “The Last Word,” that the “whole idea of a Reagan Democrat” was that union families were voting for Reagan. But today, according to Fineman, they are shifting against Republicans because of Walker’s tough line on government unions. “That’s got to scare Republican strategists nationally,” he said.
Private sector unions are as similar to public sector unions as they are to gay civil unions.
But again on “Hardball,” Fineman said that while Ronald Reagan appealed to union members, their “sons and daughters” were “having second thoughts.”
This could be true — but only if the sons and daughters of construction workers and miners, clinging to their guns and religion, grew up to be public school teachers, clinging to Earth Day and Kwanzaa.
About a month later, The Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne was pitching the Reagan-Democrats-Come-Home canard as his own fresh insight in his column and on “The Ed Show,” where he said that the Obama White House was no longer worried about losing the Midwest because “former Reagan Democrats” are saying, “This is not our politics.”
Yes, who can ever forget the way government workers idolized Ronald Reagan?
In his first year in office, Reagan gave striking air traffic controllers 48 hours to return to their jobs or they’d be fired. He hired permanent replacements and left thousands of illegally striking government workers jobless, banned from ever returning to their government jobs — until President Clinton allowed them to be rehired.
(And they’ve done a terrific job since then, haven’t th– HEY! WAKE UP!)
In Reagan’s second year in office, not only he, but his vice president and education secretary all declined invitations to speak at the public school teacher extravaganza, the National Education Association’s 120th annual convention.
In his third year in office, The Washington Post reported that “few members of government employee unions plan to vote next year for Ronald Reagan.”
As Howard Fineman suggests, Republicans must have been scared of how that might play out in the 1984 election. Still somehow, Reagan managed to win the largest electoral landslide in U.S. history, despite government workers being overwhelmingly, implacably opposed to him.
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