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That collapse, successfully tied to Republicans and the Bush administration, despite overwhelming Democrat involvement, is one of the primary reasons Barack Obama was elected president. Mr. Obama’s campaign was substantially buttressed by tens of millions of dollars in union contributions. The Obama administration and a Democratically-controlled Congress returned the favor with an $862 billion stimulus program, ostensibly aimed at “shovel-ready” projects that were supposed to lower unemployment. (Last October, the president himself admitted there was “no such thing as shovel-ready projects”). In reality, most of the money went to shore up state budgets, many of which were severely hobbled by unsustainable health and pension benefits given to unionized public sector employees. Despite stagnating employment levels, Democrats, with substantial union backing, also enacted a healthcare bill with no Republican support against the wishes of the electorate.
These two developments led directly to the rise of the Tea Party movement–which engendered a number of union protests across the nation. One of those protests resulted in Kenneth Gladney, a black conservative, being beaten by SEIU thugs for handing out “don’t tread on me” flags at a Tea Party rally in St. Louis. Adding more fuel to the populist fire was a multi-city demonstration organized by the SEIU last May to protest Arizona’s immigration law. Like the health care bill, union support for illegal aliens further antagonized a healthy majority of the electorate, which also supported Arizona’s effort to deal with an illegal immigration problem the feds were studiously ignoring.
It is likely that unionized efforts to discredit the electorate’s stance on Arizona, and the Tea Party movement’s positions in general, led to greater scrutiny of union activity by an American public far more animated by politics than they had been in a long time. Much of that public was appalled by what they discovered, highlighted by news reports which revealed public sector workers were making almost twice as much in benefits and earnings as their private sector counterparts, even as state governments and the federal government were teetering on the brink of fiscal insolvency.
All of the above undoubtedly set the stage for the 2010 election. In short, it was a disaster for both Democrats and their union supporters. With the possible exception of Illinois and California, states across the country, even union-friendly New York, are gearing up for an unprecedented battle with organized labor. How will the unions respond? It is no secret that several countries in Europe have been subjected to large, often violent demonstrations, directly resulting from efforts to reign in budget-busting union excesses.
Whether similar scenarios will play themselves out in America remains to be seen. At the demonstration last May in Maryland, SEIU spokesman Stephen Lerner had this to say about targeting private residences: “People in powerful corporations seem to think they can insulate themselves from the damage they are doing.” Perhaps Mr. Lerner, along with other like-minded unionists and their supporters, might want to consider the damage they are doing to their own cause with such a thuggish attitude. If the 2010 election is any indication, unions are no more “insulated” than those they target. Demonstrations and protests which were justified in the 1930s and tolerated in the 1990s, are now seen as little more than rank intimidation by a growing portion of the American public. Staging two protests at someone’s private residence, with people directed to the second one by a flyer with someone’s personal address and the drawing of cross hairs on it, is a dubious political tactic at best. Doing it less than three weeks after an American tragedy elicited nationwide calls for civility and restraint? Political tone-deafness–on steroids.
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