(/sites/default/files/uploads/2012/06/6-6-Barrett.gif)“Recallistas turn to cannibalism!” reads a headline at WisconsinReporter.com. A poster at the Democratic Underground site wondered, “When will Democrats get the message that eating their own is not a winning strategy?”
In a strange week in which a gay porn star from Canada, a Miami bath-salt enthusiast, and a Maryland college student grabbed headlines by indulging their culinary passion for human meat, political liberals subconsciously imitated the news by devouring one another. Tuesday’s Wisconsin recall election served as the catalyst for the cannibalism.
Calling Barack Obama’s careful avoidance of Wisconsin “unforgivable,” Progressive editor Matthew Rothschild bluntly maintains that the president “betrayed his promise” and “abandoned his principles.” The editor of the 103-year-old Madison, Wisconsin-based publication holds that the administration has “alienated their base in Wisconsin. People here are furious at the White House, and that won’t help Obama come November.”
The Obama administration, for its part, has long signaled its aversion to the Lane Kirkland-Walter Reuther wing of the party. “Preparations by Democratic operatives for the 2012 election make it clear for the first time that the party will explicitly abandon the white working class,” Thomas Edsall reported last fall in the New York Times. “All pretense of trying to win a majority of the white working class has been effectively jettisoned in favor of cementing a center-left coalition” composed of “professors, artists, designers, editors, human resources managers, lawyers, librarians, social workers, teachers and therapists—and a second, substantial constituency of lower-income voters who are disproportionately African-American and Hispanic.”
The White House never wanted organized labor’s Wisconsin recall. They just wanted organized labor’s manpower and donations. And organized labor thought its manpower and donations bought influence over the White House. Both misunderstood their own interests for the others’ interests.
Without the government, where would organized labor be? Not only does government employ a majority of unionized workers, it forces a majority of the remainder to “join” unions through the compulsory unionization laws that prevail in twenty-seven states.
Without the labor unions, where would the party of government be? Despite organized labor’s diminished clout, it still delivers tens of millions of dollars and battalions of campaign workers to Democrats every four years.
Labor’s waning influence in the Democratic Party is a reflection of its waning influence in the United States. In 1958, 30 percent of Americans working in the private sector belonged to labor unions. Today, less than seven percent do. Factor in the 37 percent unionization rate for public-sector employees and organized labor’s share of the total labor force approaches 12 percent, a figure that has been diminishing for decades. Labor’s anemic 21st-century numbers perhaps exaggerate its strength. Given the propensity of government dependents to back the party of government, the dramatic unionization of public sector workers redundantly creates a Democratic Party interest group out of an existing Democratic Party interest group.
Were state government employees somehow in danger of swinging en masse to the Republican Party had Big Labor not started to collect their dues?
While most members of public-employee unions loudly voted against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker at the ballot box, they have silently endorsed his most controversial policy shift at the bank-teller cage. Since Walker and the Wisconsin legislature made union dues optional for state workers, hordes of state workers have opted out of their unions.
The Wall Street Journal reports that American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) membership in Wisconsin dropped from 62,818 in March 2011 to 28,745 in February 2012. This is another way of saying that many public employees agreed with Governor Scott Walker that workers rather than unions should determine how the wages of laborers are spent. With annual paycheck deductions approaching $1,000 for a teacher in Milwaukee’s public schools, and about half that for most other state workers, Walker’s reform represents a substantial pay raise for most public workers.
Where unions reign, workers feel pain. It’s hard to look at Flint, Michigan, Lawrence, Massachusetts, or Youngstown, Ohio, and not see a half-eaten corpse of a community. Now that unionization predominates in the public rather than the private sector, state and local budgets are becoming the basket cases that post-industrial ghost towns have already become. Just as businessmen can’t afford out-of-whack wages and benefits, politicians discover that their budgets can’t afford them, either.
Still, Democratic politicians who rely on Big Labor’s money and volunteers can’t afford to rebuff Big Labor’s demands for Big Government. When the Democratic politicians and the Democratic unions operate at cross purposes the result, as events in Jeffrey Dahmer’s home state demonstrate, is a party eating its own. And cannibalism, like political metaphors alluding to it, is just in bad taste.
Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.