Randy Shaw: Many progressives are so excited that Obama is not Sarah Palin that they accept any small step as a great leap forward. The irony is that many of these progressives saw a night and day difference between Obama and Clinton in the primaries, yet now accept policies from Obama that are virtually identical — if not more conservative — than those we feared from a President Hilary Clinton.
Randy Shaw: The absence of labor reporters is a symptom of a larger media trend that now sees union activism and elections as deserved only of local coverage, while corporate news wins national attention. So the New York Times reports on Disney’s public relations event in Orlando, Florida is reported by, while UNITE HERE’s far more newsworthy event at Disneyland gets only local press.
Randy Shaw: Beyoncé has been a great star since childhood, and has gotten to the top through hard work, dedication, good looks and a powerful singing voice. But she seems to have gone through a corporate homogenization machine that has deprived her of real passion, real soul, and of the ability to express true feelings and emotions in her songs.
Randy Shaw: President Obama aspires to change the way politics is played, saying he is tired of questions masquerading as talking points, and of “tactics” substituting for the best policies. Like Dukakis, he wants the two parties to engage in national policy debates, where the best ideas prevail. Unfortunately, that’s not how politics works in the United States, and Obama’s misguided idealism is costing his base dearly.
Randy Shaw: Consider the Democrats top concerns. Health care? “We’ll get to it sometime.” Comprehensive immigration reform? “It’s still a priority.” EFCA? Off the political radar screen. Climate Change? “We don’t have the votes.” The Budget? Freeze all domestic spending but education and research but protect defense.
Randy Shaw: As someone who thinks Hill’s work could convince the uncommitted and deserves the widest possible audience, I wish he had directly confronted — through interviews, for example — those who oppose the policies that work in Europe but are still not in place in the United States. For example, it would have been helpful for Republican and Democratic Party political leaders to explain why our nation follows the lead of Papua New Guinea in still not offering paid maternity leave.
Randy Shaw: In the Beltway, the Obama Administration frustrated key constituency groups and organizations by failing to push for transformative change. In the world where most people live and work, activists were not deterred by Obama’s inaction and instead seized upon the “Si Se Puede” spirit to build successful campaigns for justice.
Randy Shaw: The Democratic Party is facing a voter revolt because it once again allowed its corporate wing to set its agenda. And while the media blames the left Obama and the Democrats either implement a progressive agenda and shape the midterm elections around populist themes, or face further electoral “upsets” in November.
Randy Shaw: If anyone still doubts that politics is all about branding, the rise of the “teabagger” closes the case. Here we have a group of overwhelmingly white anti-tax crusaders with a long history of political backing for right-wing causes suddenly re-branded by the media as populist crusaders for the common good.
Randy Shaw: pecifically, activists must employ what I describe in The Activist’s Handbook as the “fear and loathing” approach that has long proved necessary to get most politicians to do the right thing. Activists must make Obama fear the political repercussions of not backing progressive positions, even to the extent that the President comes to “loathe” those creating such pressures.
With the Democratic Party needing union money and volunteers for the November 2010 elections, it will have to start delivering for labor soon. This means that Congress will enact some changes in union election rules, though expedited elections rather than card check appears to be where the debate is headed.
When Barack Obama backed a Senate health reform plan that differed radically from prior proposals, he ignored the lessons he learned as a young organizer on Chicago’s South Side. Obama once knew that it’s wrong to bypass the community’s agenda to strike a backroom deal, regardless of its superior terms. Obama also understood that failing to consult with the community disempowers the base, and discourages people from participating in future organizing campaigns.
When President Barack Obama took office, many activists and organizations saw their role as mobilizing the public support necessary to enable him to implement progressive change. After Obama’s September health care speech this strategy appeared to be working, but the President has since ignored the progressive base and taken a sharp turn to the right.
Obama still has time to deliver for his base. But this will require activists and constituency groups to ramp up public demands for such a course, rather than thinking they are helping the progressive cause by making excuses for a president whose inspirational words about social transformation have not been matched by actions.
If the health care outcome shows that the U.S. Senate will not allow progressive change even with a 60-vote Democratic caucus, then what argument can the Obama team make to infrequent voters in 2010? If electing Obama and strong Democratic congressional majorities in 2008 did not bring real Change, why even bother voting?
The week of Thanksgiving offers the perfect opportunity for us to give thanks and appreciation for those in 2009 who have worked for social and economic justice.
The increasing willingness of other unions to openly back NUHW is most ominous for SEIU. It means that SEIU’s efforts to frame NUHW as a “rogue” labor organization guilty of “raiding” other unions has failed, and that the labor movement now sees NUHW as health care workers’ leading voice for democracy.
This exclusion of Latinos from the health debate, and from all public policy issues other than immigration, is neither coincidence nor accident. It is part of the same strategy that sees Latinos excluded from the cable political news shows, and from the Sunday interview shows on the traditional networks.
On the last day of the AFL-CIO convention, UNITE HERE President John Wilhelm announced that his union is leaving Change to Win and rejoining the AFL-CIO. The announcement, while not unexpected, will soon to followed by a similar decision by the Laborers Union, and represents a likely fatal blow to SEIU’s efforts to create a competing labor Federation.