Workers Back Obama with Less Fervor

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 21, 2011 | Go to article overview

Workers Back Obama with Less Fervor


Byline: Philip Dine, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

One of the most memorable cartoons I saw about the ending of the Soviet Union 20 years ago showed a fellow painting a sign on a wall expressing the thought: Workers of the world .. aw, forget it

Well, America's workers today could be forgiven if they adopt a similar attitude to the current presidential contest.

Labor's frustrations with the Obama administration have been periodically chronicled in this space over the past couple of years.

No Employee Free Choice Act, too few jobs, an administration replete with Wall Street and banking types, free trade deals left unrenegotiated, and more.

If labor hasn't rebelled publicly, it's because it previously endured eight years of what it deemed the most anti-worker administration in U.S. history. Moreover, it's seen some positives from this president, from several good appointments to the saving of the auto industry. And it has kept hoping that better things are just around the corner. Perhaps most of all, it didn't want to boost the common foes it shares with the administration.

But few in the labor movement are confident about the likelihood of inspiring rank-and-file workers to repeat their historic role in the 2008 campaign, when they knocked on more doors and made more phone calls than ever before - and then on Election Day proved to be the difference by providing 25 percent of all votes. Union households went three-quarters for Barack Obama, opening up an election that otherwise would have extremely tight.

Yet, working folks lukewarm about Mr. Obama this time around find little of interest on the Republican side, where the candidates seem intent on outdoing each other in criticizing government, exalting the wealthy, closing the borders or sounding tough on foreign affairs. Not much there for labor's rank-and-file members - including the Reagan Democrats/NASCAR dads key to electing Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush - who this time around want to know how they're going to take care of their families.

To some degree, this lack of appeal to the labor vote reflects both parties' election circumstances. GOP candidates traditionally run to the right in primaries, and that tendency is pronounced this go-around, given the competitiveness of the race, the impact within the party of the anti-government tea party, and the general national sentiment. …

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