Election Over, What Next?
OK, the election is over and labor, Democrats and the other good guys came up a bit short. But what now? What next for the good guys?
Well, for starters, organized labor and its Democratic Party allies must be ready to block Republican plans to try to enact legislation that would cut taxes for the very wealthy, slash Medicare funding, and possibly even privatize Social Security. I know that may sound alarmist and far-fetched. But that's what Republican leaders are actually talking about.
After all, the GOP's anti-labor corporate allies spent nearly a billion dollars on the election and they damn well want their money's worth. Larry Cohen, president of the communications workers union, thinks it's getting like the way elections were 100 years ago when the big trusts and robber barons made sure their voices were the only ones heard during election campaigns.
Not yet, Larry. Not quite. Unions were able to make a lot of highly effective noise that helped elect some important pro-labor Democrats and defeat several Tea Party candidates and other anti-labor wackos who argued, as the AFL-CIO's Mike Hall notes, "that government should do nothing to improve the economy or protect working families during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression."
Let's me take a little closer look at how the election went for organized labor and its political friends in two of the country's most important states politically, numbers one and two in population, California and Texas.
In California, as the AFL-CIO says, unions were a key factor propelling notably pro-labor Democrat Jerry Brown to the governorship and pro-labor Democrat Barbara Boxer to a third term in the Senate. Those victories were especially sweet, since the opponents of Governor-elect Brown and Senator Boxer were former business executives with tons of money, including their own, to spend on their campaigns.
Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman spent more than $141 million of her own money on her losing campaign against Jerry Brown for governor. And though Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett-Packard CEO, spent several million of her own money on her campaign, the total was nowhere near the obscene amount that Whitman pulled from her own pocket for her campaign.
Anyway, Meg Whitman lost, and good for Californians for making that happen. Labor couldn't imagine a worse anti-labor governor than Meg Whitman, or more labor-friendly governor than Jerry Brown, a worse anti-labor senator than Carly Fiorini, or more labor-friendly senator than Barbara Boxer.
It was a bit different in most other states. As Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro of the California Nurses Association notes, the election of Democratic, pro-labor candidates in California "provided a national alternative to the conservative, corporate-oriented economic program that won so many other races nationwide."
DeMoro praised California's voters "for seeing through the fool's gold promises that the path to economic recovery and job creation is through corporate tax breaks and shifting more wealth and resources to those who need it the least."
The news isn't so good out of Texas, where, as Jim Lane of the People's World says, "the second largest delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives, already heavily leaning to the right, tilted drastically further on November 2 – plus, many of the most popular Texas Democratic leaders were defeated.
The re-election of Gov. Rick Perry was more bad news for labor and its allies, given what the People's World's Lane notes as Perry's "far-right, anti-worker vision." Reporter Lane says "progressive Texans are not looking forward to extending the years of being shamed about their home state, as we have been since GW Bush took the national stage."
But at least the Texas labor movement was able to run what Lane calls "a strong and largely independent political campaign." Unions even dared to run "one of their own," former national AFL-CIO official Linda Chavez-Thompson, for lieutenant governor. But, as Lane notes, "Like all other statewide Democratic candidates, Chavez-Thompson's campaign was buried by big money."
So, what next for Texas, California – the whole country?
What's next should be in large part to carry out what AFL-CIO and Democratic Party leaders have been advocating for many years – rebuilding of our long crumbling infrastructure
President Obama has a plan that calls for rebuilding 150,000 miles of roads, laying and maintaining 4,000 miles of railway tracks, restoring 150 miles of airport runways and , in doing so, providing badly needed jobs for many of the country's millions of unemployed workers.
That's how labor and political leaders can – and must – begin to deliver on their election campaign promises to, above all, do what it takes to create "jobs, jobs, jobs."
Dick Meister is a San Francisco-based columnist who has covered political and labor issues for a half-century as a reporter, editor, author and commentator. Visit him at his website, www.dickmeister.com.