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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Month: August 2013

Political Strategy Notes

Dem campaign workers and candidates, don’t miss Nathan L. Gonzales’s “6 Things Losing Candidates Say” at Roll Call’s ‘Rothenblog’
From Stephanie Condon’s CBS News post, “Majority oppose GOP plan to defund Obamacare, poll finds“: “A clear majority of Americans are opposed to the Republican-led effort to defund Obamacare, a new poll shows….Fifty-seven percent of Americans say they disapprove of the proposal to cut off funding as a way to stop the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, according to a new survey from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.” More disturbing, “As many as 51 percent say they don’t have enough information about it to understand how it will impact them and their family, while as many as 44 percent either think the law has been repealed (8 percent), overturned by the Supreme Court (5 percent) or are unsure whether it remains the law (31 percent).”
Peter Mackin’s PBS News Hour report, “The Alternative American Dream: Inclusive Capitalism” provides an interesting update on worker ownership’s promise and pitfalls.
In a rare display of humility, Bill O’Reilly admitted that he was, gasp, wrong. According to Jack Mirkinson’s report at HuffPo: O’Reilly had complained that no Republicans had been invited to the event. In fact, many, including both living Republican presidents, John McCain, Jeb Bush and John Boehner had been asked to attend. All declined for various reasons….O’Reilly admitted that he had been wrong….”The mistake? Entirely on me,” he said. “I simply assumed … Republicans were excluded.”
Elsewhere in Republican punditland, “Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham chose to follow up a recording of Lewis’ call to Congress to both fix the Voting Rights Act and pass immigration reform with a gunshot sound effect. As Joan Walsh of Salon observed, even “[a]fter the assassinations of Medgar Evers, John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Dr. King, after the gunning down of so many civil rights workers over the years, Ingraham thought it was funny, or clever, or provocative, to ‘symbolically’ cut off Lewis’ speech with the sound of a gun,” reports Sergio Munoz at Media Matters.
At Scholars Strategy Network, Theda Skocpol’s “Why Now is the Time to Build a Broad Citizen Movement for Green Energy Dividends” explores an interesting alternative to cap and trade.
Timothy Noah’s MSNBC post “Why business needs a stronger labor movement” ought to be of interest to thoughtful business leaders. As Noah notes, “The trouble with a capital-focused economy isn’t only that it’s bad for workers. It’s also, more broadly, bad for the economy. Capital’s current hogging of corporate income is doing very little to create actual prosperity, except for stockholders–and eventually it won’t create prosperity even for them…U.S. corporations are currently recording, on average, a profit margin of about 9%, which-except for the fourth quarter of 2011, when it reached 10% percent–is the highest that corporate profits have been in six decades…You would think the surge in profits would mean that Gross Domestic Product–the standard measure of prosperity-was expanding like gangbusters. But it isn’t. Second-quarter GDP growth is estimated at a paltry 1.7%–an improvement over the first quarter’s 1.1% but about half what it would be in a healthy economy.”
In “LGBT Advocates Move Immigration Reform Forward During August Recess” at Center for American Progress, Sharita Gruberg reports on an interesting example of different progressive movements agreeing “to work together to build support for two separate ballot questions last November–one allowing same-sex marriage in Maryland and the other allowing undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at colleges and universities under certain circumstances.”
Re Tim Alberta’s National Journal post “Republican Lawmakers Retaliate Against Heritage Foundation,” keep up the great work guys.

GOP Morph into the Anti-Lincoln Party Now Complete

From MSNBC’s Politics Nation with Rev. Al Sharpton:

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Where King Stood, The Standard President Obama Must Meet

This article by Jesse Jackson is cross posted from Campaign for America’s Future
Today, on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous “Dream” oration, President Barack Obama will speak from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, joined by former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.
Much of the press is speculating about whether the president can reach the “King standard.” Can he deliver an address with the poetry and the vision that made Dr. King’s speech timeless?
But, I suggest to you that this is the wrong standard by which to measure the president. Barack Obama isn’t the leader of a March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. He is the leader of the government. The March on Washington 50 years ago was a call by an oppressed people seeking justice. As the call to the march detailed, we marched to “help resolve an American crisis,” a crisis “born of the twin evils of racism and economic deprivation.”
The marchers carried ten demands to the nation’s capital, calling for comprehensive civil rights legislation, including the end to segregation and the right to vote, for immediate desegregation of the schools, for a “massive federal program to train and place all unemployed workers – Negro and white — in meaningful and dignified jobs at decent wages,” for an increase of the minimum wage, and for federal action against discrimination in employment, housing and federal programs. Dr. King’s speech called on the nation’s elected leaders to act.
The president’s task is to respond to this call. That was true 50 years ago, and it is equally true today. Last Saturday, tens of thousands gathered once more on the National Mall, calling for action. Once more, we gathered to “help resolve an American crisis.” Once more we carried an agenda — jobs, an increase in the minimum wage, defense of the right to vote, an end to discriminatory stop-and-frisk and stand-your-ground policies, an end to discriminatory sentencing, and comprehensive immigration reform. For President Obama, the question is the response — legislation, executive action, enforcement, and appropriations.
The president need not and cannot meet the King standard. He might best be measured against the Johnson standard. In response to the 1963 March, President Kennedy sought to move civil rights legislation. And when he was struck down, Lyndon Johnson took up the cause, expanded it and made things happen.
In 1965, President Johnson delivered a commencement address at Howard University titled “To Fulfill These Rights.” There, he laid out his response. He paid tribute to the protests that provided “the call to action.” He reported on the progress made. Passage of the 1964 civil rights legislation. Soon, passage of the Voting Rights Act, guaranteeing the right to vote. The barriers to freedom, he reported, “are tumbling down.”
But President Johnson acknowledged, “freedom is not enough. You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, ‘you are free to compete with all the others.'”
So Johnson argued that next and the “more profound stage of the battle for civil rights” is not just “equality as a right and a theory, but equality as a fact and equality as a result.” Johnson then detailed the structural inequalities still facing African Americans — unequal unemployment, incomes, rates of poverty, infant mortality, and more. And he laid out the strategy of his war on poverty to address this crisis. He announced his intention to call a White House conference to address the theme of “To Fulfill These Rights.”
Johnson understood how difficult this was. He launched his war on poverty in Appalachia, choosing to “whiten” the face of poverty, to reflect the reality that more poor people were white than black. He drove hard to push legislation and appropriations and executive action. The minimum wage reached levels not seen in comparable dollars since. Infant mortality and poverty declined. Real progress was made.
But as Dr. King warned, the war on poverty was lost to the war in Vietnam that robbed resources, attention and political energy. When he was assassinated, Dr. King was planning another march on Washington — a Poor People’s Campaign, to bring the impoverished from across the races and the regions to camp in the nation’s capital and to call on our elected leaders once more to act.
So the question for President Obama isn’t whether he can match the poetry of Dr. King’s call. It is whether he can match the energy of President Johnson’s response. Will he revive the Civil Rights Commission? Will he announce steps to guard the right to vote now under assault from North Carolina to Texas? Will he call on Congress for appropriations to ensure every child has access to a high-quality public education? Will he move more aggressively to curb discriminatory sentences? Will he drive an increase in the minimum wage, a strengthening of our laws protecting workers and their right to organize, the move for comprehensive immigration reform?
We will listen to what he says. But as president, he will be measured by the hard prose of his actions, not the poetry of his words. We will be looking for what he does, not simply what he says.

MLK’s Dream Eludes Congressional Republican Leaders

Today, the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream. should be a great day for America, with President Obama and former Presidents Carter and Clinton joining many thousands of King’s followers on the National Mall for a joyful celebration.
You would think congressional Republican leaders would join in celebrating Dr. King’s bipartisan dream of a nation united in justice, equality and opportunity as transcendent values shared by Americans across the political spectrum. You would think that. But you would be wrong.
It would have been a big surprise if congressional Republican leaders joined the commemorative march on Saturday, since the tone was more political. But today will be more a day of tributes and affirmations of the ‘brotherhood’ part of Dr.King’s speech. Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell are not on the program, having reportedly turned down invitations as a result of prior commitments, as did former President Bush. It’s not like they didn’t know this milestone anniversary was coming up.
Today, even yellow dog Democrats should hope they will change their minds and do at least a drive-by. MLK’s dream included Republicans. Indeed many were present for the ’63 March….but that was then.
Fortunately, some Republican governors, even conservative ones in Utah and Kansas, will be taking part in nation-wide bell-ringing ceremonies commemorating Dr. King’s dream and his call to “Let Freedom Ring,” according to commemoration organizers. The A.P. reports that more than a 100 locations have scheduled bell-ringing programs in synch with 3 p.m. Eastern Time. March organizers say they have registered more than 300 bell-ringing events across the U.S., and they think there will be hundreds more that didn’t bother to register. There will likely be a healthy turnout of Republican rank and file and local leaders at these events.
Sad that their leaders in congress have other commitments.

Creamer: Five Reasons Why Immigration Reform Will Pass

The following article, by Democratic strategist Robert Creamer, author of “Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win,” is cross-posted from HuffPo:
As lawmakers prepare to return to Washington after Labor Day, a few inside-the-Beltway pundits have blithely predicted that, “immigration reform is dead.”
This, in the face of headlines that uniformly declare that the forces of reform – and Progressives of all sorts – have dominated the August town meeting circuit. And the vaunted anti-immigration reform backlash is nowhere to be found — except perhaps in the imagination of Congressman Steve King.
In fact, there are many good reasons to predict that the odds are very good the GOP House Leadership will ultimately allow a vote on an immigration reform bill containing a pathway to citizenship this year. If such a bill is called, the odds are close to one hundred percent that it will pass.
That is because, right now, there are more than enough votes on the floor of the House to pass immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship if it is given an up or down vote. The only question now is whether the House Leadership decides that it is in their political interest to call the bill.
The GOP leadership understands that if an immigration reform bill passes, the Democrats will get the credit with key immigrant constituencies and many suburban swing voters. But they are also coming to realize that if they do not call the bill, they will get the blame with those same constituencies – and that could lead to both short-term and-long term disaster for the Republican Party.
Here are the top five reasons why immigration reform is likely to pass this year:
Reason #1: In order maintain control of the House, Republicans can afford to lose a maximum of seventeen seats in the mid-term elections. There are 44 districts currently held by Republicans where significant numbers of the voters (12% or more) are either Hispanics or Asian Americans. Of that number, as many as 20 may be seriously in play in 2014.
The mid-term elections are all about turnout. If Hispanic and Asian American voters are sufficiently enraged by Republican refusal to pass immigration reform, the GOP high command fears that they will register to vote and turn out in substantial numbers. That could easily tip the balance in terms of control of the House of Representatives.
And don’t think that immigration reform is “just another issue” for Hispanics and Asian Americans. It doesn’t matter whether you yourself would be personally impacted, a politician’s position on whether they are for or against immigration reform has become symbolic for “are you on my side?” – “do you stand for or against my community?”
To get a sense of the intensity of feeling, all you need do is attend any of the literally hundreds of pro-immigration reform events and town meetings that have been held over the August break. People are fired up and ready to go.
The polling is equally clear. A poll taken of voters in key swing districts currently controlled by Republicans conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP) in early July showed:
Republican and Independent voters want Congress to pass a solution to our country’s broken immigration system. Many are less likely to support Republicans if the House fails to pass immigration reform this summer.

Schlafly’s Straight Talk About GOP’s Voter Suppression Sends Ostrich Pundits into Denial

Maddowblog’s Steve Benen has unearthed a quote from the right-wing Eagle Forum’s Phyllis Schlafly, which proves more than a little embarrassing for Republicans, who have been parroting the “voter suppression? who us?” defense. It goes like this:

The reduction in the number of days allowed for early voting is particularly important because early voting plays a major role in Obama’s ground game. The Democrats carried most states that allow many days of early voting, and Obama’s national field director admitted, shortly before last year’s election, that “early voting is giving us a solid lead in the battleground states that will decide this election.”
The Obama technocrats have developed an efficient system of identifying prospective Obama voters and then nagging them (some might say harassing them) until they actually vote. It may take several days to accomplish this, so early voting is an essential component of the Democrats’ get-out-the-vote campaign.

To which Benen responds, “Have you ever heard a political figure accidentally read stage direction, unaware that it’s not supposed to be repeated out loud? This is what Schlafly’s published column reminds me of.”
The Schlafly quote will be roundly ignored by the conservative ostrich pundits, like George Will, Russ Douthat, Peggy Noonan and David Brooks, who know perfectly well that Schlafly was telling the raw truth. They will refuse to acknowledge it in any way, because it offends their nostalgic view of their party as stout defender of conservatism, when really it has become the party of contempt for democracy and fair elections, with an increasingly high tolerance for racism.
They also know that there is essentially no voter fraud. But they won’t write about that either, because they can’t do so and still retain the thin veneer of credibility that they believe separates their columns from partisan hackery.
Like her more genteel conservative colleagues, Schlafly has been known to dance around the truth. But not this time. Credit her with telling it straight, as Benen concludes:

And then there’s Phyllis Schlafly, writing a piece for publication effectively saying Democrats are entirely right — North Carolina had to dramatically cut early voting because it’s not good for Republicans.
Remember, Schlafly’s piece wasn’t intended as criticism; this is her defense of voter suppression in North Carolina. Proponents of voting rights are arguing, “This is a blatantly partisan scheme intended to rig elections,” to which Schlafly is effectively responding, “I know, isn’t it great?”

It’s a sad time for opinion journalism, when the top ‘conservative’ columnists can’t take a stand, calling on their party to defend the democratic principle of fair elections with outcomes based on honest debate, instead of suppressing votes.

Political Strategy Notes

In “Rasmussen Reports Loses Scott Rasmussen, But the Inaccurate Polls Will Remain” TNR’s Nate Cohn provides a sendoff many poll watchers will appreciate: “…His polls were biased toward Republican candidates in two consecutive cycles, outrageously so in 2012. He refused to interview voters with a cell phone, even though mounting research confirms they tilt toward Democratic leaning groups. He weighted his samples to a fantasy electorate where there are millions more white, Republican voters. And unlike Gallup, which is in the middle of an extensive post-election effort to improve its polling, Rasmussen’s post-election rethinking involved reweighting their tracking poll to the 2012 exit polls, even though you really, really can’t do that. Really embarassing stuff.”
Dem policy-makers should give Amy Sullivan’s Atlantic post “Why Jobs Go Unfilled Even in Times of High Unemployment” a thoughtful read, and come up with a credible job-training program. Among Sullivan’s points, “There are some observers who say that the idea of a skills gap is overstated, that vacancies persist because employers can’t find people with the skills they need at the rate they’re willing to pay. But it is true that employers complain they have a hard time finding workers with the skills they need. About 40 years ago, only one in four jobs required more than a high school education, but now about two in three jobs require more training. And workers now really need to think of learning as a lifelong task. That’s a huge shift from the days when you did one job that never changed for one employer and then you retired.”
The Koch Brothers may be unhinged wingnuts, but they can add, is one conclusion that might be drawn from this HuffPo report, which notes of their interest in purchasing Tribune syndicate newspapers: “…The prospect of their ownership had led to protests from people who were concerned they would use the papers to push their highly controversial political views…But sources told the Daily Caller that, after looking at Tribune’s finances, the Kochs had determined that the purchase wouldn’t be “economically viable.” They are not done yet, however, as one of their spokespersons stated, “”Koch continues to have an interest in the media business and we’re exploring a broad range of opportunities where we think we can add value. In terms of the Tribune, the Daily Caller story is accurate.”
Along with NC right-wing extremist Art Pope, the Koch brothers have a big influence on the tide of reaction in NC through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). For an update on ALEC’s influence in NC politics, read Jim Morril’s Charlotte Observer post, “Where the N.C. GOP got its agenda.”
But the Republican strategy of all-out voter suppression may not do so well in neighboring VA, as John Harwood reports in his New York Times post, “Demographic Shifts May Help Virginia Democrats.”
So what are the prospects for Dems pulling off a repeat of the 2012 strategy of supporting tea party candidates in the GOP senate primaries, which Claire McCaskill so adroitly deployed? Pretty good, apparently, as Noah Bierman explains in his post,”Democratic strategy promotes Tea Party rivals” at the Boston Globe.
Ditto for Democratic strategy in congressional races, as Cameron Joseph reports at The Hill in “Democrats hope GOP chaos in fall will help them win back House.”
The AFL-CIO is targeting six Republican governors for defeat, as Tom Guarino’s Monitor post “Top labor union aims to topple six GOP governors: payback or big risk?” explains: “The six governors are primarily from the Midwest: John Kasich in Ohio, Rick Scott in Florida, Rick Snyder in Michigan, and Scott Walker in Wisconsin, plus Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania and Paul LePage in Maine. Mr. Hauser [AFL-CIO spokesman Jeff Hauser] says the AFL-CIO will not neglect important state and congressional races in the rest of the country, but its “focus” will be those six battlegrounds where the majority of its 12 million members are located.”
E.J,. Dionne, Jr. has coined an apt term for the GOP’s shut-down-government freaks —“The Armageddon Caucus.” Dionne points out “The GOP has gone from endorsing market-based government solutions to problems the private sector can’t solve — i.e, Obamacare — to believing that no solution involving expanded government can possibly be good for the country…Ask yourself: If conservatives still believed in what both left and right once saw as a normal approach to government, would they speak so cavalierly about shutting it down or risking its credit?”
Only Five?

This has got to be the wildly biased – and flat-out over-the-top silliest – opinion poll ever conducted. It belongs in every textbook as a classic example of question rigging.

I’ve not generally been a big fan of Jennifer Rubin, to put it mildly, but as the GOP crazy train has lunged further and further off the tracks her columns have started to criticize some of the most egregious aspects of Republican extremism.
Case in point: this poll from the Heritage Foundation on Obamacare that she flatly labels “junk”. I mean, wow, just get a load of these “thumb on the scales” questions:
67.8 YES
25.3 NO
28.3 Strongly Approve
31.5 Somewhat Approve
10.3 Somewhat Disapprove
18.3 Strongly Disapprove
OK, now with these unbelievably loaded questions, you would think the deck was sufficiently stacked. But nope. As Rubin notes:

The poll asserts that it measures “swing districts [but] Charley Cook ranks congressional districts with its Partisan Voting Index (PVI), the higher the number the greater the lean toward that party. A perfectly balanced district would be at zero.
Every single one of the districts [in the Heritage poll] with a GOP congressman has a GOP PVI of at least +6. The average PVI of these districts is over +10 Republican. The districts currently with a Democratic representative are even more right-leaning, with PVI ratings between +9 and +16 GOP (an average of + 12.75 GOP). Overall, President Obama lost these seats by an average of 18 points.

The only real question here is why the Heritage Foundation bothered to actually conduct a poll rather than just making up the numbers as well as the questions. It certainly would not have made the results any less meaningful.

Political Strategy Notes

Democrat McAuliffe is up 6 over Cucinelli in race for VA Governor, according to Quinnipiac University poll, report Laura Vozzella and Scott Clement at WaPo. “Among likely voters surveyed by Quinnipiac, Democrats outnumber Republicans 39 percent to 32 percent — the identical split found in Virginia exit polls in the 2012 presidential election.”
At Wonkblog Sarah Kliff has an ironic revelation: “A new poll finds that young Republicans are more likely to have health coverage through their parents’ policy than young Democrats, an option widely expanded under the Affordable Care Act…The poll comes from the Commonwealth Foundation, which has spent two years tracking how adults between the ages of 19 and 25 are reacting to the Affordable Care Act. Beginning in 2010, the health care law allowed young adults up to age 26 to stay covered under their parents’ health plans…The Commonwealth Foundation estimates that of the 15 million young adults that have insurance coverage through a parent, 7.8 million would not have qualified without this policy.”
GOP lunacy hits overdrive, as Michael Tomasky reports in his Daily Beast post, “Republicans Move to the Center? Nope, They’re Crazier Than Ever.
Republicans have launched a total war on student voting in North Carolina, Ari Berman reports at The Nation. Here’s a good video clip on the topic, via berman, from The Rachel Maddow Show, which also spotlights an 80-year-old progressive warrior, who is fighting Republican disenfranchisement of strudents and minorities in NC:

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Republicans have done eveything they can to rig elections in NC, but they still may not be able to take away Kay Hagan’s Senate Seat, as Sean Sullivan explains at The Fix. Imnagine what shape they would be in without the gerrymandering and voter suppression.
WaPo columnist E.J. Dionne, Jr. has a moving meditation on the 50th anniversary of MLK’s dream, which will be commemorated world-wide next week. As Dionne concludes, “We honor him best by sharing not only his hope but also his impatience and his resolve.”
At The Guardian, Vad Badham has an interesting and amusing post on Australia’s experience with compulsory voting, and why it might be a good thing for the U.S.
From Casey A. Klofstad’s “Talking About Politics Boosts Civic Participation“, via the Scholars Strategy Network and Demos: “My basic research finding is quite striking: students who were assigned to dorms in 2003 where they were exposed to political discussion by their randomly assigned roommate became more likely to join civic-minded student organizations such as student government, partisan political organizations, and community volunteer organizations. This effect lasted throughout their four years of college. More recently, I surveyed these same individuals during the 2012 election, and my newly collected data reveal that study participants who were exposed to political discussion as first-year college students are still more likely to be active civically nearly ten years later.”
Kevin Mahnken’s New Republic post, “Two GOP Operatives Reveal How to Turn Texas Blue” notes : “Local exigencies–finding those 250 county chairs and grooming the next Democratic railroad commissioner–are key in any state, but national trends (the Hispanic or Latino population grew by 43 percent over the last decade) and the sputtering of immigration reform are seen as potentially game-changing phenomena in Texas. Weaver [John Weaver of the McCain campaigns] advised Democrats to focus not merely to focus on Latinos, but also the newly minted Texans who relocate to the state for jobs and low cost of living. “People who are moving here from the West Coast, or the upper Midwest, or the East Coast, for economic reasons, they aren’t typical Southern Republicans either,” he said. “Those people are more moderate on social issues, and they see a [Republican] party that’s out of step with their values. Whether it’s a tsunami or not–for Republicans, you can still drown in it if you don’t fix it.”
New GOP scam: highlight diversity, even though they don’t have the numbers to back it up. Or as Nicole Greenstein puts it in her Time Swampland post “The Party of Old White Guys Changes Its Look.”

How to Nurture a Culture of Unionism in the South

Douglas Williams and Cato Uticensis have an interesting post. “Creating a culture of unionism in the South,” which merits some thoughtful scrutiny from Democrats, as well as the labor movement. As the authors, both union organizers, explain:

One of the difficulties of organizing in the South is that the struggles here frequently occur under a veil of invisibility due to the lack of pro-worker media down here. Barring major fights like the United Food and Commercial Workers’ (UFCW) fifteen-year long trench war against Smithfield Foods, where everything from cops on the company payroll to enterprise corruption lawsuits were used against the union, most of our battles do not gain much in the way of attention outside of the communities where they occur, and when there is coverage it is almost always skewed against the union. Even when unionized businesses hit hard times or close, the workers are never part of the story.
This cannot be entirely blamed on the media: Southern workers are trained by everything around them to see unions as a threat. Some of this is the fault of labor: The failure of Operation Dixie, the weak response by both the AFL and the CIO to the first right-to-work law in Florida in the early 1940s, and the ongoing lack of investment in organizing in the South by all unions feed this notion, but it’s only part of the story. The fact of the matter is that Southern workers tend to be culturally conservative….

The authors note that Taft-Hartley was particularly effective anti-union weapon in the south and the socialist boogeyman is still a useful fairy tale parroted by conservative politicians in the region to this day. Williams and Uticensis say the remedy is to promote a “culture of unionism,” a “shared mindset necessary to build and exercise collective power on behalf of working people.” They suggest 8 key principles for meeting this challenge, four of which include:

2. Solidarity is non-negotiable. An attack on any union has to be considered as an attack on all unions and must be reacted to as such. The two most recently successful organizing drives in North Carolina were carried over the line by other unionists showing solidarity with Farm Labor Organizing Committee and UFCW and holding the line on boycotts. Additional actions that unions can do to show solidarity with other workers engaged in labor struggles include contributing to the strike funds of fellow unionists, turning up to protests organized by other unions, and engaging in joint community awareness campaigns to let neighbors know why supporting the union is also supporting themselves…
4. Right-to-work doesn’t prevent union organizing; it prevents shitty union organizing. The labor movement should always be engaged in an effort to repeal right-to-work laws at the state level, and the effects that those laws have on unions and organizing have long been documented elsewhere. But until that happens, the struggle for worker justice must continue to be fought, even where it seems to be the most difficult or intransigent. To that end, visibility is an absolute necessity, as there are people in Southern states who think that they can’t form unions because of right-to-work. Taking the time and energy to demystify the jargon and give a worker the information she needs to make an informed decision is, in a word, organizing. As an example, there are UAW-organized plants in North Carolina with membership levels rivaling those of plants in Michigan, and even in the explicitly open-shop federal government, where the union has to provide support to non-members, the American Federation of Government Employees’ locals representing the Bureau of Prisons have very high rates of organization. How these two very different unions manage this feat is similar: they are very proactive at getting new hires on-board the first day. When it comes down to it, servicing your members and showing people that there is power in a union can go a long way towards increasing union density, no matter where you reside…
6. Labor has to work for the broader interests of working people. An isolation from the community makes it much easier for our enemies to vilify the union and attack it using the political process. There is no better example of this than Wisconsin, where labor was isolated from the community and an ultimately successful campaign was waged against public sector collective bargaining by hardline right wing politicians. When labor works in the broader interests of the working public, it serves as a force multiplier. There is no better example of this than Chicago, where the Chicago Teachers Union has successfully changed the conversation about education in the city through a careful and deliberate strategy of community outreach combined with on-the-job action. In the end, what’s good for the broader community is good for labor, and working towards that can bring people who would otherwise be skeptical of organizing around.
8. If an action does not build power, you must seriously question whether or not to do it. This is a key to building union strength anywhere that union density is low, but especially in the South. When you get right down to it, unions are about power for working people. There are a lot of other things that get attached to them, but that is their original and main purpose: to serve as a defense against the exploitative characteristics of corporate power. No matter how noble the action or good the cause, if it does not build power, you must think critically about whether it is necessary and whether those resources can dedicated to another project that does build power.

The authors allow that these principles are universal, but they apply exceptionally well in the south, where suppression of unions has been most successful. They argue that “The desire to retrench to previously secure places and industries is an understandable if wrong-headed notion: it rests on the idea that there are certain regions or industries that are safer from attack than others.”

This notion should have been dispelled by the bill signing that made Michigan the twenty-fourth right-to-work state in America. It should have been dispelled by the bill signing that made Indiana the twenty-third right-to-work state. It should have been dispelled by Wisconsin gutting public sector collective bargaining rights. It should have been dispelled by putative political allies of labor trying to break the teachers union in Chicago. There is no one safe place left for labor anymore, and the only way we can preserve what we have is by going on the offensive and building power in places where we do not have a strong presence.

Above all, conclude Wiliams and Uticensis, “we must make sure that working people see collective bargaining as a solution for righting wrongs on the shop floor,” while “engaging workers and the community,” using the principles they suggest. It’s a good read, one that doesn’t write-off the south or whine about it, instead offering a path which can work well with the demographic transformation now underway.