How Labor’s ‘Champions’ Squandered Their Mojo

By Dan Cirucci
Posted with permission from The Dan Cirucci Blog

Employment was always the defining “bread and butter” issue for Democrats. And keeping people working and creating new jobs – good jobs – was the essential mission of the Democratic Party. Indeed, “jobs” was the party’s mantra and Democrats rarely spoke on any issue without mentioning jobs.

With Labor Day here once again, I think of all that and I wonder:

What happened?

What went wrong?

And how did Donald Trump become the champion of gritty workers and on-the-line laborers? How did the Democrat Party of FDR, JFK and LBJ lose working people? And how did the GOP increasingly become the party of working people?

Well, for one thing, Barack Obama’s record on the economy and jobs was dismal. Job growth was atrocious; more people dropped out of the labor force than ever before; the number of people on food stamps skyrocketed and GDP growth (such as it was) was embarrassing.

Also, more than 50 years after Dr. King’s famous I Have A Dream speech the black unemployment rate never really improved under Obama. The unemployment rate for African Americans soared to twice the national average and more than double the unemployment rate for whites.

But nobody on the left seemed to want to talk about these failures – not the liberal establishment, not the Democratic leadership and certainly not the labor movement.

Obama always argued that the economy was in a ditch, claiming “we’ve gotten it out of the ditch and want to put it in drive.” But the car never really seemed to be moving — not the way it should be; not the way Reagan got it moving ion the 1980s; not even the way Clinton got it moving in the 1990s.

Democrats and Big Labor wanted to talk about wedge issues such as the so-called “war on women” as they immersed themselves in the popular culture and the rotting realm of identity politics. To many, these issues were not only largely artificial but they were also relentlessly divisive.

And then there was the biggest debacle of all : Obamacare. Originally, Big Labor got a pass on that. But there was an inherent phoniness about it all and Obamacare caught up with us. Now, it’s imploding.

Even Hillary Clinton got mired in identity politics, fake news and phony issues. She stumbled badly and deservedly suffered a stinging defeat.

Today, look at President Trump’s record on jobs and the economy: record low unemployment; record high manufacturing figures; record low food stamp usage; the best jobless figures ever for young people, hispanics, blacks and near-record unemployment for women; consumer confidence at an all-time high; astounding GDP figures of 4.2%. The economy is booming, more people are working than ever before and inflation has been kept low. You can’t ask for a better record than this but Democrats won’t even acknowledge it. 

There was a time when Democrats and labor leaders were close to the people. There was a time when they actually worked alongside the people that they represented. Those days seem long gone.
And all of this has been happening as union membership has steadily dwindled.

When the Savannah was built in Camden, labor unions represented a third of all workers. By 1983 the number had fallen to 20 percent. And by 2008 it was down to 12 percent and it has pretty much continued to drop since. What’s more, the average age of union members seems to be getting older. The largest unionized age group is workers aged 55 to 64.

So many working people have decided to #WalkAway not just from unions but from the Democrats as well. Can you blame them?

Why can’t the Democrats see this? Where did the party of FDR and JFK and LBJ go astray?

What happened to one of the central promises of traditional liberalism – jobs?

These are questions worth pondering this Labor Day.