Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson is the editor-at-large at The American Prospect and a columnist for The Washington Post. His email is hmeyerson@prospect.org

Recent Articles

The Last Hurrah

Yesterday, in the middle of the Democratic national convention, came the news that Carmine De Sapio -- the last boss of the old Tammany Hall machine, the organization of the Manhattan Democratic Party that dominated New York politics from the 1860s through the 1950s, more or less -- had died at 95. De Sapio fell from power, and so did Tammany, when he lost his party district leader position in 1961 to a liberal attorney reformer named Ed Koch. De Sapio had represented the district around Little Italy, but Little Italy was nestled in the heart of Greenwich Village, and by the first year of John F. Kennedy's presidency, the number of new-guard lefties in Greenwich Village was sufficient to swamp the old-guard loyalists of the Tammany machine. Tammany's strength was to mobilize the immigrant vote -- at times, the Irish to the relative exclusion of the Italians and the Jews. At its high point, under the leadership of Charlie Murphy in the 1910s and '20s, it realized its hold on power...

Unified Populism

Ever since Ronald Reagan became president, the Democrats have had a challenge: They've needed to reinvent populism. Under Reagan, and now far more so under George W. Bush, the official policy of the U.S. government has been to throw money at the rich. When Reagan ruled, this policy was justified by the doctrine of trickle-down economics: The rich would invest their tax cuts in job-creating American enterprises. The theory sounded a lot better than the actual process worked, but at least there was a theory. Under the latter Bush, there's not even that. When the rich invest today, their money flows to enterprises that span the globe. Trickle-down economics is gone; what we have today is trickle-out economics. That's only one reason why a rising tide no longer lifts all boats. Throw in the decline of unions and what you get -- and what we have today -- is not a jobless recovery but a raise-less one. With wages stagnating, health care costs rising and college tuition soaring, this should...

Tearing Down the Walls

Ted Kennedy and Howard Dean may have fizzled, and Teresa Heinz Kerry cooed cerebrally, but the star of Tuesday night and the Democratic future was clearly Barack Obama. Listening to the speech from the press risers, I was reminded of the keynote address at the 1984 Democratic convention. Like Obama today, Mario Cuomo was the rising star of the moment; and also like Obama, Cuomo was (and most certainly viewed himself as) a breakthrough candidate for an ethnic group -- in his case, obviously, Italian-Americans. No multi-culti stuff for Mario and Barack, however; each depicted their moment as an expansion of a diverse but indivisible American democracy. Indeed, indivisibility was a key theme of the two keynotes, 20 years apart. Cuomo, speaking near the end of Ronald Reagan's first term, reminded the nation of its obligation to the poor -- chiefly the inner-city poor, who were the most glaring casualties of Reaganomics. Obama, speaking near the end of Bush's -- let us hope, only -- term,...

Jimmy Endorsey

For the past several years, one of the ongoing mysteries of a not overly mysterious labor movement is what the Carpenters Union will do in any given election season. Since the maverick Doug McCarron became Carpenters president in 1995, the union has left the AFL-CIO, linked itself to such organizing-intensive and progressive unions as the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE) in the New Unity Partnership, and, since 2001, hosted Labor Day picnics at which the guest of honor was George W. Bush. That may prove a trickier position this year, given Bush's opposition to virtually all things labor. Still, Bush's Labor Department has sided with the Carpenters' leadership over a number of locals complaining about the absence of internal democracy, so it's not as if McCarron has been left totally empty-handed. A Bush endorsement, certainly, would cause a far bigger revolt among the union's members (and secondary...

Easy Labor

Longtime union officials and staffers were exuding an almost gleeful incredulity this weekend on the eve of the convention. Not about the November election itself; on the question of the ultimate outcome, experienced political hands remain cautious. United Auto Workers Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Bunn fretted that “Michigan is closer than it should be” due to the social conservatism that prevails throughout much of the state. One union official worried that the largest numbers of dedicated activists tended to reside in such decidedly non-battleground states as California and New York, and couldn't easily be deployed to swing states. (The Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, however, is doing just that, paying for 2,000 of its activists to go on leave in September and October and move, if need be, to swing states to staff the voter-mobilization programs of America Coming Together and other “527s.” This subsidized mass migration will cost the SEIU roughly $30 million --...

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