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

Recalling the Future

I. Hiram Johnson's Mess The land may have been ours before we were the land's, as Robert Frost wrote, but not in California. The Progressives saw to that. When people arrived in my home state, there were no political institutions to reach out to them or provide an orientation; there was nothing they could join. Whether they came from the Midwest in the years before World War II, enticed by the glossy brochures with the pictures of orange groves that the chambers of commerce put out, or in desperation from Mexico during the past two decades, in flight from an economy in collapse, they found themselves in a peculiar vacuum: Politically, at least, there was no one around to welcome them. Most particularly, there were no parties. The Progressives may have liked direct democracy, and they instituted the initiative, the referendum and the recall when their leader, Hiram Johnson, became governor and they took control of the legislature in 1911. But what really got them going was their hatred...

Candidate Conan

At summer's end, after Conan the Conqueror had confounded all his foes and slain them on Leno, he came back to his fortress and was told he would have to debate. "I crush my tormentors," snarled Conan the Victorious. "I psych them, I smash their bones. When my own people are jaded and bored, I journey to distant lands and new markets and sell my product to all who wish to feel my power." But the people, he was told, were not bored. They wanted to know what Conan would do to restore their dream of a golden state. "Do they not know that I will dash the bad king to the ground?" asked Conan the Taken Aback. "That I will rule with cunning and strength? That Pete Wilson has given me his staff, and I shall use it wisely? Even those who raised his treasure, though I have treasure aplenty, yet I shall use them, for who hath treasure enough? Is this not enough for the people to know?" But it was not. Thrice had the people invited him to meet his rivals on the field of battle and answer their...

Labor Lost

If you had to pick a time and a place where the 20th century (as a distinct historical epoch) began in America, you could do a lot worse than 90 years ago in Highland Park, Mich. It was there, in 1913, that Henry Ford opened his new Model-T plant and announced, a few months later, that he'd pay his workers a stunning $5 a day on the revolutionary theory that the men who built cars should make enough money to buy them. Within a couple of decades, it wasn't just cars that the men on the assembly line could afford. Particularly after the United Auto Workers burst on the scene in the mid-'30s to win successively larger wage settlements for its members, Detroit became the American metropolis with the highest rate of home ownership during the first half of the century. In the post-World War II period, that distinction shifted to Los Angeles, where vast housing tracts sprang up around the unionized aerospace factories that were then the city's largest employers. So in honor of yet another...

First Offense

What's wrong with this picture? California's Democratic congressional delegation, meeting behind closed doors, decides that the state's lieutenant governor, Cruz Bustamante, should be the Democrat whose name appears down-ticket on the pending recall ballot. Party leaders successfully lean on the state's Democratic insurance commissioner, John Garamendi, to withdraw from the race. Meanwhile, over on the Republican side, party honchos from county chairmen to big donors to House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier are doing all they can to pressure two conservative candidates to drop out of the race so that Arnold has a cleaner shot. In short, the California recall, which has been both hailed and reviled as a great outburst of direct democracy, has actually removed a whole range of choices from voters and resurrected a long-gone and unlamented tradition in the state's electoral politics: the back room. What the recall has done is eliminated the primary. In a normal election, Golden...

Organize or Die

It was one of those awkward meetings that nobody looked forward to, and it produced an outcome nobody really liked. On Tuesday, Aug. 5, the executive council of the AFL-CIO turned its attention to the vexing question of what to do with the Carpenters. The union had withdrawn from the labor federation in 2001, with its maverick president, Doug McCarron, complaining that the AFL-CIO was frittering away his members' money on projects other than helping unions organize. The rift had widened in recent years as McCarron kept showing up alongside George W. Bush, finding virtues in the president that eluded his fellow union leaders. But despite all that, the Carpenters were still a functioning member of the AFL-CIO's Building and Construction Trades Council, working harmoniously with other building-trades unions at construction sites and on matters of jurisdiction and organizing. Problem was, this was a clear violation of the AFL-CIO's constitution, which banned unions that didn't pay...

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