But the right wing never rests, and for any of my liberal readers who harbor suspicion of labor unions as an "old" liberal cause — just another one of those special interest groups that Democrats are always pandering to — ask yourself this: why are conservatives so hellbent on breaking them? Why did Ronald Reagan fire those air traffic controllers in 1981? Why did George Bush make union busting a key issue in the 2002 midterm election? Why the relentless opposition to using card checks to organize workers in new industries? Why the continuing demonization of unions from a party that's otherwise so conscientious about building its appeal to the working and middle classes?
Italics mine. Kevin's right on the rest of it, but George didn't emphasize union busting in 2002. What he did was actually much worse: after opposing the Dept. of Homeland Security -- a Democratic proposal -- for seven or so months, he pivoted and supported it, with one minor change. In George W. Bush's Dept. of Homeland Security, there'd be no worker protections, hiring and firing could be done at will and without employee recourse.
The point, however, wasn't hurting the unions, that was just a side benefit. It was too inject something so odious into the bill that Democrats couldn't support it. Then, Bush and the Republicans could then spend the midterm election crucifying their opponents for holding up legislation crucial to the nation's safety. Never mind that Democrats had proposed and supported the legislation while Bush stood in opposition. Rove saw an opening and he took it. That's how they beat Cleland, that's how they gained the seats. By being crass and opportunistic enough to play politics with the nation's security, and do so at the expense of federal workers. But it was never about the unions, it was about forcing Democrats off the list of cosponsors and then beating them in the midterm elections.