No union leader disputes Sweeney's success in turning around labor's political program. In last month's election, 59 percent of the union household vote went to Kerry. In Ohio, Kerry got the votes of 66 percent of AFL-CIO union members, up from the 62 percent Al Gore won four years earlier.
The problem is that the number of union members in Ohio, and in the United States, has been dwindling as manufacturing has tanked. In 1992 just 19 percent of voters in the presidential election came from union households. By 2000 that figure had risen to 26 percent, chiefly as a result of the hard work of the AFL-CIO's political program. By last month, though, the share of union households in the electorate had declined to 24 percent.
Rumsfeld faced calls for his resignation this summer over the abuses at the Abu Ghraib military prison in Iraq. Republicans close to the White House said the decision to retain him was driven by the calculation that replacing him would appear to be a concession that the administration made mistakes in Iraq.
Moreover, some Republicans have speculated that Rumsfeld wanted to stay on with the hope that security conditions in Iraq would improve, leaving him with a better legacy.
-- from a Dec. 4 Washington Post story on President Bush's decision to retain Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Wal-Mart has finally found a union it can live with.
Up to now America's largest employer has opposed every effort of its employees to form a union. Wal-Mart doesn't recognize unions; it doesn't even recognize "employees." The proper Wal-Mart name for its workers is "associates," a term that connotes higher status and collegiality and that actually means lower pay and workplace autocracy. For the privilege of associating themselves with Wal-Mart, its employees are paid so little that many can't afford the health insurance the company generously allows them to buy. One study of health care in Las Vegas revealed that a plurality of that city's employed Medicaid recipients worked at Wal-Mart.
So the Democrats are having trouble with the politics of cultural traditionalism? So what else is new?
To be sure, the gap in the electorate between the observant and the secular is widening. But it's just one part of a larger cultural rift that the Republicans have long realized (as far back as Richard Nixon) is central to their success. Since Nixon's announcement that he stood with the “silent majority” against the noisy protesters, the Republicans have practiced a form of identity politics, championing the more traditional culture of Middle America against its putative cosmopolitan threats. Indeed, magnifying those threats has become the linchpin of the Republicans' presidential-election strategy.
-- William Butler Yeats, “The Circus Animals' Desertion”
Once more, the theme of themelessness. Cover the Democrats for any length of time and you become expert in campaigns that don't seem to be about anything. They have policies; Democrats are good at policies. But all too often the campaigns lack a message -- a sense of what the candidate's about and what he aims to do.