St. Louis, Mo. -- On an arctic Friday afternoon, the Democrats' secret weapons in the 2004 election come in out of the cold. Eight canvassers for the Missouri Progressive Vote Coalition -- Pro-Vote, for short -- return to their office with another 160 or so newly signed voter-registration forms, after a day spent gathering signatures on buses and in public-health clinics in St. Louis' African American neighborhoods.
They are, by conservative estimate, the two most goddamn tenacious unions in the United States. The Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE) and the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union (HERE), which Thursday announced their intention to merge, are each known for two of the most remarkable long-term campaigns in American labor history.
Harold Meyerson: Nader has no friends on the left.
Blasting "the liberal intelligentsia" and The Nation for resisting the siren call of his campaign, Ralph Nader unveiled his candidacy on Sunday in a performance that foreshadows a presidential bid of mind-boggling irrelevance -- but with a potential for catastrophic mischief.
Nader didn't exactly draw a line in the sand between himself and his Democratic rivals on Meet the Press. Asked what he'd do in Iraq if he were president, Nader said, "We need to get the [United Nations] in there with properly funded and trained peacekeeping troops from a whole variety of countries, No. 1."
That is, he articulated the position common to the Democratic candidates for president.
Things are going unusually well for the Democrats right now, in large part because they've found their voice again. Whether that voice ultimately is John Kerry's (and a bit circumlocutory) or John Edwards's (and trial-lawyer smooth), the message that they and their fellow Democrats have been delivering on the campaign trail sounds more classic Democratic themes than the party has heard in a long time.
Though it's not listed on the agenda as such, on Feb. 18 the Federal Election Commission plans to rule on the suspension of the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of speech.
Not all speech, of course, just effective political speech. On that day, the FEC will take up an advisory opinion from its general counsel, Lawrence Norton, which argues that any communication that "promotes, supports, attacks or opposes" any candidate for federal office must be paid for by "hard money" -- that is, by small-dollar donations.